Aurora? Eureka!

In late March Amani and I set off on an aurora hunting trip to Swedish Lapland. This was my 4th attempt at seeing the Aurora Borealis. Three previous adventures – once to northern Finland, once to Geysir in Iceland and once to Tromso and Longyearbyen in northern Norway, (all in the freezing winter months!) whilst very enjoyable in other ways, were not successful in sighting the elusive aurora.

I chose Abisko in Sweden this time, due to its unusually dry micro-climate that helps produce cloudless skies and timed this trip to coincide with the new moon, to improve our chances. Nothing else was planned for this trip – we were going solely to try and see the aurora.

We flew with KLM to Stockholm via Amsterdam and then SAS to Kiruna. That was enough travelling for one day and we stopped the night there, also to give us an opportunity to buy some snow clothes for Amani. None of the ones he had from Iceland fitted him any more, so he needed some kitting out since true winter wear is pretty much impossible to find here in Muscat. Did some googling before we left and found there was an H&M right next to the hotel I’d booked – perfect! When we got there, being the end of winter they had a sale on, so we were able to get everything he needed at very reasonable prices. (usually everything in Scandinavia is very expensive.)

We caught the train to Abisko the next day – only about 1.5 hours. It was snowing quite a bit but the temperatures were relatively mild – only a little below zero. I’d pre-booked chairlift tickets to the Abisko Sky Station for our first evening, but unfortunately there was just solid cloud cover the whole evening. The wind was freezing up there… and all for nothing.

 The next day we went walking in the national park and spotted a moose. They’re much larger than I realized – pretty much the same size as a horse. Amani had a blast doing a bit of sledding as well.

We had a late dinner that evening as I planned to stay up as late as possible in case the aurora showed. Afterwards donned our jackets, gloves etc, grabbed my camera and tripod and we headed out into the wintery night again. As soon as we were outside, I could see stars in the sky. “That’s a good omen” I thought. Then, when we turned the corner of the building, the aurora was right in front of us!

It only lasted for 10 minutes or so, but I was ecstatic to have finally seen it. It was really beautiful. Then cloud cover set in, so even if the aurora returned, it wasn’t possible to see it. I kept going outside every hour or so until the wee hours, but nothing… Little did I know what was in store for us on our last night though!

 Amani spent much of the next day hooning down the slopes on a sled and we enjoyed some long walks in the park. That night there was solid cloud cover again, so no aurora. Seemed the micro-climate wasn’t working too well…

The following day we caught the train back to Kiruna where I’d book accommodation for us at Camp Ripan, a fun looking place on the outskirts of town. Again I’d chosen it for it’s location – in case there was any auroral activity I didn’t want it to be drowned out by the city lights. Cloudy skies again that night, but the following afternoon, the skies cleared. I waited anxiously for darkness to set in, which was not until after 8pm since this was our last in Swedish Lapland. We had a tasty dinner of Swedish meatballs in the restaurant and walking back to our cabin in the darkness, scanning the skies for any hint of the telltale green glow of the aurora. Nothing, but twilight hadn’t completely ended yet, so I wasn’t too disappointed.

We watched TV for a little while, waiting for the darkness to set in. Meanwhile, Amani dozed off. I kept glancing out the window by the bed, but couldn’t see any signs. But when I opened the cabin door, there was an aurora similar to what we’d seen at Abisko a few nights earlier. I rushed back in, put on all my layers of clothes, grabbed the camera and headed outside.

Over the next hour and a half, I was treated to one of the most amazing spectacles I’ve ever seen in my life. The aurora just got brighter and brighter. At times it moved directly overhead, dancing right above me. I managed to wake Amani and he saw a little of it before falling asleep in my arms complaining about the cold. I tucked the poor little guy back into bed and wandered of into the darkness, camera and tripod in hand, taking as many photos as I could. At times there was so much aurora all around, I didn’t know where to point the camera.

So at last, I can cross the Aurora Borealis off my Bucket List :-)

Aurora Borealis Slideshow