I was trying to imagine a job description that went something like this:
We would like you to erect a dark cloth tent approximately 1.5m in length, breadth and height in an exposed, windy and cold position; crawl into it with a very big tripod, a large camera with enormous lens, a tiny stool, some lunch, dinner and breakfast; a couple of thermos flasks; some warm clothing (hats, gloves, down jacket, etc.) and a good book.
We would then like you to stay there, awake and alert, for the next 11-and-a-half hours to film something that may or may not occur. Do not let on that you are in there, act covertly, and do not come out until you are helped out by someone else.
This is precisely what Mark Smith, our cameraman, did to film Sally the snowy owl and her first few chicks feeding.
With the nest about 25m away, Mark couldn’t make the slightest noise in case it would frighten Sally away or she’d look at the camera. Such dedication, patience and downright personal suffering continue to amaze me.
When I went to collect Mark on the ATV at 0600, he insisted on walking the 3km back to camp “to try to get my head back together”, he said. I could fully understand what he meant.
As a person that puts up with a fair amount of suffering myself, on my solo polar expeditions in particular, you can imagine we have quite interesting conversations before bedtime.
In the next instalment I’m going to reveal who producer “H” really is – cue the James Bond theme.