World Half Full
Taking time out
They say “time and tide waits for no man”. But what if there was literally no time? A small Arctic island may be about to put the concept to the test. Residents of Sommarøy — an old fishing village and popular tourist destination off the northwest coast of Norway — have voted to abolish time altogether. If the proposal is accepted by the Norwegian government, Sommarøy will become the first time-free zone in the world.
Sommarøy’s residents are used to keeping unconventional hours. Due to the tilt and position of the Earth’s orbit, between November and January, Sommarøy is plunged into darkness. Then, between May and July, there’s continual daylight. “And we act accordingly,” says islander Kjell Ove Hveding. “In the middle of the night, which city folk might call 2am, you can spot children playing soccer, people painting their house or mowing their lawns, and teens going for a swim.”
By doing away with time — and the notion of being early or late — residents hope they’ll be no need for clock watching or alarm calls. (Indeed, when visiting, mainlanders are encouraged to leave their watches on the bridge into Sommarøy.) However, as hotel receptionist Malin Nordheim points out, ditching time could lead to confusion. “It will be challenging with the guests in connection with check-in and check-out, opening hours at the bar and restaurant,” she says.
That said, with so many people these days complaining about being “slaves to time”, visiting a place where none exists may be just the tonic visitors need. “All over the world, people are characterised by stress and depression . . . and the clock plays a role,” says Hveding. Freeing people from the shackles of time, he says, will allow everyone to “live their lives to the fullest”.