Friday, August 23, 2013

Alaska Twilight

Sunset and twilight in the Alaskan summer take a long time, as the sun slowly makes its way around the horizon. Even at mid-day we noticed that the sun was quite low in the sky, and the moon, too rolls around not far from the horizon, thanks to the tilt of the planet.

After dinner on our first night on the ship we had some shore time in Juneau; as we walked away from the ship it was bathed in golden light.
National Geographic Sea Bird in Juneau harbor
On our second evening on the ship, the red and gold colors of the sky at nightfall lasted around an hour; during this time, several whales were coming up repeatedly near the ship. Every passenger with a camera took several photos of whales illuminated in the powerful colors of the sunset.

Whale in the sunset (Len's photos)
Another sunset was brief but dramatic:
One-burst sunset!
And our last night, though there was no sun visible, we enjoyed a long blue-grey evening with eerie fog banks lifting and dropping in front of the high banks of the Peril Strait.

Twilight in Peril Strait
From John Muir: 
"The most extravagantly colored of all the sunsets I have yet seen in Alaska was one I enjoyed on the voyage from Portland to Wrangell, when we were in the midst of one of the most thickly islanded parts of the Alexander Archipelago. The day had been showery, but late in the afternoon the clouds melted away from the west, all save a few that settled down in narrow level bars near the horizon. The evening was calm and the sunset colors came on gradually, increasing in extent and richness of tone by slow degrees as if requiring more time than usual to ripen. At a height of about thirty degrees there was a heavy cloud-bank, deeply reddened on its lower edge and the projecting parts of its face. Below this were three horizontal belts of purple edged with gold, while a vividly defined, spreading fan of flame streamed upward across the purple bars and faded in a feather edge of dull red. But beautiful and impressive as was this painting on the sky, the most novel and exciting effect was in the body of the atmosphere itself, which, laden with moisture, became one mass of color--a fine translucent purple haze in which the islands with softened outlines seemed to float, while a dense red ring lay around the base of each of them as a fitting border. The peaks, too, in the distance, and the snow-fields and glaciers and fleecy rolls of mist that lay in the hollows, were flushed with a deep, rosy alpenglow of ineffable loveliness. Everything near and far, even the ship, was comprehended in the glorious picture and the general color effect. The mission divines we had aboard seemed then to be truly divine as they gazed transfigured in the celestial glory. So also seemed our bluff, storm-fighting old captain, and his tarry sailors and all." (p. 17-18)

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