Chasing the Northern Lights
Claire recalls her extraordinary experience seeing the spectacular Northern Lights in the Arctic Circle, the memory of which will remain etched in her mind forever.
I have been lucky enough to ‘chase’ the Northern Lights (or aurora borealis) on several occasions in the Arctic Circle, each of which will remain ingrained in my memory forevermore. It is incredibly difficult to explain exactly how the experience of seeing such an immensely powerful natural phenomenon made me feel, but first and foremost, it made me realise just how small and insignificant we really are.
I waited patiently for my first display, which appeared eye-wateringly early in the morning or, more accurately, what felt like the middle of the night. Having spent hours craning my neck to stare at an empty, starlit sky, willing something to happen, I finally glimpsed a diminutive green dot – so small that I had to confirm with my travelling companions as to whether I was seeing things. But, within seconds, this tiny speck began to build into a crescendo, becoming stronger and stronger, until the most magical light show filled the night sky.
I can only describe the spectacle as a mass of billowing curtains, with vast and vivid light streams of varying intensities and shapes, reaching ever upwards and moving in mesmerising waves. They seemed to dance in front of my eyes, traversing the firmament in a ripple of multi-hued rays.
I had certainly underestimated the scores of colours, which apparently change according to the season. For us, the sky was illuminated with every shade of green, from bright neon to mossy, soft pinks, scarlet hues, deep blues and vivid purples. I was struck by the silence that came with it all – no flashes of lightning or claps of thunder, just pure, unadulterated silence.
If you are fortunate enough to catch the Northern Lights, however long they last – I cannot recall whether I was standing there for 10 minutes or an hour – you can be sure that you will be utterly awestruck by this unique experience.
The best time to see the aurora borealis in the Arctic is in midwinter, from November to March, when there are longer hours of darkness.