People gather in front of the Rjukan town hall to observe
sunlight being reflected by giant mirrors on a mountainside
above the town. REUTERS/Tore Meek/NTB Scanpix
Sunshine has lit up a Norwegian town in a remote, dark
valley for the first time in wintertime, as mirrors high on a
mountainside realised a century-old dream.
About 1000 people, including children wearing sunglasses and
with yellow suns painted on their faces, cheered when the sun
broke through clouds to illuminate the main square in Rjukan,
until now in shadow from early October to mid-March.
"It's a crazy idea - but a bit of madness is fun," said
Oystein Haugan, who led the 5 million crown ($US849,300)
project to set up the three mirrors with a combined surface
area of 51 sq m that will track the sun by computer.
"We hope this will bring joy to people here," he said of the
3500 inhabitants of the industrial town about 175km west of
A band played the 1960s hit "Let the Sunshine In", several
women lounged on sunbeds drinking cocktails - fully dressed
against temperatures of 7degC - and a volleyball court was
set up on a pile of sand.
The reflected sunlight, covering 600 sq m, is meant to create
a meeting place for sun-starved locals and a draw for
tourists. Organisers reckon the reflected light will be about
80 percent as bright as the real sun.
The sun shines here in the summertime, when it's higher in
the sky, but sets on Oct. 4 behind the mountain and does not
return until March 12.
Similar mirrors were first set up in 2006 in the Italian
village of Viganella in the Alps, which is also hemmed in a
dark valley. "It was a great satisfaction and everyone was
happy about it," local mayor Pier Franco Midali told Reuters
Steinar Bergsland, mayor of the area including Rjukan, said
he hoped the mirrors would attract visitors. "And people get
happy from seeing the sun," he said.
Rjukan nestles in a deep valley in the shadow of
Gaustatoppen, a 1883m-high mountain that hosts a ski resort.
The mirrors are on a ridge at 742m, about 450m above the town
The idea was first proposed in a letter to a local newspaper
by a bookkeeper, Oscar Kittilsen, on Oct. 31, 1913.
Organisers brought forward the planned unveiling of the
mirrors from the anniversary on Thursday because rain is
A few people in Rjukan are against the mirrors, reckoning
they are an expensive gimmick.
"I am resigned to them now," said Jan Hagalia, 63, a
carpenter who was among the most vocal opponents. "It costs a
lot. And the mirrors will have to be maintained, cleaned.
That will mean a lot of expensive helicopter trips."
But almost all the locals are in favour.
"It's a fun stunt," said Maryan Listaul, 43, who runs a local
flower shop with a sign outside saying "Hurray for the sun
mirror". She added: "I don't think it will be any warmer."