We have all seen photos of the Northern Lights…and if you haven’t then you should Google search them right now and fix it. Scientifically known as the Aurora Borealis. They are green lights that appear to be dancing across the sky as they take on all kinds of shapes and sizes.
University of Alaska – Fairbanks has a great website that predicts how likely or vibrant the Northern Lights will be. They are created by solar flares on the sun, so it is actually something that can be predicted. The scale that UoA – Fairbanks uses is 1-9. One being nothing happening and nine being the sky is going to turn green with leprechaun colored ghost like clouds that will dance late into the night. While we were in Kotz the forecast was in the 3-5 range. Which means visible and decent, but not extraordinary.
The one problem with the Northern Lights is that you have to get up incredibly early in the morning to see them. As summer was ending in Alaska, you basically had to get up late enough that it was dark outside, which was 2-3am. You also had to have clear weather without lots of clouds. Two of the nights that we stayed in Kotzebue it looked like the weather would cooperate. We set our alarms for 2am and groggily dragged ourselves out of our sleeping bags. We tiredly stumbled down the street to the waterfront where it was recommended that we look for them. Nothing. There were clouds on the horizon blocking any possibility of Northern Lights. We returned to our now cold sleeping bags defeated and slept well.
I was determined to track them down so I did the same thing the following night. Trevor and Lindsy stayed in their bags while I went to check and see if the lights had come out. No dice, foiled again. It should be noted that there is a great deal of superstition about the Northern Lights. While we were in Fairbanks, on the way up to Gates of the Arctic we learned that the Japanese believe that a child conceived under the Northern Lights will be economically prosperous. This belief turns into a big winter tourism business, as Japanese tourists flock over to Fairbanks to try their hand at procreating under the wild green lights.
While in Gates of the Arctic at the Arctic Interagency in Coldfoot we also learned a great deal about how to increase your chances of seeing the Northern Lights. That always seems to be the first question, how can I make sure to see them? Is there a trick, or a secret?
There you have it! If you want to increase your chances of seeing the lights then you need to do one simple thing. Before you go to bed make sure to drink an extra cup or two of water, the more the better. Seeing them means that you are awake at 2 or 3am, and that is about the only way to ensure that you will be awake at such an unnatural hour. If you think my advice is unhelpful I would like for you to now that I read this on one of the informational panels at the visitor’s center, so it is completely legitimate.