Friday 30 November 2012


 Fancy getting your head truly up in the clouds on your next holiday?  You can do just that at Sweden’s Treehotel. This amazing holiday experience is located in amazing natural surroundings, in the midst of a forest in Harads, about 100 kilometers from Luleå airport.

There are offer five unique tree rooms to stay in and these amazing creations were designed by some of Scandinavia’s leading architects. In addition there is also a tree sauna for up to twelve people. Each room has a totally individual style inside and out and varies in size, with the larger rooms accommodating up to 4 people. The tree rooms are suspended 4-6 metres above ground.  They are designed to have minimal impact on nature and are equipped with environmentally combustion toilets and water efficient sinks.

Which tree room would you pick? There’s the Cabin, a capsule where you can hide away and drink in the incredible vista. 

The Mirror Cube is stunning; it’s mirrored exterior walls camouflaging it in the midst of the treetops.  

Then there is The Bird’s Nest with it’s façade clad with large branches. Could you ever feel more at one with nature than nestling down  in this amazing structure.  

The Blue Cone is simple, easily accessible and actually red!  

The UFO stands out in its surroundings for being exactly that – unidentified forest object!

A new room is due to be completed by the end of this and this is  The Five Leaf Clover, which is around 53 square metres. This takes Treehotel to a new scale and offers 6 beds and conference facilities.  

Sweden is a great place to visit if you want to stay  and experience something  a little unusual. There is also the ICEHOTEL in the heart of Swedish Lapland. Here, not only can you get to sleep in a room carved from snow and sleep under reindeer skins but you can also explore your surroundings on a snow mobile or by husky safari! 

Thursday 29 November 2012


 By John Bennett

The Northern Lights have always captured man’s imagination and as our last blog depicted, there are many myths and legends surrending them.
As far as science was concerned though, it took a very long time for man to uncover the scientific truth behind the Northern Lights.

Galileo first used the term boreal aurora (later changed to Aurora Borealis) after Aurora, the Roman goddess of dawn. However it was a Norwegian scientist named Kristian Birkeland who set out to achieve what many before had tried and failed: to solve the mystery of the Northern Lights.  To Birkeland, the Lights represented the threshold between the visible and invisible worlds; the link between the planet and the mysterious forces that shaped the universe.  However in the late 19th Century the prevailing belief was centred on Aristotle’s assertion that there could be no interaction between the heavens and the Earth because the heavens were perfect and unchanging.  This resolute popular conviction created a difficult climate for Birkeland’s propositions.

In the winter of 1899 Birkeland spent five months isolated in a mountain-top observatory at Kaafjord in the far north of Norway, a position known as having the most sightings of the Lights.  Eventually he discovered that the force disturbing the magnetic field came directly from the sun in narrow, high-velocity beams of negatively charged particles (electrons) called cathode rays.  Sometimes these active particles hit the magnetic field of the Earth and followed the field lines down towards the poles, where they struck atoms in the atmosphere.  The energy created by the collisions was emitted as light.  The lights only appeared during magnetic storms because the cathode rays from the sun were moving beams of electrons, creating electric currents that, in turn, made their own magnetic fields.

Birkeland’s conclusions were published in 1901 and Norwegian newspaper headlines trumpeted,  “Riddle of the Aurora solved!”  However the international scientific community was not so impressed.  Britain was the global leader in science and would not shift from her resolute opinion that space was an empty vacuum.  Birkeland’s findings were rejected.  He was bitterly disappointed but even more determined to prove his theory The Norwegian government refused him any more funding, so he had to raise the money himself.  This he did through the invention of a fertiliser (of which there was a chronic global shortage at the time) using electromagnetic furnace technology.  Birkeland continued his fanatical study of the Lights over the following years and in 1908 published his monumental work, “The Norwegian Aurora Polaris Expedition 1902-1903” describing his second, bigger expedition to the far north. But again the scientific community was disparaging of his ideas and he suffered another major blow. 

Gradually over the five years following this second disappointment, his life began to crumble.  His work was overshadowed by other scientific developments at the time, such as Einstein’s theory of relativity and Bohr’s model of the atom.  His obsessional relationship with his work drove his wife to leave him.  He was also growing increasingly dependent on alcohol and the sedative veronal, and his health began to deteriorate.

He spent his final years in Egypt studying the Zodiacal Light. A combination of insomnia, whisky and veronal fuelled chronic paranoia.  He became convinced that with the outbreak of war, one of his inventions, the electromagnetic cannon, placed him in danger.  He kept the copies of his patent in a specially installed safe in his room, bought two guard dogs and three guns and sacked his servants as he was convinced were plotting against him. 

On the 16th June 1919, aged just 49,Kristian Birkeland was found dead in a hotel room. The post-mortem revealed him to have taken 10g of veronal the night of his death, instead of the 0.5g recommended dose.

For 50 years after his death, Birkeland’s reputation sank into oblivion.  In 1970 space satellites found incontrovertible evidence of a flow of electric particles from the sun.  This proved that “empty space” was actually not empty at all, but filled with electrified gas, which then forms “solar wind”, which Birkeland had identified more than 60 years earlier.  Today he is credited as the first scientist to propose an essentially correct explanation of the Aurora Borealis.


 Man has always been fascinated by the natural phenomena that is the Northern Lights and many myths and legends have been passed down to explain the magic of Aurora Borealis. Here are a selection from around the world.


Many Inuit tribes believe that the Northern Lights are spirits of the dead playing ball with a walrus head or skull. The Eskimos of Nunivak Island had the opposite idea, and believe it is walrus spirits playing with a human skull.
In  1862, the Northern Lights made a rare appearance in Virginia, during the Battle of Fredicksburg and the rebel forces took this as a sure sign God was on their side.
The Makah Indians of Washington State thought the lights were fires in the Far North, lit by a tribe of dwarfs, half the size of a canoe paddle, but strong enough to catch whales with their bare hands. Fires were a popular belief. North Dakota Indians regarded the lights as fires over which the great warriors of the north boiled their dead enemies in enormous pots.
The Menominee Indians of Wisconsin thought they were torches used by amiable giants in the north, to spear fish at night.
The Koyukuk Indians in Alaska banged on metal drums to try and attract the Northern Lights to them.The Point Barrow Eskimos, however, believed there was nothing good about the Aurora Borealis, thinking them to be a dreadful, dangerous, terrifying occurrence and carried knives to keep the Lights at bay.
The Algonquin Indians took a softer view of the Lights, believing that when Nanahbohzo the Creator completed making the earth, he travelled to the North and built gigantic fires to remind his people that he continuously loved them.


According to Norse mythology, warlike female figures, the Valkyrie, would charge across the night sky carrying the dead to Valhalla and the red, blue, violet and green Northern Lights were caused by the reflections of these fearsome women’s armour.
In Scotland, the Northern Lights were called the “Mirrie Dancers” or na-far-chills, dancers who would fight each other.  The appearance of the lights was also thought to be a warning for bad weather.
In Old Icelandic folklore it was believed that Northern Lights would ease the pain of childbirth. They also believed that babies born of pregnant women who had looked at the Aurora Borealis would have eye problems.
The Finns named the Lights, Fox Fires and believed foxes made of fire lived in Lapland and the lights were the sparks created by their tails when they flew into their air.
The Sami people of the Northern Arctic thought it was imperative to be quiet and cautious when the Northern Lights were present as the lights were the energies of the souls of the departed. When the fires blazed in the skies, people were to behave solemnly, and children were admonished to be respectful or ill luck would strike anyone and this could cause sickness, even death.
The East Greenland Eskimos claimed that the dancing of the children who had died at birth caused the continually moving streamers and draperies of the aurora.
Scandinavians used to believed the Aurora Borealis was the reflection of huge schools of herring in the sea and they were a sign that fishermen would enjoy good catches of fish
To the ancient Europeans, Northern Lights were the cause of panic and fear as to them it signaled outbreak of death and disease.  In the Middle Ages, Europeans were convinced that If Northern Lights glowed red; this was a sure sign of impending war.

In China, a fire-breathing dragon was believed to be the creator of Aurora Borealis
Both Chinese and Japanese cultures believe that a child conceived under the Northern Lights will be blessed with good fortunes.
The Chuvash people of Siberia thought the lights were their god attempting though help women in childbirth.

What an effect the Northern Lights have had on mankind across continents and through the ages. The best time to see their beauty Is from September to January and to go to Greenland, Iceland, Finland, Sweden or Norway. 

On September 29th 2012, a new art gallery was opened in Oslo. Designed by The Shard architect Renzo Piano, this building bridges a canal in the city’s harbour.  The museum has been given the formal name of  Astrup Fearnley Museet and also bestowed the cheekier title of The Combover.
Divided into two, one half of the gallery will house its permanent collection and the other half will host temporary exhibitions and the café and shop.
Located on a landmark site on the edge of a fjord in the new and exciting district of  Tjuvholmen, the museum  covers an area of over 7000 sq. metres and is surrounded by new restaurants, galleries and a hotel. The museum  is a iconic sculptural build with glass canopies arching like a giant sail over the three wooden buildings beneath.  A sculpture park and a beach bordering the museum, making it an idyllic place for Norwegians, young and old, to relax after taking in some art.