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Arctic Diary: Tracking Wolves | July 20 | Crossing “Mr. Big”


It was my turn to explore the outlying areas, and this time I thought I’d go north to try to get a view over the low-lying plains to the other side where another fiord comes in.

The day was beautiful; there was a slight chill to the breeze but hardly a cloud in the sky. The idea was to try to get to the other side of the large river delta that carries much of the melt water from the mountain range.

The delta was scattered with lots of smaller rivers, all of which ran into River Two. The first few crossings went really well and at each crossing I’d take a GPS reading so that I could return the same way and identify it for future use.

Then came Mr Big! I searched for any sign of a shallower, faster flowing section. It was a while before I found a possibility, a stony bank that was as deep as I really wanted to go.

It went upstream for around 30m but fortunately crossed from one side of the river to the other with deep channels either side. I had made it and was completely chuffed with myself.

Unfortunately, just as you think you’re doing well, something has to spoil it. As I attempted to cross the next stream, I realised that I had been swamped by thick mud.

Out came the shovel for the second time this week, and after half a dozen attempts to dig out the ATV, she came free. I was euphoric, yet shattered by the one-and-a-half-hour ordeal.

Then I noticed that the river level had suddenly begun to rise. I was on a mud flat with water rapidly rising, making passage across the flat less and less likely. I scouted around the patches that were still relatively dry, trying to find a place to cross onto more secure ground.

Each one proved too risky. I leapt off numerous times to see if it was OK underfoot, but each time my boots would sink in and I’d have trouble getting them out. On one occasion I got so stuck that I lost both boots and I had to roll out of the mire as I just kept sinking in.

Things were getting a bit hairy – I had to get out, and fast. I chose what I thought was the best possible route across two sections of three metres of who-knows-what.

With the longest, driest run-up, I thought I could get some forward momentum that would hopefully keep me from getting stuck.

I backed up Polaris and went for it, hitting the first section of water at 30 miles per hour. In just 3m, I had come to a very rapid and sticky halt.

I made the decision to abandon the ATV and look after myself. I was exhausted enough from the previous digging out and I thought I might need some energy to get myself to a safe position. I wasn’t sure how far the river might come up and the rapidity with which it had risen so far alarmed me.

It took me quite a time, and I lost one boot three times, but I made it to the other side of the delta, exhausted but relieved.

I walked for another two or three kilometres, hoping to find a way across the marsh lands and around the lakes but to no avail.

I climbed the nearest hillock which gave me a great view and used the satellite phone to call in.

“How are you?” asked Jonny.

“I’ve had better days,” I replied.


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