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Where in the United States Does The Sun Shine First?

Where in the United States Does The Sun Shine First?
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Jud’s New England Journal For December 2012

Welcome to the December 2012 edition of
Jud’s New England Journal, the rather
curious monthly musings of Judson Hale,
the Editor-in-Chief of Yankee Magazine,
published since 1935 in Dublin, N.H

Where in the United States Does
The Sun Shine First?

It’s more complicated than you might think…

Everyone agrees that the sun shines least during the month of December. But where, exactly where, does it shine first? Over the years, many readers have written (or e-mailed) us here at Yankee Magazine asking us that very question. I used to reply that it was West Quoddy Head, Maine, which is New England’s easternmost point of mainland. But then I found that not everyone agreed. So, with the help of Blanton C. Wiggin, then the puzzle editor of The Old Farmer’s Almanac, I undertook an exhaustive study of the matter.

Our findings: Between January 11 and March 6 as well as between October 7 and November 29, the sun first hits the top of Cadillac Mountain on the island of Mt. Desert, Maine. It would be West Quoddy Head, but for the fact that for up to five minutes, the hills of Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick, block the sun on the mornings of those dates, thus making Cadillac Mountain the winner.

The only times that West Quoddy Head wins, we found, are those mornings from March 7 to March 24 and then from September 19 to October 6. For much of the remaining dates in the year, we discovered the winner to be sort of a dark-horse candidate. Turned out to be a 1,660 feet high elevation known as Mars Hill, located on the New Brunswick line north of Maine’s Washington County, which, incidentally, proudly proclaims itself as “The Sunrise County of the U. S. A.”

However, there were, we found, exceptions even during the comparatively long Mars Hill periods of the year. For instance, sometimes the high hills of Carleton County, New Brunswick, block the Mars Hill sunrise for a few minutes, giving an occasional morning to the top of Mount Katahdin in central Maine.

We published these fairly complicated results in a winter issue one year but it only seemed to intensify the arguments. Most upset were the residents of Washington County, Maine. They seemed to favor being “the Sunrise County of the U.S.A.” all year, not just most of the year. At least they and everyone concerned seemed to agree that the one and only place in New England where one can stand on the mainland and watch the sun go down over the Atlantic Ocean is Race Point, Provincetown, Cape Cod. Well, almost everyone agreed it was the only place. Some, for instance, mentioned Wellfleet and Truro.

Perhaps I could add here that there is no argument whatsoever on how to determine the date of Easter each year. (This year it falls on the 31st of March.) It’s the first Sunday following the day of the full moon on or after the vernal equinox…with rare exceptions. Very rare. Not worth arguing about.

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Where in the United States Does The Sun Shine First?

Updated Saturday, December 1st, 2012

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