Northern Lights

The Americas, Travel

Seeing the Northern Lights is definitely at the top of my bucket list. I am very inspired by Brother Bear.

Brother Bear

My Grandpa lived in England until he was 11. Here’s a picture of my Pa, not age 11.

Ritson Grandparents

Once Pa was woken up in the middle of the night to see the Northern Lights shining over London. LONDON. This would be impossible today due to both pollution and light pollution. Today you have to go extremely far north and into some of the coldest parts of the world to catch the Northern Lights: Norway, Canada, Alaska.


Josh and I booked a Canada trip for September 2013, because he told me he wouldn’t go to Africa unless he went to Canada first.

Before booking our Canada trip I looked into Northern Light tours that take you into the cold, cold wild for three days. But combining tour and additional flight costs, including a ‘no guarantee’ that you would actually see the Northern Lights because weather is unpredictable, we had to decide against booking the tour.

We booked the entire Canada/North America trip and the highest place we were going was Hubbard Glacier, Alaska during an Alaskan cruise. Alaska was going to be my only opportunity to see the Northern Lights.


Hubbard Glacier. Cold + raining = more cold.

More research showed that the northern lights are on an 11 year cycle, and best seen twice a year in May and September. And literally, by crazy fluke, we were going to Canada at the exact best time in that 11-year cycle. So then it was destiny. I had to see the northern lights.

The northern lights are best seen between 10pm-3am in the middle of the night so unless you want to spend 5 hours a night freezing on a roof it’s a bit hard to find the Northern Lights alone. Being on the cruise was great because reception wakes you up to let you know if the Northern lights can be seen.

So many pieces all falling together!

We spent Thursday night at the bar, where Josh and his friend Aaron got a little eager drinking via an ice waterfall.

IMG_0689 IMG_0695

I got Josh to bed, just in time, with no worries in his behaviour and we both fell asleep.

An hour later the phone rang, and it was reception telling us it’s time to get on the top verandah of the ship because the Northern Lights could be seen. At this stage, Josh was both tired and the alcohol had hit his head a little harder. We climbed to the top of the ship, and I spent the entire time stressing that Josh was going to fall off the side (even when he was nowhere near the rails) because I’d read that a person goes missing on a cruise ship once every two weeks. Ultimate paranoia.

At the back of the boat there was about 30 people gathered around and looking at the green mist that was the northern lights. It was definitely not what I expected and essentially looked like a light green fog/cloud in the sky. Because we weren’t far enough North, it was impossible to get the proper view.

Here is an example of a photo I took.


Really turned out.

Here is a photo I stole from the internet that better sums up the experience.


Green fog.

One man had a really impressive camera and he took photos that kind of looked like this, but the camera caught the lights better than the eye.

Northern Lights, Greenland

Anyway Josh was in a bad mood because when he’s intoxicated he finds everything I say mortally offensive.

I was living in the happy euphoria of the Northern Lights for probably a total of 30 seconds. Until Josh approaches the man with the impressive camera, scowls and says ‘That’s not the Northern Lights’.

“Josh 30 people wouldn’t be staring at the same thing if it wasn’t the Northern Lights”.

Josh preceded to tell me – both repeatedly and a little too loudly – that the 30 people around us were all idiots, because what they were looking at was not the Northern Lights. It was a clearly a light that was being projected from the boat.

The Northern Lights conspiracy.

Unfortunately with Josh harassing those around us I had to escort him back to the room and the viewing of the Northern Lights ended – but it still happened!

I caught the Northern Lights!


Bucket List

tick-box See the Northern Lights

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