Seeing the lights: An Arctic expedition

An extreme winter expedition through the northernmost Scandinavian territories

by Ros Woodham
Words and Photos Ros Woodham

Before leaving the UK for Nordkapp, the most northerly point of mainland Europe, I wondered why I was about to undertake an expedition to an Arctic land of such notorious beauty during the darkest and harshest months of the year. However, I was soon to discover that the extreme challenges presented by the Arctic winter could offer unrivalled rewards. Our quest, which we dubbed ‘The Northern Lights Chase’, didn’t dare to guarantee a sighting of the aurora borealis – the northern lights – a phenomenon that requires conditions to be just right, but we knew we would be disappointed to return home without even a glimpse.

There are many ways to see the northern lights; a quick internet search will return countless results detailing where and when to go, as well as offering tips to increase your chances of a sighting. My opportunity came, however, in the form of an ambitious overland adventure.

Our planned expedition routed us along the famous E6, Norway’s Arctic Highway, following a fractured coastline that benefits from the relative warmth of the North Atlantic Drift. We were to follow the road to within 19.5˚ of the North Pole where we would turn off the E6 and continue to Nordkapp – 71˚N – the northernmost tip of mainland Europe. From North Norway, the return leg would then route through Swedish and Finnish Lapland to complete the countries of Arctic Europe.

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