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Arctic Diary: Tracking Wolves | July 23 | Supplies and Surprise


Having lost the wolves again and there still not being any sign of pups or mother at the den, it was mooted that the “shape” of the programme might have to alter slightly.

Perhaps not concentrating quite so much on the wolves and bringing the other wildlife to the fore. The chances of filming the wolves predating, we had to admit, was extremely remote and we would be incredibly lucky.

This was mostly because of our inability to follow the wolves. They are able to get across the tundra’s rock-hard hummocks far better than we can on our ATVs. So it was back to seeking out new areas and different wildlife.

But first, it was time for Jonny to depart and for our re-supply to arrive; along with a replacement ATV for the one which I had pulled the handle bars off.

This was quite a major undertaking because, as the light was better at night, we’d been working during the normal night time and sleeping during the day.

Having just gone to bed, we had to get up at 0700 to give the charter aircraft company the local weather conditions. We then gathered up all the excess kit and Jonny’s personal belongings and loaded them in the trailer.

Plane pick-up

Mark deserved a well-earned rest, so he stayed back at camp while Jonny and I walked the hard 10km to the airstrip while “H” drove the ATV and trailer; not an easy or comfortable option by any means.

The day was really hot with no wind at all, and the mosquitoes were plaguing Jonny and me. On several occasions, Jonny even resorted to using his bug head-over. This is a net that covers your entire head to prevent the little pests sucking your blood out. It’s only partially effective and makes you even hotter.

We got to the top of a ridge overlooking the airstrip we had used three weeks earlier and could see the “dead” ATV ready to be returned.

Just as we reached the ridge, the plane came in and landed, but not on the strip. Instead, the pilot touched down on the beach of a nearby large lake. Apparently, the pilot had not been told about the strip and landed where he could.

I set off for the aircraft while Jonny went to drive the stricken ATV over to the aircraft. Meanwhile, the crew had unloaded the new ATV and began making their way over to the airstrip.

The pilot, Richie, apologised for not landing on the strip and said he would fly the aircraft over to the airstrip, which was pretty fortunate as the broken ATV didn’t want to start up again.

Musky smell

My job was to get the new supplies back to camp whilst “H” explored a nearby valley.

It was quite a journey back. I took a high route over the nearby mountain, too high in fact, and had “fun” trying to get down the slope without turning over. Then I had to negotiate the tundra hummocks which, with the big load, took ages and pounded my back which I had damaged the previous week.

Eventually, having made it back to camp with my back in shatters, we set about seeing what goodies the plane had brought us.

Fresh fruit – ah! Pop drinks – ooh! Crackers – ee! More coffee and tea – all were greeted with great delight. We were feeling a little more civilised, as it had been a whole month since “H” and I had had real food.

The evening brought a great surprise. A whole herd of musk oxen came over the brow of the eastern river bank to munch away at the hairy lousewort and drink in the river. The wind was blowing in a direction that meant the animals “cannot smell us”, Mark explained.

There were 16 of them in total, including four young ones. I’m always amazed at how secure they look on steep ground. It was a lovely end to a very hard and long day.

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