Searching For Light
25.08.2015 - 28.08.2015 1 °C
That’s the thing about holidays, there’s always the unexpected and not always for the good. I meant to get the next post written the day after the last one was done, but No Service got in the way!
And then hopeless wifi at the hotel; then a 5 hour train trip with more No Service; and embarkation and departure; then yesterday’s day of Glaciers; and last night’s formal dinner. So before today’s glaciers heave into view I’m grabbing a quiet moment in the library to write.
But I’m not writing about shipboard life yet.
Let’s talk about Alaska on land. We decided to do a land-cruise tour which gave us 4 nights in Princess hotels across Alaska with some tours thrown in. But first we went to Fairbanks Alaska (now hereby known as Frontierland). If you watched Disneyland when you were a kid you’ll remember Frontierland “tall tales and true of the legendary past”.
Well Fairbanks feels like you’re on the edge of no-man’s land and attracts the people who want to be on the edge of no man’s land. Shall we just say it was unusual? And there were LOTS of pick-up trucks and plaid jackets with caps pulled low over the eyes. I didn’t dare look to see if there were rifles on the back shelf in case someone saw me and wanted to debate it!!
But we were there for a purpose. Our highest bucket list item for this trip was the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis. Fairbanks is RIGHT in the Arctic zone where the lights are readily seen and claims that if you stay 3 nights in their “delightful town” you have an 80% chance of seeing the lights.
As we flew in (on the Bombardier aircraft!!) we could tell we were close to landing but STILL seemed to be flying through the clouds. I was beginning to get a bit antsy and it turned out to be quite justifiable. A few metres before a very bumpy, thudding, fast, and anxiety-inducing landing, we burst out of the clouds to pouring rain! And it didn’t stop. The rain that is. Eventually after some heavy braking the plane did stop!
Northern Lights need sun flares, cold weather and clear skies.
None of that happened, until our last night (with a 5am rising scheduled the next morning). Bear in mind that the Lights had been seen brilliantly in Anchorage (NOT in the zone) just the week before! The hotel called us at 2am and all of us who’d been called gathered on the balcony. We’d dressed in a hurry and it was a very cold clear night!
With not much to see, the cold soon sorted the “it’d be nice” from the determined. Being in the latter group, we decided to move to a darker part of the property where we hoped we might have a better chance. At first it was hard to determine which was wispy clouds and which the classic “curtains of light”. As we got more familiar with staring at that sky, the curtains slowly revealed themselves. Miss 6 had especially asked for a video of the Northern Lights to which we agreed not realising how slow and subtle the movement and revelation of the lights would be. So Mum and Dad had better start preparing her for photos only!!
As we watched, long streaks and orbs of light would appear and slowly merge and intensify or fade. But they were all white lights, (it wasn’t a spectacular session) but the camera set on long exposures showed up greens and streaks of red. I must say I was a bit disappointed by this white light bit, although the shapes and movement were fascinating. Sadly the photos looked good on the camera but haven’t converted particularly well. But for 2 hours we watched the magic happen. By the time we left to return to snatch an hours sleep, we left the final 2 people to it!
Northern Lights? Tick
Glaciers coming. So it’s time to leave you here but I’ll be back. I promise.