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Alaska city experiences first sunset in months

JUNEAU, Alaska — For the first time since May, the sun has set in what is billed as the northernmost city in the United States.

According to the National Weather Service, the first sunset in Barrow, Alaska, since May 10 occurred at 1:57 a.m. Friday. The sun rose again at 3:12 a.m.

Barrow has continuous daylight for so long because of its location, hundreds of miles north of the Arctic Circle, and the tilt of the earth’s axis of rotation.

The town of about 4,500 people will gradually lose sunlight each day until November. After that, the sun won’t rise again until January – again, because of the rotational tilt.

The first sunset in months was a nonevent for some residents like Bob Green, an area resident since 1978 who didn’t stay up to watch it the sunset.

“I’ve seen enough of them,” he said. “I’m just glad that it’s happening. I’ve had enough sun. I much prefer the winter.”

Green, reached at work at Pepe’s North of the Border restaurant, said Barrow seems to run better “when it’s frozen.”

There are no bugs or mud to deal with during the winter months, he said. Also, it’s easy to make light in the winter but hard to get rid of that “big light bulb” that is the sun in summer.

While some people might find it strange to live somewhere with extended periods of sunlight or darkness, Patuk Glenn, museum curator at the Inupiat Heritage Center, said residents have grown accustomed to the seasons.

“Most of us, anyway, don’t really suffer from that seasonal affective thing,” she said, adding: “It’s just part of life.”

Things like successful spring and fall subsistence whale hunts are cause for excitement in Barrow, she said. There’s no real fuss about the first sunset in months.

Like Green, she didn’t stay up to see it.

“You know, I’m sleeping at that time,” she said, noting she has a job to get to in the morning.

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