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Sensing the joy of it all again –
An auroral corona over Sandfly Bay. Photo: Ian Griffin.

Just over a month ago, while listening to Checkpoint on Radio New Zealand, I lost hearing in my right ear. As I was cooking supper, my ear went “pop”, and after a few crackles, Lisa Owen’s voice slowly faded and disappeared. Probably, a tiny artery in my ear somehow got blocked, and, as a result, I’m now permanently deaf on one side.

Losing half a sense changes your life in ways you can’t imagine. The past four weeks have involved learning how to balance and hear again, taking lots of steroids, including injections into my ear (not pleasant at all) and buying some new, costly high-tech hearing aids which, though about the same size as Apple iPods inexplicably cost 20 times more. On top of all that, I have lost some things I love. More than anything, I concluded that monoaural music isn’t great. My daily commute to work suddenly became less cheerful and much less tuneful. Frankly, I found myself in a funk.

And then, last Friday, about noon, my iPhone pinged an unexpectedly upbeat beep to my newfangled hearing aid. A geomagnetic storm was forecast. I decided I needed cheering up, so packed the car with cameras and, as the sun sank in the southwestern sky, headed up to Sandfly Bay on a cold, windy night.

Oh my gosh. For the next eight hours, I experienced a wondrous display of the southern lights. I yelped and cheered in delight. The sky was on fire with stunningly bright auroral beams. I even saw an incredibly rare auroral corona, a breathtaking display of nature’s beauty. Auroral coronas are the convergence of the auroral rays overhead, creating a crown-like shape. They are only seen during the most powerful auroras.

As I drove home after an epic night of aurora chasing, my trusty iPhone playlist kicked in on my car stereo. I smiled for the first time in a month as Aurora Corona by the Chills filled my car with splendid sounds. Thank you, Mother Nature, for the aurora, and thank you, Martin Phillipps, for restoring my love for music. Albeit even in mono!