It’s a pleasure for us to share with you this very personal travel diary from model/producer Bessie Badilla, in her own words. The photo-diary images were all taken on an iPhone 7, whilst the Northern Lights images were shot on Bessie’s Canon G12.
Our Northern Lights Tour reservation was made with Greenland Travel, who arranged all flights, tours and accommodations with Arctic Circle Tours. Our journey started from Copenhagen where we flew into Kangerlussuaq [ganger’ slu-suark].
The 4-Day/3-Night tour included hotel accommodation, private tour of Kangerlussuaq, photography lessons on how to capture the Northern Lights, two nights of chasing the NL and a day tour of Greenland Ice Cap Point 660 on the last day.
Options: Dog Sledding and 3 Dinners with local fare; Reindeer, Musk Ox and Blue Whale.
These photos of the Northern Lights were captured using my Canon G12 on Manual Setting, 800 ISO, 4-second timer and 10 to 13 second opening.
We were fortunate to have seen them on both nights that we were scheduled, to hunt nature’s stunning show of lights. As phenomenal as it is, it is also very unpredictable. There are several factors needed; clear skies, low light pollution, very cold temperatures, a lot of patience and pure luck.
The journey begins…
Aerial view of our approach to Kangerlussuaq Airport. The flight from Copenhagen to Kangerlussuaq was 4 hours and 15 minutes. As we started our descent, ice fringes and frozen fjords became visible.
Pilot: Welcome to Kangerlussuaq! It is a beautiful day with a ground temperature of -19 degrees centigrade.
We walked on packed snow from the plane to the airport entrance.
Dog sledding at -20 degrees centigrade requires proper insulated gear from snow boots, freeze resistant gloves and a full fur suit. Rental of the complete gear is included when you sign up for this fun activity.
Geared up for dog sledding and striking a muscle pose with the special Actros Bus by Mercedes Benz. This one-of-a-kind Rouge Vehicle was originally a flat bed truck. It was remodeled, modified and custom built in Iceland for Arctic Circle Tours. This is the bus that made our tours possible. It took us all over Kangerlussuaq and on the 1.5 hour drive on narrow winding snow packed road to the fringe of Greenland’s Ice Cap Point 660.
We had 14 Greenlandic Dogs pulling our sled. These beautiful working dogs start training when they reach a year old. They work the entire winter season and do nothing during the summer. Once the fjords are frozen, they begin a two month long retraining before dog sledding season begins.
Greenlandic Dogs are caged outdoors and can stand sub-zero temperatures as low as -40 degrees centigrade. Once it gets lower than that, they are placed in a barn.
I was able to play with a puppy that looked like a polar bear cub.
Me: I love dogs!
Johanna: I know, my dogs can feel it. They want to come close to you.
Johanna is the only female musher in Kangerlussuaq.
Dog Sledding in Greenland is quite different from the Scandinavian countries. They have Greenlandic Dogs, while other countries have Siberian Huskies or Alaskan Malamutes. The Greenlandic Dogs are working dogs that can pull a sled for up to eight hours. Their sledding formation differs too. Because sledding is done on frozen fjords where it can be as long as 180 kilometers with an expansive open space and no forests or tree barriers, the dogs are grouped in one horizontal formation unlike the two rows we are accustomed to seeing.
As we reached the top of the mountain, the first view of the glaciers appear in front of us.
The best way to end an exciting day is to see the golden sunset over the snow covered mountains on our drive back to town.
The ice sheet covers 80% of Greenland and holds 10% of the world’s fresh water.
The Northern Lights!
On our first night, half of the group took photos while half watched the Northern Lights with their naked eyes.
On our second night after dinner. We captured the Northern Lights just outside the restaurant!
Second night. We drove up on a mountain where the Aurora Borealis seem to cover the entire horizon
Because of sub-zero temperatures, vehicles are left running so as not to freeze the battery.
I was lucky to experience the magic of the Aurora Borealis! I even had a chance to pose with it!
Aurora Borealis Steaming Out of My Head!
Sandra posed for me too. She is from Germany who like me is also traveling solo.
It took us an hour and a half to drive through a narrow road covered in packed snow to reach the fringe of the world’s second largest Ice Sheet. Antarctica being the largest. This ice sheet covers 80% of Greenland and holds 10% of the world’s fresh water. From the end of the road, we walked down 100 meters of knee deep snow. From afar, the ice wall looked small. Dwarfed by the ice wall which looks like blue marble up-close.
The ice wall dwarfing visitors as they approached it.
Ice Cap Point 660 – stopped to watch the sunset over the glaciers. We were treated to hot coco and cookies and were able to take more photos.
I couldn’t resist doing this funny pose when everywhere you looked was ice and snow.
My journey to capture the Northern Lights was not an easy one. Two days of traveling in and out of airports to get to Greenland, sub-zero temperatures, layers of winter clothing, bulky snow boots, freeze resistant gloves and hat, photography classes to learn proper camera settings, patience (a lot of it!) whilst waiting for the skies to clear. Not to mention stamina to quickly jump in and out of vehicles while looking for the best spot, carrying equipment everywhere and having the best attitude to accept that you are chasing a natural phenomena that is so unpredictable and can be heart breaking when it does not appear in the night skies after all your preparations.