The morning before reaching the furthest depot from home Mikkey raised the alarm that a bear was close. Mikkey does not lie. His warning is unmistakable and it means only one thing: incoming bear. It was a foggy morning. I could not see the bear but knew its direction and pace from the way Mikkey pointed and slowly moved like an agitated weather-vane.
Suddenly Mikkey pointed motionless. Mikkey sniffed the air for more clues. He waited. I watched half expecting a charging wall of white to appear. But Mikkey soon relaxed and I knew it to mean that the bear was moving away. I praised Mikkey and went back inside the tent to eat breakfast.
Once the fog cleared and we were on the move the bear's movements were clear to see in the snow. It was a big lone male. The week before I had seen many seals on top of the ice, ringed seals, the only species that keeps its breathing holes open in the ice all winter. This time of year their blubber reserves are at their thinnest from the work of rearing pups. They are also shedding their old fur for new. All this makes them want to spend less time in the water so out they pop, looking like black pepper corns scattered on a white tablecloth. I had also seen plenty of fox tracks giving away bear presence. Foxes follow polar bears because they eat what bears leave. Polar bears generally eat only the blubber from their kills leaving the rest to scavengers.
Polar bear tracks beside Mikkey (rear left-hand black dog)
Photo: Gary Rolfe
As it worked out all three depots I had laid out last summer remained intact. The picture below also highlights our good fortune with the weather. I am wearing and loved the Rab Baseline Hoodie and Guide Pants. Under my Hoodie I wore a Rab AL Pull-on and regular Vapour-rise Trail Pants underneath my Guide Pants. Dressing this lightly was not the norm despite temperatures not dropping much below minus 15 degrees Celsius. A new layering favourite of mine is the Vapour-rise Guide range that includes the Guide Jacket. The entire system breathes which means my sweat is drawn away from my skin keeping me dry and warm. Vapour-rise Jackets and Pants are also hard-wearing, fit well, and are windproof. The Jacket hood is a great cut enabling all-around visibility and stays up in the wind, brilliant qualities to help me watch out for bears and keep warm and safe. Don't expect the same qualities from other brands of adventure clothing.
|Intact depot Photo: Gary Rolfe|
I remembered making the crate (picture above) and the 36-hour boat journey it took to get it there and to fill it with the essentials. Worrying if those supplies were still going to be there eight months later was a stupid waste of time. But it didn't stop me. The worry I kept to myself and so too the time it had taken, effort expended and money spent to get it there, enabling us to keep moving forward.
Journey 2012 - Part 5 will follow....
For more about Gary and his dogs go to www.garyrolfe.com