I understand how desperate people can feel trying to see the northern lights. It’s hard to accept that it’s down to the weather, and good luck, and nothing else. People are willing to do anything – anything – to see them, and they think that, like believing in fairies, if they just believe enough, they’ll see them.
I have to break it to them gently. Their determination to see them won’t make any difference. They can’t buy them on a Northern Lights tour. And there’s absolutely nothing they can do to increase their chances of success, except staying awake.
People don’t want to hear this. It’s tough love, when I explain. Afterwards I send them off to one of Kiruna’s restaurants with the consoling thought that, after all, unpredictability is what makes the aurora so wonderful. Just relax, I advise them, because there’s nothing you can do.
At least that’s what I thought until yesterday.
There were a couple of people here determined to take good photographs of the lights. They were not casual visitors – they’d been planning this for some while.
They’d invested in boots so they could stand out on the ice in minus 70, waiting for the lights to appear. They’d bought the tripods and the special camera equipment for taking photographs in dark conditions. They’d got the ‘app’ for telling them the current kp prediction, and they’d tuned into the nearest source of detailed local weather information. They’d rented a car so they could ‘chase’ the lights, and they were prepared to drive many hours in the hope of ‘catching’ them.
During the day they’d gone out on a ‘recce’, searching for suitable places to return to later with their equipment. They drove for many hours, looking for the perfect spot. It was a whole day’s work, preparing for the main activity later that night.
They took only a short break back here, resting for an hour or so before going out and buying energy drinks to keep them on their feet during the long night. They packed up all their equipment in a huge rucksack, and then set out again, driving back down the same long road in the snow to their chosen spot, where they would spend the rest of the night, waiting in the darkness and the cold for the clouds to move away and for the lights to appear.
We went to bed, knowing they wouldn’t be back until the following morning.
The next day they were all smiles. ‘We had a really hard time’, they told us, ‘but – we did it!!!’.
Through sheer force of will and a lot of very expensive equipment they’d won through. Fearlessly, they’d gone out and they’d made those tricksy northern lights appear.
And there was I thinking the lights were created by solar activity and geomagnetic forces!