Are There Southern Lights?

Nature likes things to be balanced. So, just as there is an Aural Circle around the magnetic North Pole giving us the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis, there is another around the South Pole. It has exactly the same effect on the solar particles flying through space, attracting them and channelling them into our atmosphere to appear as a the Southern Lights, also known as the Aurora Australis.

What has been discovered recently is that the symmetry doesn’t end there. The pattern of lights showing in the north is almost identical to the pattern of lights showing at the same time in the south!

You don’t tend to hear as much about the Southern Lights as the Northern Lights. This is because there is very little land mass under the southern Aural Oval. It’s mainly made up of a big empty ocean, parts of the the remote continent of Antarctica (which is mostly unpopulated) and a few islands, many of which are also unpopulated.

In comparison, there is plenty of land under the Northern Aural Oval:  Greenland, Northern Canada, Russia and Norway.  The first three can be tricky to travel to and when you get there you’ll find mainly wilderness – so no support towns, accommodation or activities. However, Norway is a perfect place to go to see the northern lights because of its accessibility and civilisation. In fact,  Norway is one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights.

But seeing the Southern Lights can be done if you really want to. Some of the best locations to try seeing the southern Aurora include the Falkland Islands, the island of South Georgia (known for its association with the Polar Explorer, Ernest Shackle ton), Ushuaia in Argentina and Antarctica itself.  “Great” we hear you cry! You’ve seen all of these destinations featured on this very website under Hurtigruten Explorer Cruises.

While that is certainly true, due to the inversion of the seasons between the northern and southern hemispheres, we can only get you there during the Antarctic Summer months – in the heart of our winter – when you are so far south that there is daylight most of the time. Travelling to Antarctica when it is dark enough to try and see the Southern Lights – during our summer – is just too dangerous for anyone other than hardy independent explorers and scientists based at research stations in the area. And even then, travel in and out is difficult and they can be trapped on the ice for weeks at a time.

But  all is not lost. Should you find yourself in the southern end of New Zealand’s South Island during their winter months (March – September) you might get lucky. Check the aural forecast for readings of 5 or higher. If weather conditions are right (a cloudless sky) and there has been a geomagnetic storm in the previous few days then get yourself away from urban light pollution, look up, look south and cross your fingers. Some of the best locations are small islands off the Southern Island or remote mountain ranges and parks on the main South Island.

Alternatively, head to Northern Norway and when the lights appear do a headstand … voila! Instant Southern Lights!

If you’d like to visit any of the Southern Lights locations during our winter months, check out the Hurtigruten Explorer Voyages to Antarctica.  They also offer summer cruise holidays in Greenland & Iceland and Svalbard. If you fancy seeing the Northern Lights in a remote wilderness, check out their new Svalbard Northern Lights experiences. Call Project Travel on 01 -2108391 to discuss which is right for you and to avail of any special offers.

Image credit: Hurtigruten

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