For brief moments 60 days of the year, Hawaii is in darkness while 99% of the Earth’s population is experiencing some sunlight.

In the middle of the Pacific Ocean and all alone in the dark – with only those living in Australia, New Guinea, New Zealand and the other Pacific Islands to keep us company.

That’s the situation Hawaii finds itself in for a few moments on about 60 days of the year, including right now, according to calculations by 

Kaimuki, Diamond Head and bottom left, Kapiolani Park in an early morning aerial photograph. March 5, 2021
Kaimuki, Diamond Head and Kapiolani Park, plunged into darkness. (Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021)

It all started with an internet meme that claimed that at a certain moment on July 8, 99% percent of the world’s population was either experiencing sunlight or astronomical twilight.

It seemed unlikely, but ran the numbers and confirmed that not only was it true, but that the same thing happened on about 60 days of the year around the Northern Hemisphere’s summer solstice.

As the Washington Post explains, one of the reasons is that the Pacific Ocean is so big, it encompasses about half the Earth’s surface. So when it’s nighttime over the ocean, it’s daytime for the rest of the globe where most people live.

Then, of course, the Northern Hemisphere, where some 90% of the Earth’s population lives, gets its longest days close to the summer solstice on June 21. 

The combination means that while Hawaii is plunged into darkness, 99% of our fellow humans are basking in the sun. (Well, not all of them are “basking,” since some of them are experiencing astronomical twilight, which says is “hardly discernible” from nighttime.)

This period goes from May 18 until around July 17, according to calculations by the website based in Norway — no doubt done with the blinds drawn to shut out the midnight sun.

It’s a vivid illustration of Hawaii’s remote spot on the globe, a dot in the middle of a vast ocean. Anyone who’s ever woken up to find out the stock market’s been crashing all day, or gone to a bar at 7 a.m. to watch football, knows the feeling of being a little out of sync with the rest of the world.

So if you happen to be awake shortly after 1 a.m., bask in the knowledge that – for this moment at least – you are part of the 1%.

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