Aurora in Alta

Sunrise: 9.22am Sunset: 12.59pm

This morning we woke up at 8.15am, to find we were already docked in Alta, at 70º N and the most northerly point of this cruise. We are 1200 nautical miles from the North Pole. 🙂

The cruise director’s voice came over the tannoy to say that the current temperature was -10ºC and we could expect a high of -5º. Brrr! In fact, it’s never been above freezing since we crossed the Arctic Circle. But it’s a different kind of cold from that which we experience back in Britain; here it is crisp and dry, whereas in Blighty in tends to be damp and miserable.

After breakfast we got wrapped up in all our winter woollies and ventured out on deck in the bracing air, to get our first impressions of Alta. There were mountains in the distance with some little houses perched on the sides of them, and we noticed that the shipping port is right next door to the airport; we could see the runway and the control tower. A few minutes later an aeroplane came in to land, roaring overhead and racing down the runway. I can’t imagine that there would be many flights going into Alta. We are about 4km from the town centre and there are shuttle buses leaving the port every 10 minutes for those who wish to go in.

However, being Sunday, most of the shops were closed and we had been advised that the bars and restaurants wouldn’t open until this afternoon (by which time it would be dark!). As we couldn’t see much going on in our immediate surroundings, we decided we’d spend the day on board the Boudicca and go ashore tomorrow, as we were in port overnight. It would also allow me to give my ankle a rest.

We therefore went along to the Iceni Room and had a cup of coffee and pastry, then just whiled away an hour or so chatting with our fellow passengers before going for a drink at 12.00 noon. Afterwards we partook of a light lunch, then went back to our cabin and watched the last half hour of Eight Below, which is about a group of malamutes that get stranded in Antarctica when their owners have to leave because of bad weather. The film was actually shot in Greenland, and the giveaway is the fact that, when it shows you a day dated 21st June, it is bright daylight – if it were really Antarctica there would be 24 hours of darkness at that time of year!

We didn’t really do a lot after that – I read my Kindle, napped, watched the telly etc. We didn’t go outside in the biting cold, preferring the warmth of the Boudicca‘s interior.

I then got showered and washed my hair and got ready for dinner. I put on a turquoise and orange dress with orange shoes, and joked that I was a good match for the carpets throughout the ship!

When we went to table #32, there was only Trevor and I there; the other couples had either dined elsewhere or had gone ashore to one of the evening trips. So we were served in double quick time before we went along to the Neptune Lounge, where tonight’s show was called “Oceans” and featured a sea-faring theme and nautical songs. It was very good and we really enjoyed it; so did the rest of the audience if the enthusiastic applause was anything to go by.

When we went to the Lido Lounge to do the quiz, we noticed that a lot of people were going outside, so that could only mean one thing – the Aurora Borealis. So despite the fact I was wearing high heels and a short-sleeved chiffon dress (no coat!) I went out to chance it on the icy decks and looked skywards.

Wow! Even though there was quite a bit of light pollution from the ship and the harbour lights, the aurora was magnificent. Faintly green, it arced and writhed in the sky; the brightest we’d seen it. Despite the cold I couldn’t tear my eyes away – it was worth freezing to see this. 🙂

For the quiz we were on our own because Malcolm and Margaret had gone on a trip into the countryside to see the Northern Lights. Judging by the display we had just seen, they were in for a treat.

We got 16/20 in the quiz, which we only lost by one point. Afterwards we kept popping outside to see if the aurora had reappeared, but all we saw was the black sky, with a few faint stars.

Tonight was karaoke night in the Lido Lounge. I put my name down to do a couple of songs, and was the first one called up. I sang Nancy Sinatra’s These Boots Were Made For Walking, then, as no-one else had got up, I did Sinead O’Connor’s Nothing Compares 2 U. In fact, only three other singers got up all night, so I also did Lynne Anderson’s 1971 hit Rose Garden.

So quite a lukewarm karaoke this time; some ships we’ve been on have had loads of people get up to sing and the karaoke has actually overrun.

Afterwards it was the usual disco, but we didn’t get up to dance this time. We left about 12.45am to go back to our cabin. When we got there, however, we noticed that Channel 6 on our TV was playing music, so we knew what that meant – the Aurora was back! So on with our coats and trainers, we hurried back to the upper decks, treading very carefully in the ice, our faces upturned to the heavens. Yes, there it was – the inimitable Aurora Borealis in all its glory, lighting the skies over Alta. 🙂

We only stayed out a few minutes in the bitter cold, then returned to the warmth of cabin 5050, where we slept soundly.

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