On High Alert: A Night Of Aurora Chasing

On High Alert: A Night Of Aurora Chasing

Words by
Photos by
Art Bicnick

After seeing a recent high-alert aurora forecast, myself and a few other Grapeviners decided to jump in the car and get out of the city for the promised spectacle. Our photographer became a special Northern Lights tour operator for the night, deciding on a secluded hot pot in Hvalfjörður as our destination. We rushed out of Reykjavík as the sun started to set, driving into the dark and nervously checking the sky, imagining a soak in the hot pot with the aurora flickering above us.

Adventure time

Upon our arrival, the reality was slightly different, with a cold gale blowing. While my colleagues tried to find the courage to take off their layers, I got changed, ignoring the goosebumps. I stood by the pool, ready to jump into a natural hot spring for the first time in my life. But there was another twist: it quickly became apparent that the water was too hot to enter for more than a few seconds. The spectacular and relaxing night we’d imagined had become a mission we were determined to complete.

Arta carrying cold water

As our eyes grew accustomed to the dark we looked around for anything helpful, finding some unused buoys that we could use to carry cold ocean water to the steaming pool. After some unsuccessful attempts to fill them up from the shore, my feet had soon turned white from wading into the ocean. But eight buoys full of icy seawater later, we could finally sink into the hot pot.

Aurora by Art Bicnick

Worth the wait

By now, we’d entirely lost track of time—we had no idea if cooling the water had taken fifteen minutes or an hour. But as we settled into the hot pot, we started to see some dim green light in the sky. “Mission accomplished!” we thought. But it was just the beginning—we were soon to witness some truly powerful aurora.

It’s difficult to describe the indescribable—it was like nothing I’ve seen in my life. Green, purple and white bands danced, mixed and swirled in every direction. It made me want to have more pairs of eye, and to see 360 degrees at the same time. From a distance, we must have sounded like we were having a pyjama party, unable to hold in our excited screams. We sure broke the silence of Hvalfjörður.

As the lights faded, we started to search around for our belongings, with one of us almost putting on a stranger’s lost sock by accident. If she’d put it on without noticing, maybe it would have become her “lucky northern lights sock.” We got dressed for our return to city life—but this time, with a different perception of the greatness of nature.