THE NORTHERN LIGHTS PART 2- Dancing Skies
……. It was a rather rough welcome party but we had finally arrived and to greet us were the stringent, post-arrival formalities of the Port State. There were forms to be filled, documents to be verified and after answering a ton of questions and a peculiarly uneasy “routine” interview with a female officer, we were done with the checks!
It was time to go on deck. The bone chilling (literally) experience from earlier, left me wishing I was anywhere else in the world but it was once again time to face the inevitable, unforgiving temperatures of Arctic Russia.
This time round however, there was a shift of sorts in the environmental mood. The cold refused to budge but the sea smoke gave way to a magical array of minute snowflakes that were sparkling as they fell.
It was rather mesmerizing and I had to rub my eyes to confirm I was not imagining it because the appearance was as if someone had diffused a whole lot of glitter into the faintly illuminated sky. I could well have been walking the sets of a romantic, winter, Disney movie, with “MAGIC” all around me.
I took a moment to absorb this unbelievable sight that I had only read of in tales of winter. It was exactly how I had imagined it would be and for a brief moment, my body forgot about the prevalent sub-zero temperatures as I was lost in awe and amazement of this winter wonderland. (It was a freezing -27 degrees Celsius out there)
The ground was laden with snow and the air was teeming with glitter…. It was also the week before Christmas and the surrounding sight did make for a perfect Christmas setting.
I was immersed in these thoughts while I deeply missed a special someone far, far away and imagined what it would be like if I got the chance to share this moment with her…….
It was time to get back to work. The snow as beautiful as it was, still stubbornly clung to our machinery and the hatch-ways had to be cleared of snow before we could commence operations. The wind had picked up, further worsening the working conditions. It is noteworthy to mention that so long as we had our coveralls on, no matter the matter the temperature, it was quite manageable. But no longer did the wind reemerge, than the cold took on a completely different unbearable avatar!
As we worked, we had to periodically dust off the frost that recurrently formed on any facial hair. Eyebrows, eyelashes, beard and mustaches were not spared! It was a hilarious sight to see the bosun after we finished work.
The bosun, a sweet old man, in his mid fifties was so diligently lost in the job assigned to him, that he had neglected the comical ice-lets forming on his mustache. So much so, that by the end of the shift, he had well formed stalactites dangling from below his nose. I could empathize with how painful it was but the rest of us couldn’t resist playfully and painfully plucking them off one by one, as the bosun screeched and issued threats of what he would do to the next guy who did that! Undeterred by his warnings we continued our mischief as we went indoors to thaw ourselves.
Though all that had happened thus far was nothing short of unforgettable, what really left me astounded that night was yet to happen.
We went out for our final session of the watch. It was surprisingly comfortable and either my body was numb from the cold or the temperature had risen slightly from the initial -27 degrees but I was not shivering anymore. The work session was rather mundane with nothing noteworthy happening, till right at the end.
Just as I was winding-up for the night a strange dim light in the sky caught my eye.
It was rather late but what I had wished to see on my birthday was right there in front of me- My Birthday gift!
I stood there wide-eyed with my gaze heavenward as the Arctic Aurora began to unfurl in the Northern night sky. I had dreamed of seeing this phenomenon ever since I had become aware of its existence. It had been on my bucket list ever since, so you can imagine the elation of finally getting to behold the sight.
The aurora is a polar phenomenon. The effect is caused by the interaction of charged particles from the sun with atoms in the upper atmosphere. In northern and southern regions it is respectively called aurora borealis or Northern Lights and aurora australis or Southern Lights. The result is an array of fluorescent colors in the night sky.
Aurora literally means “the dawn”.
These colors can be anything from yellow, orange, red, green or blue and the pattern can take many shapes. This particular formation was bright green and was shaped like a well-spread stratus cloud!
I gaped as I stood there, simply staring at the dazzling display of fluorescence as the aurora swayed against its pitch black backdrop and appeared to dance to the mysterious tune of the North.
It was indeed a sight to behold- The night sky set ablaze by the dancing Northern Lights.
A sight that I had so longed to see, a picture I will never forget- An unforgettable experience!