On the Hunt for the Northern Lights
The thrill of witnessing the Aurora Borealis is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many. Some, however, get hooked and can never get enough of the blazing colours in the sky.
The Northern Lights dancing up above is such a powerful and unique natural phenomenon it changes lives down on Earth. Being one of the best places to spot the Aurorae, Finland has even received immigration because of them.
The Lights Brought Andy to Finland
Years ago, Welshman Andy Keen was diagnosed with a neural disease that made him review his priorities in life. Upon seeing a documentary on the Northern Lights, he decided to go see them.
In 2009, he ended up in Ivalo, Finnish Lapland, and saw the Aurorae on his first night there.
– I lay on my back in the snow looking at them dancing across the sky. In addition to the lights, the almost deafening silence was also memorable, Andy says.
Profession: Aurora Hunter
Andy became a professional Northern Lights hunter and photographer with his own excursion company.
– I’ve now spent over 5 000 hours under the Northern Lights and I’m mesmerized every time I see them, says Andy.
– I enjoy watching people’s reactions when they see them for the first time – business men turn into little children and couples suddenly go extremely romantic, he says.
The Basics of Northern Lights Chasing
British journalist Fran Weaver has lived in Finland for many years, and still gets a thrill out of the Northern Lights. He still remembers his first time clearly.
– The sight was almost apocalyptical. The ever-changing patterns and colours of this spellbinding light show remained visible for several hours right across Finland, Fran says.
Even today, Fran always keeps a keen eye on the sky on clear evenings. Here’s a few tips from him to Aurora chasers:
- Go north. In northern Lapland the lights shine about every other clear night between September and March. In southern Finland they are visible on about 10-20 nights a year.
- Look to the stars. If you notice that the night sky is clear and starry, your chances of seeing the northern lights are good.
- Stay outside. The lights might unexpectedly appear and just as suddenly vanish any time from just after sunset to just before dawn.
- Wrap up warm. It tends to be very chilly on the clear winter nights when the lights are most easily seen.
- Darkness is your friend. Get away from bright lights and buildings. Hilltops and lakeshores make good vantage points.
- Sign up for aurora alerts. On the Finnish Meteorological Institute’s informative Auroras Now! website, you can sign up for free e-mail alerts sent whenever magnetic conditions in the skies over Finland make auroral displays likely.
In Lapland, swapping the hustle and bustle of ski resorts and cities to the peace and quiet of the wilderness takes mere minutes.