Team name: Going Where the Sun DOES Shine (All Night)
Participants: Greg & Erin
2018 Road trip details: It’s going to be a hot summer, so we want to take a dip and cool off...in the Arctic Ocean! We're driving north from the U.S., passing through Banff, Alberta, en route to Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories, via the Dempster Highway. We will end following the only accessible road to the Arctic Ocean in North America; any more north and we’ll need a kayak.
Can't leave home without:
Erin- Underwear, or my sense of adventure (at least one)
Favorite tune to listen to on the open road:
Erin- My iPod on shuffle
Greg- NPR, gotta get my learn on
Signature/go-to camp food:
"Best known for"/"claim to fame"/"trip role":
Erin- Cooking, and making guacamole
Greg- Drone guy
A perfect trip would include these three items:
Erin- Epic scenery, exercise, fun company
Greg- Adventure, athletics, sidekick
Relive their trip
The Northern Lights
August. It was the wrong time of year for the northern lights. The days are long and the nights are short or nonexistent. We would be at the high latitudes where you can see the northern lights, but needed the darkness of night to work with us. But the sun also needed to cooperate. We are in a deep solar minimum; sunspots are currently rare or nonexistent on the sun, and there are fewer solar storms hurtling particles towards Earth. These particles interact with Earth's magnetic field and atmosphere to create the spectacle of the northern lights.
Above the Arctic Circle, it didn't get completely dark at night. Sure, the sun set for a few hours, but never low enough to keep its light out of the night sky. Our only chance was in mid- to late-August, once we got back further south where we would have some proper nighttime skies.
We were tracking the space weather and aurora forecasts every day. On August 18, we were in the southern Yukon at around 60ºN, low enough to have dark nights, once the moon went down around midnight. That day, the aurora forecasts predicted a 60% chance of occurring at our latitude. And, the previous night, the northern lights danced in the skies above our camp, but we missed them because the forecasts were not as strong, so we didn't wake up often to check the skies. I had captured a night sky timelapse while we slept, which showed the green curtains flowing through the images. This next night would be our best, and last, chance. We would be continuing further south in the days ahead, and even though we'd still be at favorable latitudes, once we left the Yukon, the fires raging in British Columbia produced so much smoke in the skies that stars were not visible (as we experienced for the following eight nights). This was our last chance.
As we headed east along the Alaska Highway from Whitehorse, we consulted books and maps to try to locate a suitable area to camp with views of the northern sky. We eventually found an area off the highway right around sunset. We parked the truck, opened up the Tepui tent, made tea, and cooked dinner. Before going to bed around 11pm, I set my alarm for 1:30am, knowing the moon would have set a bit before that, ensuring dark skies.
I awoke around 12:45 am and peeked out. The Milky Way was stretching across the sky directly overhead, and I thought I should capture some images. I also noticed a swath of light running roughly from the NW to the eastern horizon. At first it puzzled me. I thought it might be the zodiacal light, which occurs when sunlight reflects off of dust near Jupiter's orbit, and becomes visible in dark skies for a couple hours after sunset and before sunrise. But, zodiacal light never stretches across the whole sky horizon to horizon. I crawled down from the tent and set up my camera for an exposure, facing northwest toward this band of light. Twenty seconds later, the image showed a green curtain with purple wisps bounding it. The northern lights! The colors were not visible to my eye at that moment, but the camera had no problems capturing them. I woke Erin up, and for the next 3 hours, until the light of dawn started to glow to the northeast, we danced in excitement and ran around capturing every perceivable shot we could think of. At times we could clearly discern the green curtains moving through the sky, at other times we couldn't make out the color but the light was visible and moving. Between capturing photos and standing in awe at the spectacle above us, those three hours went by in a flash, and soon the northern lights were fading, giving way to the light of dawn. We packed up the camera gear and headed for bed, victorious, with visions of dancing curtains in our heads. I never did get those Milky Way shots that night.
Shots from their adventure
Gear that got them through