Thursday, 16 February 2017

Lapland Day 5: Aurora Borealis

This night out was definitely one of the best nights of my life.

Earlier in the day I had scoped out some locations by the side of the lake that I wanted to visit again at night to take some shots of the aurora from. The locations I decided on were a two mile trek across the frozen lake from my cabin.

As I set off in the evening, under a bright moon in a cloudless sky, the aurora was already streaking across the sky to the north in big bands of shimmering green. I broke into a jog, trying to stick to the tracks made by skidoos, as they pack down the snow and make it easier to run on. I thought I was going in the right direction, but found I had veered off to the left a bit too much. This wasn't a problem though, as the rocky boulders I passed on the way made my first shots, with one big boulder surrounded by an ice "moat", and the aurora in the background.

I pushed on, crossing over to the right, crunching through the ice crust surface into the snow below: as the clouds had cleared, the temperature had rapidly dropped to -25 Celsius. I stopped at another boulder to take a couple more shots. When I was setting the first shot up, a deep rumble like distant thunder broke out on my right hand side. It quickly travelled towards me, and under me, and off to my left: the rapid temperature change was causing the ice to shift. This particular tremor was strong enough to shake my tripod, and leave me a bit shaken too. The rumblings and crackings, near and far, were almost constant, and the only things to break the stillness and quiet.

I moved on again, crossing an inlet of the lake, to the final location. Here were more rocks and some ice that was clear of snow (to hopefully get some reflections of the aurora). I took a couple of shots of the rocks, and then moved to the very broken down jetty, to try and get onto the clear ice. Off to one side of the jetty was a snow drift, and I gently pressed my foot down into it. It felt as firm as anything else, so I put some more weight onto it, and the ice below gave way. Probably the movement of the unsecured jetty had kept that bit of water from freezing properly. With my camera and tripod in my right hand, I very luckily managed to grab the jetty with my left arm, and stop my fall. I ended up waist deep in the water, and I quickly pulled myself out. Apart from being a bit wet, no harm done (I was nice and warm, from jogging across the lake).

I carried on taking a couple more shots, and then decided to pack up and start the two mile journey back across the lake to home. I quickly noticed that everything that had got wet (my boots, gaiters, trousers and glove) were icing up. In no time at all they were as solid as they could be (it was -25 Celsius, after all). I jogged back. Stopping quite often to turn and look to the north at the aurora. I took a couple more shots.

At home, removing my frozen solid gaiters was a challenge. As was taking off my boots (the laces being lumps of ice). Despite this, I had a pretty wide grin on my face.