Alden Boon

A Surreal Moment: Witnessing the Northern Lights in Person


After a 13-hour flight to London and five-hour layover in Heathrow Airport, I was in the air again, bound for Reykjavik, Iceland. I sat in my seat, nary a space to move. I craned my neck to peer out of the window, hoping with luck I could catch the splendour of the aurora borealis many miles above ground.

Na dah. Zilch. Not even a pitiful flicker to appease me.

Iceland: Eluded

It was now 8pm. After being greeted by my tour guide, I clambered up the gargantuan 4×4 jeep. We drove away from Reykjavik; being the city centre light pollution was strong there. Silhouettes outlining vast mountains we soon saw, but the night cloaked their magnificence.

Sitting in the front seat, I was de facto navigator, tasked with spotting a glimmer of the moon or stars. The overcast shrouded all lights, and none could pierce through. We arrived at a secluded spot, and unwillingly we ejected ourselves from the vehicle and its familiar warmth. Our armour of fleece jackets, layered clothes, gloves and scarves could not shield us from the cold. For hours we stood and looked up to nothingness. Not passing clouds, not a glint of the moon, not the northern lights. The sky was pitch black. For two nights, my hopeful posses and I left disillusioned.

One week after my departure, photos of the northern lights illuminating Iceland’s entire skies appeared on my news feed.

Silvery stars stippling the green flames of light.
Photo Credit: Andrei of Enjoy the Arctic

Tromso: Third Time’s the Charm

A swirl of muted green adorned the velvet sky, hanging above the stack of houses like a monochrome rainbow that came out after rain – that was my first northern-light encounter. My Panasonic Lumix GH4 did an ace job of dramatising the colours, so that the green saturated to a picturesque glow. But how entirely purposeless it is to live life through a viewfinder. We left the spot and beelined for the mountaintop.

Every passing hour whittled our hope and resolve, and the minus-four-degree temperature did little to lift our spirits. By now everyone was quaking, burrowing hands into tight pockets and jacket sleeves. Some retreated to the comfort of the heated car for a respite. Against the might of the biting cold and relentless chilly wind, the leaping fire Andrei our guide built was impotent. He plied us with hot cocoa as well as traditional Norwegian snacks like reindeer sausages, and temporarily we were whisked to a happier place.

And then, without warning, not one any app could augur, the swirl of light intensified in colour. All things on ground came to a still, and the numbing winter cold was forgotten. Entrancing verdant flames came alive, so that the entire sky became a lush garden of sorts.  Oh, how the lights danced with grace like carefree nymphs, in rhythm but to no music! This was no camera trick. Then again without warning, as they are wont to do, shelves of white and violet hues zigzagged across the sky, overlapping the green, stealing our breath. All eyes were fixated on this inexplicable beauty.

Human beings may have invented many gadgets, but none can match the brilliance of this natural visual experience. The best things in life are indeed free. That night, I went back to my Airbnb apartment, knackered but filled with unbridled joy.


Alden Boon
Alden Boon is a Quarter-finalist in PAGE International Screenwriting Awards. When he's not busy writing, he pretends he is Gandalf.