Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Entering the Land of Fire and Ice: Braving the Night for the Northern Lights.

The chances of seeing the Northern Lights had been poor all week. The activity level was low and weather, for the most part, was cloudy. Tonight however, there was a small chance that the lights would be visible. My girlfriend and I decided it was a chance worth taking and dressed in as many clothes as we could before heading off to chase after them in a rather big bus.

We were driven out into the icy, snow covered wastes away from Reykjavik and into the pitch black. Our first stop arrived and the bus unloaded. Looking up at the sky in the middle of the night out in the wastes was as cold as you might think. With the sky completely clear we looked up and around but could not spot the lights.

Even though we couldn’t see the lights the sky was alive with constellations of pretty stars. We were quite happy watching the stars but, after about an hour, it was time to move on and try to track down the lights somewhere else. Not far down the road we pulled over again. Once more, we all piled off the bus to see very feint Northern Lights up in the sky.

Unfortunately, there was a little light here and a number of stupid people trying to take pictures of the sky with flash photography. This didn’t lend itself to the best place for viewing but we decided to persevere. Once the penny finally dropped that the flash didn’t work we settled in and as our eyes gradually adjusted a curtain of light appeared.

It wasn’t as spectacular as some of the displays you see on television but with such low activity predicted we were happy to see anything at all. The curtain of green began to grow and spread across the sky. Another curtain began to form next to it and for twenty minutes or so they hung in the air shimmering.

Suddenly, the curtain seemed to fall to the ground like a large roll of cloth unravelling. We were incredibly lucky to not only see the lights but to also get an ‘event’. Many people had decided to go back and hide in the warmth of the bus and completely missed it. After the ‘event’, the lights began to disperse and it was decided to return to Reykjavik. On our journey back the long green curtain was still visible across the sky and it seemed to follow us back.

Our journey into the wastes in search of the Northern Lights had proved fruitful and we were glad we had taken the chance. It’s almost impossible to take pictures of the phenomenon without having a super powered camera on a tripod using a half hour exposure time, so if you want to see it for yourself you’ll just have to go.


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  2. What a beautifully written account of the author's expedition. How sad that so many of his fellow travellers missed the opportunity to see the Northern Lights themselves. It's interesting that recording experiences - via photography, Facebook, etc - have become more compelling to many people than the experiences themselves.