Tag Archives: sunrise

The Best Holiday Ever

Yes, I know. Not everyone would be thrilled to be going overseas with only 2 days’ notice. But I was. Spending almost 3 weeks in sub-zero temperatures, not seeing the sun for 2 weeks, camping in a tent in the snow, sleeping in the car and even the prospect of travelling so far to see a natural phenomenon without any guarantee of success would not be everyone’s idea of the perfect holiday. Gee, we could have just stayed home and enjoyed (or endured!) a long stretch of 40+C days instead. But I’m so glad we went, and not just because we missed Adelaide’s heat wave.

It was wonderful to revisit places we had seen 6 months ago, in mid-summer. At the time, we wondered what it would be like there in winter …. and now we know. Once we got used to colder weather than either of us had ever experienced, and worked out what to wear, the cold didn’t bother us much. Okay, so I wasn’t brave enough to get out of the warm car when it was -36C, but getting out and about in slightly warmer but still sub-zero temperatures, and even sitting watching for aurora was fine as long as we wore enough clothes. The Norwegians are right – ‘there’s no such thing as cold weather, only inappropriate clothing’.

I had always thought that winter inside the Arctic Circle meant existing in complete darkness, and was very happy to learn and experience that it’s not so. During ‘polar night’, which is the opposite of ‘midnight sun’, it does get light even though the sun doesn’t shine above the horizon. The light is weak, like pre-dawn light here, and it only lasts a few hours. For the first few days, we were looking for dinner at 4pm … well, it had been fully dark for HOURS by then, feeling tired at 5pm and sleeping in until it was light … at around 10am. We never really did wake up early unless we used an alarm, but then we don’t at home either.

We did see the Northern Lights … 3 times. The first 2 nights we were inside the Arctic Circle (the night we slept in the car, and the next night when we camped in the tent), they were there. Not spectacular displays, and if we had realised how elusive they really are, we would have paid more attention and spent more time outside watching them. But because they were just there almost as soon as we arrived to watch them, we figured they would be there all the time and we could see them whenever we looked up at the sky. So, so not true. The third time we saw them was the first night we stayed in the cabin at Birtavarre, but they were mostly hidden by cloud. We could see them through the cloud, but wasn’t a good show.

There are 2 enduring images that I’ll carry with me as memories of our trip, and neither were photographed. The first is the one Greg mentioned, of the couple walking their baby in a pram when it was -36C. The other is of a mother pushing a child on a swing in a playground in Kiruna. It was 4.30pm, -5C and pitch black outside. And it reminded me that wherever we are in the world, kids are kids.

As always, thanks to everyone who has read, commented and sent messages – while we really write and share our photos for our own amusement and to keep a record of our travels, it’s great to know that we entertain other people as well.

Just a few last words … for Greg. Thank you. For planning and organising our amazing holiday; for buying the equipment, warm clothes and other essentials; for doing all the driving, including that long, difficult snowy drive back to Stockholm; and most of all, thank you for your adventurous spirit and for taking me along with you!

Waiting for the Aurora

We are waiting for possibly good Aurora tonight in Finland. The sun has a very large sunspot on it  (it has a number AR1944).

Sunspot AR1944 which is big enough to fit 3 earths in it
Sunspot AR1944 which is big enough to fit 3 earths in it

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:

Minus 17C
Minus 17C


A day trip to Narvik in Norway

We spent most of yesterday in the apartment in Katterjokk, doing exciting stuff like washing clothes, catching up on what’s happening on the interwebz and cooking a delicious dinner of pulled pork and vegetables. We tried to buy more pulled pork at the supermarket today but they have sold out. Now we’ll be looking for it every time we go into a Swedish supermarket. We ventured out last night to do some aurora-watching, but even though it was a very clear (and cold, down to -7C!) night, there wasn’t much solar activity and the aurora weren’t all that exciting.

So today we were ready to do some exploring and decided to drive to Narvik, which is 45kms away. It still amuses me that we can do a day trip to another country, which probably just means I’m easily amused. As soon as we got across into Norway, the countryside changed – it became more mountainous, and where this part of Sweden is mostly unpopulated outside the towns and villages, in Norway there are houses, huts and holiday cottages dotted all over the place. The sky was full of pink clouds that look like sunrise/sunset clouds, even though it was 11am and at the moment the sun doesn’t rise or set at all. I did find out that the sun will rise in Narvik on Tuesday for the first time in a month … and then it will set 30 minutes later. We’ll be watching for it  on Tuesday, but I’m not sure when it actually rises here. We’ll let you know.

We drove to Narvik and on the way I remembered that Greg had really enjoyed Lefse, a Norwegian pastry, when we were here 6 months ago, so we made it our mission to find some for him. Except that all the shops are closed on a Sunday and we had both completely forgotten that. So we walked around the city centre for a few blocks, trying to walk on grit and not to slip on the icy footpaths. It’s warmer in Narvik than in Katterjokk, and not as snowy, probably because it’s located on a huge fjord which gets warm(ish) water from the Gulf Stream. As we walked, it started getting dark and we loved looking at all the houses and lights perched along the sides of the fjord. Very pretty. There is a ski slope just above the town and we saw people skiing, but the real ski season doesn’t start for another month or so when there is more snow. The checkout operator at the little supermarket here told us that it can get down to -40C, and Greg has just read that the snow around here can last from late September to May!

We drove back to the apartment with the 63 Norwegian kronor ($12) in coins that I had brought from Australia, so I guess we can regard it as possibly the cheapest trip to Norway ever! We’re planning the next part of our trip, and the choices were to go to Norway or Finland. Just those few hours in Narvik reminded us of how expensive Norway is …so we’re heading east to Finland. We want to stay inside the Arctic Circle, in the hope of seeing more Lights, and have booked a cottage just across the border for a few nights.

Dawn at 11am – except we will not actually  see the sun rise over the horizon for a few more days. We last saw the sun a week ago.
Going for a drive is a twenty minute operation. Get the car started run it for 15 minutes in the -7C temperature then scrape the rest of the ice of the windscreen, so you actually see out of the car.
The studded winter tyres that came with the hire car. The metal spikes improve the grip on the icy roads
Main street in Narvik. Carefully walking down the very icy footpaths. Many of the locals were wearing spikes that fit over their shoes and give them better grip in the ice.
Reminding ourselves how expensive Norway is.The large pizza at the top equates to $40 Australian Dollars for just one Pizza.

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Christmas drinks Glogg which is alcoholic and drunk warm, and Julmust which is non-alcoholic and drunk at Christmas and Easter
Christmas drinks in Sweden- Glogg which is alcoholic and drunk warm, and Julmust which is non-alcoholic and drunk at Christmas and Easter