Living some way further south than the southernmost point at which you can usually see the Northern Lights in the UK, I’ve never actually seen them. I suppose if I were that keen I would arrange a trip to Scandinavia, and perhaps I will some time in the future.
I first came across the Aurora Borealis as a child when looking through an ancient book which must have belonged to one of my parents – The Wonder Book of Would you Believe it, I think it was called! There was a ghostly painted illustration of the curtains effect produced by the Aurora and that, coupled with the musty smell of the old book, is what I always see in my mind when the Aurora’s mentioned. At around the same time I was given a doll, a bit like a Barbie doll but with dark hair and a massive bouffant. She had a lime green dress with a huge white and lime green polka dot collar and had pointy feet but no shoes. I promptly christened her Aurora. I’m not sure where she ended up and I only have one doll now from that era, and that’s probably because it wears clothes hand-knitted by my mother so she didn’t bin it!
Incidentally, apparently my grandfather nearly woke my mother up when she was little and there was a good showing of the Aurora from where they were living at the time, and she always wished he had done. Maybe my fearsome grandmother stopped him!
Anyway, I heard on the radio the other day about a very near miss that occurred in 1995 when Norwegian and American scientists launched a rocket from off the Norwegian coast which was carrying research equipment to study the Aurora. Naturally this was detected by Russian radar operators. For one reason or another, the Russian authorities got as far as activating their nuclear ‘suitcases’ and were preparing a nuclear attack, the first and only time that this has ever happened apparently.
Eventually Russian observers realised that the rocket was heading away from them and then had fallen to earth harmlessly, so everything was stood down. The Russians notified their people a week later. There hadn’t even been time to do that and if it had been a real nuclear attack, Bam – Imagine, Boris Yeltsin with his finger on the nuclear button?! In 1995, it was generally felt that that was as near as the world would ever get to nuclear conflict because East/West relations were opening up.
At the end of the radio programme, the presenter pointed out that many more countries now possess nuclear capability and some of these countries are unstable to say the least, and somewhat concentrated in a part of the world where the possibility of violence and war is always present or is even actually happening. So what now?
Wish I was back on my bunk bed playing with my Aurora doll, I think!