Believe it or not, the sun has a heartbeat. And when the energy from this heartbeat reaches Earth, it results in the most spectacular light show on Earth - the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis.
This heartbeat is at its most powerful every 11th year. And this is the 11th year - so this year's light show will be the most spectacular in a decade.
The northern skies will be streaked with vivid, iridescent greens and blues and oranges and purples. The black Arctic skies take on the look of a constantly-changing kaleidoscope. And you're mesmerized by the colors, the "deafening" silence, and the reflections off the water and snow.
A Tahoe City, CA, travel company called AdventureSmith Explorations is offering four "Northern Lights" programs this fall on its small ships, which offer up-close-and-personal looks at wildlife in small inlets and harbors inaccessible to larger ships.Â Â Â
Along Greenland's West Coast, you'll spot musk oxen, sail past the enormous icebergs of the Jakobshavn Glacier, and climb a nearby hill for an other-worldly view of the icebergs stretching into a silver-blue horizon. You'll visit an 11th-Century Thule settlement, and bathe in a hot spring surrounded by icebergs. And you'll probably see some of the giant humpback and blue whales for which this region is famous.
Scoresby Sund, in East Greenland, is the longest fjord in the world...and the best viewing spot for the Northern Lights. You'll go on shore via zodiac excursions, and be surrounded by native wildlife, among them 50 species of birds, and reindeer.Â
Greenland is like no other place on Earth. You'll visit settlements whose only connection to the outside world is by dog-sled. You'll hike on one of the world's fastest-moving glaciers. In the village of Kangaamiut, you'll meet artisans who still craft their work the ancient ways. And as you cruise into the Evighedsfjord (Fjord of Eternity), you'll find yourself surrounded by mountains 6,500 feet high. Nearby is a large crater, made by a meteorite that crashed into Earth three million years ago, the oldest impact structure on the planet.
And, if you're lucky, you'll see the "calving" of a glacier--when a giant piece falls off and the Earth shakes and roars with the impact. It's a sight - and sound - you'll never forget.Â Â
Then...take your seat, because the show's about to begin!
The aurora borealis gets its name from the mythical Roman goddess of the dawn, Aurora, and the Greek name for north wind, Boreas. It often appears as a red glow on the northern horizon, as if the sun was rising in the wrong direction. It's at its best during the months of September, October, March and April.
Among many of the Northern peoples, it was seen as a symbol of approaching doom. One myth of the Inuit people says that the aurora borealis is the spirits of past ancestors, while another myth says it's predicting the future.
One prediction is sure, however: You will never see anything in your life like the Northern Lights--especially if you go in the 11th year!