Norwegian Language Blog

Northern Lights Posted by on Apr 20, 2010 in Nature

I’ve been told that seeing nordlys, also known as Aurora Borealis, is one of the most spectacular sights a person can see.  I have seen nordlys in Minnesota a few times, both during the fall and winter and don’t get me wrong, they were certainly cool.  However, based on the reactions I’ve heard and read from people who have experienced nordlys in Norway, for example, my experiences with this phenomenon were quite tame.

Without going into scientific detail (because A) I don’t want to bore you and B) I don’t understand the scientific explanation myself), nordlys are a natural light displays that are best seen at night and in the polar regions.  Visibility of the northern lights increases as you reach closer to the North Magnetic Pole and they occur most often at the equinoxes.

Since a good portion of Norway lies above polarsirkelen (the polar circle), there are many places in which you can see nordlys.   Whether you are in Tromsø, Kirkenes, Kautokeino, Narvik, Alta, or Karasjok, to name a few, you will likely be lucky enough to see nordlys.  The best time of year to see the lights is from September to April and the best time of day is between 6pm and 1am.

A couple named Rob and Therese run an information center about polar light in Laukvik, which is on Austvagøya, one of the Lofoten Island’s.  The two are very passionate about the phenomenon of nordlys and want to share their knowledge with others.  They give presentations, teach courses, and display exhibitions.  As if this doesn’t sound tempting enough, Rob and Therese have instruments that can predict when nordlys displays will occur.  If you visit their center, they will set you up to receive text messages when the lights are visible or are about to be.  They also give advice about how to best photograph the lights.  How cool!!

As you might imagine, nordlys are traced back to folklore in many cultures.  In Norway, there are several different historical interpretations of the lights.  Scandinavian fisherman believed that the lights revealed rich catches, which was evident by the sunlight reflecting off of schools of herring.  It has been told that Vikings thought the lights were reflections from the shields of valkyries, females figures who decided who would live and die in battle.  Another belief was that the lights were spirits of old maids dancing in the sky.  The Sami people believed that the lights were energies of souls that had departed life.  It’s always fascinating to me to find out how different cultures interpreted their surroundings.

I want to see a display of nordlys right now!


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About the Author: kari

I attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, where I majored in Norwegian and History. During college, I spent almost a year living in Oslo, Norway, where I attended the University of Oslo and completed an internship at the United States Embassy. I have worked for Concordia Language Villages as a pre-K Norwegian teacher and have taught an adult Norwegian language class. Right now, I keep up by writing this Norwegian blog for Transparent Language. Please read and share your thoughts! I will be continuing this blog from my future residence in the Norwegian arctic!