Expeditions in the Alaskan Arctic, Part 1
After years of exploring remote places, we have never been to a place like this. Where your eye gets tricked by the distances. The next hill, the next valley seems so reachable, so near. And yet, everything is miles away.
With a heart filled with excitement, we were dropped in this unique location where we planned to document the annual migration of the Western Arctic Caribou Herd.
I had listen to many incredible stories about this herd which includes 400,000 hooved members, restless wonderers of the Tundra.
Very few had actually been in the midst of one of them. Would we be able to find them? Will they allow us to contemplate their annual migration?
It was my first time in the Tundra and Florian had not been that many times in such a remote location. I obvisouly imagine all possible scenarios, but the truth is I had such a little idea what I was about to see.
After weeks of careful preparation and planning, we still had no assurance if we were to witness anything. Some people said, “you might hit it right, but for the years we have traveled the area, we have never seen them, that is roughly 30 years”.
The place is so vast and the animals are so unpredictable, one can never tell the exact dates when to witness this magnificent spectacle. So we prayed for good luck but kept expectations low.
As we came closer to the drop off point, we could see in the distance many white points disperse over the landscape, so tiny and far away one could hardly see any shape. But as the plane got closer and closer to the land, more and more you could make out the white dots move rythmically over the tundra. Caribous!!! Thousands of them!! As far as your eye could see…
We arrived with incredible weather, way better than I had expected. Very windy for sure, but the sky blue as a jewel. We set up camp in the middle of a warm sunny day and sat down to wait, as usual. We are always waiting…
The day went by peacefully and as the sun got closer to the evening (according to our watch) we realize it was time to move around and explore the area. There weren’t many high points where to scan the area. And even though you could see everything from where ever you were, what ever mission you undertook, cost two times the effort. Not only because of the distance, but more because of the terrain.
One can say: Cool! No Mountains to hike! Everything is flat! But then, you feel sorry for choosing to carry a little more equipment thinking it might be so easy. Hiking over the tundra is a true challenge, going through wet zones, mushy or muskeg zones is more a nightmare than a pleasure excursion.
But at the end everything has a reward and we started to see the first Caribous appear over the ridge line, on the other side of the river.
We sat down and waited to see what that evening was to granted us with.
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