Being the lead driver, I surprised my group by taking them on a side trip to Reynisfjara Beach. Known for its black sand beach, towering basalt columns, jagged caves, and odd spires rising out of the ocean, it was a nice little treat for the group.
After refueling our cars and appetites in the small town of Vík, we embarked towards Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon, another two hours away. I timed it out so that we would arrive at sunset, but time was ticking fast. The drive passes through barren, ash covered fields with massive, blue glaciers overflowing the mountain tops.The people in my car were asleep for most of the drive, but I could not handle the beauty. I had a hard time accepting that it was all real.
I could not contain my excitement as we neared Jökulsárlón. I woke my car up and told them to look left as we passed the moraine as we approached the bridge. BOOM! There it was. My heart was racing as I could not wait to park the car and set out on foot. The timing could not have been any better, as the sun was kissing the ridges of the mountain. To my complete surprise, there were seals lounging on the ice bergs, I yelled in excitement. I grabbed my cameras and set out by myself, not waiting for anyone. This was my moment, and I wanted to get lost in it.
It is difficult to explain this particular moment. Already exhausted from the day, all that mattered was to stop everything and watch the sun disappear behind the mountain. The seals were restless, gulls circled above, ice bergs slowly crash into each other, and there I was, a part of it all. The colors were something I had never experience. I climbed the small hill nearby to take it all it in by myself. Surreal.
The weather was still on our side, streaks of clear sky cut the clouds in every direction. The sun set and darkness swallowed the landscape. We stuck to our original plan of heading to Höfn, 45 minutes away, to eat and find a place to stay. The group was exhausted and eager to rest as we arrived at a hostel. Finally having the internet at my disposal, I check the aurora forecast.
My heart stopped. It read, Kp=6. I double checked all the maps and forecasts to make sure this was real. A level 6 storm does not happen often, about 600 days out of each solar cycle (11 years). Most of the group wanted to rest, and soak in a local hot spring, but the forecast maps told me that the lights were about to happen. I denied my groups requests to rest and soak repeatedly. This was our chance, I was not about to let it slip away. I was willing to drive anywhere on the island to see them.
"Marcus, you need to come outside. Right now"
All available oxygen exited my body as I looked up and saw the lights dancing behind the clouds. I did not know what to do. Am I really seeing this? Double rainbow moment, if you will. They were vibrant and dynamic, it was giant electrical river in the sky, the entire sky. Half the sky was glowing red, while green sheets flowed next to it. I gathered everyone and we quickly headed to a dark field outside the town.
We sat there, in a field, in Iceland, in February, and watched the sky erupt in a dazzling light display. Perfect. The day could not have gone any better, considering how I planned it all. From traveling one side of the island to the other, exploring several waterfalls, selfies with wild horses, getting soaked at a black sand beach, watching ice bergs float off into the sunset, and to witness the first major solar storm of 2014 hit our beautiful planet... truly the most memorable day of my life.
February 27, 2014, you are forever mine.