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Midnight Sun, Northern Lights, or the Polar Bear Express: What's Your Pick?

8 mins. read

Published in the Sunday Gujarat Samachar on 03 March, 2024

Imagine standing under a sky that never darkens, witnessing a crazy dance of colours, or being on a cruise through the heart of the Arctic. Our planet is a mix of extraordinary experiences, each unique to its geographical and atmospheric conditions. Among these, the Midnight Sun, the Northern Lights, and the Polar Bear Express Arctic Cruise stand out for me as three of the most mesmerizing and sought-after adventures. Whether it's the endless daylight that captivates your imagination, the beauty of the auroras, or the rugged wilderness witnessed from a cruise, each experience offers a gateway to the extraordinary. But today, I really want to know  which one calls out to you the most? So let's embark on a journey to explore these wonders, and perhaps by the end, you'll find your pick.

Let’s start with the Midnight Sun, a natural phenomenon occurring in the summer months in places north of the Arctic Circle or south of the Antarctic Circle, where the sun remains visible at midnight. During the peak of summer, the sun does not set for several weeks, painting the sky in colours of gold, pink, and deep blue throughout the day and night. This phenomenon results from the tilt of the Earth's axis, allowing for continuous daylight at these extreme latitudes. Often called the Land of the Midnight Sun, Norway offers breathtaking views of the sun that never sleeps. Places like the North Cape and the Lofoten Islands provide dramatic backdrops against the endless daylight. There is Iceland too. Although the entire island doesn't experience a true Midnight Sun, you can enjoy prolonged twilight hours that create a surreal landscape, especially around the Summer Solstice i.e. during the month of June. Even in Canada, at places like Inuvik or the Yukon, the sun hovers over the horizon, illuminating the vast, wild landscapes for weeks on end.

So if you ask me, the best times to witness the midnight sun are around the Summer Solstice, usually from late May to late July, depending on the location. During this period, you can take advantage of the endless golden hours offering unique lighting conditions for photography. But it’s also wise to plan and book early. Due to the popularity of this phenomenon, it's wise to book accommodations and activities well in advance.

Let’s now move our discussion to the Northern Lights. The Northern Lights are a amazing spectacle of light dancing across the night sky, with a palette of green, purple, pink, and blue. This phenomenon occurs when charged particles from the sun enter the Earth's atmosphere and collide with gases such as oxygen and nitrogen. It's a cosmic show that has fascinated humanity for millennia, occurring predominantly in the polar regions.

So what is so special about the Northern Lights and 2024? This year, between January and October 2024, is when scientists expect to see the peak of solar activity in a 11-year cycle, called the “Solar Maximum”. During this phase, the sun experiences heightened activity, including an increase in sunspots, dark areas that sometimes appears on the sun’s surface, which emit more streams of the solar winds towards Earth. When these increased number of particles will interact with Earth's magnetic field, particularly at the poles, they will create even more stunning brighter auroras.

What does this mean for us as observers? The increased solar activity during the solar maximum means more charged particles, leading to more frequent and intense Northern Lights, potentially visible even at lower latitudes. And this seems to have already started - my cousin flying back to India from the US via Europe witnessed first-hand a stunning display of the Northern Lights in the night sky from his plane window.

And one tip I would like to really give you here is that if you are looking at capturing the best photos of the Northern Lights, use a tripod and a camera that allows for manual settings; long exposures can capture stunning details of the lights not always visible to the naked eye. The best places to see the Northern Lights during the upcoming solar maximum in 2024 and 2025 include Norway (especially in parts like the Lofoten Islands, Svalbard, and Tromsø), Swedish Lapland, Iceland, Rovaniemi and Finnish Lapland, and Canada. These locations offer great chances to witness the Northern Lights due to their high latitudes and darker skies, which are very important to view the Northern Lights.

And finally, let's come to the third part of our discussion, the unique Polar Bear Express Arctic Cruise, a unique journey that offers a window to the untamed wilderness of the North. Embarking on the Polar Bear Express Arctic Cruise in June offers a unique and unforgettable adventure, blending the majesty of the Arctic's icy landscapes with the thrill of polar bear sightings. This once-in-a-lifetime journey aboard a specially designed expedition vessel provides passengers with an intimate view of the Arctic's pristine environment and its inhabitants.

The Polar Bear Express Arctic Cruise offers unique wildlife encounters, showcasing the Arctic's biodiversity. The highlight here are the majestic polar bears, which are undoubtedly the stars of the show, travellers will have the opportunity to observe a variety of other species that call this icy wilderness home. You also witness seals, whales and narwhals, the unicorns of the sea, with their iconic long tusks Bird enthusiasts will be thrilled with the variety of seabirds that can be spotted during the cruise. From the large and majestic glaucous gulls to the agile and speedy Arctic terns, which are known for their long migratory patterns, the skies and cliffs are alive with avian activity.

These wildlife sightings, set against the dramatic landscapes of icebergs and glaciers, create a profound connection with nature. The cruise itinerary is thoughtfully crafted to enhance the Arctic experience. Travellers can participate in guided zodiac excursions, allowing for closer encounters with the ice and wildlife, and for the more intrepid, kayaking amidst the ice floes offers an exhilarating perspective of the Arctic's serene beauty. Onboard, expert guides and naturalists provide insightful lectures and discussions, deepening the understanding of the Arctic ecosystem, its challenges, and the significance of its conservation.

So all in all, we've now journeyed through the light of the Midnight Sun, danced under the Northern Lights, and embarked on a voyage through the northern wilderness aboard the Polar Bear Express Cruise. Each of these experiences offers a unique way to connect with the natural world, presenting travellers with choices that cater to varied interests and desires.  Each of these remarkable phenomena and experiences offers a unique window into the natural wonders of the polar regions, promising adventurers and nature lovers alike memories that last a lifetime. But which one should you choose? The answer depends on what you seek from your adventure. I’ll just leave you with this.

The Midnight Sun could be Ideal for those who love witnessing endless days, allowing for extended activities and exploration in the stunning landscapes under the surreal light of the sun at midnight.
The Northern Lights would be perfect for the night sky enthusiast and photographer, this is a quieter, more contemplative experience, connecting you with the cosmos in a profound way. The Polar Bear Cruise
could appeal to those looking for an off-the-beaten-path adventure, keen on exploring remote wilderness, indigenous cultures, and the possibility of encountering wildlife. So the choice is yours, Chalo Bag Bharo Nikal Pado!

March 02, 2024


Neil Patil
Neil Patil

Founder & Director, Veena World

More Blogs by Neil Patil

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