It seems each time I arrive in Abisko the snow seems to be falling and so it was on my latest return to one of my favourite places to visit.
We arrived at the Abisko Turistation at about 4pm on Monday “night”. The sun is now gone from Abisko for the winter and I will not see it until I leave to return to Australia. There are a few hours of twilight each day but by and large Abisko in winter would be a vampire’s prime choice of location.
After a wonderful dinner of succulent reindeer meat washed down with a glass or 2 of wine, I and the small group of fellow aurora adventurers who I will be sharing the next 4 days with readied ourselves for a night of aurora hunting. The spaceweather forecast was talking about an incoming geomagnetic storm but we’d all seen the snow falling on the bus trip into Abisko.
Never fear says our intrepid Lights Over Lapland guide, Sarah, weather in Abisko can turn in a heartbeat and it could be blizzarding outside now but the skies clear half an hour later. I nod knowingly having seen this happen on previous trips. With that we head out to a nearby location that I’ve visited several times before comprising a group of Sami huts that offer excellent backdrops for pictures of the northern lights.
For the first hour its a little tough, the predicted geomagnetic storm has not hit, the full moon is out washing out any faint aurora activity and I spend my time practicing framing some shots with the leafless trees, a little sign and the full moon.
A short while later the skies clear for our group to catch their first glimpse of the aurora. For some in the group it is their first sighting of the northern lights and there is understandable excitement. I start trying to take shot of one of the Sami huts but before I can get the framing right the aurora fades as quickly as it began. This sets the pattern for the night. The aurora’s are fleeting, showing themselves only for the briefest windows of clear sky before the clouds close in once again. Abisko is giving us a lesson, she does not give up her treasure easily.
After this shot is taken, the cloud cover comes in again and we retreat into a nearby Sami Goathi (hut) where Sarah has some lingonberry juice and marshmallows for toasting. Were all a little tired and with the clouds showing no signs of clearing we all agree to have an early night and head back to our hotel. Abisko has other ideas. Everyone has packed away their gear and we’ve set off back to our beds when Sarah and I both spot it at the same time. The cloud has magically parted and the wispy beginnings of an aurora have begun to form. The group stops briefly to watch and within minutes we see an amazing display of greens and pinks as the group gets it’s first view of how truly beautiful the Northern Lights can be.
And so the frenetic activity begins with everyone trying to unpack the cameras stowed away only minutes before. The funniest part was watching everyone grab their phones first to start to take photos. Quite an indictment of the modern age. Everyone manages to get their cameras out just the activity peaks but then as quickly as it began the display fades away again. Thrilled with what we’ve just witnessed we all chat excitedly as we return to our hotel. Whilst their is talk of staying out a little longer everyone has travelled a long way to be here and tiredness rules out in the end. The lights tease us with continuing fleeting displays all the way back to the hotel only serving to wet our appetite for further displays in the nights ahead.