Thursday, 14 March 2013

The Northern Lights

When I got back from Asia last year I decided the aurora would be my next travel goal. After discussing it with Scott he randomly sent me a youtube link of Abisko piquing my interest and then I caught up with Mal on Facebook after many years hence Sweden was decided upon. My time off work, holidays, arrival in Sweden, everything was based around the new moon this week making sure there would be no moon to obscure the display along with March having enough nighttime hours without the winter weather and this year having high solar activity.

Definitely worth a mention, Anna is half Swede and half Thai, truly the most exquisite woman I have ever seen without exaggeration......a good sign for a night of beauty.

Abisko is a bit over an hour drive from Kiruna where I am staying and as the sun was setting we drove (Anna and myself, a German couple and two English girls) through snow laden mountainous terrain alongside a frozen lake, the kind of thing I've only seen on TV, Wow!
When we got geared up at the cable car it was an exhilarating, freezing twenty minute ride up to the sky station where I had a pleasant, posh three course dinner including roast reindeer and caviar washed down with a full bodied spanish red with the German couple.

As well as my many layers they gave us boots and humongous overalls at the bottom cable car station and after putting it all on, taking it all off for dinner and putting it all on again to go outside I barely had the energy to walk but I would've died without it.

So as I had wanted to do since I arrived in Sweden I staggered out onto the mountain and just fell back in the snow about nine. I layed there for two hours becoming more and more despondent staring at the horizon to the north as thin cloud slowly rolled in. There was a sharp breeze blowing over the mountain and despite cupping my head with three hoods I couldn't feel My face after half an hour and my feet after an hour. My hands went from numb to bearable each time I took the gloves off and back on again to check the time on my phone. There were small glares and light movement behind the clouds that were barely visible and teased. We had to start heading down about eleven thirty and at ten past eleven hope was fading. I moved closer to an English couple with a pro camera on a tripod who were taking two minute exposure photos that showed the green aurora where the faint light was, the camera could see it but not our human eyes. He packed up his camera as the battery gave out in the cold.

Just as he put the camera away I yelled "up there!" To our left it began. Faintly becoming brighter until there was definite curtains and arcs moving into the sky above us. We watched for half an hour as it danced and excited until it became fainter again and cheekily went past our eleven thirty deadline. Lining up for the cable car it became intense again and for the twenty minute ride down it waved and flirted wildly above and behind me in the silence as I floated down the mountain. To cement the image into my brain forever I saw three shooting stars fly through the lightshow and I swear I saw my widely smiling face reflected in the array. It flirted with us in the car on the drive back too, I have seen the aurora borealis!

I just wanted to see them but if I could get a snap of me with the lights it would be a bonus. There are enough pro shots in google images if I want to see photos. I pulled my camera out at one point which felt like a block of ice, I swear it literally said "fuck you buddy I just ate the battery now take me home!" I think I may have snapped one or two before it died, hard to tell it was very cantankerous and I didn't want to waste time looking at it instead of the sky. We are currently separated, I will remove the memory card and be returning home without it. I gave my email to the English couple and the German couple who will send me whatever images they caught on the night and I will post some when I get them.
It's worth mentioning that the human eye does not see the colour often in the aurora, that spectrum mostly only shows up on camera for whatever scientific reason, I saw mostly white but I did see a couple of green tinges.

ADDED 07/04/13 - four more photos of the night courtesy of Thomas Steurer.