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The Novaya Zemlya Effect is a curious optical phenomenon named after an archipelago located north of Russia, in the Arctic Ocean. It was here in January 1597 this phenomenon was first observed and documented by the crew of a ship lead by the Dutch navigator Willem Barents, who was on his third expedition to the Arctic in search for the elusive Northeast passage connecting the Atlantic and the Pacific ocean. Unfortunately, Barents’ ship got no farther than this island when it got stuck in ice, forcing the crew to overwinter on the island. On November 3 they saw the sun for the last time as it set below the horizon. They didn’t expect to see the sun again until February 8.

But on January 24, 1597, three of the crew caught a glimpse of the sun a good two weeks before its predicted return. Captain Barents did not believe them since he knew that the sun was well below the horizon. Three days later, the sun made another appearance, and Barents himself witnessed it along with many crew members. Once the explorers returned to the Netherlands, Gerrit de Veer, one of the crew, published an account of their observation. Barents, unfortunately, had died during the return journey.

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Photo credit: Mila Zinkova

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