The Aurora Australis. Image available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aurora_(astronomy)

They didn’t ripple, and they were not wildly fluorescent, but they were incredibly beautiful all the same. I’ve just been standing on the upper decks of the Aurora Australis, watching her namesake light up the sky. The Aurora Australis, or Southern Lights, initially appeared faint and then within minutes an intense green glow could be seen contrasting against the dark clouds, before stretching over the night sky. While it only lasted around 15 minutes, and may not have been as intense as the pictures I have seen, I have seen the Southern Lights from the Southern Ocean with my own eyes. And it was magnificent.

And since writing that last paragraph I must make a correction. I have seen ribbons of green ripple and swirl across the sky. Sheets of colour look as though they are hanging from the stars and just out of reach. The Aurora Australis had put on a spectacular show. My first sojourn out on deck was awe inspiring, but this second sighting is impossible to put into words.

There is a camaraderie that builds after weeks of standing elbow to elbow around a CTD sampling freezing cold water, however being able to stand shoulder to shoulder as you crane your necks to watch the sky dance is something else entirely. I have pictures, well the Doc has pictures, but he insists he won’t give them to me…which means he will. And for once it is the eye that does not do the scene justice, where the camera does. The eye really is an imperfect organ, such useless night vision. Having said that, tonight, it was more than enough.