A particularly strong outburst of solar activity has led to some stunning displays of the Northern Lights across Sweden in the last few days.
We are currently at the peak of an 11-year cycle of solar activity, and scientists’ predictions that this winter season should see some of the best displays in 50 years have been borne out by the intense auroras seen even in the more southern areas of country, much further south than would normally be expected (displays were even reported as far south as Yorkshire in northern England!). Tuesday’s display (24th January) in the far north of Sweden was described as “like an explosion in the sky” by a friend of mine near Kiruna, which lies 200km inside the Arctic Circle in Swedish Lapland.
The sequence above was taken by a friend, photographer Fredrik Borman, in the Luleå region of northern Sweden on 24/01/2012.
I was lucky enough to be just across the border into Norway over the weekend, and we were treated to some stunning displays on both Saturday and Sunday night. Saturday night was particularly memorable, as we spent the evening in a “badtunna” (wood-heated outside bathing barrel) at a wilderness camp – relaxing in a hot tub with a cold beer gazing up at the Aurora shimmering across the sky is a definite once-in-a-lifetime memory!
The display began slowly, with a narrow band of green-tinged light stretching right across the horizon like a strip of greenish cloud. But gradually over the course of the evening the colours intensified into brighter greens tinged with white, and the Northern Lights began their dance – shifting lines of light chasing and playing across the sky, the main band arcing and reforming, sometimes looking like a searchlight beam, sometimes like the branches of a tree, sometimes still and suddenly swirling into a new shape. At time we even saw tinges of red around the edges, rarely seen except on camera shots.
We were particularly lucky with the length of the display – at least some lights were with us the whole evening, but the more intense sections lasted for at least an hour or so. Fortunately the fire in the badtunna was burning fiercely and the water nice and warm! As midnight ticked over into the early part of Sunday morning, the Aurora faded and we climbed out into the freezing air, wrapped ourselves tight in our bath robes and made a run for the cabins. Sleep did not come easily – when I closed my eyes the swirling curtains of the Northern Lights were there doing their dance.
Thinking ourselves incredibly lucky to have seen one good display, we were treated again the next night. Wider and more diffuse, covering a large portion of the sky, the Northern Lights showed themselves very early, about 5.30 in the afternoon, and stayed with us quietly in the background through most of the evening.
Then, as we were driving home from a Viking dinner, the show intensified. We stopped the bus at a layby far from light pollution, and suddenly a spectacular display unfolded above us. Above the peaks of the mountains a wide curtain of green and white opened, with shooting streaks jabbing down to the horizon, chasing each other across the sky to the left and right. Traces of pink and red tinged the spears of light as the Aurora undulating like a swell on the ocean.
More intense than the evening before, this display was also shorter. After a few minutes the lights faded once more to a background glow. We eased the cricks out of our necks, and retreated to the warmth of the bus, counting ourselves incredibly lucky.
Nature Travels offers a wide range of winter adventures in Sweden located in areas which give very good chances to see a display of the Northern Lights during your tour, from family-friendly dogsled tours to challenging ski touring expeditions.
Of course, displays can never be guaranteed even in such an active year, and we always recommend that the excitement of the activities and the very special atmosphere of the Arctic winter should be your main motivations for travelling, but a display of the Northern Lights is certainly the icing on the cake at the end of a day’s dog sledding in the wilderness!
Bob from The Nature Travels Team