Red Alert

I’ve long been a subscriber to aurora alerts and I roll my eyes constantly when they come in at lunch time or when it’s pissing down with rain. This one though, it came in was just as the girls had their pyjamas on and it was clear and overhead on a Sunday night.

Come on! Come on! I wasn’t expecting enthusisam, but I wasn’t expecting the staggering and mumbling I got either. Still, they got ready and we got out the door in record time. The record threshold being we got out the door before I lost the will to live.

We went down to Balloch and parked at Lomond shores with a quick run round in the dark to the slip with the Maid of the Loch on it where a few others had gathered with tripods and down jackets.

You could see the bands of green with the naked eye and we all got something on our various devices. Lots of folk have got spectacular images that are worthy of scientific journals and news reports, but this one below is my favourite because we were there together and saw it together. But lean close to the screen can you hear it… “Stop laughing, only five more seconds…”
The McDonalds drive thru was still open when we left, I think they deserved it after the trauma.

Of course it went all over social media and the news, so when the alerts went out the next night rather than finding the usual quiet roads, every SUV from the off road adventure lands of Glasgow’s suburbs had decided to go to Balloch. The A82 was a car park from Dumbarton to Luss.

But no one from out of town had thought to check the weather. It was forecast to be solid cloud cover half way up the loch so everyone that jammed into Balloch, Duck Bay, Luss and Firkin Point were going to see nothing. But still they came, half informed and half arsed and every layby, lane and verge was filled at any angle the drivers could find. As I passed the countless skyward pointed faces at 5mph I could hear the refrain again and again: “What are we supposed to be seeing?”

I’m not particularly taking any kind of high ground here, I was doing the same as everyone else, I’d just read the weather forecast and knew I was heading to Tarbet at least where the road north was shut anyway for overnight repairs.
But, the cloud wasn’t thinning when I got to Tarbet. No point in going to Arrochar, no desire to drive any further at all really. I parked up and crossed the road into the trees by the loch and hunted for a spot with a clear view north. I found some easy angled mossy rocks and sat down. I set my tripod up in the water and poured a cuppa from my flask (test kit, flask tech has moved on…) as the waves slapped over my dangling feet in the dark. I was warm enough, this was actually quite nice and the traffic was quiet somewhere above and behind. I’ll wait and see what happens.

Well, nothing really happened. Some flashes of aurora colour through a few gaps in the cloud, some out of focus long exposure gambles and a litre of coffee drunk.
I gave it a couple of hours, that was plenty.  I headed home and the road was still mobbed, all due to Duck Bay visitors filtering out slowly and reducing the flow to a crawl. Can’t blame folk, it’s been a once in a lifetime couple of nights for the aurora and making memories is a joy.


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