Tag Archives: Northern Lights

What I Did on My Winter Vacation:
In Living Color

By Corey Sandler

Even professional travelers need a vacation from time to time. And as I often tell people, when I am away I do not want to feel at home.

This winter we checked off one of the boxes on our to-do list. We have been to the far north many times, but this time we made a specific plan to revisit the top of Norway at the optimal time of year to view the Aurora Borealis.

The Northern Lights (and the Aurora Australis, the Southern Lights) are glowing almost all the time, but they cannot be seen in the daylight or when there is heavy cloud cover. In the winter the sun never rises above the horizon for six to eight weeks which gives a whole lot of dark.

And some places on our planet receive significantly stronger solar particles than others: the Aurora Zone is a belt that sits at roughly 70 to 80 degrees above or below the Equator. Too far north and the angle to the lights is too thin; too far south and the odds of seeing them are very slim.

One more thing: in the far north, March tends to have less cloud cover than earlier months in winter.

So we went to Norway for nearly a month.

Here is some of what we saw:

Northern Lights Near Tromsø. Copyright 2019, Corey Sandler. All rights reserved
Narvik, Norway. Copyright 2019, Corey Sandler. All rights reserved.
Snow people, Tromsø. Copyright 2019, Corey Sandler. All rights reserved.
Bergen in winter. Copyright 2019, Corey Sandler. All rights reserved.
Tromsø under a blanket. Copyright 2019, Corey Sandler. All rights reserved.
Near Lillehammer. Copyright 2019, Corey Sandler. All rights reserved.
Landing at Oslo. Copyright 2019, Corey Sandler. All rights reserved.
Why I Travel.

If you would like to order a print of any of my photos, please contact me using the link at the top of this page.

20 MARCH 2019. TROMSØ, NORWAY: A SIDE TRIP TO FINLAND

By Corey Sandler

Back in Tromsø, we spent all day looking at the dark and gloomy sky, wondering how–or if–we were going to catch a glimpse of the Aurora once more. The skies never cleared here, but off we went nevertheless, with a guide promising cloudless skies two hours away…just across the border in Finland.

Sounded like a deal too good to miss. I have been in Southern Finland many times, in and around Helsinki on the Baltic Sea and in Karelia, just above Saint Petersburg in Russia. But we were headed for the region of Storfjord, near the town of Skibotn in far northern Finland.

Sweden was neutral during World War II, although the nation traded with both sides. Finland began the war fighting the Soviets in the Winter War with some success, becoming a proxy of Germany for a while. Later Finland fought against Germany, with the Soviets pushing them in that direction. By the end of the war, Finland was once again fighting–and losing–to the Soviets.

The Germans used the region as one of their land gateways to fight the Finns, and this was the only part of greater Tromsø that was not all but burned to the ground by the Germans.

Today it is a very, very remote place with mixed populations of Norwegians, Sami, and Kvan peoples.

And us. As promised, the skies were clear on the Finnish side of the border. Unfortunately, the bright supermoon  and a weak solar wind gave us only a glimpse of the lights. But for me, no voyage of exploration is without discovery.

Here is some of what we saw; for more, see my blog entry for 7 March below.

All photos by Corey Sandler, 2019. All rights reserved. All contents copyright Corey Sandler and Word Association; this website is not produced or endorsed by Viking Cruises.

18-19 MARCH 2019. ALTA, NORWAY: DAY FOR NIGHT

By Corey Sandler

We are back in Alta once again, the northernmost port of call on this cruise in search for the Northern Lights.

Altafjord at Alta when clouds cleared on Tuesday.

We knew this already, but we received reinforcement in our understanding of the fact that the search can sometimes be quite difficult. A week ago, they danced and shimmered and moved against a clear back sky. Last night, the sky was nearly completely covered with clouds, but three hours of waiting at the ski resort at Storsandnes finally revealed a teasing reminder.

The next morning, groggy from a long night out on the search, we went into the city of Alta.

The Northern Lights Cathedral in Alta, a decidedly modern structure, is meant to evoke the spiral of the Aurora Borealis.

Within the Northern Lights Cathedral in Alta.

In the Sentrum of the city, a winter festival featured handsome ice and snow sculptures; the rest of Norway is much the same.

All photos by Corey Sandler, 2019. All rights reserved. All contents copyright Corey Sandler and Word Association; this website is not produced or endorsed by Viking Cruises.

YOU CAN ALSO VISIT MY MAIN WEBSITE, at  www.coreysandler.com
To send me an email or to inquire about copies of photos, please click here: www.coreysandler.com/contact-me/

9-10 MARCH 2019. ALTA, NORWAY BY NIGHT: HERE BE DRAGONS

By Corey Sandler

After dark I went with a group of guests north and west from Alta to Langfjordbotn, a tiny community at the end of an arm of the Altafjord.

An historical note: it was here that the German battle cruiser Scharnhorst hid from about 1941 to 1943 before sallying out for the Battle of the North Cape where she was eventually sunk.

Closer to Alta, at Kafjord, was the penultimate hiding place of the battleship Tirpitz, which was Winston Churchill’s northern obsession. The Tirpitz was bombed and seriously damaged near Alta, but managed to escape to another hiding place near Tromsø where she was eventually sunk.

Alta was heavily clouded all day, but our drive to Langfjordbotn brought us to a mostly clear place and there we waited for the appearance of the Northern Lights. When they arrived, they were very different from what we had seen earlier in the cruise: here they shimmered and waved like a multicolored curtain.

If you have ever wondered why so many cultures of the far north (including China, Japan, Russia, and Scandinavia) include dragons, look at the fourth image in the following series.

Here are a few photos I took:

All photos by Corey Sandler, 2019. All rights reserved. All contents copyright Corey Sandler and Word Association; this website is not produced or endorsed by Viking Cruises. 

To send me an email or to inquire about copies of photos,  please,  click here: www.coreysandler.com/contact-me/

7-8 MARCH 2019. TROMSØ BY NIGHT: THE NORTHERN LIGHTS FOUND

By Corey Sandler

We are out of the winter’s Polar Night, two months of near-total darkness. The day stretches about ten hours and the city bustles while the sun is visible.

And then it quickly grows dark.

All across the city, from our ship and from hotels, come wide-eyed visitors bundled up in nearly every piece of clothing they brought with them. They are headed into the countryside to wait and watch for one of nature’s most astounding sights: the Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights.

They begin as filmy greenish clouds and then grow denser and begin to dance. The human eye is particularly sensitive to green, and that is the tipoff to raise your camera skyward. And modern digital cameras take in all of that light and produce amazing images that will stay with us forever.

Here are some of the pictures I made during a six-hour trek with some professional aurora hunters:

Near midnight the aurora began dancing.

When you watch the aurora you understand how many human myths and beliefs were formed: dragons, specters, and pathways to the heavens.

All photos above by Corey Sandler, 2019. All rights reserved. All contents copyright Corey Sandler and Word Association; this website is not produced or endorsed by Viking Cruises. 

Photo of Corey Sandler by Polar Adventures, Tromsø, Norway 8 March 2019.

YOU CAN ALSO VISIT MY MAIN WEBSITE, at  www.coreysandler.com
To send me an email or to inquire about copies of photos, please,  click here: www.coreysandler.com/contact-me/

7 MARCH 2019. TROMSØ BY DAY

By Corey Sandler

March in Tromsø gives hope of the coming of spring and the possibility of summer here in the far north of Norway, well within the Arctic Circle.

I have been here several dozen times in summer when the sun never fully sets and the mountains are mostly green with a bit of white fringe on top. On this visit, we blew in with a snowstorm but by early morning it was a glorious day with blue skies and the whitest, cleanest snow imaginable.

Here is some of what we saw:

Clearing the aft deck of the ship and building a snowman, near the infinity pool which was unsurprisingly not in use.

Inside, looking out at breakfast.

The morning light in Tromsø.

Across the harbor to the mainland of Norway.

Viking Sky at the dock.

A statue of the great arctic explorer Roald Amundsen, who used this port for many of his expeditions, checks on shipping traffic.

All photos by Corey Sandler, 2019. All rights reserved. All contents copyright Corey Sandler and Word Association; this website is not produced or endorsed by Viking Cruises.

YOU CAN ALSO VISIT MY MAIN WEBSITE, at  www.coreysandler.com
To send me an email or to inquire about copies of photos, please click here: www.coreysandler.com/contact-me/

2 MARCH TO 14 MARCH 2019. VIKING SKY: IN SEARCH OF THE NORTHERN LIGHTS

By Corey Sandler

Welcome aboard. I am happy to share some of my photographs taken aboard Viking Sky on our journey from London’s cruise port at Tilbury to near the top of Norway in Search of the Northern Lights. 

Viking Sky in Bergen

The photos presented on the following blog entries are low-resolution and small size. Please contact me if you would like to obtain higher-resolution versions.