With his heart pounding in his chest and hands shaking, the Italian scientist Gallileo pointed his homemade telescope towards the night sky. Condensation meant he had to stop to wipe the lenses. He gazed upwards towards the myriad of twinkling lights and then towards the moon which would never look the same again. The year was 1610 and it was the first time a human had ever seen that the smooth looking disc of the moon was in fact alive with mountains and craters.
Gallileo was also the one who gave the northern lights it's latin name - "Aurora Borealis" He named it after 2 Gods - Aurora, godess of the morning and Borea, god of the north wind.
Armour made of light
In Sweden we say 'northern lights' but it would in fact be more correct to say 'polar lights' because the same phenomenon exists in the southern hemisphere. The Norrsken has fascinated us humans for millennia and is a deep part of the culture for the indigenous Swedes or the Sami as they are known. The Norrsken has inspired songs and music by the Sami people and designs symbolising the Norrsken can be seen on their shaman drums. The vikings also wondered at the lights in the sky, believing that it came from the armour of the valkyries, women who choose those who will die in battle and those who will live.
Some christian cultures believed that the Norrsken was a bad omen, especially if it was red. It was an omen of blood to be spilled. Of war and pain, of an angry God.
Norrsken gives you special powers
To the Japanese the aurora is a magical and holy gift. It's said that many Japanese make the pilgrimage to Abisko in northern Sweden to make love in the hope that the northern lights will imbue extra fertility. The belief is that a child conceived under the northern lights will be gifted, beautiful, intelligent and successful. We are in complete agreement.
There are a lot of us in Sweden who have the northern lights in our blood. It gives us a thirst for adventure. We think Gallileo and the Vikings would agree with us there.
Photos courtesy of the awesome @photobyfredrikbroman
The Northern Lights has become a bit of a symbol for Sigr, perhaps because it is such an energetic, awe-inspiring spectacle. Perhaps because it makes us feel small but strangely that anything is possible at the same time.
One of our startup friends is in the business of helping people experience this wonder. They are "Aurora Safari Camp" We gave them a call and asked them a few questions.
-- Who are you? Can you tell us a bit about where you are situated?
We are based in the Råne River Valley, Swedish Lapland. Just beneath the Arctic Circle.
-- What made you start "Aurora Safari Camp"
I have lived in Kenya before and tented camps and glampsites are quite common there since long back. I got the idea to translate that concept into an Arctic Contect. Aurora Safari Camp opened 2013 and is the first Arctic Winter Glampsite in the world.
-- Is it possible to know exactly when the Aurora will show itself? and where?
Not exactly. There’s a sattelite, ACE, measuring the solar wind. From that data a forecast can be made. The thing with the camp is that it’s away from all light pollution and then we can see stars, the milky way and also Aurora very clear when it appears.
-- We at Sigr created an black reflective cycling clothing collection with a signature pattern inspired by the magnetic field interactions with charged particles. And because we love the Norrsken. Next year we'll be adding 2 more colours to the collection. You are the Norrsken experts :) which colours do you think we should introduce?
Green is most common. Then pink, purple and blue.
-- Do you know of any mystical beliefs that are maybe more saga than science?
The Samis (the indigienous people of northernmost scandinavia) had a belief that you should be quiet under the aurora to pay respect to your ancestor's spirits.
-- Thanks guys