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Aurora season begins in one week
Visitor centre getting ready for influx of Japanese and Chinese tourists, adding to its Northern lights displays

John McFadden
Northern News Services
Wednesday, August 5, 2015

With the official aurora borealis season beginning exactly one week from today, the Northern Frontier Visitors Centre wants to be the focal point for tourists who have come to Yellowknife to see the northern lights.

NNSL photo/graphic

Tracy Therrien, executive director of the Northern Frontier Visitors Centre sits on a picnic table outside the centre overlooking Frame Lake. The centre has some new displays highlighting the Aurora Borealis. Therrien said her and her staff have had a busy summer but have also been getting ready for the Northern Lights viewing. - John McFadden/NNSL photo

Staff members at the centre have been busy dealing with summer visitors while getting ready for the expected influx of tourists heading into the aurora-viewing season, which begins Aug. 12. Indeed, the northern lights were visible this past weekend and Tracy Therrien, executive director of the visitors centre, said the centre has some ambitious plans for the upcoming season.

Therrien, who has led the centre for the past four years, said many people don't realize the spectacular light show is visible as early as August. The centre is currently putting the finishing touches on an indoor northern lights display.

"We've acquired an 84-inch screen 3D TV with hopes of getting 3D Aurora footage as well as wildlife and landscape footage from across the NWT," Therrien said.

"We have a new seating area in our auditorium with new chairs as well."

Space in the auditorium area was freed up when the centre donated its diamond displays to the NWT diamond centre downtown.

"It was redundant to have diamond presentations in two places and we need to promote the diamond centre," she said.

Astronomy North has loaned the visitors centre a space centre display.

"It will describe the solar system and how the aurora works. That will be displayed in several languages. We also expect to have a touch screen TV that can give live-time aurora forecasts, again in several languages," Therrien said. "The goal is to have it in place in time for fall."

One issue that Therrien is very passionate about and wants to put an end to is the common myth, often heard and told around Yellowknife - that Japanese tourists come to the city to try to conceive a child under the aurora borealis. There are variations on the folklore, some suggesting trying to conceive under the northern lights increases the odds of having a child period, or a male child or a brilliant child.

"Please, please share this," pleaded Therrien. "It's absolutely highly insulting to the Japanese. The global myth started with a (1992) episode of the television show 'Northern Exposure,' a fictitious show set in Alaska. In the show, the northern lights came out and the Japanese tourists (in the show) all ran to their bedrooms." The Japanese are simply fascinated by science and nature, Therrien said.

"We continue to hear this myth to this day," Therrien said. "We educate out team from day one when they come that they should stop this myth in its tracks."

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