Dana Mladin
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The Northern Lights – a fascinating and scary spectacle of the sky

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When I decided to go to Greenland on my birthday, I did this first of all for dog sledding. But I could not miss the spectacular phenomenon – the Northern Lights, especially since I found myself there during the right period, at the end of March.

WHEN TO SEE AURORA BOREALIS

I knew the best moment to see them was in autumn, but apparently it is not like that. You can see them during spring too, if the sky is clear and you can enjoy them. So I paid for a one night trip to see the Lights.

The very nice people from the agency called me a few days before I got to Greenland to tell me that they will have to move the trip one day earlier, because the weather is better and there are no chances of clouds. So, as soon as I got to Greenland, I started getting ready for the night adventure, with a small warm up at minus 15 degrees Celsius during the day…

I really look like a Ninja Turtle with these glasses, but I could not see a thing without them!

At 9:30 PM, all the trip payers gather at the meeting point. People from all over the world, as enthusiastic as I was and as heavily clothed as I was. No, I am even better, because I have a special hood that only leaves my eyes out. Over that I have a cap and over the cap I have the hood from the jacket. They all look at me and my camouflage. But what do I care?…

NORTHERN LIGHTS TOUR

Two guides come to tell us what to expect, how well-behaved we have to be, that we are not supposed to go out of the line and many other things like these. They check the tourists who have health problems, in order to pay more attention to them and then, they give us the shoes… That is, the snowshoes. The shoes we will use to walk in the snow all the way to the… lights.

I got some red ones. Damn, this is good. I was really frightened about someone giving me the bad-eye, as today I don’t wear red underwear. J

I also have sticks in my hands and lights on the forehead J. I feel as if we were going to a mine…

In perfect order, in a line, we go to see the Northern Lights. I wouldn’t be amazed if the guide in front of the line started to sing the march song:

  • One and two, one and two…
  • We are walking, we are happy too.
  • The lights to watch
  • And a cold to catch J

As it is so very cold, nobody dares open the mouth. So we are not singing. We are just walking slowly in the snow, going up and down some small snow dunes.

We see an old cemetery. Its image combined with the sound of the cold wind and the pitch black night are perfect elements for a horror movie… I get goosebumps.

We have been walking for some time. I look back and I see the lights of the town becoming smaller and dimmer.

We keep our eyes on the sky and, as soon as we think we see something green, we switch off the lanterns which spoil the visibility. But… nothing yet. Just our imagination.

Rarely there’s someone in the group who says something. Otherwise, we can only hear the sound of the snow under our snowshoes.

After more than one hour of going through the white desert, we get to the top of a hill. Pitch dark! No light on the sky. The wind (the ocean current?) is stronger and extremely cold. We are all frozen. They have started to envy me for my special hood that protects my face better than those of the others…

The guides show us a wooden house, the kind used as shelter in the mountains. We will go in to drink a hot tea and get warm a bit. Everybody is happy. But… shock and terror: they cannot find the key. Body search, the guides seem to suggest, while looking desperate for the key in their numerous pockets. There is no mat at the door, because that was the last hope, that the key could be found there… So… that’s it for us. No heat, no warm tea.

God, it is cold! We look inside the backpacks, each for his or her own winter accessories. I decide to wear yet another pair of mittens. You know, the two fingered warm kind.

Two Asiatic people from Hong Kong ask me where I am from. When they hear I am from Romania, their faces light up (as much as I can realize in the dark around). They tell me they are mega-fans of Simona Halep! They are such fans that they go all over the world to see her, in the places where she has important matches!!! That is cool!

NORTHERN LIGHTS SHOW…

Suddenly the sky becomes green. We all forget in an instant about the cold and we begin to take out the technique: phone, photo-camera, professional camera… My Goodness, what a thing this guy has, I wonder when I see the camera of a trip colleague. The man could very well be from National Geographic! And there he goes, he takes out the tripod… the Laptop… My God, some people do know what they want, that is very clear…

And I, the sucker, don’t even know to set the camera. J

I have a flashback: before going to Greenland, I was lucky in Iceland to have a clear sky and I was advised to pay for a few hours trip to see the Northern Lights.

Over a hill outside the town I saw the phenomenon for the first time. Impressive! But a lot under the spectacle I was to see in Greenland.

This is what my camera saw as the Northern Lights in Iceland:

Ha-ha! Don’t argue! I saw it! It is somewhere in the picture, well-hidden…

I was lucky with a nice American who, in a perfect dark, tried to set my camera for me to be able to see the phenomenon. Anyway, I abandoned it, as my hands were frozen and everything seemed too complicated for me. I kept my eyes on the sky and I asked the man to send me something from what he photographed. And he did, to my greatest joy!

The Northern Lights in Iceland

NORTHERN LIGHTS PICTURES

Let us go back to Greenland, to the hill we are on, frozen to death! My flashback will prove to be of great help!

The sky begins to glow in shades of green. “Wow!” and “My God!” are the most frequent things I hear! And the cameras.

The spectacle of the sky is fabulous! You will laugh, but it seems frightening to me! It is something… how can I explain, elevating and terrifying at the same time, you feel very small and the phantoms of the sky dominate you! (I have quite an imagination, right?J)

We are all amazed by each rapid drawing the green veil (which sometimes turns purple) puts on the sky. It is like a magic powder taken by the wind, that has spectacular forms and dimensions. It looks as if someone is trying to put a blanket over the sky. And you just sit there and look dumbfounded, as far as you can.

I looked for many minutes at the unimaginable spectacle!

Next to me, people try to take as many photos as possible and as good as they can get them… I tried to remember what the American had told me in Iceland, when he showed me how to set the camera. Lucky me! I get some good photos. And maybe I don’t have a tripod and a laptop as others do, but you know that Romanians are inventive so I make out of the backpack and a mitten sort of a pedestal in the snow, so that the camera does not move J. And this way, I get a few good photos.

The Hong Kong boys seem to have their hands frozen on the cameras, so they stop taking pictures and they gather all their things. They promise to send me their photos too. I cannot wait!

So do two guys from Dublin. Note: I really got photos from them – the three that you can see next. I am very happy to have them, even if mine are more… natural, closer to reality.

I have no idea how long I looked at the sky, in a freezing wind that made us all very cold, but IT WAS WORTH IT!

We go back to the town. In the same ordered manner. Very happy with what we had seen. I look back. What?!? It is as if the people had ordered the show just for us, at a certain hour. You know, there’s no sign of any Northern Light on the sky now!!! You’d think they left the sky right after we left the place on the hill!

NORTHERN LIGHTS BOOK

We walk as if controlled by a remote control, through the dark. I remember I had bought a book about the Northern Lights. So that I can better understand the phenomenon.

This is how I found out that the Northern Lights are of three types:

  • calm, that is static – the most frequent
  • pulsating – blinks on and off at regular intervals (seconds or even less)
  • active – the greatest one – what we saw, with spectacular changes of the veil on the sky…

The strongest Northern Lights are so intense, they can disturb the electric equipment!

Someone in the group gets sick. I don’t really understand what it is. It seems their legs have frozen. Terrible! The guides stop us, they have a talk, someone makes a call and then one of them leaves the group to take the two people with problems to a car meeting them in a valley. We go on following the path. The snow makes squeaky sounds under our feet.

We get to the hotel and we take off the thick clothes, then we try to get warm a bit while exchanging impressions. Now we all have faces…

Midnight catches us talking. I tell them that it is my birthday, they wish me the best and that, this is it, to bed. I am still dizzy from jet lag. There is a five hours difference from the Romanian time. I fall asleep in a second. But I am very happy for the experience I had and for what I am going to do on my birthday – dog sledding!!!

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