The Darkest Line

A few years ago, I became fascinated by the darkest places in America, the forgotten places where the stars of my youth can still be seen, places where time collapses and Huckleberry Finn might still be floating down a river beneath those same stars. Who’s out still there living in the dark places, outside the glare of our permanent light?

Working with cartographers and computer scientists, and a roomful of supercomputers, I devised an algorithm plotting the darkest line across America, the route with the least cumulative light pollution, through “permanent night”. I wondered if it might be a secret pathway through America’s heart, where time collapses, and the nights remain the nights of the native Americans and pioneers, and of the ancient gods and goddesses too.

In April 2024, I’m driving the Darkest Line to tell its story. I want to drive through the nights speaking to the people living along this forgotten fault-line: in the diners, churches, workplaces, and bars, in overlooked towns, at truck stops, and on farms. I want to look up at the stars with them and wonder at the stories the constellations are still trying to communicate to us. 

The Darkest Line begins in Jekyll Island, GA and ends just south of Orick, CA, where Route 101 meets the Redwood Highway. Here it is plotted on a map:

The algorithm was built with following criteria:

  • start anywhere on the east coast
  • end anywhere on the west coast
  • take any passable public roads, no matter how small
  • choose the route with the least cumulative light pollution
  • assume “perpetual night”, i.e. don’t calculate daytime light