The 100 Year-Old Plan to Light a Sunless Town

For almost half of every year, Norway’s valley town of Rjukan sees no direct sunlight. Cable cars to the mountaintop allow residents to seek out sun in high places, but in 2013 the town found a way to bring the sun to them.

Rjukan residents play in the mirrored sun, Norway 2013Rjukan residents play in the mirrored sun, Norway 2013 Thu, Oct 31, 2013 – A11 · The Times-Tribune (Scranton, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com

Sam Eyde

Though this project was completed in 2013, it actually began over a century ago with a man named Sam Eyde. Eyde’s name is very familiar to those living in Rjukan; his work using the Rjukan falls for hydropower and the development of saltpeter led to the creation of Rjukan as an industrial town between 1906 and 1916.

Sam Eyde, saltpeter, the Rjukan waterfall, and the development of RjukanSam Eyde, saltpeter, the Rjukan waterfall, and the development of Rjukan Thu, Sep 18, 1913 – 3 · Jamestown Weekly Alert (Jamestown, North Dakota) · Newspapers.com
Huge water wheel like the ones used at Rjukan circa 1912Huge water wheel like the ones used at Rjukan circa 1912 Sun, Oct 13, 1912 – Page 1 · The Washington Post (Washington, District of Columbia) · Newspapers.com


Seeking Sunlight

It wasn’t long before Eyde realized that the people had given up half a year of sunlight to work at Norsk Hydro. From necessity came this new and incredible plan: bring the sunlight to the people with giant mountaintop mirrors. Eyde supported early efforts to make this plan a reality, but nothing stuck.

Early efforts by Sam Eyde to reflect sunlight into RjukanEarly efforts by Sam Eyde to reflect sunlight into Rjukan Wed, Mar 2, 1955 – 15 · Star-Phoenix (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada) · Newspapers.com

In 1928, Eyde decided that if the sun wouldn’t come to the valley, he could bring the people of Rjukan to the sun. He had a cable car built. It gave access to magnificent views of the valley, and still does to this day. And at the time it was the residents’ only way to feel the sun on their faces during the long winter.

A Plan Realized

In the end, the cable car remained the sole method of getting some much-needed vitamin D for decades. But the mirror plan was not forgotten. Funding, tech, and time finally lined up to make it possible in the 21st century. And while some residents think it’s a bit silly—a tourist attraction more than anything else—the town square was filled with people ready to feel the sun’s rays at the official opening in late 2013.

Mirrors in RjukanMirrors in Rjukan Thu, Oct 31, 2013 – 15 · The Gazette (Montreal, Quebec, Quebec, Canada) · Newspapers.com
Gathering in Rjukan for the opening of sun-reflecting mirrors, 2013Gathering in Rjukan for the opening of sun-reflecting mirrors, 2013 Thu, Oct 31, 2013 – 15 · The Gazette (Montreal, Quebec, Quebec, Canada) · Newspapers.com

Find more on the history of Rjukan, Norway, with a search on Newspapers.com.

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2 thoughts on “The 100 Year-Old Plan to Light a Sunless Town

  1. I wish this site would go back to human operators. It’s too bad everything is tied to Google. This is what happens when your all tied with one company. That’s NOT economics.

    The internet I grew up with was independent and people had individual websites not just for marketing stuff but ACTUAL websites. And you used webrings to find similar sites which was far better then the stupid AI crap they have today that ‘guesses’ your search results and puts what is left wing on top.

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