Chasing the Northern Lights

Since the age of about 7 I have wanted to see the northern lights. At the time we used to live further north at a place called Lowick. One winters night my dad took me out to show me the Northern lights. At that age had no idea what I was looking at or where, and I never did understand where to look or see them. This has and did bug me for the rest of my life, over the years there has been the odd occasion when the lights have been visible further south in the UK. But I never did see them although I have spent many weird night on Alnwick moor gazing at the sky and trying hard not to be mistaken for a person of interest to the police.

2012-13 was the culmination of an 11 year solar cycle and a solar max. things would be down hill from then on. So it was a case of now or +11. I had not given much thought to this adventure but due to a lucky bit of serendipity I had to go to Chicago in March 2013. Not that far away from the best viewing areas for Northern lights. So I decided to extend my stay and make my way into the Yukon and a center of Aurora viewing, Whitehorse. This was a bit more than my usual self managed bimbles round the states so unusually for me I decided to book on a managed tour. I eventually decided on Northern Tales Travel on a four night package.

We were picked up every night about 10 driven out of Whitehorse for about 30 minutes to get away from the city's light pollution and into a darkened north facing field. There Northern tales had canvas huts with large wood stoves to keep us warm as we waited for the show to start.The first two nights we were presented with clear skies and no lights but on the third and fourth the entertainment began

First light

Each night things started the same with a green band appearing in the heavens sort of announcing things were going to kick off then the fun began. The third night we had a bit of a show but not that much Wolf out guide said if ten was a good night that was a two. But nature kept the best for last and on the last evening things really did take off.


Although it looks almost like bright daylight it was pitch black. The only illumination being the quarter moon. So it was a lot darker than it appears. Still its amazing what detail you can pick out.



You will probably have see in video of the lights. lots of waving around the sky like a shawl in the wind. We did not see any perceptible movment I was told by the guide that using time laps photography gave the impression of movement its there you just cannot see it. Different areas of the sky would start displaying at times so it was the location that drew your eye not the movement.




All the above photographs were taken by a very friendly gentleman I met from Singapore called K. W. Seah. I did not do enough research when it came to photography and arrived ill equipped for night shots. As it turned out the secret was a tripod and a camera that had an exposure time of at least 20s. My thanks to K. W as without his photographs I would have no record of that special night.


The final two shots were taken by the Northern Tales team, and although it was in the low twenty's I was toasty warm in my hired cold weather gear. In fact one of the interesting aspects of the tour was experiencing the temperatures, it got to -35 at its coldest but through the day hovered around the -20.


So finally after fifty plus years I got to see the lights, something else ticked off the bucket list and roll on 2024.


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