Friday was the big day when Jonny Keeling, the producer, and Mark Smith, the cameraman, had been due to arrive.
We were to pick up all the camera gear and the rest of our supplies from the makeshift airstrip and finally be reunited with the gear we left at Camp One.
But all of that was going to start happening at 1600 with the twin otter flight dropping the bulk of the stuff at the airstrip. The weather looked good in the morning but got a bit iffy around 1800.
I spent a good deal of Friday morning doing a piece to camera (PTC, to use the trade vernacular) for the launch of a climate change initiative I’ve proposed, which will be held at Windsor Castle.
In my absence, they’ll show the video speech of about 6-7 minutes with a backdrop of melting sea ice. Once I’d put my teeth in and mastered the technicalities of the camera I think it went okay.
“H” spent most of the day watching either wolves or birds, although he did admit to falling asleep for an hour.
Jonny and Mark eventually arrived at 2300. It was like a scene from the film Local Hero when the oil baron arrives by helicopter straight onto the beach to buy the wee Scottish village.
Jonny was waiving from the cockpit and taking photographs of “H” and me standing by.
The rotors finally stopped turning and we all greeted each other like long lost friends. I hadn’t met Jonny before so I was really pleased to see how amiable he was.
Although I’d only met Mark once before in Bristol, he gave us both a warm hug. “Welcome to Ellesmere,” I said.
That over with, the pilot Randy greeted us and we sorted out a plan of action. I walked to the airstrip with Jonny and loaded all our gear into the cargo net slung under the helicopter — ATV included.
“H” and Mark then unloaded it at the beach and drove it the 500m up the river to the camp. Randy then picked us up and flew us up the coast and along to Camp One.
On arriving at the camp, my heart sank when we saw what was left of my tent. What a disaster! A brand new Mountain Hardwear Satellite tent ripped to shreds and wrecked, with the vast majority of poles snapped like twigs and the material in tatters.
The only saving grace was the fact that there were so many poles in the design of the tent that the wolf pack (where the blame clearly lay) couldn’t have got into the main area of the tent where our personal possessions and the dried food had been stored. It was virtually untouched.
The wolves managed to drag just one of the four big food bags out and ripped open a couple of the super freeze dried beef stew with rice bags. Obviously not being to their taste, they decided to leave the rest.
I imagined it must have been like trying to eat three cream crackers as fast as possible without water. So it wasn’t quite the disaster that it could have been; if they had ruined all our food then we would have needed to fly in more — very costly indeed, I’m just one tent short!
We cleared the site of debris and flew back to the beach where, having heard the story, “H” couldn’t resist a smile, he had suggested that such a thing would happen just the day before and had got me to make the risky commute to check.
In our absence the wolves had come down to greet our new arrivals and Mark was already put to work filming! To have “footage in the can” within the first hour of landing here made us all happy.
We said goodbye to Randy and took everything back to camp, threw up the remaining tents and gathered outside for a cheery treat of chocolate washed down with the finest Scottish malt whisky. It was 0530 hrs before we retired happy but tired to say the least!