An unreliable memoir

Northern Lights

Northern Lights
The reason there is no Icelandic mythology about the northern lights (apart from that invented by the tourist industry in the last 30 years) is that because during the Middle Ages (where the folklore comes from), the magnetic north pole was close to Iceland, so the band around the pole where the aurora occurs was far to the south.

We drove to the south coast and arrived about 9.30pm. It was cold, around -5°C but with another 10 degrees of windchill, but the skies were clear. So clear and dark that you could make out the milky way. I tried, but the milky way was a little too much for little cam to cope with. And we waited, got colder. After an hour or so, five layers just weren’t cutting it any more. And we waited. And got colder. By 11pm I’d just about had enough. I was so cold and so tired I was ready to pack it in. The Kris said, It is starting.

To the north we could see the thin, vertical milky band we had been told to watch for. And then there they were, the northern lights. Mostly green but with a faint touch of orange. Then they were all around us, to the north and to the south.

I shot and shot and little cam performed magnificently, far better than a pocket sized camera has any right to. I carried on shooting until I was so cold that my hands wouldn’t move and I couldn’t work the camera any more. So I put the camera in my pocket and stepped out into the wind and watched. And then they started to dance, the lower edge rippling and bucking like a curtain in front of an open window.

Then it was too cold and just too dangerous to stay any longer, so we drove back to Reykjavík. It was one of the scariest drives of my life, drifting snow obscuring the road and nearly getting blown into the ditch by cross winds several times. And they followed us all the way, all around, even into Reykjavík after we hit the street lights.

I got to be about 2am but I couldn’t sleep. I was buzzing. Never, ever dreamed I would see anything so magnificent.

Northern Lights Northern Lights

Sony DSC-HX20V ƒ3.5 7mm 1/4 ISO 800

2 responses

  1. Truly marvellous aren’t they? My friend told me that she and her husband used to view the Lights from the old harbour in Reykyavik. And usually, it’s 11 pm by the time they appear, but you have to be watching


    January 1, 2015 at 6:09 pm

    • AJ Cann

      I’ve been looking forward to seeing them for years, but when it happens, it’s better than you can imagine.


      January 2, 2015 at 2:47 pm