Almost ten years chasing these lights and the pursuit of the perfect photograph (spoiler: it doesn't exist, although the idea of it remains fairytalesque) still is interrupted by an overwhelming wonder of just how. We know, beginning from a Norwegian scientist, mostly, how, but to really comprehend how is something far greater. So anytime a perfect photograph is lost over an actual moment in life is a blessing beyond any size print or number of likes it could've been.
The joy is in the journey. Can't you just see that handwritten on a board and uploaded to Pinterest?
Chalk another one up to patience, kind of.
We didn't have to wait all night for our substorm in order to see the lights dance tonight, but the anticipation of knowing there was, eventually, something really, really good coming felt so worthwhile. And in an experience of uncontrollable circumstances, the joy has to be in the journey doesn't it?
Every morning the last few days I've woken up and checked, with cautious optimism and a little more interest than usual, what the solar wind is up to, and what our cloud maps look like. Partially for fear of this streak of now six nights of extraordinarily beautiful auroras from a high speed solar wind stream coming to a slow return to something quieter, or things coming to a crashing halt into a bank of cloud.
But no, perhaps never. The clouds and ribbons of pink continue dancing across the milky way shortly after guests ask if we can really see the colour of the aurora, or it's mostly just in photographs. I always promise the colour can be so spectacular that photos pale in comparison to our living, breathing experience with it, but in the meantime, I don't blame you for wondering.
What's more beautiful carrying off still lakes than the sound of loons calling far in the distance?
From at least a couple kilometres away, the most over the moon, excitable screams of others watching pinks more vibrant than you could ever imagine come up out of nowhere and dance across the sky at speeds you could never imagine.
Remember when I poked fun at the SWPC a couple nights ago for a seemingly flighty prediction of G2 geomagnetic storm levels that were late to arrive?
Well there's no feeling quite like being humbled by a gas giant fifteen million degrees celsius that can fit one million earth's inside of it, is there.
But speaking of the sun and the earth - earlier today I harvested approximately one million kilograms of zucchini from our garden a day after our first frost, which means vegan zucchini, pecan, raisin & chocolate chip loaf for the next six years on tour.
So I'll try to keep it reasonable, and the words few.
But I will say, it does take time to get used to new groups each night. Like during one of the couple substorms, when a guest shouts out 'What is even happening?!'
My immediate response with a sinking feeling in my stomach was 'With your camera?!'.
No, 'With the aurora!' he said.
Well, the short answer was very, very good conditions in the magnetic field tonight...
Which is a moderately strong geomagnetic storm. The translation is really wonderful auroras. But if you are more into sometimes overly-enthusiastic/optimistic predictions from the Space Weather Prediction Centre down in Colorado, we had hopes of a Kp6 tonight. We didn't reach Kp6, we spent the night around Kp2, which, as you can tell, was awful.
(The SWPC is actually awesome - just sometimes a little exciteable, and if you see on my phone while we're on tour, it's usually somewhere down a rabbit hole of charts and data on their site)
Three nights ago, we chased clear skies, stopping and peeking up for a faint streak of the lights every twenty kilometres ultimately ending many hours later with but an image or two of the faintest aurora you can imagine. We always know these nights come, but you just want to pretend they can't exist.
Then after two nights without any guests for tour, I face planted into the new IKEA catalogue at home, enjoying dozens of candles, almost as many cups of tea, and all the hygge in the world before being asleep by 1am both nights - which apparently helps beat a three week cold. Perfectly timed.
And tonight - less than 20 kilometres outside of Yellowknife, we found an arc of aurora quickly on the move south, and after just enough time to perfect infinity focus on a new lens... substorm.
Tonight was the lazy aurora chaser's dream (no relation to the writer here).
Before 11pm, under dead clear skies as far as the eye could see, clouds of pink swirled and green curtains whipped overhead of us. You could've been back home and tucked cosily into bed well before midnight. The hard part, of course, was predicting whether a second burst was still ahead of us. Because just like with Ben & Jerry's Non-Dairy P.B. & Cookies, you can never have too much of a good thing.