I was on the bus between Keflavik airport and the school where we were staying for the next four days, near Thorlakshofn, and I took the opportunity to inquire Úlfur, icelandic, sitting next to me, how the aurora borealis begin, something all Portuguese on the trip were excited to see. He explained me that at first you start to see something white moving in the sky and only later, and if it gets strong enough, you get to see the green or even pink shades. The journey was long and I began to observe the darkness, kilometers and kilometers without a single house, without a single inhabitant. Until I start to see something white in the sky, seconds after this conversation. Was I dreaming? I asked Úlfur if he was seeing the same as me and he confirms to me that that was the beginning of a northern light. Iceland couldn’t have welcomed us better!
The northern lights are caused by the impact of solar wind particles with the Earth’s high atmosphere channeled by the Earth’s magnetic field and are impossible to predict, although the Icelanders have created a northern lights forecast system on a scale of 0 to 9 and of only three days in advance. So, on that first night, and because we did not know if we would have the opportunity to see some more, we spent some time looking at the sky and seeing these white spots, which only changed color for the camera in long exposure, but not for our eyes.
I went to Iceland for an AFS event, called Chapter Exchange, which brought together ten volunteers from these countries – Germany, Slovakia, Iceland and Portugal. We spent three days in an old school “relatively” in the middle of nowhere, since we had two or three neighboring houses in sight, discussing the multiculturalism of Europe, including the inclusion of refugees in our societies. At lunchtime we climbed the nearest small hill, past a stream of hot water and sighted the sea and a glacier in the distance, with one of those unpronounceable names. On another day we could go to the road, which was still about 300 meters away, and on the way we could observe the hairy and small Icelandic horses, while being followed by the friendly neighbor dogs.
But it was at night that the magic happened and we had the immense luck of seeing aurora borealis every night we were in Iceland! The one of the second night was already stronger, in shades of green. Quickly we improvised tripods with benches, brought quickly from the house, as it is not certain if the northern lights will appear, neither is it certain when they will disappear. There was always someone “on call”, who every now and then would go outside to see what color the sky was.
But it was on the third night that we all gasped. The sky was green for many hours, but in a very pale tone. It was almost midnight when I decided to go to bed, but I decided to check a last time, looking out of the bedroom window … it was still that pale green, but I decided to grab the camera and take a picture anyways. During the seconds that took me to get the camera and return, the sky came to life. Green and pink scratches moved at great speed, by the great wind that was being felt, of a shining tone like we had never seen, nor would see again. I woke up all the girls in the room, we stayed there a few minutes, hysterical, enjoying the moment, until we decided to go outside. There we saw a road in the sky where the winds were racing to see which came faster to the horizon. And on land there was a rush of photographies, to register one of the most unforgettable nights of our lives.