We have seen the lights, the Northern Lights!

Finland's flag
Europe » Finland » Lapland » Ivalo
December 11th 2013
Published: December 13th 2013
Edit Blog Post

Breakfast this morning was at a very holiday-friendly 9.00am. It was still dark outside so there's not much point to rising any earlier as it is still night-time! At breakfast I did some carb-loading to make sure that I had energy to burn for this morning's activities - muesli followed by toast and jam! After breakfast we donned all of the gear that we were allocated last night and met Toni out by the snowmobiles. After a very rudimentary lesson on how to turn it on, how to turn and brake and, most importantly, where the kill switch is and we were off onto the lake on our snowmobiles with Bernie in the driver's seat of our vehicle.

At the other end of the lake Toni showed us how to drill a hole in the ice for winter fishing. There's only 40 centimetres of ice to drill through. Tony achieved a hole in the ice, ready to fish in about 30 seconds flat. Then it was Bernie's turn. Let's just say it took a lot longer than 30 seconds for Bernie to make his hole in the ice!! I think that there is a technique about it that must be honed over a lifetime of winter fishing. Tony then handed out the smallest fishing rods ever. The best bit, though, is that there was no live bait involved; the fishings rods are already rigged with lures and you basically just drop the lure into the hole and let the line play out until the lure hits the bottom. Then you just jiggle the line about a bit to see if you can attract a bite.

With no bites at our first location Toni asked us to pack up so that we could head to another spot to see if we had better luck. I took the driver's seat for this leg of our outing. I found it to be quite hard work keeping the throttle pressed in enough to keep going. However, I did mange to drive us from our first fishing spot to our second without mishap ... even if the speed was not constantly maintained!

In our second spot we repeated the process of drilling holes in the ice and dropping our lines in. We all knelt or stood around jiggling our lines and waiting for a bite. Before long Trudy called out that she thought that she might have a bite what should she do. Sophia was nearby so leapt to the rescue and pulled the line up like Toni had shown us - it's much quicker than trying to reel the line in on the mini-reels because they only have a handle the size of a toothpick! Very fiddly. Trudy, with an assist by Sophia, had managed to catch a Perch about 15-20 cm in length. The catch was photographed and released. Wouldn't you know it that the only vegetarian in the group caught the only fish! Actually Trudy does eat fish, but she didn't want to eat the fish that she had caught herself.

Back onto the snowmobiles and it was off to check the nets that the hotel has rigged up under the ice. We pulled up and Toni shovelled some snow away to reveal a freezer door. He lifted it up and there was a nicely preserved hole for the net to be pulled through. First we had to go to the other end of the net and attach a rope which could be used to pull the net back into place. Tony pulled the net through, but there were no fish today. Yesterday, there were three good-sized Pike. Tony assured us that we would still be fed even though we would be returning without any fish.

At lunch we had to settle for lovely big bowls of delicious hot soup with bread, followed by chocolate muffins - more carb-loading! After lunch we had some free time until 5.00 pm when we rejoined Tony in the restaurant downstairs for a workshop on the Aurora and Aurora photography. This was to prepare us for our after dinner snowshoeing excursion in search of the Aurora.

We had dinner at 7.00pm - reindeer sauce (looked like stew to us) with rice, followed by cloudberry velvet. Cloudberries are considered a delicacy in Lapland so we all tried the cloudberry velvet. The consistency was sort of like cool jam because it wasn't quite set enough to be jelly. The flavour was nothing to get excited about. I think perhaps you have to be a Laplander to appreciate its delicate taste.

We geared up again - it's quite a rigmarole getting dressed and then struggling into the onesie and then adding the extra thick socks and oversized boots and the hat and the neck-warmer and the mittens. And then we had to add our snowshoes to all of that!! It is really hard to bend over to try to attach snowshoes when you have so many layers of clothing on ... and a belly full of reindeer stew ... to say nothing of mittens that leave you with no sense of touch let alone any dexterity for doing up buckles.

Phew, finally we were all into our snowshoes and off we traipsed into the forest with our head torches lighting our way. Toni expertly led us to his favourite forest viewing point for the Aurora. Those of us with tripods and DSLRs got ourselves set up and we took a few practice shots to check composition and exposure times all ready for the main event. Before long Toni told us that there was some faint auroral activity on the horizon. Barely visible to the naked eye, it showed up a little bit better in our photographs. Unfortunately, it then appeared to fizzle out. With the non-photographers getting a bit cold and restless, Toni suggested that we return to the hotel and then perhaps try our luck out on the lake. He also advised that the peak time for auroral sightings is about 11.00pm.

By the time we snowshoed back to the hotel I was feeling toasty and warm so I suggested to Bernie that we should go straight out onto the lake. I felt if I undressed and had a warm cup of tea it would be difficult to get all kitted out again to go back out into the cold.

There were a few members of the Dutch group that are driving all the way to North Cape (the northernmost point of Europe) out on the ice waiting for the aurora so we set ourselves up nearby and waited with them. And waited and waited and waited. We had decided that we would give it until 11.30pm before calling it a night. The wind came up and was whipping rather briskly across the lake. This was not good because, apart from being very cold, it tipped my very lightweight tripod over and the camera landed in the snow. Bugger. We cleaned it up and Bernie took the snow-covered filter off. To avoid any more mishaps I dropped the tripod down to it's lowest height and sat in the snow - yes, sat in the snow - to recompose my shot.

And then, just after 11.00 pm, it happened. Woo hoo, we got some Northern Lights activity on our first night out looking for them. First there were just a couple of bands to the north, but then we started to get some pretty decent activity across most of the sky in front of us. I do have to confess that the lights were only very slightly greeny-yellow to the naked eye; the colour is intensified in the long exposure photos. But ... we have seen the lights!! Very exciting.

After about 20 minutes the sky quieted down and some patchy cloud started to come over, so we packed up our gear and decided to head back inside. A quick cuppa and off to bed just after midnight. Unfortunately, we had to leave our cameras in their bags so that they didn't warm up too quickly and get condensation inside them so we couldn't check our photos on the laptop straight away. Oh well, we probably needed to get some sleep for another action packed day on Thursday.

11,710 steps / 7.97 km

Additional photos below
Photos: 9, Displayed: 9


13th December 2013

Wooohoo! You saw ths lights!! How exciting :)
13th December 2013

Excellent! So glad you got to see them.
13th December 2013

That's wonderful...
that you saw the Northern Lights! You are having quite a trip.
14th December 2013

Woo Hoo indeed :)
Well done and Congratulations ! Aurora seen and photographed. Full marks for persistence to acheive your goals. "Look at this photograph" by Nickelback (Photograph) "I’m on top of the world, ‘ay Waiting on this for a while now" by Imagine Dragons (I'm on top of the world) "what a world of fun for everyone, holi-holiday" by Boney M (Hooray,Hooray its a Holi-Holiday) been enjoying your blog as usual. keep warm and lots of love Wendy
14th December 2013

Aurora Borealis ~ TICK!
Well done Tracey and Bernie, another event to 'tick off' your list. Pictures look excellent. Really enjoying your blog; very exciting stuff you're doing. Caroline

Tot: 0.328s; Tpl: 0.021s; cc: 30; qc: 125; dbt: 0.0325s; 1; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 1; ; mem: 1.7mb