Scandinavians have something of an on-again, off-again romance with the sun. The extreme periods of light and dark in the world’s northernmost countries are a source of curiosity for their more southerly neighbours. But if there is one place that is particularly entitled to define its relationship with the sun as ‘complicated’, it’s the town of Rjukan in Norway.
Tucked away in the folds of a deep valley, Rjukan began its life as a hydroelectric industry town in 1905. But it didn’t take long for the locals who filtered in to realise that, for over half the year their new homes were completely deprived of one thing: direct sunlight. Such was the dismay (and desperation for sweet vitamin D) of Rjukan’s inhabitants that Sam Eyde, the entrepreneur who had started the settlement, had a chairlift constructed so people could get a dose of light if things got really grim.
And so things continued for almost 100 years, until an artist named Martin Anderson moved to Rjukan in 2002. Deeply affected by the town’s lack of sunlight, Martin decided to come up with a more practical solution. His answer? Giant mirrors.
The idea actually came from a man named Oscar Kittilsen in 1913, but remained only a theory until Anderson rallied for funding to make the proposal a reality. After installing three mirrors, called heliostats, on the northern mountainside, Anderson became responsible for the pool of sunlight that now trails through the town square of Rjukan for a few hours a day, provided there’s some sun somewhere in the region.
Alas, it seems that many of the locals don’t really care for the heliostats, seeing them as a gimmick for tourists rather than something they ever actually wanted. See, we told you their relationship was complicated.
For more info, you can read the whole story over at BBC News.