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How Not to See the Northern Lights

This time last year, I was making plans to see the Northern Lights in Whitehorse, Canada. My college friend and I booked a cabin in the Yukon wilderness. We were isolated in the snowy wilderness with only about 5 hours of daylight. I wanted to film a horror movie in our spare time, but my friend wasn’t quite as enthusiastic. I have some footage though of random scenes I staged. Maybe those will surface on YouTube one day.

Every night for about five days, we trekked with our tripods and cameras through the Yukon wilderness in -20 degrees Fahrenheit for about twenty minutes in the pitch dark, illuminating the path with our ultra high beam flashlights. Before the trip, I purchased a tactical flashlight with stun capabilities which is particularly useful if you encounter grizzly bears.

We made this trek every night for five nights. We threw on multiple layers, laced up our boots, zipped up our parkas, threw on our face masks, and headed out with our cameras. The first night was the clearest, but still not that clear. We planned our trip at a time when the moon was not full, but the lights were weak. Every night for the next four nights, we completed the same routine and headed out into the wilderness to a viewing station. We would sit there in a tiny dimly lit up cabin, sipping watered down hot cocoa. I generally refuse to drink hot chocolate made with water, but times were tough. But every night we stood out there in the open wilderness and waited for these  lights to appear, but we got nothing.

Make a trip to Iceland where you can see other things than just the Northern Lights
Make a trip to Iceland where you can see other things than just the Northern Lights

We traveled all the way here to see the lights and the most we saw was a faint color of murky green through the clouded sky on the first night. The only reason I have these pictures is because you can photograph the Northern Lights through the clouds. You just can’t see them.

I paid $2000 and flew all the way to Whitehorse, Yukon from Boston in the middle of winter. I had a blast with my friend, but I was just relieved to be in Palm Springs after that. We did some dog sledding one day. Here’s the thing: never plan a trip around seeing the Northern Lights. Plan a trip to some place you really want to see, and then try to see the lights. I’d recommend Iceland, Norway, or Sweden. There are a lot of hot springs that you can chill out in and watch the lights too in Iceland. There’s just a lot more to see and do. I liked Whitehorse, but I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to see the Northern Lights there if there’s not something else you primarily want to do there. It’s a long flight and a lot of money.

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  1. February 19, 2017 at 9:15 pm — Reply

    I looked into seeing the lights in Canada and stopped when I realized seeing them isn’t a sure thing. I agree with you about going somewhere like Iceland. Seeing the lights is on my bucket list. At least you made nice memories with your friend. 🙂

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