Chasing the Light in Norway

As you know, we do not consider ourselves on vacation. Full time travel is our lifestyle. But on 28 March, the DaMClark’s embarked on an honest to goodness vacation to the top of the world on a Hurtigruten Ferry 3,000 miles along the coast of Norway for 12 nights. One could say - when we take a vacation, we really take a vacation.

Since we are normally planning and doing for ourselves as we travel, we would not consider taking a large ship cruising vacation at this time in our lives. So, for now, the Hurtigruten ferries with 600 passengers is a much better choice for seeing the coast of Norway. It’s a working ferry picking up fresh fish and what have you at one of the 34 stops along the way as well as delivering local passengers, mail, and anything else that needs to be delivered. Also, Hurtigruten has been traveling the coastal waters for over one hundred years, and with the smaller size ships can navigate into smaller fjords.

We took an Astronomy Cruise with esteemed lecturer and star guide Professor John Mason, MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) to specifically learn about and see the northern lights (aurora borealis). So once again, the DaMClark’s are chasing the light as we did this past travel year in Vancouver, BC, and Albuquerque, New Mexico. Since one cannot schedule whether the auroras will show or not, one should make the trip memorable unto itself - and that’s precisely what we did.

What is aurora borealis? In a few words, Earth’s magnetic pull colliding with solar winds. When that happens – BANG – auroral bands of light! Those bands occur around the Arctic and Antarctic. And as one might imagine, they are more intense in those areas. Auroras are present at all times. But views of auroras diminish during spring then summer when there are 18 hours of daylight and 6 hours of twilight in the Arctic zone. Note that during the dead of winter there are 6 hours of daylight so there’s a much better chance of viewing the aurora when the skies are at their darkest.

Our specific trip was scheduled when the moon was not visible as moonlight would affect viewing aurora. Since we were traveling during the tail end of viewing - as winter turned to spring, still had 12 hours of darkness, and there were major solar disturbances a week prior to our trip, our chances of seeing the light were pretty good. We saw some activity on the way up the coast, but under the Arctic skies we ended up in a snow zone. This made for fantastic views of the rocky, snowy coastline but not aurora. On the way back down the coast we had 2 great nights of viewing and a slight showing on another. It’s really difficult to describe the vibrating curtains of light shimmering – but there you have it! Dennis had thousands of photos from this trip and it was quite difficult determining what photos to include in this post, but I think he caught the essence of our journey. Enjoy Ds pics...

We were in ports anywhere from 15 minutes to 6 hours. We were able to disembark the ferry at many stops as time allowed so we could walk about on our own, take a walking tour with our astronomy group and the very knowledgeable Liz, or take in a shore excursion for an additional fee. Our favorite ports were Trondheim and Hammerfest.

A few thoughts on our vacation – The size of the ship was just right but could still power through choppy seas when we were out in the open waters of the North Sea. The crew was super and took great care of us. The food was fantastic. In particular we enjoyed eating the specialties of the Norwegian areas we traveled through. And finally, the beauty of Norway’s coastline was absolutely awe-inspiring. That being said – this trip was worth it even if we had not seen aurora activity. And mind you, we said that before we saw the auroras!

Thanks for joining our journey.
Stay tuned.