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Land of the Midday Moon

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View from the ascent during a hike on the Kvaløya islandfjord near Tromsø, Norway.
View from the ascent during a hike on the Kvaløya islandfjord near Tromsø, Norway.
Photo by Geoff Sloan

TROMSØ, Norway – Green streaks through the sky, long nights and very cold fingers complemented a mid-semester trip into the Arctic Circle I’ll never forget.

During a five-day trip in October, my international friend-group departed from our new home of Oslo for a weekend getaway to one of the northernmost cities on Earth. Since our arrival in Norway in August, the days have become much shorter; less daily sunlight meant perfect conditions for the northern lights.

Tromsø is located at nearly 70 north latitude, above almost all of Alaska, Canada, Iceland and Siberia. At this latitude, my friends and I had the chance to see the northern lights, also known as the aurora borealis, with perfect conditions.

With a 30 second camera exposure, the lights can be photographed. The camera must remain very still for a long exposure which is why this is taken from the roof of a car. </br>
With a 30-second camera exposure, the lights can be photographed. The camera must remain very still for a long exposure which is why this is taken from the roof of a car. Photo courtesy of Arno De Block.

We had one night with perfect conditions for viewing the dancing green streaks. Little cloud coverage, a good distance from the city’s light pollution, and strong radiation from the sun made for a great viewing of the phenomenon.

Admittedly, the view wasn’t like the pictures. Often times, a long camera exposure allows for amazing shots of the northern lights with stars and mountains in the background. When viewing them in person, the scenery doesn’t show up in the same fantastic way some photographs lead us to believe. However, it did not negate our sheer amazement of this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

We followed up this natural wonder with yet another hike through the Norwegian fjords.

Pictured is Arno De Block, Belgian student at the University of Oslo and friend, taking in the views from outside Tromsø.
Pictured is Arno De Block, Belgian student at the University of Oslo and friend, taking in the views from outside Tromsø.

On one of my all-time favorite hikes, we started on one side of a massive hill and began working up to the summit. There was snowfall all around us, and of course, I forgot my gloves in Oslo. It was a cold but rewarding hike, with no trees or shrubs because of the altitude, giving us an even better view of the fjord landscape around us.

Passing by a herd of reindeer along the way, we came to the edge of a hill and discovered a cliff down to the open ocean and a massive fjord-island across the way. The ascent continued up to the summit where we could see out into open ocean. I’ve never seen a combination of cloud and sun like this – something out of a Bierstadt painting.

This photo was taken from the same hike as the other photos in this story. In the distance is the wall of snow creeping forward.
This photo was taken from the same hike as the other photos in this story. In the distance is the wall of snow creeping forward. Photo courtesy of Arno De Block

In distance, we saw a wall of sleet or rain. It was too far away to tell. Each minute we enjoyed the far-reaching view, the wall inched closer. As the thickness of that wall overtook the ocean and then the island-fjord, we realized it was time to get out.

Ten minutes later, we were hit by a wall of ice-like snow. Never had I seen the sky go from blue skies to such low visibility in just a few minutes. We made the epic hike back down through snow and sleet with an impressive hike, great views and a wild weather experience under our belts.

From Tromsø back to Oslo, it felt as if the two-hour flight brought us back from another world. This short weekend trip was a highlight of my time here, spent with my close-knit group of friends from all around Europe. Now I’m looking forward to my next adventure.

This blog series can be found exclusively at The University Star. For updates, questions and suggestions, find me on Twitter, @GeoffroSloan or through my email, rgs75@txstate.edu.

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