Lighting Up the Northern Lights Night Sky in Fairbanks

by Larry Park

Northern lights as seen from Fairbanks, Alaska
Northern lights as seen from Fairbanks, Alaska

In Fairbanks, Alaska, the phone rang on the bedside table, jolting us awake. My wife, Freda, silenced the beast by picking up the receiver on the third ring. I was trying to gather my wits, barely able to recollect where we were. Glancing at the digital clock on the table nearest my side of the bed, I could easily see it was 2:09 a.m.

Who calls at 2:09 a.m. unless it’s an emergency? So my mind started racing and my heart began pounding as I tried to overhear the conversation taking place between my wife and the telephone pressed against her ear.

Within seconds she merely said, “thank you,” returned the phone to the receiver, threw the covers back and told me to “get out of bed, grab a blanket and follow me!”

“Is there a fire?” I asked as I meekly obeyed her commands. “Just get a blanket and follow me,” is all she would say.

I pulled the top blanket off the bed as instructed. She was already out of the door, into the hallway, heading downstairs to the exit.
Upon exiting the building we were met with temperatures hovering around 25 degrees F. I very quickly understood the need for the blanket.

And just as quickly I understood why we were standing in the parking lot of the Princess Lodge in Fairbanks, Alaska at 2:11 a.m.: the Northern Lights!

We had asked to have our names added to the “watch list” in order to be notified if the Northern Lights became visible. And they were now putting on a show that would pale any production ever created by man.

The night sky over Alaska shimmered in greens and blues and colors I can’t describe. The display lasted for well over 30 minutes, by which time we were shivering, teeth chattering but oblivious to any physical conditions.

The Northern Lights experience was all consuming: we were only aware of the sky and splendor we were witnessing.

Our trip to the Arctic Circle and the Alaska cruise from Vancouver had been an adventure equal to none, but the gift of the Northern Lights was the “coup de gras.”

I wanted to thank Princess but as proficient as they are at customer satisfaction, I’m pretty confident they had nothing to do with ‘turning the lights on’!