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  • Writer's pictureMark Chase

the northern lights

Updated: Apr 25, 2018

Like many hopefuls, I’ve spent hours in front of the computer trying to plot the best day, time or month to get a view of the illusive Northern Lights. In fact, when we were in Iceland, while the crew slept, I was sitting alone in the cold just waiting for my opportunity to capture the Northern Lights.

Certain elements had to align for you to be granted this mind-blowing opportunity. The Aurora activity can be high but clouds can shield your view, on a relatively clear night in the height of Aurora Borealis season and…nothing.

Chasing the lights can become incredibly frustrating.

In Iceland, we were promised high activity of Aurora Borealis. Unfortunately, we’re unable to do much more than see a green tinge through the cloud. It was still an exciting experience, especially when you’ve never experienced the lights before, but not the dancing display of lights that some are lucky enough to have witnessed.

After all of the planning and preparation that went into Iceland, where I was sure I’d have my first opportunity to see the Northern Lights in all their glory, my fellow Director of Toughness, Faith Briggs, and I were sent on our next destination, the Yukon Territory in Canada.

There were talks of -40 degree temperatures and hiking miles through the Yukon Wilderness alone. This had kept me from even considering any opportunity to see the Northern Lights.

That night, we were dropped into the Yukon by plane and proceeded on foot to make our shelter for the night. Essentially, it was a pile of snow with a hole in the side!

After an exhausting day and with light fading at around 4PM, as is typical of the Yukon winter, we were happy to be climbing into our snow cave by 8PM. Sleeping in a pile of snow may not seem like the warmest place to be but against the freezing cold temperatures outside, I was pretty reluctant to leave.

At around 1AM, I stumbled out of our shelter in a sleepy, frozen daze and headed towards a nearby bush to go to the bathroom. As my eyes started to adjust to the night sky, I was amazed by how many stars were in the sky.

The forecast for the morning had been fog. Unaware of the exact time I was surprised at how clear the night sky was. As I turned to head back to the relative warmth of our snow cave I noticed that the hills to my right were glowing as if backlit. I watched for a few minutes as this light worked its way over hills.

There it was, the elusive Aurora Borealis.

At first, I wondered I was dreaming or if the cold had got the better of me, but as I stood and watched the lights intensified as if the show has been specifically designed for my viewing. I rushed to get my camera and stood in the middle of a frozen lake oblivious to the cold and watched as the light show continued.

I couldn’t help but think about all my planning and preparation that went into Iceland and how it had lead to nothing and yet here I was, standing in the middle of nowhere, the Northern Lights couldn’t have been further from my mind.

No planning, no preparation. Just plain luck.

The lights seemed to dance for hours.

Swirls of green and purple light filling the sky before fading to make room for the next wave.

Eventually the lights began to fade and the show was over. I headed back for my snow cave fueled by what I had just seen and the amazing circumstances in which I had seen them. It was the most amazing experience to be standing so insignificantly watching such an amazing display of the worlds beauty.

Something I will never forget for the rest of my life.


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