Chasing the Northern Lights in Tromsø, Norway – Part III

One thing I didn’t mention in the previous post is that we did see the Northern Lights while snowshoeing–for one minute. The Lights we saw were rather unremarkable. They were white in color and occupied only a small patch of sky. It wasn’t what I had been expecting, and it was a little disappointing.

Sunday we were going to try to take the cable car, but instead we ended up on a wild goose chase to acquire tickets for a boat trip that night. The boat trip sounded really awesome and the tickets were cheap, but unfortunately we were unable to purchase them that day. It was also bad because we wasted the entire day trying to find the tickets when we could have been doing other things. But oh well, what’s done is done.

We stopped at 7-Eleven for a late lunch, since we were hungry and lately there have been advertisements for 15 kroner (about $2.50) pasta. That is extremely cheap for Norway.

Turns out it’s cheap because it’s slightly misleading.

The poster shows a Chinese take-out box full of noodles, with 15,- hovering by the box. This led me to believe that I would get the Chinese take-out box for 15 kroner. I should have known something was amiss.

Turns out it’s 15 kroner per 100 grams. 100 grams isn’t a lot, so in order to get a decent amount of noodles you have to spend more than $7.00. Cheap? Not at all.

Damn you, 7-Eleven.

After eating our noodles, we walked back to our hotel. Our hotel was located about a five minutes’ walk away from a beach, so we walked to the beach. We took our walk at the perfect time, since the lighting was absolutely gorgeous. We made plans to go out to the beach later to try and see the Northern Lights.

I was determined to see the Northern Lights. After all, that was the whole reason why I went to Tromsø. I only had one night left to see them, and I was hopeful that it wouldn’t be as overcast since the day wasn’t as cloudy as the previous two days.

Around 8 PM, Kim and I walked to the beach and camped out on some rocks (more comfortable than it sounds) with tea and blankets. Unfortunately it was overcast, but there were clear patches in the sky. I was hoping that it would either clear up or that we could see the Northern Lights through the clear patches.

By 9:30 PM it still hadn’t cleared up much, and Kim had lost hope that we would see the Lights. She was also really cold since it was windy on the beach, so she decided to head back to the hotel. I stayed on the beach though, determined to stay there all night if that was what it would take to see the Lights. Luckily I had brought my iPod with me, so I listened to music while I waiting (I played “Show Me What I’m Looking For,” since the title fit well with the situation).

Twenty minutes later, I noticed a light green spot in a clear swatch of sky. I stared at it, trying to figure out if it was the Northern Lights, when the lighting of the spot increased dramatically and spread outwards, fingers of light reaching across the sky.

Oh yeah, the Northern Lights had come out to play.

I was able to watch the Northern Lights for about an hour. I was completely spellbound the whole time. The Lights constantly dance and shift across the sky, and they would sometimes grow more or less intense.

It was so incredibly beautiful. I can’t put into words why they looked so beautiful or why I was so moved by seeing them… it’s just something you have to experience for yourself.

Around 11 PM I headed back to the hotel. A storm rolled in, bringing with it thick clouds which obscured the Northern Lights. It also started to snow, and the wind picked up. At first I was planning on waiting out the storm in hopes of seeing the Lights again. But at one point a lone guy walked down to the beach, which made me realize that I was very much alone on the beach and away from any source of help. I mean, I don’t think Tromsø is a particularly dangerous area, but I have had it drilled into my head that you shouldn’t be alone at night. So, that lone figure freaked me out. Also, I was starting to freeze. The wind was cutting through my multiple layers of clothing and the snow made it even more miserable. Plus it didn’t look like the storm was going to clear up any time soon.

Very reluctantly, I made my way back to the hotel.

Seeing the Northern Lights was the highlight of my trip, and a memory I would not trade for anything. I hope to see them again at least once in my lifetime.

I am also so, so happy that I saw the Lights. On Tuesday I talked to a guy in my Norwegian language class who also went to Tromsø that weekend. He didn’t see the Northern Lights while he was there. I also know of several other people from UiO who went the same weekend as us and didn’t see the Lights. Basically, I was just very lucky.

Monday morning we flew back to Oslo, and I slept for almost the entire flight again. Because I just slept, it was uneventful. I then had to come home and unpack, but luckily for me my lecture that day was cancelled!

Enjoy the pictures! My pictures of the Northern Lights are blurry, yes, I do realize that. My camera won’t take pictures in-focus at night without a tripod, which I did not have with me at the time. Honestly the pictures don’t do it justice; what I saw was much better. But it’s the best I have!

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7 responses to “Chasing the Northern Lights in Tromsø, Norway – Part III

    • I was amazed by how vivid the Lights were as well! They’re even more vivid outside Tromsø because of the absence of city lights, but unfortunately I wasn’t outside of Tromsø that night. Seeing them within the city was incredible though 🙂 They’re awesome to see in person too because they constantly shift and move around.

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