Norwegian Island Wants to Become the World’s First Time-Free Zone

The people of Sommarøy, an island in northern Norway where the sun doesn’t set for a full 69 days during the summer, want to make time keeping obsolete making this the world’s first time-free zone.

After enduring the long polar night, when the sun doesn’t rise from November to January, the residents of Sommarøy try to make the most of summer, when the sun stays up in the sky from May 18 to July 26. During this time, conventional timekeeping is virtually ignored, and it’s not uncommon to see people doing all kinds of things at late hours of the “night” – say 3 a.m – like doing house chores, swimming or playing ball in their yards. Since it’s always daylight, everyone sleeps whenever they feel like it. It’s been like this for generations, but now the people of Sommarøy want to officially declare their island a time-free zone.

Photo: Harald Groven/Wikimedia Commons

“There’s constantly daylight, and we act accordingly,” Sommarøy resident Kjell Ove Hveding said. “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. To many of us, getting this in writing would simply mean formalizing something we have been practicing for generations.”

It may seem like a joke, or a promotional stunt – and it’s true that Sommarøy has received a tourism boost after the plan was announced – but locals are taking it seriously. They’ve already met with a member of Norway’s Parliament to hand over their petition signatures and discus the practical and legal implications of their endeavor. If they are successful the 300-plus inhabitants of Sommarøy plan to make school and working hours more flexible by ignoring traditional opening hours.

Because of its long days and nights, Sommarøy was already knows as the land that time forgot, and the bridge leading to the island from the mainland is decorated with watches instead of the padlocks we see on other bridges around the world. If they’re successful in declaring their home the world’s first time-free zone, they’ll no doubt see an influx of tourists eager to enjoy what often seems like an endless summer where timekeeping is irrelevant.

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