5 things that sled dogs can teach us

October 26th, 2013

Training your dog can be one of life’s toughest challenges. But what about when the tables are turned and we let dogs teach us a thing or two?

Nowhere in the world is this more apparent than in the Arctic where husky sledding is a way of life for many.

Our husky musher in residence, Stian, deeply believes in learning from working with husky dogs. His connection to the animals is truly remarkable and our guests never fail to be inspired by his team of 40 dogs.Here Stian tells us five things that we can learn from sled dogs.

1. Sled dogs are the most motivated individuals in the world

2. Sled dogs teach us the meaning of companionship, loyalty and happiness and how to work in a team.

3. By giving us feedback trough their actions they teach us how to be fair and motivating leaders.

4. When driving the dogs and caring for them, you’ll tie close bonds to them and learn about them. But even more you’ll learn about yourself.

5. The dogs will teach you to really appreciate life.

Of course, it takes a dedicated musher to ensure that his or her dogs stay motivated and happy. Everything from the food they eat and the kennels they sleep in through to the dogs in the team they mush with has to be right. Stian keeps all these parts in perfect balance and his dogs remain on top form.

Our guests are given a privileged chance to not only see this in action but to participate in Stian’s routine and life. The learning experience is life changing for many and the dogs will soon become friends.

If you would like to join us in the Arctic for our five day dog sledding adventure please visit the link below to find out more. The price is just £895 per person and includes all transfers, accommodation, food, warm clothing and guidance.


FEEDBACK FROM PREVIOUS PARTICIPANTS

“Highlights: The long sledding day – when we got above the treeline, above the Devdessjavri lake on the sleds alone with the just the dogs pulling, unbroken snow, the pink-orange-blue skies above, and wind stinging my face and the most magnificent views in every direction. It was calm, energising and eye-wateringly beautiful all at the same time and I think it was one of the moments of the trip when it finally clicked what “authentic friluftsliv” may possibly be. I’ve thought back to that period of about half and hour so many times since we got back and can’t shake the feeling that it was something pretty special to experience… thanks again for the trip of a lifetime.” Jim

 

“I really did have such a great time, a superb break. I keep thinking about it so often. I’m already dying to go back! The highlights were the long trek day, when we were coming back over the frozen lake, with all the deep powdery snow, and the red and orange sky, and the mountains shining pink, with the moon in the sky. We stopped, and even the dogs were quiet as we marvelled at a green stripe across the sky – the Northern Lights. Breathtaking! Working with the dogs also. I’ve never had a dog, or even a pet, but working with those intelligent animals was amazing! Building up such a bond with my own team of dogs – getting to know them, earning their respect. It was beautiful to build such a relationship, and I was so very sad to have to say goodbye. They are beautiful, fascinating, and delightful animals to be around.” Julia

Photo: S. McWilliam

 

Inside the Volcano in Iceland

August 5th, 2013

Client report

One of our lovely clients, Cathy from the UK, has kindly provided us with some feedback about her recent trip Inside the Volcano during her short break to Iceland.

“A recent trip to Iceland with Magnetic North included an experience so unique that, at the time of writing, more people have climbed Mt Everest. Inside the Volcano tour begins with a short hike (3kms) over lava fields amidst stunning scenery to the dormant Thrihnukagigur volcano.

Outside 'Inside the Volcano'

Outside 'Inside the Volcano'

By the time walkers reach the base camp, comprising one hut, generators, safety gear, portaloo and lots of impressive mechanical equipment that all had to be helicoptered in to the site, oneʼs knowledge of volcanic geology has been healthily bolstered by the very friendly and articulate guide.

It is here one dons a helmet and harness to make a short walk across a narrow bridge over the vent, before descending 120 metres into the magma chamber in a cage very like the ones used by window cleaners for skyscrapers.

Inside the Volcano

Inside the Volcano

To have a crater of this magnitude still standing is a rare exception as normally the liquid rock in the chamber would find a way to the surface – causing an eruption. Then the crater is usually closed by cold, hard lava. Here, for some unknown reason, the magma seems to have disappeared – either solidified in the walls or retreated somewhere deeper.

Whatever the answer, the phenomena has created the only place on the planet where humans can descend into a volcano.

Once lowered onto the chamber floor, groups have about 45 minutes to take some photos, clamber about and study the incredible colours of the rock face. The quiet grandeur of the chamber itself is a humbling experience and one never to be forgotten.

Inside the Volcano

Inside the Volcano

Once back up to the surface, bowlfuls of delicious hot lamb soup are served along with tea and coffee. All the guides are incredibly friendly and professional and health and safety matters are high on the agenda. £200 for a 5/6 hour trip may seem a little steep at first, but actually it is worth every penny for such an amazing adventure.”

Inside the Volcano

Inside the Volcano

If you would like to follow in Cathy’s footsteps and visit the Volcano during your next visit to Iceland, just get in touch with us to find out how. Cathy and friends enjoyed the Wellness Short Break which includes three spa experiences and we arranged the Volcano tour as an extra daytrip.

Magnetic North arranges tailored holidays and short breaks to Iceland throughout the year. You can visit inside the volcano during the summer months (May-September).

Top tips for whale watching in Scandinavia

July 9th, 2013

Magnetic North’s Kirsi travelled to Northern Norway in June 2013 and here recounts her tales from the sea followed by her top tips for whale watching in Scandinavia…

Whale Watching Safari in Andenes Norway

I can see someone pointing at the distance and exclaiming in excitement. They have spotted a spout of water rising from the sea as the whale exhales and comes to the surface for breath. As we come closer I can see it as well. Holding my camera I hear deep and slow breaths before the whale dives and the huge tail fin appears above the surface. This was my first encounter with a sperm whale, a creature that can grow up to 20 meters and can dive down to 3 kilometers yet is a mammal just like us – only once they are born they are approximately 4 meters in length.

The researchers who study whales have learned to tell them apart by their tail fins, which act like a finger print on each of the whales. Not only can researchers tell them apart by their fins, they also recognize their habits. Beneath the surface they communicate by clicking – perhaps warning other males they are bigger and stronger or inviting them to join them for a feast of herring. A lot of fascinating research has been established, yet the full extent of their social communication remains largely unknown.

The whales are known to live in colonies, the females travelling with the calves in warmer waters whereas large colonies males come to feed for herring in the Northern coast of Norway, are all males. Sailors have known them to feed in this area for centuries. The Carta Marina which Swedish historian and cartographer Olaus Magnus drew in the 16th century based on stories he had heard from the sailors gives a glimpse into how whales have been seen in this region centuries ago. On the map you can see huge sea creatures resembling whales in the coast of Northern Norway, from Lofoten islands and Andenes up to Troms. Needless to say, the stories Magnus recorded may have been exaggerated as they were passed from a story teller to another, but also prove that large sea creatures have been known to feed in this area for hundreds of years and have made a lasting impression on anyone who saw them as they still do today.

Sperm whales, which are the largest of toothed whales are very common but you can also meet killer whales (also known as orcas), harbour porpoises, pilot whales and humpback whales in the northern coasts of Norway. Get in touch with us to plan your very own encounter with these beautiful and magnificent creatures on a whale safari!

TOP 5 places to see whales in Scandinavia

Stø, Norway
Located in Vesterålen just by the Bleik Canyon, where plankton rises from deep sea to the surface attracting a great variety of sea life, including whales. The great sperm whales come here to feed on squids and fish that swim in the deep waters. You can view whales here both summer and in winter time.
Visit with us:  www.magneticnorthtravel.com/tour/details/tales-from-the-sea-in-vesterlen-islands

Andenes, Norway
Just on the northern tip of the island of Andøya, the village of Andenes is also located by the Bleik Canyon and offers stable feeding grounds for whales. Whales are also studied in this area which gives your guides up-to-date information on the whales. You can also visit a museum which gives you all the insight to the life of whales beneath the surface of the sea.
Visit with us: www.magneticnorthtravel.com/tour/details/whale-watching-holiday-in-the-lofoten-islands

Reykjavik, Iceland

Iceland is well-known for its unique volcanic activity and stunningly beautiful nature but you can also join whale watching cruises right from the capital of Iceland. You can find more than 20 different species swimming close to the shores of Iceland. Whale watching tours depart all year round from Reykjavik.
Visit with us: www.magneticnorthtravel.com/tour/details/reykjavik-golden-circle-5-day-explorer

Senja, Norway

Just a short trip from Tromsø, at 69 degrees North the beautiful island of Senja is among one of the best places to view the whales. For those wanting to get off the beaten track and travel with excellent wilderness guides, Senja offers excellent chances for viewing sea life in its natural habitat. We warmly recommend Senja if you are interested in photographing wildlife with our experienced guides.
Visit with us - http://www.magneticnorthtravel.com/tour/details/tromso-northern-lights-short-break-and-whale-watching-tour-senja 

Kattfjord, Norway

Just outside Tromso, on the island of Kvaløya (translates to whale island), you can spot whales swimming in the fjord from your cosy fisherman’s cabin. The stunningly beautiful fjord and mountains also offer the perfect backdrop for viewing the elusive Northern Lights.
Visit with us: www.magneticnorthtravel.com/tour/details/cosy-cabin-holiday-in-search-of-the-northern-lights-in-troms-norway

We can arrange tailored itineraries with whale watching included year round – just get in touch to find out more.

Guest post from an extremely talented northern lights photographer – Natalia Robba

May 16th, 2013

The Aurora Borealis (The Northern Lights) – Everything you need to know

Hey fellow Aurora fans!

After several years of research, kilometers travelled, multiple destinations visited, dark drives down foreign icy roads, snow storms, disappointment, exhilaration, several failures but more successes, here is my two cents on everything Aurora Borealis.

You can also join me on a unique tour to search for the Northern Lights in the Lyngen Alps in Northern Norway from 18-22 February 2014. Find out more here.

First off, before I start I wanted to elaborate a little on the above. I’ve always held a certain fascination for the Northern Lights. My earliest memory was a documentary on the Discovery channel on Antartica when I was around 12 years old. I found them ethereal and magical and straight away wanted to know more about them and see them.

Being a 12 year old though has it’s drawbacks. Being completely at the mercy of my parents destination wishlist meant that I wouldn’t really get to chase this dream until a little later on. So that plan was on the back burner for a few years.

So I studied, left school, and started working. At the age of 20, the Northern Lights popped into my little noggin again, and with freedom and a paycheck, I started doing my research and was adamant this time on seeing the Aurora Borealis.

I researched everything from Solar cycles, weather patterns, prediction techniques and annual aurora statistics to ideal destinations under the Auroral Oval.

I’m now 26 and over the last 6 years have seen the Aurora Borealis many times in many varieties and intensities. Those places include Yellowknife (Canada), Skibotn (Norway), Tromso (Norway), Kiruna (Sweden), Abisko (Sweden) and Ivalo/Inari (Finland). I’ve also experienced some failures along the way, and while you can never be guaranteed Aurora displays, I have learnt a few useful things along the way :)

What causes the Aurora Borealis?

Aaah the Sun =) The beautiful Sun! Not only does it sustain life on Earth, but it creates one of the most beautiful natural displays known to man. The Aurora Borealis happens due to the interaction between the Solar Wind and the Earth’s magnetic field.

There are a few terms worth remembering just so it’s a little easier to understand.

Solar Wind – A stream of particles originating from the Sun that travels towards us (and other planets alike). It can vary in density (i.e number of solar particles i.e. protons/electrons in the stream), and in speed. Higher speed streams will reach us faster than slower streams.
IMF – Interplanetary Magnetic Field. This is the magnetic field carried with the solar wind. Remember the sun has it’s own Magnetic field, and as the particles leave the Sun, they carry with them magnetic field lines.
Magnetopause – This is a boundary between the Earth’s magnetic field and the Solar Wind. Think of it as a sort of barrier stopping the Solar Wind from reaching us.

The Earth’s magnetic field is pointed North at the Magnetopause (this is illustrated in the image below). Think of a magnet for a second….If the IMF is in a Northern direction, then it will ‘clash’ with our own Northern Magnetic field at the Magnepause and it will repel the solar wind.

However, think of the opposite. If the IMF contains Southern facing magnetic field lines, it will ‘link’ up with our Northern facing Magnetopause and both field will cancel each other out! This in essence opens a portal for Solar wind to enter our atmosphere.

So to sum up, as the Solar Wind approaches and strikes the Earth’s Magnetopause, it causes it to bend and flex. If the IMF in the Solar wind has a southern facing direction, the Solar Wind will eventually causes a ‘break’ in the Magnetosphere and creates two Magnetotails that swing around and behind the Earth. When the Magnetotails from both sides meet up on the otherside, they ‘snap’ and slingshot the Solar Wind particles towards our poles.

The Solar wind particles collide with the Oxygen/Nitrogen atoms in our own atmosphere. These collisions ‘excite’ the Oxygen atoms. When these ‘excited’ Oxygen atoms return to their previous calm state, they emit light in the process. This results in the Northern (or Southern) Lights.

This is slightly over simplified, but illustrates the process by which Solar Wind particles reach our poles.

What triggers high intensity Auroras?

The body of knowledge on the Solar wind and it’s relationship to our planet and the Northern Lights is far from complete. But relationships have been deduced and there are things we do know with relative certainty. Before we answer this question lets specifically look at the ways in which the Solar Wind reaches us.

  • Coronal Holes – Coronal Holes are dark regions on the Sun’s Corona (sort of it’s own atmosphere) where temperatures are cooler. They act as ‘funnels’ for the Solar wind to escape the Sun and travel towards us. Coronal Holes are generally responsible for High Speed Solar Streams (and also Low speed streams). The intensity of Northern Lights caused by these streams are dependent on the IMF of the Solar Wind Stream, the number of solar particles in the stream (plasma density), and the duration of time the stream is hitting us.
  • Coronal Mass Ejections (CME) – CME’s are sudden high speed ejections of large amounts of solar wind and magnetic field lines from the Suns surface. They are sporadic and unpredictable and originate from Sunspots on the sun’s surface. They are classed by intensities, B, C, M and X. The latter being the most powerful. Typically they also take 24-48 hours to reach us. So when news arrives of decent CME’s Aurora hunters all over the world await with baited breath and hope for clear skies =)

So what conditions can cause Geomagnetic Storms? Here are a few examples:

  • Solar Wind Streams with good southern IMF – Solar Streams with a decent southern Bz (Southern IMF of approx -5nT or less), with moderate to high Particle Density (approximately greater than 5 protons/cm3), that last for extended periods of time, can cause Geomagnetic Storms and cause intense Aurora displays. Therefore contrary to popular belief, fantastic Auroras are not just the result of CME’s from our Sun.
  • CME’s – CME’s of class C, M and X (C being the weakest, M more powerful and X are real whoppers and only happen a couple of times a year) can trigger geomagnetic storms. The higher class CME’s are more likely to spark high intensity Auroras i.e. M and X, CME’s are intensified when they carry negative IMF’s too.

There are situations when weaker CME’s or weaker Solar Wind streams can still cause some amazing Auroras! Say for example that a good Solar Wind Stream is approaching Earth with a Southern IMF, this will in effect ‘weaken’ the Magnetic Field and allow Solar Wind to enter our atmosphere. Imagine now…there is also a CME on the way behind the Stream. Even a low class CME (say B or C) could be intensified due to the fact there is already a ‘portal’ open.

So as you can see, if’s not an exact Science. I’ve learnt to get a feel for conditions and can now predict with relative confidence when to expect something decent. I hope this helps you too!

What’s the best time of the year to see the Aurora Borealis?

This is one of the most common questions I get asked about the Northern Lights. The basic answer is that, although the Aurora Borealis is always present at the northern and southern magnetic poles, we can’t always see them because of daylight hours getting in the way during the summer months at such extreme latitudes. Therefore the best time to try and see this natural phenomenon is anytime between late August – early April when the window of opportunity with regards darker skies is higher.

Statistically speaking (I like my statistics) there seems to be higher Auroral activity around the Equinoxes, that is around the months of late September and late March. This is to do with slight variations of the Earth’s tilt axis relative to the Sun’s tilt. During the equinoxes the Earth’s magnetic axis more suitably aligns with that of the Sun’s and larger deviations into negative Bz are more likely, therefore facilitating Solar Wind particle transfer into our atmosphere. Suffice to say, activity does tend to be higher around these months.

This is NOT to say that spectacular Aurora’s are not possible in the interim months, in fact I have seen fabulous displays in other months. But since I don’t get to travel as much as I’d like, I like to give myself the best chances and stick to those times.

My personal preference is February/March, due to the fact weather tends to stabilize in Northern Scandinavia after December.

Where are the best places to see the Northern Lights?

There is no one right answer for this one as there are many places you can see the Northern Lights. As long as you are situated far enough North (or south if you are thinking of the Aurora Australis) then you stand a chance of seeing the Aurora. North of 63/64 degrees latitude roughly is a good place to see them.

The Auroral Oval

However, there is a slight catch to these numbers, in that I’m not talking about standard geographical latitude, but Corrected Geomagnetic Latitude. The Earth’s magnetic field is not perfectly aligned around our geographic poles, it deviates slightly. Therefore this ‘Corrected Geomagnetic Latitude’ is the true latitude you need with regards our magnetic field (and therefore Auroras). This is why in Europe, you need to be in Northern Scandinavia to see the lights, but in certain places in Northern US and Canada, you don’t need to be at such a high latitude. So, to sum up, North of 63/64 Corrected Geomagnetic latitude and you’re set =)

Here are maps for Corrected Geomagnetic Latitude:
Europe – http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/Aurora/globeNE.html
UsA & Canada – http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/Aurora/globeNW.html

All you need to do is click on a location on the maps linked above, and you’ll be given latitudes, most importantly the corrected magnetic latitude. If the location is greater than 63/64 you will be able to see the Northern Lights there (if there’s activity and clear skies).

The Auroral Oval over Northern US and Canada

For some people, this might not be particularly helpful as we need specifics, easy to access towns that are close to convenient airports etc. So a more tailored answer for Aurora chasers is that any of the cities underneath the green band in these images, are good locations to spot the Northern Lights.

As for my own personal recommendations? Here is my top 5 places to see the Northern Lights. All tried and tested and I’ve had success in each one. They’re fantastic places to try your luck! I’ve listed them in order of my preference and given reasons why.

My top 5 Places to see the Northern Lights

Here are some of my suggestions for where to best see the Aurora Borealis from. These are tried and tested. Feel free to get in touch if you have other towns in mind and would like some advice.

  1. Ivalo, Finland

River Ivalo behind Hotel Ivalo

I visited Ivalo and the surrounding area in March 2012. The landscape in this part of Finland is vastly different to that of Abisko in Sweden and parts of Norway. It is much flatter, but so beautiful in a different way!

The landscape has a very winter wonderland type feel to it, with snow capped trees, and snow mounds everywhere. Really beautiful =) The people in Ivalo and the Inari region are so friendly and welcoming. Ivalo itself is a relatively small town, with everything you need, supermarket, local pub all within walking distance. I stayed at the Hotel Ivalo for a week. The hotel is basic but more than adequate, with clean rooms and decent food. The best part about this hotel is its lovely location in Ivalo. It sits right off the River Ivalo, literally, 20 seconds walk behind the hotel down a gentle slope onto the beautiful frozen river (On the picture to the right the Hotel is on the left hand side!) Not only is this a hub for daily activities such as snowmobiling and cross country skiing, but makes a good location to view the Northern Lights if you cant get out of the city!

Being a small town, Ivalo doesn’t actually have that much light pollution, which means Aurora viewing is entirely possible within the city. In fact I was witness to a wonderful display right on River Ivalo behind my hotel for about 2 hours with several of the hotel guests.

Of course this was a happy little extra, there are other options that involve heading outside the town, to some gorgeous locations in perfect darkness.

  • Pros – Winter wonderland landscapes, amenities in town, low light pollution, plenty of activities. Further inland, therefore colder with more stable weather patterns.
  • Cons – Staying inside the city does have some light pollution, but as long as the Aurora Borealis isn’t too weak you will see them. So tours may be required.
  1. Abisko, Sweden

Abisko Mountain Lodge

Abisko is a lovely little arctic town in the North of Sweden, nestled between Kiruna and Narvik in Norway. The scenery is beautiful with the famous Lapporten mountain range in sight, and wonderful frozen lakes nearby. The small town is offered some protection from cloudy weather due to the Norwegian mountain range, so some say there are clearer skies in this region than others in the area. I myself have noticed that it can clear up in a very short space of time in Abisko!

I stayed at the Abisko Mountain Lodge and I really can’t say enough good things about the place. Service, food, location is all top notch, and the best part of all? You just need to step outside your room/cabin into darkness to see the Northern Lights, so you can be ready at a moments notice. So there is no need to pack  your car and head out into the dark night and sit in the cold for hours on end (as I’ve done many times!). This really is a bonus to this type of accommodation  Your window of opportunity for viewing is so much higher when you can just step outside. If you’re up for something special, you can also take a chairlift up to the Aurora Sky Station for some amazing views over the beautiful Abisko region, and hopefully a great view of the lights!

  • Pros – Beautiful scenery, excellent food, wonderful hosts, no need to go anywhere to see the lights, activities organised from the lodge.
  • Cons – Can’t think of any!
  1. Kiruna, Sweden

My family and I under the Aurora in Kiruna

Kiruna is a quirky mining town in the North of Sweden. It’s a wonderful base as from here you can get to Jukkasjarvi (where the Icehotel is) or to Abisko (my first choice).

Kiruna itself isn’t the most picturesque town, but does have a large selection of hotels, and many activities. My recommendation here if you’re not planning on staying in Abisko, is to head out to the Ice Hotel which is just a 15-20min taxi/drive from Kiruna.

Alternately you could stay in Kiruna and take nightly tours out to see the lights. But that will prove more expensive.

  • Pros – Good base, lots of activities leave from Kiruna, plenty of hotel selection. Easy access to Abisko and Ice Hotel.
  • Cons – Kiruna is a relatively large city and suffers from moderate light pollution, so you’d need to find a darker spot, either by tours, or renting a car and driving outside the city.
  1. Tromso, Norway

It’s almost a little painful for me to place Tromso 4th on the list. Tromso as far as cities go is an absolute gem. It is a gorgeous city nestled in the Arctic North. I’ve been there 4 times and loved it just as much as the time before. Some call it the Paris of the North and this title is well deserved. It is a beautiful, bustling town with every possible amenity you could think of. Restaurants, hotels, pubs, cinemas, shopping malls the lot.

City of Northern Lights

The Clarion Collection hotel is a lovely nautical themed hotel (ask for a room with a view of the harbour they’re wonderful). Very fairly priced, good food, and free chocolate waffles and coffee all day are a real plus when you return from the cold.

My personal reservation with Tromso is twofold, it is the largest Arctic city I have visited, so has the worst light pollution. It is also a coastal town, and close to the Gulf Stream, therefore temperatures are milder than you would expect, but as a result suffers more from cloudy skies.

You would likely need to drive outside the city limits to find darker skies, and further inland  if cloudy, to find clearer skies (along the E8).

  • Pros – Beautiful city, all amenities, numerous tours and tourist activities.
  • Cons – Heavy light pollution, tends to suffer from cloudy weather
  1. Yellowknife, Canada

Blachford Lake Lodge grounds

I’ve placed Yellowknife 5th on my list mostly because it’s across the pond from me ;)So for us Europeans perhaps it’s slightly more out of reach, but for all of you over on the other side of the Atlantic I can’t say enough good things about this place, in particular the Blachford Lake Lodge which is where I spent my 5 nights in Yellowknife.

The lodge is on its own private plot of land and is accessible only by Bush plane, but oh my was it worth it! The landscape is absolutely astonishing. So beautiful and desolate at the same time, with wonderful safe forest trails surrounding the property. The lodge itself is top notch and has all the luxurious commodities you would need. The Chef is professionally trained and apart from the Abisko Mountain Lodge, I don’t remember the last time I’ve eaten better!

  • Pros – Amazing location with stunning scenery, private (no chance of overcrowding tourists), food to die for.
  • Cons – Hard to get to, no roads so you’re completely at the mercy of the weather.

Some other recommended locations are:

  • Norway – Lyngen, Alta, Kirkenes, Malangen
  • Finland – Inari, Nellim, Utsjoki
  • Sweden – Jukkasjarvi
  • Alaska – Fairbanks, Bettles
  • Canada – Churchill (Manitoba), Gillam (Manitoba)

Can the Northern Lights be seen further South?

Another common question is from people wanting to know whether they can see the Aurora Borealis from a little further south. This is entirely possible to a certain extent. I mentioned earlier that a good location for Northern Lights viewing was approximately North of 63/64 Corrected Geomagnetic Latitude, and in my opinion it is if you want to see the Aurora as brightly as possible, in all its glory, directly above you. (Personally I prefer to be bang underneath it at 65-67 Corrected Geomagnetic Latitude).
But this isn’t to say it’s not possible to see the Aurora to a different degree further south.

The general rule of thumb is that the further south you are from the Auroral band, the further North, and the lower, the Aurora will appear on the horizon. Keep travelling going South and eventually it dips beneath the horizon and we can no longer see it.

So how can you know if its possible for you to see it from your location?
Check out the latitude maps I linked earlier again:

Europe – http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/Aurora/globeNE.html
UsA & Canada – http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/Aurora/globeNW.html

Roughly look at the location in question, and then see where you’re positioned relative to the coloured lines in the image. These are the KP Index lines. They roughly tell you what KP Activity number the Aurora needs to have, for you to be able to see it at the location in question.

The current KP Activity index can be seen here.

How many nights do I need to stay to see the Northern Lights?

The more the better! This is a little obvious, but really I always say the same thing. For most people trips to the Arctic Circle are a rarety, and expensive. All things considered I feel that since we’re going through the effort to travel so far, we might as well give ourselves the best shot! I strongly advise anyone that is serious about wanting to see the Aurora, to stay ATLEAST 3-4 nights. More really is better. There may be activity, but cloudy skies, or clear skies, and no activity, so stay as long as is possible.

According to the scientists in Kiruna, Sweden, you have about an 80% of seeing the auroras if you stay in the area for at least 3 days. This is likely too for any destination at similar latitudes (like those listed above).

I tend to spend between 5 and 7 days in any one location, and I’ve had a lot of success with this timeframe.

Can you actually see the Northern lights with the naked eye? Or is it all camera trickery?

The definite answer is YES! Yes you absolutely can see the Aurora with the naked eye. You can more than see it, when it’s active enough it’s so bright, intense and fast that your eyes won’t be able to keep up! You’ll want to stop time just to take it all in.

The problem is, there’s a common misconception that because Aurora photography can sometimes use long exposures to enhance the Aurora’s, that this is infact untrue to life, and it isn’t. When the Aurora borealis is weak, long term exposure photography is handy because it allows the camera to capture light over time, and as result you get a nice green band in your photos, much brighter than perhaps you can see yourself.

But this is just because the Aurora is weak. Infact it may appear to you (when your eyes have fully adjusted to the dark) as a pale green/ almost white band of light in the sky, immobile, and very faint. SO much so that you might think to yourself, is that it? Is that the famous Aurora Borealis?

Take the two shots below as examples, the top shot was a 2 second exposure, the bottom one an 18 second exposure!

Aurora Borealis over Nellim, Finland
2 second Aurora Exposure
Weak Aurora over Skibotn, Norway
18 Second Aurora exposure

The top picture looks almost identical to the naked eye as the photo, whereas the bottom picture really looks nothing like it did in real life and infact appeared to me as a very VERY faint, and pale band in the sky. Just remember, photos with short exposures are more true to life, longer exposures enhance what we see.

It’s important to note, the Aurora Borealis is present in a great variety of intensities, from it’s lackluster weaker form, to it’s in your face, vibrant, dancing from one side of the sky to another in 2 seconds flat form. The latter will literally take your breath away, so much so the camera might be the last thing on your mind. You will just want to stare and take it all in.

So please, don’t be put off by any weak Aurora’s you may have seen, or any stories about how it’s all long exposure trickery. The Northern Lights are by far the most beautiful natural phenomenon I’ve witnessed. You just have to be lucky and catch her right ;)

Below is some video footage I captured of the Northern Lights in Yellowknife, Canada back in March 2008. I’ve sped it up quite a bit as the display was over 2 hours long! But rest assured the movement is very fast at normal speed too! Apologies for the grain, it’s actually read video footage, not time lapse images.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=V-BldyNGTdk

Will the Full Moon affect my Aurora viewing?

Short answer, not much. I used to be put off by the Full Moon, and always booked my Aurora hunting trips around the New or Crescent Moon, but there really is no need for this and it really limited the times I could travel!

Contrary to popular belief and suggestions, the Full Moon or Gibbous Waning moon will only affect your viewing of the Northern Lights if they are WEAK. In which case, it will make it harder to see the pale green bands in the sky. But honestly? If the Aurora has any decent level of activity it really matters very little, and it’s those impressive Auroras you really want to see =)

I actually PREFER the brighter moon phases as the Moon lights up the landscape beautifully and brings out all the details in my photographs. Just remember, even the Full Moon pales in comparison to a moderate to active Aurora, and it gives beautiful photographs ;)

I guess what it boils down to is preference, and for us photographers what it is you’re after from your shots. If you want a nicely lit landscape, the Half to Full Moons actually help us out (as long as the Aurora is of moderate activity). If you want more of a Star-field, or want to capture the Milky Way and the Aurora Borealis, then plan your travels around a New or Crescent Moons as the moonlight does obscure the star field.

What colour are the Northern Lights?

The most common colour of the Aurora Borealis is shades of green. Different colours start to appear depending on what elements are interacting with our Earth’s magnetic field. As the Solar Wind becomes trapped in our Magnetic Field at the poles, the solar particles collide with atoms and ions in our atmosphere and become ‘excited’. It is the settling down of this excited state that results in the emission of ‘light’. If the excited particles in question are Oxygen, we typically see the green/yellow light, however, if the Oxygen particles are at very high altitudes, a more seldom seen Red light colour is emitted at the top of the Aurora. If it’s Nitrogen particles, we are more likely to see a blueish tinge to the Aurora. Purples, whites, blues occur often in coronas (coronas appear as almost spindle looking shapes directly above, as if reaching directly down to you), but overall green is the most common =) There isn’t a geographical place where specific colours occur, its all totally random and depends on the activity of the Auroral oval over different parts of the world.

Can we predict Aurora Borealis activity?

A lot of people message me with dates they have in mind to travel to certain destinations, and they ask if there’s anyway to know if there will be Auroras (often times these dates are months in advance!)

The truth is, predicting the Northern Lights is a tricky business and there’s never an absolute guarantee. Predictions are always most reliable the closer we are to the dates in question (much like the weather).

To be specific, it takes approximately 24-48 hours for solar wind to travel the distance from the Sun to Earth (depending on the speed of the Solar Wind or Coronal Mass Ejections (CME). So relatively accurate predictions can only really be made in that time frame, 2-3 days ahead. Here are a few useful resources for gauging general Aurora activity currently and over the next few days:

Geographic Institute at Fairbanks University - A popular general prediction model. Good used as a general guideline but not updated everyday. Predictions are made for 5-6 days ahead, however if an event occurs on the Sun, this prediction model will not account for new activity due to it’s update intervals. Take with a pinch of salt.

SWPC Prediction Center – Ovation Model - A good realtime model showing the Aurora Borealis’ current oval over the Earth. The brighter the green (or white) in the model, the more intensely the Aurora can be seen over the estimated geographical location underneath.

SWPC KP Model – The Kp model is an indication of fluctuations in the horizontal component of our geomagnetic field, also referred to as the Kp value over a 3 hour period. Kp values of 3+ are considered to be conducive to Geomagnetic storms and more intense Auroras. However, Kp’s as low as 1/2 can sometimes spark some wonderful Auroras, especially if you’re situated directly underneath the Auroral band. This is because there could be isolated substorms that do not last for a long enough period to register as a high Kp number, so the average will be lower.

Astronomy North – These guys tend to be pretty accurate with predictions and likely monitor events on the sun as well as current solar wind data.

Longterm forecasts tend to be unreliable, but there are ways to see what potential long term activity COULD be. There is a method known as the Carrington rotation (you can see an example of this on the Gedds page) which is based on the Suns rotation pattern. The Sun fully rotates on its own axis every 27 days. If there is an active Sunspot that is causing Solar Flares or CME’s, there’s a chance that 27 days later, that same Sunspot could still be there and could dish out similar levels of activity.

The problem with longterm forecasts, is that Sunspots decay and die, and their activity wanes. So the Carrington rotation is not always reliable, and when the Sun rotates completely and is facing the Earth again, a particular Sunspot might not be there anymore.

Aurora Borealis activity is never guaranteed, unfortunately it’s a little like playing the lottery. Many people are blessed with days of fantastic displays, while others leave their holiday destinations only to hear of Auroras the day they left. (Personal experience! Very frustrating).

The most important thing to remember with the Aurora is that you need to be patient. She could make you wait hours but it will be totally worth the cold and frustration when she finally puts on a show for you.

I personally use a combination of current Solar activity and Solar Wind readings from the ACE satellite, and generally know when to head outside to within an hour of activity. But the above should get you on the right track :)

Here are some photographs I’ve taken over the last 5 years or so, all of which are in the locations listed above. I hope you enjoyed my article! Feel free to ask any questions and I’ll try and answer =) You can find my full Aurora stream here

All photographic images and written content are copyright protected and are the property of Natalia Robba. If you’d like to order some prints, use my photographs, or republish my written content, please email me at natalia.robba@gmail.com to request permission.

To check out Natalia’s website head over to: http://www.natalia-robba.com/

Follow her Twitter stream here or catch up with her on Facebook here. Or join Natalia on a unique photo tour in February 2014: http://www.magneticnorthtravel.com/tour/details/northern-lights-photography-workshop-holiday-lyngen-alps-norway

Happy hunting!

Magnetic North Travel.

We love Norway

April 23rd, 2013

From 2001 to 2006, and then again from 2009 through 2011, Norway has had the highest human development index ranking in the world. In 2011, Norway also ranked the highest on the Democracy Index, and according to UNDP, it is the world’s “best” country.

It’s easy to see why we love it, but as an outsider looking in, how can we understand the culture & people who make up this remarkable nation?

At the start of the last century, when Norway declared itself independent from Sweden it was one of, if not the poorest country in Europe. With its mountainous landscape there was very little arable land that could be intensively farmed as in the other countries in Europe or Britain in particular, where the abundance and wealth that this created allowed the birth of the industrial revolution. Norwegians have joked that theirs is a country which was not designed with people in mind; because of the mountains, creating an infrastructure and road-building was harder, even today Norway possesses only 400 miles of motorway.

I’ve travelled in Norway extensively and have found Norwegians to be the most generous people I’ve ever met; willing to invite a stranger to stay in their homes on short acquaintance, warm hearted, open and friendly. However this is at odds with how they see themselves, there is a belief held by Norwegians that they are aloof, distant and cold – perhaps as a foreigner it is easier to break the ice – or perhaps they or I are mistaken but the main thing I remember from my time in Norway has been how kind and generous the people have been.

Norwegians can also be very tough and self-reliant, I believe that this is a leftover of the poverty and hardships that they as a nation experienced during the first half of the last century, before the success and prosperity that they experience today. The same mountains that hindered their development before are now a natural resource; providing alpine lakes that have been tapped for hydroelectric power to produce electricity so cheap that until a few years ago Norwegians would commonly leave their lights on all night. The harsh fjord-riven coastline has provided numerous natural harbours which have given rise to a strong seafaring tradition and Norway is the world’s second largest exporter of seafood and owns the world’s sixth largest merchant shipping fleet.

Norwegians also seem to enjoy spending time in the outdoors far more than the peoples of other nations I have encountered, with most families owning a cabin up in the mountains that they go to on weekends or holidays for fishing or walking trips and skiing in the winter. Although biathlon & cross country skiing are not the official sports they might as well be, with the national team given the same reverence that we reserve for our football players in England.

Perhaps the best way to illustrate the Norwegian national character is through a unique feature common to Scandinavia and about which I will let you draw your own conclusions. The Norwegian Trekking Association maintains a system of mountain cabins, these are scattered all across the country and they are stocked with firewood, tinned food and left open all year round, anyone can use them and visitors pay by leaving money behind for the time they spend there, the supplies they have taken and leave them clean & tidy at the end of their visit. Amazingly the system works and there is no need for supervision or policing of this honesty-system, I only wonder what the results would be if such a scheme were attempted here in the UK.

By Harry Maskers

Lapland Odyssey

April 5th, 2013

Lapland is a name that conjures up images of frozen northern landscapes, generous old men who ride reindeer sleighs and the mythical wisps of radiation that reach nearly a hundred million miles across the solar system to trace strange patterns of lights across the night sky – the Aurora Borealis.

Most of us have heard the term Laplander, but not so many realise that this actually refers to a collection of ancient nomadic tribes who used to roam over northern Scandinavia, moving through areas of Norway, Finland, Sweden and Russia. Migrating with their herds of reindeer these Laps or Sami as they refer to themselves, subsided off fishing and fur trapping, their culture is inextricably associated with their reindeer, using them for transport, clothing, shelter, food and tool-making. The indigenous Sami have largely been assimilated into the cultures & countries in which they now reside and have left their traditional way of life behind to embrace the modern world. But at an out-of-the-way resort hidden away in the Arctic circle it is still possible to experience a taste of how they lived and experience a luxury break in the white wilds of Arctic Lapland, with a modern twist.

The Kakslauttanen resort is located amidst the beautiful scenery of the Kekkonen National Park. Ivalo airport is just 35 kilometres away with a bus transfers available straight to the hotel front-door and easy connections available from Helsinki international airport. Here it is possible to stay in a number of settings; from luxury, yet rustic log cabins where you can tend a log fire to heat your room with the glorious aroma of crackling birch logs, to exclusive glass-domed igloos so you can lie on your bed and watch the Northern Lights spreading their mysterious glory on the canvas of the night-skies above.

You can sleep inside a real snow igloo on a bed of reindeer skins or experience the luxury of one of their ‘Queen’s Suite’ with your own outdoor hot-tub so you can sit drinking champagne while snowflakes are falling all around you in the crisp night air.

During the day there are a host of winter activities to indulge in, with museums to learn about the Sami culture, traditional dinner in a Sami dwelling while listening to a Laplander telling the legends & stories of his people, reindeer sleigh rides in the evergreen forests, Arctic safaris while being pulled by your own team of husky sled dogs and expeditions to explore the area on high-powered snowmobiles.

The options available are too many to list here but if this kind of winter break sounds up your street then please get in touch & we can talk you through some of the options.

Standard log cabin break:
Honeymoon Queen Suite break
Prices include airport transfers, three night’s accommodation and half board. We can tailor the trip with preferred number of nights, activities and accommodation e.g. extra night in glass igloo. Price also depends on travel date whether it’s high season or not such as Christmas/New Year.

Best wishes from Magnetic North!

Finland on Friday!

March 18th, 2013

Due to a late cancellation we have a luxury holiday for two available to Northern Finland in search of the Northern Lights departing on Friday! Since we don’t want this to go to waste we are offering it to a lucky person who “likes” our Facebook page and follows our twitter feed before 5 pm this Tuesday. The accommodation includes a luxury queen suite with private hot tub and sauna as well as one night in a glass igloo.

The trip is worth over £3,000, and runs from the 22-28 March including the following:

 

  • Transfers from Ivalo airport to the resort in Finnish Lapland
  • Queen Suite accommodation for two guests (4 nights) including complimentary bubbly
  • Glass Igloo accommodation (1 night)
  • Standard log cabin accommodation (1 night)
  • Snow mobile excursion in search of the Northern Lights (2 hrs)
  • Dog-sledding excursion (4 hrs)
  • Reindeer excursion (2 hrs)
  • Half-board basis each day (breakfast and dinner)
  • Overnight in Helsinki (Hotel GLO Art) including breakfast (optional)

The lucky winners will be responsible for booking their own transport to and from Ivalo airport which can be reached by internal flights from Helsinki international airport, cost of these flights from London Heathrow is up to £1,000 per person and can be booked through Finnair or www.norwegian.com. We will advise about flights to the winner. Arrival date to Ivalo should be 22 March.

The accommodation at the Arctic resort Kakslauttanen in Finland is paid for from the 22nd of March up until the 28th winners can choose to fly back home on the 28th or stay a night in Helsinki where a hotel has been paid for and return on the 29th.

All you have to do to enter is go on Facebook and Twitter to like our page & follow our news-feed, once the winner is announced on Tues all you have to do to claim the trip is pay for your own transport to Ivalo airport in Finland to arrive on or after the 22nd of March and return after the 28th of March and the winter break is yours.

This was a tailor-made trip arranged for a special client who is unable to attend, you can read more about this destination and activities please visit this page on our website.

 

Terms & Conditions

1. All information detailing how to enter this competition forms part of these terms and conditions. It is a condition of entry that all rules are accepted as final and that the competitor agrees to abide by these rules. Our decision in regards to the winner is final and no correspondence will be entered into. Submission of an entry will be taken to mean acceptance of these terms and conditions.

2. Entry into the competition can be done by “liking” our page on Facebook in addition to following us on Twitter, only once a competitor has done both of these then they will be judged to have entered into the competition. From the entries received by 17.00 on Tuesday the 19th of March 2013 we will choose a winner, the announcement will be made by us at this time via Facebook and Twitter naming the winner publicly. We regret that we are unable to accept entries by any other means.

3. Once a winner is named publicly it is their responsibility to get in touch with us in order to claim their prize, therefore when “liking” our page on Facebook it is important to check the “get notifications” option to ensure that you receive notification of a win in your news-feed.

4. All entries must be received by the advertised closing date.

5. Entrants and winners must understand that only the cost of the activities, accommodation and half board will be borne by Magnetic North Travel Ltd. The cost of travel to and from the airport at your point of departure will be borne by you, travel arrangements to and from Finland must be made and paid for by you and Magnetic North Travel Ltd accepts no responsibility for this. Flights are subject to availability. We cannot be held responsible if no flights are available on the days requested. Arranging your own travel insurance is also your responsibility and if you are chosen as a winner then it is mandatory that you take out a travel insurance policy for the duration of. Do not book any flights or make any travel arrangements until you have been announced as a winner. Magnetic North Travel Ltd accepts no responsibility for any expenses or inconvenience incurred by anyone making speculative travel arrangements before they have been announced as a winner of this competition.

6. Only one entry per person. Late entries will not be accepted. Entries must not be sent through agencies or third parties.

7. One entrant shall win the travel experience outlined above and may nominate one other person to accompany them.

8. The travel experience is non-transferable, dates may not be altered and there are no cash alternatives.

9. Events may occur that render the competition itself or the awarding of the prizes impossible due to reasons beyond the control of Magnetic North Travel Ltd and accordingly Magnetic North Travel Ltd may at its absolute discretion vary or amend the competition terms and the entrant agrees that no liability shall attach to Magnetic North Travel Ltd as a result thereof. [Force majeure/act of God]

10. Magnetic North Travel Ltd is responsible for the judging of the competition, and will accept no responsibility for any losses, damage to property or physical harm which occurs to entrants or winners in connection with this competition due to circumstances outside of our control.

11. English law applies and the exclusive jurisdiction of the English Courts shall prevail.

 

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Five top places to see in Scandinavia

March 4th, 2013

Abisko, Sweden.

If there is one place that stands out in my mind from the time that I spent in Sweden then it has to be Abisko, during a census taken in 2005 this tiny little town situated in the heart of the Abisko National Park was reported to have just 85 inhabitants.

The Park itself covers 77 Km² of north western Sweden, being 195 Km north of the Arctic circle means that during the summer hikers can experience the midnight sun and the seemingly endless sunsets which go on for hours. In the winter it is also one of the best places to see the northern lights – a natural phenomenon that occurs in the far north, caused by solar winds it results in ghostly, ethereal colours being seen in the sky which can range from a greenish glow to whipping, whirling ribbons of neon, scarlet and yellow that appear to dance off the horizon.

Although science may have explained away their origin, these visitations can still exert a powerful hold on our imaginations and a place of reverence across many cultures.

Access to Abisko is relatively easy with daily electric trains running from the capital Stockholm and the Norwegian city of Narvik (Norway is only 37 km away across the border). Abisko was also a historically significant trail, being at the northern tip of the Kungsleden – or King’s route, this 425 km highland trail connects several of the northern towns of Sweden and has been used for communication for hundreds of years. Today the Swedish Tourist Association (Svenska Turistföreningen, STF) maintains a chain of cabins along this high mountain route in which you can stay the night during a back-country skiing, snowscooter or dog-sledding expedition. These cabins range from smaller affairs in which each room has its own wood stove and you must cook your own food in the communal kitchens and melt snow for water – to grand affairs like the one at Abisko where there are modern hotel rooms a restraint, shops and a visitor centre. All of the STF places to stay are situated in areas of outstanding natural beauty, looking out across mountain ranges layered in snow, dramatic peaks descending into steep valleys or, like the one at Abisko across huge expanses of clear lakes which freeze in winter, covered in snow you can ski across them and the view from above looking down on one of these vast white expanses is spectacular.

Geirangerfjord, Norway.

If Norway is known the world over for its beautiful fjord scenery then Geirangerfjord has to be the jewel in its crown.

Norway’s unique topography has been both its curse and its blessing, retreating and advancing ice ages have scoured these fantastic mountains and canyons out of the landscape, producing peaks up to 2000m which plunge almost vertically down into the sea and can go below 1000m underwater. This has created a landscape with relatively little arable land and made it harder for early settlements to grow or communicate with each other – less than 70 years ago Norway was the poorest country in Europe, partly as a result of this. The reverse side to this coin is that this lends itself splendidly to hydroelectric power generation, meaning that electricity prices are extremely low – and of course the scenery is spectacular.

An off-shoot of the 15 km long Storfjord (Great Fjord). The small village of Geiranger is located at the end of the fjord where the Geirangelva river empties into it. Since 2005 this has been a UNESCO world heritage site and there are daily ferry trips to cross the waterway and sightseeing trips by boat. One of the most amazing features of the Geirangerfjord are the waterfalls and it is home to two spectacular examples; The Seven Sisters and the Suitor – both facing each other across the water.

 

Svalbard

This is a tiny cluster of islands in the high Arctic Ocean, the last stop before the North Pole, it is home to the most northerly town in the world – quite literally at the ends of the earth.

This island has more polar bears than people and although attacks are rare it is one of the few places on earth where it is illegal to go out without a gun. Blanketed by night for several months of the year, lashed by severe storms and covered in glaciers riven with crevices which can open up beneath your very feet to swallow you whole – to a casual visitor it would seem that this is one of the most inhospitable places on earth.

And while it is true that Svalbard contains its fair share of surprises it is also home to some of the most amazing and unusual places.

The Wijdefjorden is the longest in the world at over 100 km, this vast body of water slices straight into the north of the island straight as a dagger and from its southern tip offers one of the most incredible views on the planet, along its banks is a particularly good place to see polar bears and when I was there in 2010 we saw a mother and two cubs. Also here is one of the last seal-trappers cabins where the resident hunter still over winters collecting pelts and meat from foxes and seals to sell in the summer.

Further south can be seen the abandoned colony of the Pyramid Mines. A former soviet possession this once housed over 1,000 workers, boasting a swimming pool and a library containing 35,000 books. It was left in 1998 and has been rotting in the snow ever since then. This is a truly surreal place, it feels like a set from a sci-fi movie, with huge machinery left rusting in the snow and the brutal Stalinist architecture crumbling away while reindeer root for grass in front of a statues of Lenin and polar bears prowl between the empty apartment blocks.

The capital; Longyearbyen has its own airport and there are daily flights from Tromso in Norway, the town itself has a number of hotels to choose from and if you want to get away there are various cabins off in the wilderness that you can take dog-sled trips or snowscooter rides to, even a sailing ship frozen in the ice that visitors can spend a night sleeping on-board.

 

Dividalen, Norway.

Situated in Øvre Dividal National Park not far from the city of Tromso (known as the Paris of the north) this is one of the highest and driest valleys in the country at over 750 ft above sea-level.

It holds the highest population of big predators in Norway. Every year hikers are lucky enough to see wolverine, bear, lynx and on rare occasions also wolves. In winter this is one of the ideal locations for training husky dogs for races in the spring and opportunities exist to spend time living up in the mountains and taking the dogs out on drives each day.

Huskies are among the best tempered of all breeds of dog and are enthusiastic companions for taking on sled journeys as they pull you across the high Arctic landscape. From a basecamp in the national park you can experience what it is like to train with these friendly animals and see what life is really like up in the far north. In the winter evenings it’s also possible to sit out with an open air fire and catch the northern lights amidst a blanket of some of the purest brightest stars you’ll ever see.

Kilpisjarvi, Finland.

In 2008 I was privileged to stand at the junction of Norway, Sweden and Finland, the place where all of Scandinavia comes together. Known as the Treriksröset (I guess you have to be a Scando to be able to pronounce that one) it is marked by a great cairn, Sweden’s most northerly Point and Finland’s most westerly. A few kilometres to the south east is lake Kilpisjarvi and possibly the best view in all of Finland. Much of the rest of the country is flat but in this spit of land known as the Finnish wedge there are mountains a plenty and spectacular scenery to compete with the best that Norway & Sweden have to offer. The wide lake makes a beautiful expanse of frozen white in winter, as flat and clean as a sheet of paper. Once the ice is frozen hard enough you can go skiing on it and there are places where you can rent kites to try your hand at kite skiing for a few hours before relaxing in one of the cafes or hotels around the edge and enjoying the views. Easily accessible form Norway or Sweden then if you’re planning a Northern break this should be on your list of places to see.

 

A sled dog’s photo diary

February 16th, 2013

Varg is a working husky dog who resides in the Dividalen valley of Northern Norway, here are a few snaps of his year.

Spring; taking guests on training runs in preparation for the dog races in April, we have to stay in shape to be ready for the dog team championships so we have plenty of guests and new friends coming from all over to spend time with us and take us on fun-runs – or rather we take them!

Summer, just because the warm weather is here doesn’t mean that the training stops, we are working dogs, and like athletes we must stay in shape. No spinning gyms or yoga for us, just lots of fresh air and exercise. Dividalen’s mountains are beautiful in the sunshine but as huskies we have thick coats and the only way we can lose body heat is by hanging our tongues out – as you can see here.

In the Autumn we get a chance to cool off, here I am with Inka, one of my team enjoying a cool drink while out on another of our training runs. The Dividalen valley is a very special place, with the highest population of big predators in Norway, occasionally we see wolverine, bear, lynx and on rare occasions also wolves – but they always keep clear of us and our wild cousins are very shy, they’re not even interested in catching Frisbees or smelling crotches, some people eh?

With the winter upon us again we are in our element, with a thick layer of snow we can once again pull our sledges – this is what huskies are for and what we love to do most. Every morning before we are saddled up we get excited when our visitors and guests are coming to greet us and put the harnesses on so we can take them for rides. In between trips we love to be cuddled and fed, the cold weather and the hard work takes a lot of calories so if you do come to visit us then please remember to feed us well.

Love from Varg and all of my team x

To Join Varg for an Arctic dog sledding experience this winter and a chance to see the Northern Lights check out our upcoming Easter trip: http://www.magneticnorthtravel.com/tour/details/life-of-a-dog-musher-easter-expedition

The Northern Lights; Legend, Science & Wonder

January 22nd, 2013


The Northern Lights, or are they are sometimes known, the Aurora Borealis; named after the Roman goddess of dawn, Aurora, and the Greek name for the north wind, Boreas, by Pierre Gassendi in 1621, this fantastical natural phenomenon has been the source of awe and wonder for as long as humankind has been around to witness them.

The ancient Roman poet Seneca The Younger claimed in 65 AD that they were chasms or wells in the sky and records that during the reign of Emperor Tiberius their lights shone so vividly red above the city of Ostia that the army stationed nearby galloped into the town believing it to be on fire.

Legends of the lights are curiously absent in the majority of Norse mythology, however there is a reference to their being caused by Valykries; warlike virgins, mounted upon horses and armed with helmets and spears.

“When they ride forth on their errand, their armour sheds a strange flickering light, which flashes up over the northern skies.”

Although auroral activity is common over Scandinavia and Iceland today, it is possible that the Magnetic North Pole was considerably farther away from this region during the centuries before the documentation of Norse mythology.

Amongst Eskimos and North American Indians there were many myths surrounding the lights, not all of them positive; one tribe regarded them as evil spirits and always went armed with spears to keep them away, another saw them as an omen of war and pestilence, but by far the most romantic comes from Inuit the tribes of Canada’s North Atlantic and eastern Hudson Bay referred to as the Labrador Eskimos:

“The skies of the North are a great dome of hard metal arched over the Earth. There is a hole in it through which the spirits pass to the true heavens. Only the spirits of those who have lived a worthy life and died a good death have been over this pathway. The spirits who live there light torches to guide the feet of new arrivals. This is the light of the aurora.”

Known as the Aurora Australis in the southern hemisphere, when seen at night the lights can sometimes even be bright enough to read a newspaper. They are caused when the earth’s atmosphere comes in contact with a stream of charged particles from the sun, known as solar wind. This is drawn toward the poles by the magnetic field generated by the earth. When these particles collide with the earth’s atmosphere there is some swapping of electrons between excited oxygen and nitrogen atoms and the resultant electromagnetic radiation just happens to be in the visible spectrum.

Depending upon a storm’s strength, activity can range from a greenish glow in the sky to whipping, whirling ribbons of neon scarlet and yellow that appears to dance off the horizon.

Although science may have explained away their origin these ghostly ethereal visitations still exert a powerful hold on our imaginations and a place of reverence across many cultures.

At present we are experiencing a peak in the 11 year solar cycle of the sun meaning that 2013 should be the best year for another decade at least if you want to get the best chance to see this natural lightshow.

If you’re interested in taking a trip up north then you can combine the experience with a dog sledding adventure; living in huts beyond the arctic circle for a week this Easter and taking your very own team of sled dogs on daily training runs around the mountains each day to prepare them for a 500 km race, while relaxing in the evenings to enjoy traditional Scandinavian cooking & hospitality.

Although no one can ever guarantee that the lights will show on any given night, this is probably the best opportunity and setting in which to experience them. For more details of the Easter Northern Lights and dog sledding trip please follow this link and check out some of the photos and testimonials from our last group.

Life of a dog musher, Easter expedition.

Happy trails – From all at magnetic North.