No.5 / Top 10 lighting experiences: The Aurora Borealis

April 06 2011 — by Jonathan Speirs
Many years ago I worked on a hotel project in Alta in the very north of Norway 10 degrees above the Arctic Circle and was able to witness not just the midnight sun but also its alter ego, the midday night.

The Aurora Borealis

Staying up late during the summer wasn’t much of a problem. Business seems to keep going in the summer until quite late. It was weird waking up at 3 am with the sound of car doors slamming as people left the local night (sic) club. I opened the curtains and looked out of my hotel window to a bright sunlit car park and I stood there shaking my head before trying to get back to sleep. The closest thing I can describe is the feeling you have when you emerge from a darkened cinema into bright daylight – which still seems psychologically strange to me.

The arctic winter with its lack of sun is even more evocative for me. The nights are extremely dark and during the day the sky remains black, though, towards the horizon, there is the most beautiful deep blue I have ever seen. You almost feel you could scoop it up.

The Aurora Borealis – what can I say – I didn’t see it in Alta despite always reminding the hotel reception to wake me at any time if it started happening. In fact I have still yet to see it, despite once organizing a road trip to Iceland with several good friends for that specific purpose. It rained constantly forcing us to have to spend a lot of time in good hostelries.

Jonathan Speirs