Part of the reason why we wanted to visit Iceland was to see the Aurora Borealis. Of course we also wanted to visit Iceland.. Well, because it’s Iceland. But the Aurora Borealis would be a pretty special thing to see.
We got some tips from some friends from work about different websites that forecasts the aurora. They had gone to Iceland, and chased it all over the place for 3 weeks earlier in the year.
Of course there was a high likelihood that we weren’t going to see it the whole time we were there… Funny how that geomagnetic activity, weather and cloud stuff works. But, as luck would have it, it was only our second night, and the forecasts were good! It was forecasted to be a 4. The geomagnetic activity is measured using a Kp index, with a range between 0 and 9. For some perspective, 5 and up is a geomagnetic storm, so we were doing quite alright with our 4.
We got back from a day of sightseeing, with barely enough time to grab some delicious Icelandic pylsa (hotdogs), and start drive to Kliefarvatn Lake. We had decided to do a drive around Reykjanes while we were in the area. We ended up rushing to the lake to find a good spot to park off at and wait for the Aurora. At this point, we were really racing against the setting sun. Finally we got to the lake. We parked off at a cliff area that was overlooking the lake, set up the camera, and then decided to continue on down the road to get to the same level as the lake. And so we drove again. We found a part of the lake where you could drive right down to the beach area. It seemed like a pretty good spot. Except it was windy. So so so windy! The car was shaking all over the place, and it was a mission even to open the car door and get out the car with the wind pushing against it. So we got back in and drove again.
We went back towards the area where we’d just come from, but found some shelter from the wind from a cliff (below the first area we had tried). Ok, really close to losing all light in the sky now, I set up my tripod and tried to set up the camera, but by this stage, I couldn’t even really see if the mountains in the background were even in focus. It has also dawned on me that I have no clue what to even expect. Does the Aurora only appear in a certain part of the sky? Is it everywhere or in a certain direction? I get back in the car, trying to warm up while waiting for the night sky to darken. An hour or two later, still no sign of the lights. So I get out and take some photos of the stars in the sky. Even with no Aurora, the scenery is beautiful.
While I wait for my shutter to close, Ciaran asks me, “Is that the Aurora?” while pointing in the opposite direction. There’s a faint green haze in the sky. We pointed the camera at it, took some pictures with the shutter open for a few seconds, and sure enough it was. Then, within a few minutes, the green haze got stronger, and we could see these shards of light dancing in the sky with our eyes.