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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Starry night, city lights coming down over me


People in the south have told me that they've seen the aurora before.

This is probably true. I've read that once in every ten years or so, you can even see it in Mexico. You can probably get a glimpse of it in southern Canada on clear nights when conditions are right.

But I think this is the best place to see it.

There seems to be a longer viewing season further north, but searching for it is far from fun. It is so cold that your boogers freeze. There's an ice fog. It's hard to drive out of town to look for the lights from your vehicle, because not only is your oil solidifying, but your tires seem to freeze to the road. You stay home with the thermostat cranked up (because at least half of the heat is lost through the windows) and ignore the aurora.

Tourism is huge here, especially for Japanese tour groups, all desperate for a peek at the aurora. The first time I saw one, I couldn't believe my eyes. We were in the airport, and I counted 31 Japanese people walking together and wearing the same outfit. One of my friends explained that the tour company meets the tourists at the airport and provides the winter gear. This made slightly more sense.

I've never been to Japan, but from everything I've heard, it seems like the opposite of Canada, especially this part of it. The tourists I've spoken to always remark that the territory is really big and really spread-out. This is true. We are 40,000 people in over a million square kilometers of bear country. In this town of 20,000 residents, we pretend that we are a city, but that's really a joke. We've just managed to carve out a few paved roads between the rocks, trees and aurora.

2 comments:

Nathan Holsapple said...

Nice, did you take that picture? We see the Aurora here, but not to that extent... I can even see a big difference when I go as far north as Fort Mac.

Torq said...

Japan is certainly a lot more compact than Canada. Did you know that they have hotels that are essentially oversized coffins that you rent and crawl into to sleep for the night? True story.

It may have something to do with the fact that while the two countries stretch about the same overall distance latitudinaly, the ratio of amount of land to population is ridiculously smaller.

The Japanese love the aurora. Someone once explained why to me but I promptly forgot. The whole wearing the same thing is pretty common in Japan too. Each job has a particular uniform that everyone wears to identify themselves. Even the Yakuza do it.

PS: If you ever are in Japan and meet a dark suited man, wearing sunglasses, with tatoos, be sure not to make any comments that could be taken the wrong way!