Joanna Lumley in the Land of the Northern Lights

Synopsis: An amazing journey in Norway's Far North as Joanna Lumley pursues a lifelong dream to track down the elusive, stunningly beautiful Northern Lights - 'the true wonder of the world,' as she puts it.
Genre: Documentary
Director(s): Archie Baron
  2 nominations.
60 min

The far north.

Quite overpowering.

Vast expanses, silent fjords.

Fairy tale mountains.

It's just fabulously beautiful.

The land of the magical Northern Lights

is somewhere I've longed for all my life.

It is quite incredibly cold!

Well, I suppose, it's Arctic!

'As a little girl, I lived in the

steamy heat of tropical Malaysia

'and, wonderful as it was,

I used to yearn to be cold.

'Putting on a cardigan

was a huge treat.

'I'd never even seen snow.

'But my storybooks were full

of snow queens and trolls

'and now I'm entering that world. '

It's fantastic! We're so far north.

Can we get further north?... I think so.

'This is the journey

I've always dreamt of making. '

I feel I've come into another world

now. No people, except you... and us.

'And if we're very lucky, we might see

the elusive Northern Lights themselves.

This programme contains

some strong language

'My Arctic odyssey begins

one chill dawn in early March.

'I'm already 900 miles north

of my home in London. '

Is this us? 'An eight-hour journey

lies ahead to get to the Arctic Circle.

'And I'm heading there on

Norway's real-life Polar Express. '

It's really fresh here, bits of snow

blowing in as I look out.

They say don't stick your head

out of the window.

One of the most exciting things

about going on a trip is packing.

This lovely old suitcase,

which came from my childhood...

All our luggage was marked the same way. Mum used

to stencil "Lumley" on it and paint the corners red

so that we could see them on the quayside, ready

to board ship. You never flew in those days.

So I'd pack up things

that were essential on every trip.

In here I have oil-based pastels,

and a lovely little drawing book with coloured

pages so you can draw in different colours.

These I got here. Chocolates!

A lovely old guide book. It's called The

Land of the Vikings. Beautiful old maps.

Look at that!

'But if it wasn't for one item in

my case, I wouldn't be here at all. '

This is the book Ponny the Penguin. This is

when I first heard of the Northern Lights.

I was a little child in Malaya,

six or seven years old.

It's written by an Australian, Veronica Basser. So

the lights were the Aurora Australis, not Borealis.

And there was this picture

which haunted me

of a sort of rippling curtain and

a little tiny penguin. Anyway...

There's Ponny. "Suddenly the sky was lit up by

long, searching fingers of pale, primrose light

"which traced patterns

across its inky blackness. "

That stayed with me for ever and ever and

I couldn't believe I'd get to growing up

and leaving school and getting

married and having granddaughters

and still not have seen

what Ponny the Penguin saw,

so this is a lifelong ambition and my only

dread is that we won't get to see them.

'To give myself every chance,

I'm going to travel ever northwards,

'spending my nights staring up

with hope at the dark sky

'and filling my days with as wide a range of

experiences of Norway's far north as possible. '

This is going to be the furthest north I've

ever got and about as far as you can get

without being Ranulph Fiennes.

Looking at this extraordinary backbone of

Norway, which is like a huge spinal cord,

we're about there

and travelling on up.

And it's just... just thrilling

and always the pull of the magnetic north,

the most senior point on the compass.

What I love is always knowing where the

north is. This is important, wherever you are,

otherwise you just feel foolish. At the

moment, I am heading and travelling due north.

'I could just clatter across

the Arctic Circle on the train,

'but actually I'm going to do it in real style. This

is, after all, the realisation of a lifelong dream.

'This is not your average taxi rank

at the station.

'I'm in the hands of Tore

Christiansen and his 11 sled dogs. '

Good morning. I'm Joanna.

How nice to see you, Tore.

These are wonderful dogs. What kind are they?

Alaskan huskies. Alaskan huskies? Yes, so...

They like to run.

They like to run? Yes.

This has been the most extraordinary journey,

racing along in this beautiful little sled

with Tore shouting instructions to these 11

fine huskies. They don't like stopping to rest.

They just want to be on the journey.

When we're running over virgin snow,

their footprints are blue.

Pale blue.

It's the most extraordinary way to cross the

Arctic Circle, but I haven't crossed it yet!

'The Arctic Circle, like the Equator, is an

imaginary line right around the roof of the world.

'It marks the point at which you are so far

north that on one day a year, the Winter Solstice,

'the sun never rises, while at

the height of summer it never sets.

'As well as being imaginary,

the trouble with the Arctic Circle

'is that, because the Earth shifts slightly

on its axis, it has a habit of moving.

'I need to find 66 degrees

'the precise latitude for

the Arctic Circle this very day,

'as supplied to me

by the Greenwich Royal Observatory.

'Bearing due north, I hope orbiting satellites tell my

fancy satnav GPS machine when I hit the right spot. '

Oh! Stop, stop, stop!

Just here.


I could put this down here.

Stay, scarf. There.

There. Stay, scarf.


Arctic Circle.


I've walked into the Arctic Circle!

That's just... That's just the ordinary

world. And this is the Arctic Circle!

And that...

.. is due north.

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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