Chasing the Aurora

Our final night on the Hurtigruten Nordnorge was monumental  for Zoe and I.  Since Avi fell asleep at dinner,   Bryan took him back to the room to read and go to sleep early.  He was tired as well and not interested in the late night port call at Svolvaer.  So, Zoe and I donned our winter gear and followed rumors of some northern lights action out the port side.

Our first glimpse was a bit vague.  The sky had puffy clouds which would occasionally hide the full moon, and behind one of these clouds, seemingly emanating from a mountain was a green haze similar to the orange glow that might show up in the sky above a distant city. It was unique and pretty, but still not breathtaking.

The boat docked in Svolvaer a bit late, so Zoe and I rushed off to an attraction called Magic Ice.  It was an ice sculpture display and bar.  She has asked at numerous other places to go to ice bars we have randomly passed, but they are always for adults only… This was for anyone, so she was antsy to go. The old fishing wharehouse that houses the place was just down the pier, so quite quickly we got in and got our welcome drink. The cups were even ice!  The sculptures were really neat and quite more intractable than I’ve seen before at festivals or events.  These would have designs made with bubbles formed on the inside, and some very cool statues; there was a fortress and walls to take pictures through, an old Viking longhouse, a boat and even throne to sit upon.  Many seating areas had been carved around the displays and had reindeer hides to sit on.  It was great and we enjoyed our 40 minutes immensely.  On the way back to the boat we glanced above a hotel and saw some crazy looking green haze that slowly formed into two distinct green columns like contrails from an airplane…now we were getting closer!

We scuttled onto the boat and went straight for the top floor outside viewing deck. Just as we got there a whole herd of tripod-toting elders wandered over to the side of the deck and got set up.  Zoe spotted it first! Far distant over the water above the port was a string of green.  Still not the magnificence I was hoping for, but distinct and ribbon-like and bright green.  It was beautiful.  We ran downstairs to grab Bryan and I sat with Avi while Zoe took him up; they sadly returned because the strip had disappeared.

Zoe and I wandered around on the various outside decks, finding the darkest spots, willing the aurora to come out.  This had been the first clear sky we’ve had.  After 10pm, the boat departed Svolvaer and she and I joined the group of participators to listen to another cool storytime.  This one was about a battle between old-school wooden boat line fishermen and the new steam boat net fishermen when they were only for the rich.  It was an excerpt from the book The Last Viking and took place at the Trollfjord which we were getting ready to pass.  It was interesting, but we were getting sleepy.

I encouraged Zoe to give aurora spotting one more try, so we went out on deck 5 waiting in various places, getting cold and coming inside, and heading back out.  Then, just as we were going to give up, it appeared.  We were waiting in the dark area along the port side staring at the moon glow off the snowy mountains when I pointed at a hazy green mist.  It slowly formed, or our eyes adjusted, and turned into a real ribbon of green expanding across the whole sky and out of view at the front of the boat.  It grew more and more distinct with a solid line at the base and that flowing ribbon look from pictures!  This was it!! The aurora borealis! The northern lights!  We were so excited.  I snapped a few pics, which turned out OK (there was a handout on board about how to make the settings on the camera).  Then we ran downstairs to get Bryan… who was sound asleep and needed roused….and when we returned…. it was gone, only a green mist again.  bummer.  But that was more than he had seen prior, so he was glad to get a glimpse.

….these are pictures of pictures on my good camera….I’ll update when possible….


Content with our sightings, Zoe and I head off to bed, though she was too excited to sleep and read Harry Potter (she’s on #4 now!) while I did a few periodic checks outside, took a few moonlight pictures, and we finally turned in around midnight.  What a night!

Bryan and Avi woke early the next morning and hopped into the town of Harstad during the hour we were docked.  Apparently they found a huge mound of snow to play on!  Zoe and I slept in, and then packed and tidied the room for checkout feeling quite satisfied with our boat trip.  Now, to get Avi and Bryan a better glimpse…

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