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Chasing The Light

Northern-Lights

A brief encounter with the Aurora Borealis

In early December, we packed our suitcases with all manner of warm clothing and thermal underwear, in preparation for our trip to the stretch of Norwegian coastline within the Arctic Circle. First of all our party of six took a flight to Tromso, before embarking on a boat that would ferry us to the most northerly town, Kirkenes, close to the Russian border. Some might question our decision to visit this country in the biting cold winter when there is little or no daylight, but we had a clear mission in mind, we were hoping to see the Aurora Borealis or the Northern Lights in common parlance. We were literally chasing the Light!!!

Northern-Lights-ferryWe were not undertaking our voyage on some grandiose cruise ship. We were actually on one of the passenger and car ferries that deliver post to all the outlying communities strung along the coastline. However, these days the ferries are predominantly used by tourists, enjoying the Land of the Midnight Sun in the summer months and Chasing the Light in the winter. In reality, the ferries do act like mini cruise ships, with spacious cabins, a full restaurant and cafeteria service, a lounge and bar, library and lecture room with the opportunity to watch short informative films and listen to some live music! You can learn about the Sami peoples that inhabit the Northern regions with their reindeer herds and how in the 40’s there was a government initiative to discourage them using their own language. Now however they are proud of their own language and cultural heritage and have their own governing body. There is also the possibility of going on short excursions or stretching your legs at one of the many ports of call. It is strange initially, finding yourself walking around in the dark in the daytime and can deceive you into thinking it is getting near bedtime!!

There is a clear sense of camaraderie on the boat as everyone is of one mind -they want to see the lights. You can be sitting in the restaurant eating your evening meal when an announcement is made that the Northern Lights can be seen out on deck. Suddenly there is a mad rush to put on as many layers as possible to cope with chilling winds and a mass exodus to get a good view. The poor waitresses are left patiently standing until their guests reappear at the table. Or an announcement might be made in the early hours, and bleary eyed passengers start excitedly emerging from their cabins, cameras in tow, in the hope of capturing a lasting image of the lights.

Clearly the Lights have a mind of their own and there is no guarantee of seeing them in all their splendour every night. On our first night, they appeared rather like a grey yellowish mass in the sky and were fairly non-descript and frankly rather disappointing. However on the next two occasions we saw a large bright mass hovering above the boat, with hints of green and pink and striations of light shimmering and moving like curtains in the sky. Apparently on a scale of one to ten, these displays were fairly low down but they were still an amazing vision to see, which is indelibly fixed in my mind. Interestingly, photographs show the green light more than the naked eye could see at this time. Some people do manage to have a spectacular colourful light show, lasting for several hours; but none of us felt cheated ,we were happy with the light we had chased! It is the kind of holiday I would certainly consider doing again. It is an experience of wonderment for young and old alike and the boats are fully equipped to take on board disabled passengers too. I would thoroughly recommend this voyage of a lifetime……

Enjoy the Chase!!!!