Where the Sun Barely Sets

Jennifer Shea Hedberg | 05 September, 2014

Call us crazy, but when Tom and I go on vacations, regardless of the place or temperature, we try to make a Globe Ice Lantern. Part of it is for the fun and enjoyment of doing a guerilla lighting in a new and different environment. The other part is simply to test the water. We are curious, for instance, how the water freezes in Bolivia. Maybe we'll find out some day, but our current trip took us north of the Arctic Circle to a place called Bettles, Alaska, USA.

Making Globe Ice Lanterns was ​on a short list of activities that we had in mind as we traveled to Bettles Lodge with Tom's 80+ year old parents for a few days in August. Our basic goal was to learn about a place where very few people live and explore. What we left with was so much more. We learned that those who choose to live up there are amazingly adaptable people with gigantic hearts and that the tundra is not a vast open plain, but a spectacular place that almost defies description.

We flew to Fairbanks and then took a 9-seater to Bettles, Alaska (2014 year 'round population = 22). We stayed at Bettles Lodge​ where we hoped to do some hiking. Nope. Hiking was not possible at that time. Too many bears, mosquitoes and the ground was too boggy. Surprise! The Alaskan tundra is mostly water or bog. As you can see from the photo taken during a fly over in a 5-seater airplane, the Brooks Mountain Range in the Gates of the Arctic National Park & Reserve is breathtaking. This park is a no path, no amenities park. You fly in and then you are ALONE - well except for the bears. I know I've harped on about the limitations, but given all of them I would go back in a split second. The countryside is absolutely gorgeous!

We learned about permafrost, a layer of permanent ice that exists below the ground. It is why all the trees are stunted, the land is a boggy and it overflows with plants and animals. It was very easy to look up and see the mountain​s all around, but ​our sage guide suggested we also look down to discover the variety of plants that make up the tundra.

On the second day of our Bettles adventure, the ​lodge's cook allowed us to put a water-filled Wintercraft Balloon in one of his freezers to make a Globe Ice Lantern. (We promised it would not break and make a mess!) What emerged was stunning. The Bettles water is perfect. The water must be low in natural salts and high in soluble minerals to make clear ice filled with beautiful lines. The only problem was that Alaskan summer nights never get dark enough for candle or led light use. So, we decided to let the sun do the work.

There were many caribou and moose antlers lying a​bout, and fields of fireweed and other native flowers surrounding the lodge. We had fun arranging the globe in just the right way to allow the sun to light it up for photos. But my favorite set-up was atop a wooden eagle sculpture. When I photo-shopped the post away, it looked like the eagle was flying away with our globe. Around 3am, when the sun slipped below the horizon line for a hour or so, the light in the thinning globe went out.

So, I hope when you go on a trip, you will consider bringing along a few Globe Ice Lantern supplies. It might be fun place one on top of a sandle castle on a beach in Maui, or on the Great Wall of China, or . . . I'll let you show me.

Enjoy the Glow!

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