Archive for September, 2018

September 26, 2018

Under the Northern Lights

by backpackingbongos

The previous week had been frustrating. I was 430 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle and the Aurora forecast had been good. Whilst deep in the wilderness of Varangerhalvøya National Park and miles from any light pollution, cloud had stubbornly blanketed the night sky. I went to bed most nights with the sound of rain on my tent rather than gazing with wonder at the sky.

The Aurora forecast continued to be good whilst I took a backpacking break in a cottage 50 metres from the shores of the Arctic ocean. As the sun set the sky began to clear to the east, and as the first stars started to appear I went into the garden and looked up. The sky was not yet fully dark but I noticed a faint shimmer which intensified and then vanished before reappearing. East is not the best direction to look but the northern skyline was enveloped in cloud. To see the lights dance across the calm sea with Russia in the distance was magical. Sadly the cloud quickly filled the sky once more and I went back inside feeling disappointed at such a brief glimpse.

Later that evening I wrapped up warm and headed out onto the Arctic tundra behind the cottage in an effort to escape the light pollution from the surrounding street lights. The lights from the small hamlet were soon behind me but I was aware of the glow from the town of Vadsø to the south.

As my eyes adjusted I could make out a band of clear sky above the northern horizon. Initially it looked like a series of laser beams were being projected up into the clouds. These broke up and a band of light shifted across the horizon, the colour of the Aurora battling with the orange of light pollution from the nearby town. The evening flight to Vadsø came into land at the nearby airport, they must have had one amazing show above the clouds.

The Aurora was not constant in the sky, it would briefly intensify before fading to nothing. Twice I started to walk back to the cottage but would be stopped in my tracks as the search lights from below the horizon built up and released a curtain of light. It was evident that the lights were dazzling right about my head as the clouds filled with colour. It’s just a shame that the weather prevented them shining to their true potential.