Halfway through dinner, at 9pm came the call everyone had been waiting for.
ĎLadies and gentlemen, (dramatic pause), we now have the Northern Lights. There was an immediate stampede of diners leaving their meals, and rushing off to the upper open deck, to view! Many of them were still in their shirtsleeves. Milling about, they blocked the gangways, and jammed the lifts! DD and I, having experienced the cold the previous evening, went downstairs and put our thermals on, and collected DDís camera, set up and ready on the tripod.
On the exposed upper deck, it was -14íC without the added wind chill. It was Brass Monkeys! It was face freezing, ear burning, finger tingling, bum numbing, *****cold!!
The ship was dancing a fiddlers jig, plunging up and down and side to side, threatening to have you off your feet! The jacuzzi had been slopping over the sides and the water had frozen on the deck, leaving an ice rink. A ferocious wind, was whipping the snow off every surface, causing a stinging cloud of ice particles, and threatening to snatch my hat off my head, and my scarf from around my neck, and deposit them both in the Arctic ocean. There was soon an exodus of diners going back to their dinners, and within ten minutes there were less than twenty of us left out on deck.
This lone figure, hanging on to the rail for grim death with one hand, and her hat with the other, was me!!!
A Quick Physics Lesson please donít panic!
The aurora borealis is caused by high energy atomic particles released by magnetic flares and other activity on the sun.
The particles are swept along on the Solar Wind, till they encounter the Earths magnetic field, then they are channelled down the magnetic flux lines towards the poles.
When they reach the upper atmosphere, they collide with atoms of Oxygen (mostly) and Nitrogen (occasionally),
and the extra energy absorbed by the electrons of the oxygen and nitrogen atoms, pushes them into higher orbits.
These high energy paths are unsustainable without a continuous input of energy, and the electrons jump back to their original orbits.
They release the extra energy as a flash of visible light. This produces the effects of the aurora.
Itís an unfortunate fact that the human eye is not as capable of seeing colour at low light levels as the camera is.
Therefore a lot of people are disappointed when they donít see the bright greens and reds shown in these photos, but see it as mostly a pearly grey, with only hints of green and red when the aurora is very active.
These photos were taken when the aurora was right above us, giving a starburst effect.
We had three nights of seeing the Northern Lights, but the sun, despite coming to the maximum of itís eleven year cycle, is just not very active at the moment. We are out of the Arctic Circle now and heading south, so we have little chance of seeing them again this trip. Tomorrow night we will be home again. Itís been a lovely trip. Thanks to all my sparkfriends for joining me on the journey, and thanks to DD for the lovely aurora pictures.