- Photo Essays
It begins as a wispy motion in the sky, almost as if your eyes are playing tricks you. On our first night we sit in the cold and the darkness with our hot chocolates, watching, waiting.
There is only darkness for what seems like hours. And then something changes. An almost undetectable lightening in one section of sky and a then a slight movement of this light. I blink once. Twice. The Aurora Borealis. It’s so faint that I’m not convinced. It’s 1am, I’m beyond tired and maybe my eyes are just clouding over. I’m not even totally sure I’m awake.
And then the cloud of light moves and becomes more visible. “I think that’s them starting” I say, pointing.
Then almost before I’ve finished speaking the words, the wispiness suddenly morphs into a moving wave of colour and texture and contracts and expands and darkens and lightens. Every second is different.
We had prepared our tripods and camera settings in readiness for this moment and so began capturing the phenomenon immediately. Sometimes the northern lights are out for only a few minutes. Sometimes not at all. We are so far north that we could almost reach out and touch the Arctic Circle.
Of all the places in Alaska, the northern lights are more visible the further north you go, but even here there are no guarantees. And with only three nights in this faraway place, this could well be our only chance to see and photograph the lights.
The second night we sit around a campfire with high hopes for another great show. We finally give in at 4am having seen nothing. We sleep until noon and awake to a perfectly clear day. A good sign for a possible clear night.
Sure enough, about 1am the lights begin to show themselves. We step out onto the front porch of our cosy Riverbend Log Cabin to take a quick look and close the door behind us to keep out the cold. Only to realize we don’t have our cabin key.
We are locked out without shoes, or coats, or cameras in the freezing cold northern night: a perfect time to introduce ourselves to our neighbours who are also up waiting for the lights. With their help we find a ladder and crawl through the unlocked door upstairs. Crisis averted.
With our new friends we head out through the forest along a tiny goat’s track to the Chena River to a clearing we had scouted out earlier in the day. Again, we sit and wait and talk and shiver. This time the lights form a kind of glowing green rainbow, are even more vibrant in colour and are reflected brilliantly in the river.
We went to North Pole, Alaska for three nights solely to catch a glimpse of the elusive northern lights, a far cry from our Southern Hemisphere home. Seeing the lights in all their glory two nights out of the three felt like we were the luckiest people in the world!
*For the best viewing of the northern lights it is best to get away from any city lights so that you have a perfectly dark sky. You can travel through Alaska by rail from Anchorage to Fairbanks and either rent a car or taxi to to take you to North Pole or any other surrounding areas in the interior.