Debra Parmenter’s Northern Lights

Last February, we traveled to Churchill, Canada, to see the northern lights. Churchill is a very small town on the edge of Hudson Bay in northern Manitoba. It lies directly beneath the polar vortex, which is the epicenter of northern lights activity where particles from the sun excite atoms in our atmosphere and create glowing clouds of greens, reds, and purples that flow across the night sky. Churchill is also known as the polar bear capital of Canada, but we were in Churchill in the winter, when the polar bears are out on the ice of Hudson Bay hunting seals. We missed the bears, but we saw the northern lights every night we spent in the frigid cold.

The temperature ranged from around 30 to 48 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, depending on the wind chill. We prepared for the extreme cold by wearing layers upon layers of long underwear, sweaters, snow pants, insulated boots, down parkas, glove liners, heavy gloves, hand and toe warmers, scarves, balaclavas, goggles, and knit hats–and we still could not endure the cold for more than fifteen or twenty minutes before we had to escape indoors to the wood stoves. With all that gear, it was difficult to operate cameras. Debra had to remove her gloves and take photos with just her fingerless glove liners and hand warmers. She did not get frostbitten, but she did lose some feeling in her fingers (which is coming back) and got some frostnip on her cheeks. I am a writer, not a photographer, and I could do that by the stove, so beyond watching the eerily beautiful display overhead, my role was to ensure she came in regularly to get warm.

Here some a few of her photos of the northern lights and the town of Churchill, which is known for its extraordinary murals.

Green Fire in the Heavens
Aurora Palette
Green Wind 1
Green Wind 2
Purple Sky
Aurora Lightning
The Lights of Churchill
Sea Creatures in Blue
Cyberpunk Polar Bear
Inukshuk on Hudson Bay 1
Inukshuk on Hudson Bay 2
Debra Feeding a Bird

All photographs courtesy of Debra Parmenter.

Posted in

Terry Bacon