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October 2019 Issue
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Southern Lights in the west

The Southern Lights extend above Mt Taranaki. Photo: Malcom Gilbert

The Southern Lights have been captured from an unlikely northern destination – Taranaki’s Pouakai Tarn.

Usually only seen from the South Island, the Aurora Australis display was a dream come true for keen New Plymouth photographer Malcom Gilbert, who has been trying to capture the phenomenon from the spot for three years.

Gilbert always keeps an eye on the Aurora Australis forecast and heads   out with his camera when conditions look favourable.

He said he is “stoked” to finally achieve it.

The trip to the Pouakai Tarn saw Gilbert, accompanied by his sister, snap 1200 shots, including time-lapses in his attempt to capture the solar activity.

The siblings hiked up in the afternoon to watch the sunset and battled zero degree conditions, a brisk wind chill and a fogged-up camera lens to get the photos. 

The aurora wasn’t visible to the naked eye but with long exposure      settings, the magic was revealed.

“When we started seeing the colours appearing   [in the photos], it got pretty exciting,” he said.

“We were hoping for a bit of colour, but to actually see the beams on the right-hand side of the mountain was pretty cool.”

Gilbert has taken several trips to the South Island and Tasmania to try and spot the phenomenon and said he enjoys the challenge.

“So many things in life can slip by without you taking advantage or noticing them,” he said.

The spectacle is caused by solar particles colliding with the earth’s atmosphere and is usually only visible in New Zealand from the South Island.

Forecasts can be monitored at