In America “storm-chasers” are the intrepid types who pursue tornadoes, and sometimes hurricanes. But the Arctic Circle has its aurora chasers – people who speed around in search of the best views of the aurora borealis, or Northern Lights.
“Last week we saw one that had everything – spiralling, curtains, ribbons, greens and reds, and the whole sky lit up. We were amazed at what was unfolding before us,” says Andy Keen.
Five years ago he left his job running a charity in the UK to move to Ivalo, a remote village in northern Lapland, Finland, latitude 68 degrees – two degrees above the Arctic Circle. “I saw a TV documentary about the Northern Lights. So I went there to have a look. Now I’m absolutely addicted,” he says.
Mr Keen’s company, Aurorahunters, now takes seven tourists a week on hunting trips in the Arctic wilderness to search for the Northern Lights…There are similar companies operating elsewhere in Finland and in neighbouring Norway where the official tourism website describes the aurora as “a tricky lady”. It adds: “You never know when she bothers to turn up. This diva keeps you waiting…”
When a location has been selected, Mr Keen and his group jump into minibuses and head into the wilderness, sometimes taking to sledges pulled by huskies to reach the most remote areas. They often see moose and bear tracks and have ventured as far north as the Arctic Ocean.
All to get the best vantage point to see the aurora borealis, named after the Roman goddess of dawn (Aurora) and the Greek name for the north wind (Boreas)…
RTFA. Details about the causes, predictions. Suggestions about chasing and photographing the elusive beauty of the aurora. All useful.