A Town North Of The Arctic Circle Wants Recognition As World’s First “Time-Free Zone”


Vue de Sommarøy - Norvège. Maeva et Florent Paitrault/Wikimedia Commons

Locals from a village north of the Arctic Circle in Sommarøy, Norway, convened at a town hall meeting last week to do away with clockwork constructions and live a life free of time – or at least, the practice of keeping track of the ever-present tick tock that chases us to our grave.

In this fishing village, the Sun never sets between May 18 and July 26. Then, from November to January, the Sun never rises. The lack of a day/night cycle has the islanders asking for an official time-free zone.


"During summer, the sun does not set for 69 days," Norwegian Kjell Ove Hveding, one of the key islanders behind the initiative on Sommarøy, told IFLScience. "The midnight sun of Northern Norway changes the way we behave and interact with each other, and it’s for the better. It doesn’t make sense to talk about time zones, daylight savings time, nighttime, or anything like that."

They say they hope the idea introduces flexibility into their routine, although how exactly it would differ from what they do already remains to be seen.

"If you want to paint your house at ‘2am’ it’s ok," said locals in a video statement on their Facebook page. "If we want to cut the grass at ‘midnight’, we will. If we want to take a swim at ‘4am’, we will. For these 70 days, time simply is no object to us. That’s why we want to be officially recognized as the world’s first time-free zone."

"Moreover, the children of Sommarøy generally don’t have particular bedtimes or dinner times during summer," added Hveding. "And our island’s fishermen and women stay out on the ocean as long as they want, with no idea of what time it is. In this environment, clocks are an unnecessary nuisance."


It’s a quirky idea to be sure and definitely an interesting experiment, but logistical challenges have been raised. How would the education and transportation systems operate on an island with 300 people? Even if some locals have a flexible work schedule, what about those that run stores or pharmacies? How would locals catch a flight out of town without time?

"It will be challenging with the guests in connection with check-in and check-out, opening hours at the bar and restaurant," said Malin Nordheim, a receptionist at a hotel in Sommarøy.

To use modern-world conveniences, it seems hard to avoid the ethereal yet oh-so-real notion of time itself. It’s likely they would still have clocks but perhaps not follow time in the conventional sense of the word. The label "time-free" would also perhaps act as a publicity boost for the small village. 

"It would feel great to have our way of living recognized and legitimized," said Hveding. "We merely want to formalize our island’s time-free living."


"In more practical terms, it would mean we can’t have stagnant opening hours, deadlines, or other time-related requirements during the summer months. That’s why we organized a town hall meeting, started a petition, and submitted our signatures to Parliament."

However, going without time itself could pose a risk to their circadian rhythm, which has evolved to depend on a 24-hour cycle based on Earth's rotation. Those who live near the extreme poles compensate by switching off the lights at “night” or turning them on during the "day" when most of the world is asleep or at work.

"We shouldn’t let the clock dictate our spare time," concluded Hveding. "We should let ourselves behave according to the light, the nature, and what we want to do."

[H/T: CNN]

The Isles of Hillesøy and Sommarøy in Tromsø, Northern Norway. Harald Groven/Wikimedia Commons