A few months ago, Elaine and I visited Ivalo in Finland to celebrate her birthday. One of our activities on that was trip a Reindeer safari in the middle of the night where we drove deep into the forest in complete darkness (not to mention sub-zero temperatures) to see if we can catch a glimpse of the Aurora. Unfortunately for us, the Arctic sky wasn’t clear that night and our mission was crippled by the snow clouds above. We decided that we’ll return to the Arctic in future to try again. Tonight, was officially our second attempt.

This evening, the five of us were all on a bus with a local tour guide, ready to hunt the Aurora. The bus departed from Tromsø shortly after 18:00 but we knew that we were facing the same issue as we did back in February – once again we had heavy snow clouds building up all around us, so our mission would be to find clear skies. The tour guide also warned that we had a challenging evening ahead of us and asked multiple time for everyone to remain patient with the staff. Keep in mind, the Aurora is a natural occurrence which the tour guides can’t control, so hunting the Aurora will always be a bit of a gamble. We started driving in an easterly direction with stops along the way where the guides did quick scans of the night sky and assessing clouds and weather patterns on their iPads. They decided that our best option was to drive all the way to Finland.

Now, interesting story, Tromsø is considered the capital of the Arctic but it’s not the coldest town you’ll ever visit due to its location. Situated on the coast of Norway, Tromsø actually has higher temperatures than its surrounded areas due to the mild water temperatures of the Gulf Stream. So when we left Tromsø at 18:00, the temperature was 2’C, but as we drove east to cross the mountain range to get to the Finland-Norway border, temperatures quickly plummeted.

After about 3 hours of driving, we finally found some clear skies in Finland. We stepped off the bus and it was -17’C. Now, Elaine and I were geared for the occasion with our snow boots, snow pants and ski jackets but I have no idea how Nico, Cinthya or Lauren managed to cope in those conditions with their South African winter gear. Nico, of course, has a lot of built-in body padding, but that’s a discussion for another day 😉

Standing outside in the Arctic on a rocky terrain in the middle of the winter for almost 3 hours, just waiting for the Aurora to magically appear is probably the most exciting, stupid and most boring thing you’ll do in life. You see, hope is a powerful thing because we braced the cold to look for something so beautiful that may or may not occur. We were all excited about the clear skies above and for every second we waited in the cold we knew that, at any moment, we may get to see something spectacular that only a handful of people will see during their lifetime. And then, without warning, something happened – for a brief 2 to 3 seconds we were able to see a green glow above, but it was gone in the blink of an eye.

We drove back, crossed the border and arrived home at around 01:30am. Our second attempt was also unsuccessful, so the hunt for the Aurora continues…

Here are some photos:
Important to note – these are long exposure photos so it may seem like they were taken in daylight, but they were taken during the night and the green glow that you can see on the photo (Aurora activity) was actually not visible to the naked eye.

Long exposure photo showing the Aurora activity. The green glow on this photo was not visible to the naked eye.
Long exposure photo showing the Aurora activity. The green glow on this photo was not visible to the naked eye.
On the left, Nico and Cinthya is in Finland whilst on the right, Elaine and I in Norway.
It takes about 10 minutes to get into the car. Every time.