2 March 2007: Daring Lake, Nunavut & Barrow, Alaska


Arvids Silis

One of the truly great things about being out on the land in the winter/spring is that you still have night time hours in which to view the Northern lights. A great deal of the traverse will be right below the middle of the “aurora oval”, where the Northern lights shine the brightest. Even at the end of the traverse in early May, Baker Lake, NU will still have about 5 hours of good nighttime sky.

Yellowknife, NT is located in that oval and since 1989 they have marketed the northern lights to tourists. Over 10,000 tourists come to see the lights every winter and about 99 per cent of them are Japanese tourists. Centuries ago Japan also had northern lights and it became a part of their history and folklore. Viewing the lights as a connection to their past is now a passion for the average Japanese person. The average stay is about 4 days which are filled with 3 nights of viewing and then 4 days of snowmobiling, dog sled tours, ice fishing, snowshoeing and especially shopping for northern souvenirs. Needless to say that they go home very very tired after a schedule like that.

Climate change seems to be having an impact on this industry in that it is leading to warmer winters in the area. Ideal viewing conditions are on very cold, crisp and clear nights. Warmer weather leads to more overcast skies and much less opportunity for viewing.

Below is are two wonderful images of these lights (from Barrow) taken by our friend and fellow-long-distant snowmobile traveler, Ken Tape.



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