On the small island in West Tromsø with about 300 residents, the sun doesn’t rise at all from November to January and it literally doesn’t set for 69 days, from around May 18 to July 26th.
The complete lack of daylight during three months followed by constant sunny skies for about two puts an obvious wrench in the typical cyclical way time is kept, with the sun coming and going every day, on schedule.
Of time, resident Kjell Ove Hveding, leader of the Time-Free Zone campaign, said:
“All over the world, people are characterized by stress and depression.
In many cases this can be linked to the feeling of being trapped, and here the clock plays a role.”
After coming out of months of darkness, these Norwegians understandably fully embrace the constant sunshine, giving little to no regard to conventional timekeeping as the rest of us know it. Hveding explained:
“There’s constantly daylight, and we act accordingly. In the middle of the night, which city folk might call ‘2 a.m.,’ you can spot children playing soccer, people painting their houses or mowing their lawns, and teens going for a swim.”
While the local islanders live those three months off the clock as it is, they want to take their practice to the next level by making it official.
According to Hveding:
“We will be a time-free zone where everyone can live their lives to the fullest.”
On June 13, locals gathered at a town hall meeting and signed a petition to declare a time-free zone. Hveding then handed over the collected signatures to a Norwegian member of parliament, MP Kent Gudmundsen, while discussing the practical and legal challenges that may result.
“To many of us, getting this in writing would simply mean formalizing something we have been practicing for generations.”
Residents hope the change will increase flexibility in both school and working hours. This is especially significant on an island were many locals already work in fields, like fishing, that focus more on the work being done than sticking to a schedule
Time, or the absence of it, is so important to this small island that, when crossing the bridge from the mainland, surrendered watches can be found fastened to the bridge, symbolizing the surrender of time.
If anything, the small island in Norway will likely see a tourism boost thanks to their time-free zone efforts. And even if the residents don’t succeed, that won’t stop them from tossing their clocks to enjoy a seemingly endless summer—for the next five weeks, that is.