Rjukan, Norway has a lot to offer. Rich history, beautiful surroundings, and friendly inhabitants are just a few of the many fine qualities of this industrialized town. One thing it does not have going for it, however, is sunlight. Take a look at the community that has the distinction of having the least sunlight of any other on the planet.
Located a little more than 100 miles west of Oslo, the community of more than 3,000 people takes its name from its proximity to Rjukan Falls. Rjukan is situated in a valley, surrounded by some of the most beautiful mountains in Europe. The view of the country’s highest mountain, Gaustatoppen, is itself reason enough for tourists to visit Rjukan.
Ironically, the very things that contribute to Rjukan’s beauty are also the very things responsible for one of the biggest downers for residents. Because of the community’s location, it spends half of the year in the shadows of the surrounding mountains. From September through March, direct sunlight is blocked from reaching the tiny community, conferring on it the status of having the least sunlight of any other municipality.
Granted, there are other places that experience shorter days. For the inhabitants of McMurdo Station in Antarctica, April 24 is always one of those days were there is more to do than can be accomplished in a single day. On that day, the sun rises at 11:59 a.m. and sets one hour and 42 minutes later, at 1:41 p.m. The next time they will see the sun will be on August 19, when it will sunrise is at 12:33 p.m, and sunset is 50 minutes and 24 seconds later. Although these months of total darkness are worse than anything Rjukan experiences, McMordo makes up for it by witnessing a sunrise on October 24 and not see another sunset until February 21.
Living in the shadows of the mountains has been a way of life for the people of Rjukan since the community’s founding in the early days of the twentieth century. Most tried to make the best of a situation that seemed to be impossible to change, but a daring few thought they might be able to bring light into the darkness.
In 1913 a bookkeeper by the name of Oscar Kittilsen suggested building large mirrors on the northern side of the valley, where they would “first collect the sunlight and then spread it like a headlamp beam over the town and its merry inhabitants.” On November 28, 1913, this idea showed up in print in a newspaper story, in which a fellow by the name of Sam Eyde suggested the same general idea.
One hundred years would pass before these dreams became reality. In 2013 the town approved erecting three mirrors, each measuring 17 square meters, on the mountainside. The mirrors track the sun and focus its welcoming rays onto the town square. When the mirrors went active in late 2013, the statue of the town’s founder, Sam Eyde, was illuminated by sunlight in the middle of the winter months, and the welcoming rays of sunshine gave the residents some welcome relief from the perpetual gloom.
Despite this oasis of sunshine, Rjukan still claims the distinction of being the least-sunny community on earth. Given its demonstrated ability to overcome such challenges as mighty mountains, however, don’t bet on it staying that way indefinitely.
Read about more interesting places and fun facts about geography.
Read about more innovative uses of technology.