Seeing the Northern Lights was like watching a magic show performed by God!
Here I was in Fairbanks, Alaska with a mission to see the Northern Lights. Solo. With a temperature of -56 degrees. Did you catch that minus sign? Oh, and we won’t even talk about how cold it FELT! But, I did not care! I was going to see the Aurora Borealis!
I had researched for a couple weeks on the factors for viewing the Northern Lights. The weather for the weekend was unbearably cold and sunny. Perfect weather conditions, I thought.
I arrived on a Friday evening with a tour to see the Northern Lights leaving around 9PM. To stay warm, I put on extra clothes, including my Carhart overalls AND my snowsuit overalls. I layered my clothes underneath and topped it off with a warm parka and hand warmers. Then, I grabbed my camera gear and headed downstairs for the tour bus.
Off I go on a group Northern Lights viewing tour!
The tour leader arrives on time to the hotel to pick me up. I am waddling to the van and literally roll myself into it. We take off down the snowy road of Fairbanks to our destination. I am beginning to worry because it is snowing. What happened to the clear skies?! How am I going to see the Northern Lights if it is snowing?
The tour with Alaska Aurora Adventures included the transportation to a quaint little cabin out in the middle of no where. It is still snowing when we arrive, so we make our way inside. While waiting for the snow storm to clear out (hoping!), we warmed up by the fireplace, enjoyed snacks and warm drinks, and watched Aurora videos to get us hyped up! I went outside every so often to check for a clearing in the sky and played with my camera.
Here are some pictures I took while waiting on the Northern Lights to come into view!
Megan, the tour leader for the night, was very helpful in showing me how to use my camera. Without her help, I am sure I would not have been able to capture any night time photos the entire trip! Unfortunately, it was a bust. No view of the Northern Lights due to the cloudy sky.
Not seeing what you came so far to see can be depressing! I knew I only had ONE more night before returning home to see what I came for.
Night #2 Attempt to View the Northern Lights
I selfishly prayed to God to let me see the Northern Lights. I had a feeling it was going to happen. Exhausted from having little sleep due to the constant activities I had planned, I made my way downstairs to join another group tour to see the dancing lights!
This time, I hopped into the front seat of the vehicle with only one pair of overalls. Much easier, I thought! I was with Steve from Greatland Taxi and Tours Service this time. He was not sure where we were going to go. He made a few phone calls to some of his friends to find out where the best place to go was. We ended up out in the middle of Harding Lake.
In case you have not ever stood on a frozen lake before, it’s really cool! Like close to -50 degrees feeling cool! I looked up at the sky for any thing resembling the Aurora Borealis. I had heard that it sometimes looks like a faint cloud, like the exhaust from a jet. So, I started snapping pictures of the gray cloud.
Here is the first picture I snapped of the gray clouds.
I had read that the Northern Lights sometimes show up better in a picture. Surprised, I noticed the green tint in the “cloud” that seemed to move. For what seemed like 2 hours, I worked on setting up my camera for the best possible shots. Most of the others in my group had decided to stay inside the vehicle to keep warm.
I was cold. But, I was too excited about what I thought I was seeing to sit in the vehicle. Finally, I decided I would sit in the vehicle and stare out through the windows. That’s when it happened! Just as I was complaining about how bad my feet were hurting from the cold, Steve shouts, “There it is! Come on before you miss it!” With my gloves only half way on, I jump out of the vehicle to see one of the most amazing sights my eyes have ever viewed!
Right above me was God’s dancing lights!
I was not the only one excited. The others had jumped out of the vehicle, as well. They were talking in their native language, trying to set up their cameras. Trying to avoid their lights, I moved several feet in front of them to not mess up my night vision. I started taking photos, as I had been instructed the previous night.
If my tears would not have froze, I would have cried! I thanked God over and over. I even heard one of the other members of the group say, “Thank you, Lord!” Words cannot describe how majestic those dancing lights looked as they moved from my left to my right. Sometimes they were more intense than others. The show lasted about 20 minutes before Steve told us we needed to get ready to head back.
We had a few complications leaving the lake after viewing the Northern Lights.
I climbed into the vehicle with my frozen hands and my painful feet. Was this frost bite?! I tried breaking down my tripod but it was frozen and no matter how much I tried I could not loosen it. I placed it in the vehicle to warm up and condensed it as it thawed out.
After our group was in the vehicle, it was time to take off. Now remember, we are on a frozen lake in the middle of the night. The snow was up to my knees when I was walking in it. So, you know how easy it was to get that vehicle off the lake. It wasn’t!
But, what it WAS, was an adventure!!!!!!!!!
Steve tried going at a speed that allowed us to keep our momentum. Unfortunately, one of the tires got stuck in a previous track and we got stuck! After realizing we were not going anywhere, the group got out and started pushing. We pushed from the back. Then, we cleared some snow out of the way. Then, we pushed from the front. This went on for quite some time until we FINALLY got going. We made it off the lake and onto the road. I looked back into the sky and never did see the Northern Lights again.
Those few minutes of my lifetime viewing the Northern Lights will be moments I will NEVER, ever forget. I can’t wait to go back again. Especially, now that I know tips to view the Northern Lights.