I was sound asleep at 1 AM when I heard a man's voice speaking quietly in my right ear. “If you’d like to see the northern lights, they are visible now on the bow” I didn’t need a second invitation, I was out of bed and jumping into my rubber boots before the mate on duty on the bridge could turn off the speaker beside my bed. That stateroom speaker often came to life during the day to inform passengers of any significant sightings during our Southeastern Alaska UnCruise.
After several unsuccessful opportunities to see northern lights during trips to Churchill, Manitoba and Reykjavik, Iceland in winter, I was getting my opportunity to experience them in the Lynn Canal aboard the Safari Endeavor, in Alaska...in August!
Our family's recent UnCruise was an opportunity to complete some unfinished business and explore Southeast Alaska in a way we didn’t get on our first trip to Southeast Alaska on a mainstream cruise in 2005. Our 8 yo daughter missed out on some experiences and was very sad about it. We had made a promise to our daughter then, that we would do things differently the next time, and this trip delivered in unexpected ways, especially by delivering up northern lights during a time we least expected to see them!
For more on Alaska see our trip reports from our 2005 trip here:
Darkness falls only after a lengthy twilight during the Southeastern Alaskan summer, but with the ship’s lights off, about 1/2 of the 80 passengers and several crew roused themselves and appeared on the bow in their pjs and robes to experience the magical natural phenomenon of Northern Lights.
One of our onboard naturalist guides, Christian, described the phenomenon and answered questions in a loud whisper, not so much to avoid disturbing the sleeping guests, but because the experience seemed to demand a quiet reverence. As the wind blew gently, we watched the light streaks move across the sky. These appeared more like glow-in-the-dark greenish white to our eyes than the bright greens picked up by the long exposure of the SLR camera. In silence, we marveled at the lights playing and changing in the northern sky before our eyes.
Then our senses became heightened to the sounds around us, the light breeze, the quiet rumble of the engine, the clicks of camera shutters and an occasional splash off the bow. Looking to see what caused the splash, we became aware of bio-luminescent streaks through the water (another natural phenomenon, caused by microscopic dinoflagellates that live in bays and glow on dark nights when they are disturbed with the movement of the water) The glowing underwater streaks were caused by a school of porpoise riding beside the ship’s bow, breaking the surface to leap and breathe and creating glowing streaks in the bay as they raced through it. This glowing water phenomena is almost impossible to photograph and has to be lived to be experienced.
The whole effect was so magical, that our daughter described it as being in the fictional kingdom of Pandora! The mild night, dancing lights in the sky, and the playful, but barely visible porpoise, and the glowing waters they churned up, had an ethereal quality, as if, maybe we had not really woken from a dream. But we were awake and we were experiencing just one piece of unfinished business that we had come on an UnCruise to finish. There would be much more, such as how National Park Ranger Kelly redeemed a previous disappointing Glacier Bay National Park visit for our 21 year old daughter 13 years later!
But that's an unfinished story to share later; we have more photos and stories to come-
Jeff is working feverishly on over 5000 frames of glaciers, bears, whales, eagles, happy hikers and kayakers and Tlingit people sharing their culture. We will be sharing these through posts over the next several weeks. Stay tuned, and if you haven’t yet, like our FB Page or follow us on Twitter, so you’ll get notifications when new posts and more photos about our Alaska Uncruise Adventure are up.