Admire northern lights from a boat

Northern Lights or Auroras (or Aurora Borealis) are some of the most spectacular natural phenomenons. Always different, always changing, they light up the night sky with fantastic lightshows. Finland is one of the best countries in the world to admire auroras. If you thought auroras can only be seen in Lapland, in bitter cold weather, then I have news for you. Auroras can also be seen in the south of Finland and also in the spring and fall. With a little bit of luck, you can combine auroras and boating and admire northern lights from a boat in the Finnish archipelago.

Timo Oksanen is a videographer from Lieto, a small municipality in southern Finland close to Turku. Timo has created some absolutely stunning time-lapse videos of southern Finland auroras. Below is a small sampling of Timo’s videos showing just what you could experience from the deck of a boat in Finland.

What is the best time to see auroras from a boat?

During the summer months, nights are so light in Finland that you could not see the auroras even if there were some. Come and of August or September, and nights get dark again and it becomes possible to see the auroras.The first video is shot in early September in the Velkua archipelago in the Gulf of Bothnia.  In the spring, the aurora season stretches into early May.

The next video is from the southern coast and the city of Turku. The term “Aboensis” comes from the Latin name for Turku. It shows the spectacular autumn skies you can find in Finland even quite close to big cities as there is very little light pollution to interfere.

In the south of Finland, the auroras will typically be seen just above the northern horizon. If you want to do some aurora spotting, you need to look for a harbor or an anchorage with an unobstructed view towards the northern horizon. Then you just need to wait for nightfall and hope for the best!

Aurora alerts in Finland

Auroras are formed over the northern hemisphere when solar winds disturb the earth’s magnetosphere. The likelihood of auroras increases as you go further north so the probability of seeing an aurora in the south of Finland is lower than in the north.

The good news is that the Finnish Meteorological Institute issues aurora alerts to help you spot them. For up-to-date information on the aurora situation in Finland, check out the Auroras Now webpage. You can even request to be notified over email when auroras are likely to happen.

The next two videos are from Lieto, a bit to the east of Turku. The first one is shot at the end of August this year (2017) and the second one in May, 2016. That is about as early/late as you are likely to see auroras.

How were the videos shot?

The videos look great, don’t they? They were not shot as standard videos but as so called time-lapses.  In the technique, single frames are “photographed” with long exposure times (3-6 seconds) to capture the rather faint light of the auroras. The individual frames are  combined into a sequence to form the videos you can see here.

So next time you want to spot auroras, remember that you can – with a bit of good luck – do that comfortably from a boat even in the south of Finland! Not to talk about the lakes further north/inland and the Sea of Bothnia coast that stretches all the way up to the southern border of Lapland.

Special thanks to Timo Oksanen for sharing these videos with us and for helpful background information. You can find more videos on Timo’s Youtube-page.