For the past 36 years, Max Johnson, 56, has assembled Arctic travel packages for the Great Canadian Travel Co. (www.greatcanadiantravel.com), including one for viewing the Northern Lights -- aurora borealis. Here's an edited chat with him.
Where are you?
I'm looking out the window at Blachford Lake Lodge, in the Northwest Territories.
And you have the Northern Lights.
Exactly. The peak season is mid-January to mid-April. It's possibly the most spectacular sight you can imagine. "Awe-inspiring" is overrated as a phrase, but there's a feeling when you stand outside and the entire night sky is dancing with greens and purples, and there's a sort of hiss that comes across the landscape. This is quite extraordinary.
I'm not a physicist, but I guess it's static electricity jumping and bouncing in the sky. The Northern Lights are static electricity -- solar flares create these light spectacles as they hit Earth's atmosphere.
How long are the nights right now?
About 20 hours. It starts getting dark at 3 p.m.; the Northern Lights normally come out around 9.
What do people do the rest of the day?
There's snowshoeing, snowmobiling, fishing, reading, talking to others ... complete relaxation. When Prince William and Kate toured Canada and California, they stopped at Blachford. They wanted a day away from everything. The lodge accommodates 15 to 20 people. Fifty percent of the people who come for the lights are from the U.S.; of the rest, half are Canadian, half are European.
-- John Bordsen, Charlotte (N.C.) Observer