The first time we were in Lapland we stood in a snowy field outside Saariselkä, a village about 250 km north of the Arctic Circle, with Neil’s camera tightly secured on its tripod for several hours waiting for the auroras to appear. The same husky safari tour came and went past us twice, amused by our patience. We were out of luck as far as spotting the Northern Lights was concerned. The possibility of seeing the lights was quite awesome in itself and today I smile when thinking about the childish excitement we felt when we saw some light pollution in the distance, thinking this might be it! 😁We returned to Dubai without the experience, slightly disappointed, but determined to come back to Lapland with more success.
Our first Aurora sighting happened in Levi a couple of years later, and this photo will be one of my forever favourites. Not even the best of photographers can capture that feeling of magic. First you will sense that something is about to happen. Then suddenly, these eerie shapeless green lights begin to materialise. They slowly grow into rods of light, or twirling serpents, dancing across the sky. Sometimes the light appears as a green bank of smoke and you can never predict which shape it will take. The experience is very humbling and at the same time empowering.
No wonder that the auroras are surrounded by mystery and legendary tales. Revontulet – the Finnish word for the Northern Lights – translates as “fox fires”. My favourite anecdote of course comes from Finland where “the fox is a mythical and elusive creature of the north. As it runs along the fells, the fox’s flaming tail whips crystals of snow into the sky and the fur scratches the trees, setting the skies on fire”.
It was like Christmas came early when I realised that the best time to see the Northern Lights is from September to April, when the skies are dark enough.
By the end of September we had already experienced two geomagnetic storms, increasing the probability of seeing the Auroras, and have a few successful chases under our belt. Shared joy is doubled joy, as we experienced with Mait of Arctic Hospitality last week when he brought us along to one of his favourite places to view the magical glow. That night we saw some of the strongest auroras we have seen this season.
Of course we have to allow for disappointment too. The elements can’t be perfectly aligned at all times, but when they are, the show makes up for all those sleepless nights spent on the prowl.