Viewing the Mysterious Northern Lights from a Cruise

Reykjavik, Iceland

A beautiful curtain of light shimmering in the night sky. Named “Aurora” after the Roman goddess, this fantastical natural phenomenon has always fascinated people. It is impossible to describe in words the beauty of the sight of the strip of light spreading along with the starry sky, covering all you can see in the blink of an eye. The miraculous view you will encounter on your journey around the globe will be unforgettable.

If you head to Reykjavik during the aurora season, you will have the chance to see the Northern Lights every night. What are the advantages of observing it from a cruise ship?

A veil of Light over Reykjavik at night

The aurora borealis has been described as a mysterious phenomenon since ancient times, and passed down in myths and stories in China, Russia, Norway and other parts of the world. In modern times, the mechanism of the aurora has been scientifically analyzed. It is known that electrically charged particles called “solar wind” emitted from the sun are attracted to the polar regions of the earth, and when they pass through the atmosphere, they react with nitrogen and oxygen in the air and emit light. In the northern hemisphere, the best place to see such auroras is in the area around 60-70 degrees north latitude, known as the Aurora Belt. Most of Iceland is within this zone, making it ideal for aurora observation.

In most aurora viewing tours, usually you would be inland, staying in one spot and waiting for the aurora to appear. But inland, a single rain cloud can often cancel a tour. Axel Oskarsson, an aurora hunter, told us that the ship gives us a better chance of encountering the aurora because we can move around to reach locations where the sky is clear. Born in Iceland, Axel has his own method for encountering the aurora, based on a comprehensive analysis of meteorological and geological data from the perspective of astronomy and geology.

Cruising Enables Active Viewing

Axel has coordinated aurora observation on the four most recent Peace Boat cruises to this area. In all his years of experience, he says that the only ship he has been on to observe the aurora is Peace Boat, and that this was a rare experience in his life as an aurora hunter. He says that the pitch-black sea, with its 360-degree view of the surroundings, is perfect for aurora observation. Once the aurora appears, you can see it in an ideal, unobstructed environment. Axel remembers the day when the aurora danced in the night sky, and so many happy and excited people gathered on the ship’s deck to gaze up at the sky.

“It was a wonderful sight. And there were glaciers and volcanoes behind us,” Axel recalls. Another advantage of a cruise is that you don’t have to wait in the cold outdoors. You can stay inside the ship and go out to the deck once it’s announced that aurora appeared. During the day, meanwhile, various events are held on board as the ship sails within the Aurora Belt, including lectures on aurora-related myths from around the world, information on how this phenomenon occurs, and even aurora photography courses. All eyes are set on the aurora observation at night, and the journey to follow the aurora will be one to remember.

The Heartbeat of Planet Earth

After enjoying the Aurora Borealis observation for several nights, Peace Boat finally calls to the capital city of Reykjavik. Iceland, the land of fire and ice, has many amazing landscapes that cannot be seen anywhere else due to the effects of active volcanic activity, tectonic movements, and glacial erosion. Even in the suburbs of Reykjavik, you can see Gullfoss Falls, Iceland’s largest waterfall, Geysir, a huge geyser, and Gao, the “crack in the earth,” at the World Heritage Site of Thingvellir National Park. These are just a few of the many natural wonders that allow you to truly feel Planet Earth.

The Blue Lagoon is also a world-renowned and popular tourist spot. This is the world’s largest open-air hot water facility that reuses waste water from the underground thermal water pumped from the adjacent Svartsengi Geothermal Power Plant. The sight of the bluish milky-white water flowing all over is beautiful. The water is rich in natural minerals and is said to be highly effective in treating skin diseases as well as great for beauty. You can also try the calcareous mud mask called “silica.” It is a healing experience to soak in the magnificent nature of Iceland.

PHOTO: PEACEBOAT, Mizumoto Shunya, Yuruki Shiho