Just as easily as they had vanished some seven-and-a-half days earlier, the wolves suddenly reappeared, apparently without a care in the world.
It was about nine in the morning and both Mark and Jonny had been up all night filming other creatures. Both were shattered but they weren’t going to miss the opportunity of getting some wolf action.
The three of them (“H” included) went to the den, located about 2km up river, and watched the wolves sleep, move, stretch and sniff around the den. All of this was expertly filmed by Mark – how he kept his eyes open I have no idea.
I was left in charge of the camp as usual but had a wonderful surprise when a beautiful fox crossed the river just in front of me. It had come from the east and was obviously looking for food.
The Arctic fox grows a beautiful white fluffy coat in winter to keep it warm and is not very big. In fact, the Arctic hare is quite frequently bigger, although it would be considered a good dinner by the fox, given half a chance.
The fox’s summer coat is quite strange but still beautiful; the face, tail, back and outer sides of the legs being dark and the rest light grey. It’s as if they’ve had a summer makeover by an over ambitious spray painter.
The fox was also on the “shot list” to ensure the programme covered the entire story of what goes on during the Arctic summer.
I followed this one across the river to see where she went. She clocked me straight away and kept stopping, turning and sitting down to make sure that I wasn’t following her. In no time at all she had disappeared across the plains to the west.
I went back to camp and continued to sort out the equipment and excess food to be returned with our pick up and re-supply that was due to arrive in a few days.
Jonny Keeling was a late replacement for Fergus Beeley, who had unfortunately broken his leg just weeks before on a filming trip in South America. Jonny’s own schedule did not allow for him to stay for the duration so he planned to return on the re-supply.
The following morning, at six o’clock, I heard the sound of an ATV returning and got out of the tent to see Mark manically waving goodbye to me as he shot past the camp toward the beach.
I quickly realised he was in hot pursuit of the wolves who had had enough of idling around and were off already on their next hunting trip – this time eastward.
At 0830, Mark returned to camp and just fell off the ATV, reminding me of the cowboy films when the exhausted, half-dead hero, who had been chased by Indians for days, staggers into camp to pass on the all important message – “They’re coming!”
Apparently Mark had followed them along the beach and, to his surprise, they suddenly turned south over the sea ice toward an island eight kilometres away.
The sea ice was in no condition for us to traverse, so he took to high ground to film them disappearing over the ice. This added a new dimension as we had assumed that this time of year the sea acted as one barrier that they would not cross.
But just as we have come to learn, it doesn’t stop these incredible creatures. The puzzling thing was that only seven had returned and then gone off again. Could the alpha female be in a den somewhere else? Will we ever find out?