A family on top of the world

PERSONAL JOURNEYS

A Memorable Placedebra A...

September 26, 1999

A family on top of the world; A MEMORABLE PLACE

DEBRA A. BARSOTTI

SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Enchanting Norwegian music set the mood as dancers portrayed the mystical creatures of the night. Beams of muted light played across the stages' backdrop as echoes of the wilderness faded into the shadows. All motion ceased and light dissolved as the midnight hour approached. In the new silence, breaths were held in anticipation. Slowly the backdrop was raised, exposing the radiance -- the spectacular radiance of the Midnight Sun.

Well, that was what was supposed to happen as we sat with hundreds of tourists in the lounge of the North Cape Visitors Center on Norway's farthest reaches. The weather is not always cooperative on the Arctic Ocean and more often than not, tourists hoping to experience some Disneylike magic are left peering into the foggy mists that shroud the dramatic cliffs that form Norway's North Cape.

On the night of our visit to Europe's northernmost point, we were fortunate to see the sun brushing the horizon. The fog that had made for tough driving as we explored Norway's mountains and fjords had lifted in time for a truly fabulous evening. The skies, veiled with a thin cloud cover, were brighter than they had been at noon that day.

After a long, winding drive on a road that rose high above teeny fishing villages, we arrived at 8 p.m. We wanted to track the path of the sun as the hours passed, trying to grasp the concept of a sun that did not drop below the horizon for 77 days. This was one of the schoolroom lessons we wanted to experience firsthand on this unique family vacation north of the Arctic Circle.

Each year, 250,000 visitors come to this remote island of Mageroya, at the northern tip of Norway. Whether in the light of summer's endless sun, or under the cloak of winter's unrelenting night, Norway's North Cape is an unforgettable destination. Here travelers stand 1,000 feet above the Arctic Ocean, feeling that they are truly at the ends of the earth. The dramatic plateau rises from the sea at the northern latitude of 71 degrees, 10 minutes and 21 seconds -- just over 1,000 miles to Earth's geographic north pole.

On that midsummer's night, planted precariously on that jetty of rocky soil and rugged cliffs, we looked out over the horizon. The sun's imperceptible movement cast glimmers of gold on the crest of the planet. As other visitors drifted away to claim their spots in the sunlit night, we stood together, a small family -- father, mother and two teen-age sons -- bonded by the awesome feeling of literally being on the "top of the world."

Debra A. Barsotti lives in Franklin-ville, N.J.

MY BEST SHOT

NIGHT BOAT

BY Deanna McIntyre, Denton

On a recent trip to Thailand, my boyfriend and I took a slow night boat to the tiny island of Koh Tao. We didn't have a reservation anywhere and decided to let fate make the choice for us.This was how we discovered the quiet beach of Haad Sai Daeng. This is a photograph of the first sunset we were fortunate enough to witness on the island.

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"We recently visited Niagara Falls with our daughter Aisling. Our favorite attraction was probably Marineland in Canada, a whole day adventure with an admission of $14 for an adult! Aisling got to touch a killer whale, enjoy the shows and rides, and feed a large herd of tame deer by hand. Canada also has a butterfly conservatory where beautiful specimens fly freely."

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Pub Date: 09/26/99

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