Spirits of the dead

After spending the afternoon in between the winter houses of the Thule culture, we sailed back into the wide part of Scoresbysund. In the evening, even before it was completely dark, we got the call from the bridge: “The sky is turning green again!” And what a spectacle it was! From horizon to horizon, the Aurora borealis was giving a full display.

20180923_Arjen_Drost_0365.jpg
Aurora borealis in Greenland

Watching this, I had to think back to the people who had lived in those winter houses, hundreds of years ago. Nowadays, we know these lights are caused by charged particles emitted by the sun. But in those days, this was all unknown. I can imagine it was quite scary for them. Many native people of the north had different explanations for this phenomenon. Most of them were connected to spirits of the dead appearing in the sky. This could either be relatives, enemies or even killed animals. In all cases something to be afraid of, and often even stay indoors when you saw them.

For me, I just kept watching and even though I should have been in bed a long time ago, and even when most guests had already gone back to bed, I was still looking overhead to enjoy one of the greatest light shows of our planet.

 

 

Arjen Drost

Arjen is a Polar ecologist, nature photographer and full time expedition guide on expedition cruise ships in both Polar regions. With his pictures and stories he likes to show the beauty of these very fragile and threatened places.

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