In September last year, the Arctic Snow Hotel – a hospitality complex 27 kilometres outside of Rovaniemi built out of snow and ice – put out a call for an unusual and extremely coveted job: that of "aurora spotter". It was quickly picked up in the international media and described as the "coolest job in the world".
Some 1,500 applications flooded in from people hungry for an exotic trip, mostly from outside of Finland's borders. It was local 24-year-old Matti Cajan who landed the assignment.
The job ostensibly involves watching the dark northern skies for signs of the aurora borealis, the celestial light show also known as the Northern Lights. When electrically charged particles from the sun collide in the Earth's atmosphere, it releases light energy in a stunning palette of colours.
However, that is only part of Cajan's duties. He is also a host at the hotel, guiding people from spa to spa, locating lost items and waking up customers who have opted for the "aurora wake-up alert" whenever nature puts on one of its grandest shows.
"It's pretty interesting to race from room to room on foot, saying 'it's happening' and nudging tourists awake in their sleeping bags," Cajan describes, adding that he thoroughly enjoys his gig at the hotel.
A counterpart to similar locations around the world constructed out of salt, the Arctic Snow Hotel is indeed entirely comprised of lobbies, rooms and even sauna facilities made out of dense snow and ice. The hotel's location also requires some expertise.
"Matti has seen the world, he knows the area well, understands Northern Lights and is prepared to go the extra mile," says hotelier Ville Haavikko about the newest addition to the team.
In addition to his sky-watching task and customer service, Cajan also acts as a custodian and a wilderness guide as part of his new career.
In addition to the beauty of it all, Cajan has to brave some of the hemisphere's toughest conditions on occasion.
"It was 39 degrees below zero here recently and I had a 12-hour shift outdoors. Not exactly glamorous!" Cajan jokingly says.
His contract is as long as the winter tourist season is on and the hotel, glass igloos and all, is open to the public. The season ends in March, when Cajan says he will set out to find something else to do for the summer – before returning to his unique post in the cold, bright north.