In Kim Stanley Robinson’s ‘2312’ humans have colonised a bevy of planets and satellites in the solar system. Even Mercury, despite its proximity to the sun, has a satellite city on wheels that slowly moves in pace with the rotation of the planet so that it is always out of the brunt of direct sunlight. Mercury’s rotation being very slow, even normal human beings are able to walk in twilight zone forever keeping out of the sun’s harsh glare. They are called the sunwalkers.
Something about the sunwalkers caught my fancy. I’m not sure if the appeal was because of wandering in a remote but dangerous region (stray long enough and you’d get fried by the sun) or just the act of walking and being a nomad. Another one of KSR’s books ‘Shaman’, set about 30,000 years in the past when cro-magnon was just beginning to explore the planet from his base in Europe, has a character who sets off one day on a wander east from his village (in modern France). He walks east for more than a decade and only encounters land without end. He misses talking to someone else in his language and comes back after a return journey lasting about a decade. Once back, he thinks he will walk east again even though he has started to believe that a lifetime would not be sufficient to walk all lands.
And in ‘Aurora’, youngsters coming of age in the generational spaceship that was launched from Earth, spend a year wandering the different biomes in their massive spaceship- a sort of ‘Wanderjahr’. I quite like the idea of a year spent wandering.
The Earth rotates too fast to do any kind of sunwalking. And mankind did not biologically evolve to walk faster. However, if you are on an aircraft travelling west at around the time of sunset, you can sometimes just watch a sunset that goes on for an hour or more. However, a regular commercial aircraft still does not fly fast enough to constantly be in twilight zone- eventually darkness catches up.
Here’s a photograph from one such prolonged sunsets