I thought I’d witnessed the Northern Lights several times before. After all, I’m half-Norwegian and have often visited my family in Surnadal. But it was as if nothing had prepared me for two nights’ astonishing activity on my trip in January to the Lofoten Islands on the northern edge of the country.
A group of us were travelling on a bus between Borg and Svolvaer a little before 10pm. Suddenly the sky erupted in a great swirl of dancing colours – dominant pinks and greens. All around us it seemed as if some form of enormous electrical energy had been unleashed. We piled out of the bus and watched, bedazzled.
The sky was alive with movement. One moment a spiral of lights would break through above our heads and the next a different range of colours would flash across from an opposing direction. The shapes of the lights changed constantly; spirals, waves, twists, rolls, chasing across the sky or folding into one another, in some kind of technicolour embrace.
The display went on for hours, and the next night a similar spectacular unveiled itself – but this time viewed from the comfort of my hotel balcony. Even the locals congratulated me on my good fortune, with two consecutive displays.
I tried to work out why these particular displays had felt so special and different. In part it was the way the backcloth of the high mountains, the sense of remote grandeur and that feeling of being on the jagged edge of the continent all contributed to the drama and intensity of the experience.
I just felt so lucky to have been there. Maybe there can be no guarantees between September and April, but the times of the new moons are apparently significant. I had to wonder why it had taken me so long to journey the few hundred miles from my family’s home to this extraordinary group of islands.