The footage, shot in Norway, captures a pod of humpback whales hunting fish under the Northern Lights.
An astonishing new video is making the rounds on the Internet: a pod of humpback whales is captured hunting for herring while the Northern Lights shimmer overhead, a truly captivating moment in nature.
The footage was shot by Harald Albrigsten, who works as a photographer for the Norwegian Public Broadcasting (NRK) service. He was actually testing equipment at the time, particularly a new camera that would make it possible to shoot even when it is very dark, according to a Discovery News report.
The footage depicts a pod of humpback whales swimming and breaching the surface as they attempt to snap up their favored prey, herring. It is dark all around, but up in the sky are the bright green hues of the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis.
He shot the footage near the appropriately named “Whale Island,” or Kvaløya in the local language. It is located near the city of Tromsø. The site is well known as a good place to witness whales hunting or playing or a variety of other whale activities.
Norway and other areas within the Arctic Circle are famous for the Northern Lights, an incredible display that people travel from many miles away to witness. It happens when charged particles ejected from the sun — thrown out by what is called a “coronal mass ejection” — and crashes into our planet’s magnetic field a couple days later. The charged particles light up at the polls, flowing along the lines of the magnetic force which are focused on the polar regions. That is why in order to see them you have to be reasonably close to the poles in the Northern or Southern hemispheres.
More specifically, it happens when the charged particles interact with oxygen and nitrogen atoms.
It’s not the first time Albrigsten has shot the Northern Lights, with another popular video of reindeer grazing as the brilliant light displays goes on also becoming a YouTube hit.
Albrigsten said in an interview with NRK that while he was conducting tests, “I came suddenly upon a bunch of humpback whales that were playing under the Northern Lights. I went back the following day to see if I could get closer. After a few hours I nearly gave up, but then they turned up again.”
It’s not easy photographing the Northern Lights despite their brilliant appearance, Albrigsten noted. In order to get the best shot, photographers should bring a camera and get away from artificial light. They should set the light sensitivity very high and fully open the aperture. And most importantly, be patient and bundle up: it will be cold wherever you’re viewing them, typically in northern European countries like Norway, Sweden, or Iceland, or in Alaska or Greenland in North America. If you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, you’ll have to venture and equally long way south to view them.
The Library of Congress has a few interesting facts about the Northern Lights:
On where they can be seen: “Although more frequent at higher latitudes, closer to the poles (such as in Canada, Alaska, Antarctica), they have been seen closer to the equator as far south as Mexico. To view them, look in the direction of the closest pole (the northern horizon in the northern hemisphere, the southern horizon in the southern hemisphere).”
On when they can be seen: “In some areas, such as Alaska or Greenland, they may be visible most nights of the year. And they occur at any time of the day, but we can’t see them with the naked eye unless it’s dark.”
On where the spectacular colors and patterns come from: “Colors and patterns are from the types of ions or atoms being energized as they collide with the atmosphere and are affected by lines of magnetic force. Displays may take many forms, including rippling curtains, pulsating globs, traveling pulses, or steady glows. Altitude affects the colors. Blue violet/reds occur below 60 miles (100 km), with bright green strongest between 60-150 miles (100-240 km). Above 150 miles (240 km) ruby reds appear.”
On how astronomers saw them hundreds of years ago: “According to Neil Bone (The aurora: sun-earth interactions, 1996), the term aurora borealis–northern dawn–is jointly credited to have first been used by Pierre Gassendi (1592-1655) and Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), who both witnessed a light display on Sept. 12, 1621. However, Bone also includes a description of the northern lights made 1,000 years prior by Gregory of Tours (538-594.) It included the phrase, ‘… so bright that you might have thought that day was about to dawn.'”
On particularly brilliant sightings in history: “Some displays are particularly spectacular and widespread and have been highlighted in news accounts. Examples include auroral storms of August-September, 1859, Feb 11, 1958, (lights 1250 miles wide circled the Arctic from Oregon to New Hampshire) and March 13, 1989, (the whole sky turned a vivid red and the aurora was seen in Europe and North America as far south as Cuba).”
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