In pursuit of the heavenly ballet
“It’s looking good in Kautokeino,” says Northern Lights expert Trond Stritfeld, calling us on his mobile phone. It’s all the encouragement we need, so we set off in our Porsche Cayenne on a detour from our route up to the North Cape. Soon, we’re standing in the middle of a frozen lake draped in complete silence. Under low-hanging cloud, we followed the lonely road here, heading further and further into remote countryside, spurred on by the hope of glimpsing that celestial dance in the heavens above – the aurora borealis.
Like the weather up here inside the Norwegian Arctic Circle, you can’t plan the Northern Lights in advance – this is what Trond, a charming Norwegian, explains to us as he drills a hole into the bone-hard ice cover, before sinking his fishing rod into it. Ice cold water gushes out.
“The sun is the boss,” he tells us. It decides when this heavenly ballet of green, blue, pink and violet will make its sublime appearance. All alone, we stare at the ice hole and our fishing rods, waiting for the fish to bite. Just waiting. Within the first ten minutes, it has already become clear that standing over a 10cm ice hole and giving it your full concentration requires a special kind of inner peace. Surely we should have a trout biting by now?
We tighten the fishing line again and drop it back in, just as Trond showed us. Ice fishing is one of his passions. The other is the Northern Lights. Each require bundles of patience and, when it comes to a successful outcome, there are degrees of uncertainty within both. So, out here on this frozen sheet of ice, we resort to silent tactics again.
Like an explosion of energy
We stand and wait and listen as Trond continues raving about the Northern Lights. “I’m a richer and wiser person since I started hunting the Northern Lights,” he tells us. His unbridled enthusiasm is contagious. When we don’t have any luck coaxing a fish out of the icy hole, this only heightens our eagerness for success when it comes to seeing the Northern Lights. We remove our fishing rods and set off, full of anticipation, on our quest for the aurora borealis. It’s early afternoon, but it is already starting to get dark. The perfect moment to go hunting for the big light show. Will the elements be kind to us?
“Never give up, otherwise it’s all over.” Trond’s words take on a special meaning when we see, from afar, the brightly lit tent at the Northern Lights Observatory, made of ice and snow. Like us at Porsche Adventure Experience Arctic, nature fans and photographers from all over the world make the pilgrimage to Alta, the cradle of the Northern Lights. Since the 19th century, this little town on the southern shore of the Altafjord, north of the Arctic Circle, has been renowned as the best place to see the famous Northern Lights. On dark winter nights from the end of September to the beginning of March, the firmament glows with green light. And the chances of seeing the phenomenon are particularly good when the weather is especially cold and dry, like today. Our confidence begins to rise.
Trond hands us a thermal suit, headlamp and balaclava – the Nordic style that protects our faces from the icy winds – while telling us that his family has actually been in the traditional slate business for generations. The slate they cleave from the mountain here – Alta Quartzite Slate – is among the best in the world, boasts Trond.
“All my life, I’ve been fascinated by the spectacle in the sky. The colours!” His face is suffused with joy as he explains the natural phenomenon in more detail. “The sun emits its rays. Electrically-charged particles from the sun hit the Earth two or three days later, meeting gas particles in the air.”
The sun is the boss
Could it be magic?
At dusk, the landscape is bathed in a deep, glassy blue. We get into our Porsche Cayenne. The cones of light show us the way across the lonely, icy roads. At the roadside, the icy, frozen trees briefly reflect the light. There is never a guarantee that you will experience the aurora borealis. If the sky is cloudy, we will quickly move on somewhere else. However, in Kautokeino the clouds have passed, Trond’s colleague assures us on the phone.
After a short drive, we stop. There it is! A few of us position our tripods and wide-angle cameras – right in the middle of the snow cover. The light show can begin. Pink dances past, followed by bright green, performs a pirouette once and begins its pas de deux with deep dark blue. Thank you, sun, for making this dream come true, we think as we lie in our beds that night, the incredible green still dancing before our eyes. We will remember this riot of colour for a long time to come.
This story is part of the 25 Years of Porsche Travel Experience anniversary series. We take you on a virtual world tour around the globe – with a new, fascinating episode each week. Click here to read all stories.