Each evening, after a day filled with activities such as snowshoeing, dog sledding, visiting the Itsanitaq Museum and the Parks Canada Interpretive Centre, we venture out via Tundra Buggy across the frozen Churchill River to the Aurora Lounge, a warm and welcoming retreat that has been set up at the edge of the boreal forest. It's the perfect spot for aurora viewing and it's just for us.
*The Aurora Lounge is now the Thanadelthur Lounge.
On the first night, we board our Tundra Buggy and trundle across the river, not a cloud in sight. This is a good sign, because even though Churchill is one of the best spots to view northern lights, weather and cloud cover can impact visibility.
Just moments into the drive the ladies sitting in front of me gasp. They see northern lights for the very first time! The excitement is contagious and soon everyone on board the Tundra Buggy jumps up to try and catch a glimpse of the lights through the window. Our Buggy driver stops the Tundra Buggy and kindly reminds us that we must remain seated while the Buggy is moving. Everyone sits down, energized by their first glimpse of the aurora borealis.
Once we get across the river we see the warm glowing lights of the Aurora Lounge. Our driver maneuvers the Tundra Buggy, backing up to connect us to the viewing platform of the Lounge. Once the Buggy is parked, we grab our gear and eagerly scoot inside, where a warm fire, over-stuffed couches, and refreshments are waiting.
Everyone gets busy grabbing their cameras, checking batteries, and wrapping their faces with scarves. We tiptoe, one-by-one, down the ladder onto the tundra. We look up. Above us on the horizon are faint streaks of green. Luckily our guide had already informed us that it can take quite awhile for your eyes adjust before you can see the full colour of the northern lights.
Everyone spreads out across the tundra and begin to fumble with their mitts as they set up their tripod and cameras. It is completely silent, save for the creaking sound of boots on snow, as everyone begins to snap away. I sit back in amazement as the northern lights begin their crescendo. Soon the green light has gotten brighter and it begins to move. I hurry to try and capture as much as I can on my camera before the lights settle back down again.
After about 30 minutes my hands are cold so I walk back up the ladder and into the Lounge. I begin to warm up immediately. I take off my jacket and peruse the smorgasbord laid out for us. There is coffee, tea, hot chocolate, soda and wine as well as a selection of sweets, crackers, trail mix, and a gourmet meat and cheese tray. It’s a lavish cocktail party on the bank of the frozen Churchill River.
We go in and out of the lounge car a few more times, some people staying outside longer than others. Around midnight, everyone is looking pretty comfy on the over-stuffed couches and the northern lights have begun to die down. Our guide takes a vote, everyone agrees, it's a good time to head back to the hotel.
Back in town everyone seems satisfied. It was only the first night of the trip and everyone saw what they came to Churchill to see; the aurora borealis. We slowly shuffle back to our hotel rooms for a very restful sleep. The next day we enjoy a bit of a sleep in before another full day of adventure and yes, more breathtaking Northern Lights and Winter Nights!
Written by Taylor Cole
Photo © Simon Gee Video © Handcraft Creative