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Arctic Diary: Tracking Wolves | June 28 | Tracking Bertie


Having met Bertie the previous day and then seen him disappear across the plain towards the east, we woke up determined to try to get further east ourselves to see if we could stumble across his den.

The thought of crossing raging rivers or driving on the rapidly melting ice didn’t sit well with me in my capacity as guardian of safety but we had to progress.

That being the case I thought we’d attempt the sea ice. If we went far enough out to avoid the river outflows it shouldn’t be too bad, as long as we took it really slowly and assessed each problem in turn.

So suitably provisioned we set off in search of Bertie (which unbeknown to me is the name of the brother of my TV producer companion “H”).

We had a few maintenance tasks to begin with which included repairing a puncture on our trusted iron horse but got going eventually at 0920 hrs.

Vantage points

We reached River 2 with all its problems at about 0946 hrs — record time. But we were wearing a path along the beach — a distinct blot on an otherwise virgin environment.

We took the deep wade very cautiously up to the point where the engine started to gurgle under the water and then I wellied it praying that positive thought and momentum would see us through. Luckily it did, but not without taking its toll on our nerves!

Yee ha! We were back on the trail of old Bertie.

H had spotted a rocky outcrop that could have contained a den so we headed in that direction and went as far as we dared on the ATV and then proceeded on foot.

We came upon a number of piles of gravel, geographically known as pingos, which we thought would be a good place to observe the rocks and so sat down and had some lunch of cheese, nuts and a chocolate bars.

Presently, H skipped up to an adjacent pingo to observe the south west a little more, scanning the horizon for wolves.

Fantastic find

About 10 minutes later he returned, and I went to the same pingo. But on reaching the peak I beckoned H over. There, not four metres from where H had stood was a nest with six beautifully white eggs.

Harry recognized them as snowy owl eggs and we quickly vacated to the next hillock some 300m away to watch and make sure the bird returned.

We then went on to a further hillock where H bagged the only seat out of the cool uncomfortable breeze. Unable to sit down I was wandering around, occasionally conversing with H when I noticed wolf tracks all over the place and some fresh ones distinctly leading off to the east. 

Could this be Bertie? I suggested H follow the tracks to the banks of River 3, which were visible, while I went back to the ATV to try to bring that around to meet him. Just to keep his hopes up, I flippantly remarked that Bertie and his family den would be just over the horizon, down the river bank.

About 20 minutes later, having wrestled hugely with the ATV and the bog, I had just stopped the engine when H called me on the radio.

“You’re not going to believe this Jim but I’m staring at four wolves sitting round a big rock on the far side of the river.

“Fantastic!” I said, excitedly, “I’ve given up driving and I’m walking toward you at the moment.”

“Jim, one has just gone down a hole by the big rock. I think we may have found our den.”

“I’ll be there very shortly.”

And, sure enough, we could not believe our luck. We chanced upon a den. We phoned Fergus immediately and gave him the good news. He was delighted and somewhat surprised. The filming was on.