Chasing the Northern Lights in the Coupe 905
Posted by Mats Hjornevik, Marketing Manager at Nordkapp
As many of you know, we invited the Norwegian alpine champions Aksel Lund Svindal, Helene Olafsen and Kajsa Vickhoff-Lie to join us on a mission to the Lyngen Alps last year. You can check out the feature film here if you missed it. While venturing past the Arctic Circle for an epic trip of boating and skiing came with many magical moments, few could match the night when the northern lights, also called the Aurora Borealis, blessed us with an unforgettable show.
An otherworldly allure
Seeing this rare light phenomenon was part of my bucket list when we ventured up north. As we set out from the harbour in Tromsø towards Nord-Leangen in the Coupe 905, we knew the chances were slim for us to experience the Aurora in action. Since the conditions had to be almost perfect, and we only had a few nights in the Arctic. Still, hopes were high.
I find it interesting how nature's marvels continually surprise us with their beauty. We have all seen thousands of sunsets, and somehow, each and every one feels new and special. Especially at sea. The same goes for rainbows and lightning. But these all feel like a natural part of life on Earth. To me, the northern lights do not fit into this framework. These strange green lights, which most of times can only be seen in regions close to the poles, have an almost alien- or mystical element. And they don't follow a logical pattern either. You'd expect a sunset at the end of the day and rainbows after a rain shower. But the northern lights seem to appear at their own convenience. If a rainbow brings the same excitement as spotting a hedgehog casually strolling by your lawn, the northern lights are like catching a glimpse of a Lynx in the wild.
Folklore and legends
During our time in Lyngen, I got talking to a local elderly man who shared incredible stories about the Aurora and the meaning it brought to different cultures in the north. He told me that many indigenous groups believed the Aurora to be the place where people went after they died. For some, these lights were seen as an opportunity to communicate with the spirit world.
The Sami people, indigenous to northern Scandinavia and Russia, believed they could influence the weather by chanting a specific rhyme to the northern lights. And Vikings thought the lights were the glow of the Bifröst, a rainbow-coloured bridge connecting the world of humans (Midgard) to the realm of the gods (Asgard). And that Vikings sometimes interpreted the appearance of the Northern Lights as omens or signs of future events.
But his favourite story was one of Finnish folklore, called "Revontulet" or "Fox's fire" as it translates to. The fox was considered a creative and mystical figure in Finnish folklore. According to Finnish mythology, the Northern Lights were caused by a magical fox that ran so fast in the heavens– across the snow-covered landscape of Lapland that the tail created sparks when it came in contact with the mountain peaks, which made strange lights in the sky. This was also my favourite version and the one I'll tell my kids when we venture up north together.
A show of a lifetime
It was at the end of our second day in the Arctic when the stars aligned. The weather had been crisp the entire day, with temperatures down to -25 Celsius and a clear blue sky. In other words, perfect conditions for northern lights. After a long and eventful day of boating and skiing, the team had settled in our cabin, with the Coupe 905 resting at the dock by the fjord. And suddenly, Kajsa came in with a childish grin on her face, urging everyone to come outside quickly. And there it was before our eyes, the phenomenon we had dreamt of many times after seeing it in movies and pictures. It was surreal. No image you have seen of the northern lights can do it justice, and it was not only green but also filled with shades of yellow, pink, and purple. The colours intertwined as the lights danced above us, covering the fjord. Philip Pullman, the author, describes the northern lights like curtains dancing in the sky, which is the most accurate description I've heard. Seeing it appear live in action was a moment of pure bliss.
The northern dawn
This article has focused a lot on the mystic aspects of the Aurora, but I find the reality of it equally fascinating. "Aurora borealis" is a beautiful Latin term that translates to "northern dawn" in English. The phenomenon in the sky results from solar winds reacting with Earth's magnetic field. As charged particles from the solar wind are funnelled towards the polar regions, they collide with gases in the Earth's atmosphere, mainly oxygen and nitrogen. These collisions excite the gas molecules, causing them to emit light. The different colours of the Aurora depend on the types of gasses present; Oxygen typically produces green and red, while nitrogen can create pink, purple, and blue hues.
How do you see the Aurora?
Your best bet is to visit northern Scandinavia in winter, above the Arctic Circle. Preferably a place with little light pollution and few cloudy days. Tromsø in Norway, which we visited, is renowned as a reliable place to see the lights. Another good bet is Abisko in Sweden; it has an ideal location and the clearest skies in all of Sweden. There are plenty of Aurora tours in the north you can partake in, but all you need is some warm clothes, a thermos with plenty of hot cocoa, and a little luck.
Now, as I reflect on our time in the Arctic, there are many things I am thankful for. But the three things that top the list are the wonderful people I met, the Coupe 905, which never ceases to amaze me, and the light show we experienced that evening under the starlit sky.
Happy Aurora spotting!