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When the sun goes down

Herb Mathisen
Northern News Services
Published Monday, November 17, 2008

IKAAHUK/SACHS HARBOUR - Andy Carpenter is a lifelong resident of Sachs Harbour and going without sun for months at a time is just part of life.

"It still goes up a bit yet," he said last week.

On Nov. 11, the sun rose at 11:35 am and set at 2:36 p.m.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Audrey Dickie stands outside the Co-op, at a 4 p.m. sunset. The sun will soon set on Sachs Harbour for the winter and newcomer Dickie will experience her first sunless day. However, she said she is too busy to really notice. - photo courtesy of Doug Dickie

According to the U.S. Naval Observations website, Sunday was to be the last day the sun would rise fully from the horizon, and it would not do so again until Jan. 26.

Carpenter, 76, said the darkness does not bother him too much.

It apparently bothers some though, as awareness of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) - brought on by the lack of sunlight - spreads. Symptoms include depression and a decrease in energy.

Carpenter said he has never felt his energy zapped by the loss of sun.

And life goes on as usual in Sachs Harbour, with people still hunting and doing what they would do normally.

"You never stopped hunting. You don't have very much daylight, but sometimes even with (just artificial) lights, you hunt," he said.

He added there is still another celestial orb to guide people.

"Sometimes, it's just about brighter with the moonlight," he chuckled.

Carpenter realizes the absence of sun is just part of the give-and-take, that allows for the May to August permanent light.

He said there is also a positive to the months without sun.

"When it comes up, it feels like you get lifted up again," he said.

"You get down for a while, I guess, but it's always great when it comes back up."

Carpenter said new arrivals to town sometimes have difficulties adjusting.

"For some of them, it gets weird," he said.

Audrey Dickie has only been in the community for four months, but she said she's been too busy to notice.

"So far it really hasn't affected me at all, because I don't have to go outside to work," she laughed. Dickie works long hours in the Ikaahuk Co-op, alongside her husband who manages it.

"For me, I don't think it's going to make much of a difference except for Sunday when we are off."

For Dickie - who recently moved North from Nova Scotia - the lack of sun is more of a novelty to people back home.

She said her sister-in-law called her over the weekend, wondering how dark it was in Sachs Harbour. Her sister-in-law was interested as she was about to have supper in Nova Scotia, where it was just getting dark.

"They were intrigued to know when we were going to be in total darkness and they can't imagine that there will only be a few hours of sunlight a day, let alone none at all," she said.

Dickie hinted the permanent sunlight might be more difficult to adjust to than the darkness.

"More sun bothers people more than the dark, I've heard," she said.