It was a long cold 1500km drive south from Birtavarre Norway to Arlanda Airport in Stockholm. We spent another fruitless night looking for Aurora. It was a clear night with the temperature dropping to -18C, but no sign anywhere of Aurora.
We left Birtavarre at 5:00am, and within a couple of hours we were back in Finland, refuelling the car with cheaper Finish Diesel (about $A2 a litre) rather than expensive Norwegian Diesel ($A3 per litre). When we refuelled it was -24C and we worked our way through northern Finland for about 100km with the temperature dropping even lower. The temperature finally dropped to -36C with the cars clutch starting to play up getting heavier to use. We thought it might be the cluch fluid freezing , but it turns out clutch fluid does not freeze until -59C, so something else caused the clutch to play up when it was very very cold.
We crossed south into Sweden with the temperature still hovering around the -36C level. We drove through a town where a couple were taking their baby out for a walk in a pram, and it was still -36C.
We finally had the sun rise over the horizon in northern Sweden, unfortunately we drove straight into the low sun for a couple of hours. By the time it got dark at about 2pm we had covered 500km, but we still had a 1000km to go. Once we got to Lulea the road got wider with more overtaking lanes. Around about 600km from Stockholm it started snowing again and you have difficulties overtaking the trucks on the overtaking lanes. The trucks kick up light snow that billows around like dust on an Australian dirt road when you follow them. When you overtake the outside lane has a lot more snow sitting on the road because not as many cars use the outside lane. So you pass on the outside lane driving through layers of snow trying to peer through the snow being thrown up by the truck you are passing. Very difficult.
We stopped at a parking bay about 11pm and slept in the back of the car, waking again at 5am to do the last 350km to Stockholm. We refuelled the car at a Service Station about 40km from Arlanda Airport with only 2 hours before our flight left. We asked the service station attendant if he could take some our of discarded camping equipment, and he kindly volunteered to take it to a local charity. With a very fast and rough repack, and a very superficial clean of the car (it was still caked with ice on the rear) we rushed to Avis to return the car. Hopped on the bus from Avis to Terminal 5, checked in, did the usual long wait in security, changed out of our thermals, and by the time we made the gate, they had started to board the plane.
We are waiting for possibly good Aurora tonight in Finland. The sun has a very large sunspot on it (it has a number AR1944).
Two days ago this very large sunspot emitted a solar flare and a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) which has been heading towards the earth at 2000km per second. The sun was not facing the earth directly at the time of the CME, but it is expected to give the earth a glancing blow. This CME is big enough that NASA scrubbed the Cygnus resupply launch to the International Space Station.This CME is expected to distort the earth’s geomagnetic field which is called a geomagnetic storm. The benefit of a geomagnetic storm is that it ….. creates Auroras!
However we need more things going our way, Firstly the CME is expected to hit in the middle of the day out time, and its not dark then (sunrise here is 11:30am sunset 1:30pm). However no one is quite sure when the CME will hit and it could be some hours later. Secondly we need good weather. It has been snowing here in Särkijärven, Finland for the past 3 days and it does not make good Aurora viewing. However tonight it is meant to clearing, with a crisp clear night of -20C. At the moment it is still snowing so we can only cross our fingers and keep watching the Kiruna Magnetogram which indicates the affect of the CME on the earths magnetic field. Kiruna ia a couple of hundred kilometres west of here so it should give us a good warning.
UPDATE: It is nearly 1am and no sign of Aurora. The CME has arrived but not as strong as predicted, so it looks like no geomagnetic storms. The weather is excellent for viewing with clear skys and -17C:
We made it to Abisko. We arrived late (about 7pm) so rather than search in the dark for a campsite, we slept in the back of the car. We passed the Arctic circle, with it getting dark about 1:30pm. The lowest temperature we had today was -8C at Abisko, with most of the day the temperature hovering around -5C. No Northern Lights yet, but we can see stars.
We started the drive North about 10am Monday, not long after it got light (9:30am). It was easy driving on a freeway until we got to Gavle, where we stopped at a supermarket for supplies. The shopping centre was packed with holiday shoppers, and it took us about ten minutes to leave, the traffic was so dense.
The road dropped to two lanes, with frequent overtaking lanes. There was more signs of old snow about, and frozen lakes. At 2:30pm we stopped for a stretch as it got dark . We continued on driving through this dark world with buildings decorated with Christmas lights, and fighting the perception that it was late at night.
We stopped about 7pm, found a campsite in a pine forest, and set the tent up on a thin layer of snow. We cooked dinner and drank our cold beer (just leave in snow), and went to bed with two sleeping bags each (one inside another).