I just jumped at the opportunity to go, without even thinking about it, really, because it opened the way to an old and very naive childhood fantasy of mine.
To go off into the wilderness and test myself against all the dangerous things lurking there.
And to find that basic animal I secretly hoped was hidden somewhere in myself.
I imagined that at that point I'd become a new man, with a strength and courage that I'd never known before.
As I traveled north, it was on about the third day that the reality of what I was about to try to do began to seep into my bones and gather in a knot in the pit of my stomach.
Then [finally reached the end of the line, Nootsack.
The sheer bulk of the supplies the department sent along set me back, as I had to get not only myself but all this stuff another 300 miles into the wilderness.
So. You think north of here?
The place is crawling with 'em.
But you wouldn't wanna go up there. Son.
Got nothing to eat up there now.
There's nothing but ice and snow and trees and...
You would be the only fresh meat around there.
They'll come after you. Son.
Just for the ugly fun of tearing you apart.
I'd heard some of the tales about the Arctic, The mad trappers, Diamond Tooth Gertie, the ice-worm cocktail and all that, so I was prepared for things to be a little weird.
You found the bayonets. I knew you would.
That's much better. Much better, Francis. Keep practicing.
The only plane in Nootsack belonged to a part-time bush pilot, gambler and real-estate tycoon named Rosie Little.
While negotiating our deal, he introduced me to this drink that he'd invented.
Known locally as Moose Juice, it consisted of equal parts Moose Brand beer and ethyl alcohol.
Before I knew it, my old fear of flying evaporated, and I spent all the money I had left on 24 cases of beer.
Too much weight, Tyler.
Hang on Whoa... Nelly!
Come on. Something else out of there now. The big, heavy ones, Tyler.
I really had no way of knowing exactly what of the department's gear we donated to the people of Nootsack.
That big wooden box there. Get rid of it. Go on. You don't need that.
But by our third attempt at takeoff, it was a lot of what I might really need.
I tried not to think about it. In fact, I tried not to think at all.
This one is it. I can feel it.
With my eyes still shut, I realized that I was still alive.
But this was only the beginning.
It's funny how I keep thinking back to that going-away party.
All the toasts by Dr Spivey and Dr Showwalter, and everybody singing old Johnny Horton songs.
And the cake with all the coconut frosting, with the plastic snowshoes on top.
But, then, why me?
Maybe this whole thing was a mistake.
Maybe my name just somehow got onto the wrong page.
It might have been a typo, or maybe somebody spilled a cup of coffee, shuffled a couple of pages, and there I was.
I can't go on with this. This is suicide.
But I can't turn around now. I'd be a laughing stock.
Still, I wouldn't last six hours down there, let alone six months.
How do you...?
Don't worry about a thing.
I feel my way through these mountains blindfolded all the time.
Tell me, Tyler...
what's in the Valley of the Blackstone?
What is it? Manganese?
Can't be oil.
Is it gold?
It's kind of hard to say.
You're a smart man, Tyler. Keep your own counsel.
We're all of us prospectors up here, eh, Tyler?
Scratching for that one crack in the ground so we'll never have to scratch again.
I'll let you in on a little secret, Tyler.
The gold's not in the ground.
The gold's not anywhere up here.
The real gold is south of 60.
Sittin' in living rooms, stuck facing the boob tube, bored to death.
Bored to death, Tyler!
What was that?
What's wrong? Take the stick.
Boredom, that's what's wrong.
And how do you beat boredom, Tyler?
Where are you going? Rosie!
Rosie. What are you doing? I can't fly this thing. What do I do?
Catch the updraft there, Tyler. That's it.
Right in the middle. Good.
Tyler, easy, easy, easy!
Back the other way! Turn it the other way! What?
Tyler, back. Tyler! Tyler!
The other way. That's it.
That's it. Good, Tyler.
That's it. You learn fast.
Rosie. It's freezing.
Keep moving, Tyler. Gotta keep moving.
You'll be fine. Gotta take it easy with some of this stuff.
Mind your toes!
Speed. Speed is of the essence, Tyler.
Especially when you don't know how much fuel you got.
You got any last messages for the world, Tyler. You better let me have 'em now.
That's sneaky, Tyler. Very sneaky.
Wait. Rosie! Rosie!
Remember my position. Will you?
Sure. I'll stop by for a drink sometime. Huh?
What is my position? It beats the hell out of me, Tyler.
I just hope I can find my way home.
Good luck, Tyler.
Now, what are the possibilities here?
Gotta stay rational, be objective and... plan out all the proper procedures before doing anything else.
Make a list of priorities, remembering, of course, to take into account variables,.
And the fact that, inevitably, some problems could arise that...
...inevitably, some problems could arise that are completely unexpected.
Get a grip on yourself.
Section 3C of my instructions reads as follows:
"You will proceed immediately, by means of canoe and utilizing local waterways, to establish a base camp."
Section 4: "You will note that you have been provided with the following material requirements."
"Food supplies, sufficient until local sources can be utilized."
"Various appropriate requisition forms, documents and vouchers."
"And all technical equipment pertinent to the completion of the study."
March 23. 5am.
First report from Project Lupine.
Spent the night in a crate.
At daylight I'll try to get off the ice.
But I'd like to go on record as stating that those who planned this expedition made significant misc...
...made significant miscalculations, staggeringly incompetent...
Excuse me. You sort of...
Could you give me a hand with some of this equipment. I wonder?
I have a lot of equipment here. I really can't leave it. If you could...
There are problems recording the events of the past day or days.
The man has disappeared, although his face remains vivid in my mind.
I've decided to stay here until I get my bearings and I've sorted out what constitutes reality.
Temperatures soaring to 41 degrees Fahrenheit.
For the first time in three days I emerge from my sleeping bag and begin trying to do my job.
So far I've collected the following specimens: five baby mice, one millipede and something that looks suspiciously like fleas.
My instructions are to track down a specimen of Canis lupus, dispatch it with a rifle and examine the contents of its stomach.
Warm days bring a kind of peace and stillness.
If there are any remaining fears, they stem only from the recognition of my own staggering insignificance.
May 3. In pursuit of phantoms.
I hear them every night, have seen their tracks and collected their scat.
So they must be real.
Canis lupus arcticus.
The largest and rarest of the wolf species.
And its den.
The rules of the game are to choose an observation post downwind, out of the animal's field of vision, gain your position and maintain it without ever revealing your presence.
Outmaneuvered on all counts, I opt to change the rules.
Reasoning that we're suspicious of what we don't understand, I decide to reveal as much as possible about myself, make a display.
I haven't seen the wolf in two days.
I know I was violating the distance principle, moving so far into his territory.
But since he hadn't seemed afraid of me, I hoped that I could...
I didn't take it personally.
This was a matter of principle, a territorial dispute.
And he had fired the first shot.
♪ What never? No. Never
♪ What never?
♪ Hardly ever
♪ Hardly ever, ever sick at sea
♪ So give five cheers and one cheer...
♪ I am the very model of a modern major general
♪ I've information vegetable, animal, and mineral
♪ I know the kings of England and I quote the fights historical
♪ From Marathon to Waterloo in order categorical
♪ I'm very well acquainted too with matters mathematical
♪ I understand equations both the simple and quadratical
♪ About binomial theorem I'm teeming with a lot of news
♪ With many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse
27 cups of tea later, I completed a two-acre circle around my tent, including a 100-yard section of the wolf's path.
What had taken me six hours and 27 cups of tea, he accomplished in just a few minutes.
At each of the places that I'd marked, he made his mark on the opposite side, indicating that my boundary was acceptable to him.
And thus he granted me the space for Lupus Base One.
I'm supposed to watch his behavior, but all he does is stay in front of his den and watch mine.
I can't remember ever being the object of so much constant attention.
I now arise at 10:00 in the evening, as everything becomes more active during the long polar twilight.
In my notebook, the wolf has become George.
The two are identical in color,.
With the same contrasting shoulder marking and long-legged gait.
But I've detected a difference, and I've named her Angeline.
As George has become a family of five,.
The reason for his long staring match with me has lost its mystery.
It's well-known that wolves mate for life, but knowing that has hardly prepared me for their constant and varied displays of affection.
Every evening George goes off on his nightly rounds.
What he does on these excursions remains a mystery to me.
Angeline always remains behind with the cubs, though I can see that she longs to follow.
The overall reason behind the study is that the government wants final proof that wolves are responsible for the disastrous decline in caribou.
So far I haven't seen a single caribou, or observed the wolves eating anything.
My own food supplies are nearing exhaustion, and the local environment offers scant pickings.
Yet the Wolves seem perfectly healthy.
I've done numerous scatological studies and only turned up a smattering of small mammal bones.
The whole question of sustenance around Lupus Base One has me completely mystified.
Angeline has given me the first clue.
In less than an hour she's caught and consumed 23 mice.
My rough calculation: one mouse every ten square feet.
Over 40,000 square feet in an acre.
That's 4,000 mice per acre.
The idea that a large animal could live entirely on mice will be greeted with skepticism,.
Unless I can perform an experiment.
Five Wolves appeared today.
I expected one of the pack battles I'd read so much about.
It was Angie who was right in the middle of things, asserting her position as the dominant female.
The challenges and assertions were mostly symbolic.
There was no real fighting.
But Angeline got her point across.
George was never challenged.
He just stood there with his air of masterful certainty, the alpha wolf of the pack.
Usually, only the dominant pair mate and have offspring, going to seek their own privacy for that purpose.
Apparently, the time had arrived to rejoin the pack.
There's a young brown wolf who seems to be a particular favorite of the cubs.
I've named him Uncle Albert.
Now Angeline is free again to join George on his nightly rounds.
I wonder why it was that long ago I became a watcher of things.
Always watching others do and feel things I wouldn't or couldn't do myself.
Always standing off at a distance, isolated, detached.
I envy the wolves for how they experience the world.
Always in such direct contact with their environment, traveling through their territories,.
Alert and attuned to all the signs coming in through their senses, telling them where a rabbit recently passed or the sweet water lay, revealing a whole universe to them that we can never really know.
But I sit behind glass lenses, filling up notebooks and triplicate forms, trying to capture the wolves within the pages of my journal.
And what'll be done with the study when I'm finished?
Once these wolves have been exposed to my world... what will happen to them?
There's a strange wolf that I only see fleetingly.
He must be part of the pack, but an outsider, always following at a distance.
Perhaps another watcher.
Ootek thought you might need some company.
Really can't tell you how glad I am to see the two of you.
It's been so long since I heard another human voice.
You have any ketchup here?
No. I don't. I'm sorry. I ran out a couple of weeks ago.
Here. Have some fish.
No. Thanks. I don't eat fish.
What do you eat?
I eat mice.
You eat mice? Yeah.
It's an experimentn, really.
You see, the wolves are supposed to eat caribou. However, there are no caribou.
Basically, what the wolves have been eating is mice.
So I'm conducting an experiment to see whether a carnivore, a big animal, can live on nothing but mice.
So I've been just eating mice, and I'm doing fine.
What does he say? He says, "Good idea".
What's that? Clamp. This thing? Yeah.
See the way this is set up here?
This is so it grabs ahold. You got him.
it's a gripper.
I know what that is. They had them at the mines.
Yeah. That's right. It's a gas mask. Except that I use it for wolf scats.
The wolf scat has little tiny animals. Little tiny parasites.
And if you breathe these things in. You breathe these little guys.
They go up into your brain and they eat it out.
Scat? What is scat?
See. The idea behind this is if you study what comes out of a wolf.
You get a pretty good idea what went in.
I got a whole bag of them down there. I got a whole sack.
What did he say?
He says, "Good idea".
And so they settled in with me, as if nothing could be more natural.
For my part, I'm glad to have the company.
Mike had gone to school in the south.
When his parents died, Ootek adopted him.
Traditionally, they are no orphans among the Inuit.
I met a girl in a bar.
And she wanted me to buy her drinks, so I bought her some.
And then after a while, she wanted to come home with me.
But I made a mistake.
I smiled at her.
That's what happens when a meat eater becomes a sugar eater.
Ootek has taken a particular interest in the study, though I've learned there is little about wolves that he doesn't already know.
But I sense there is another side to Ootek,.
Some part of his nature that he hasn't shown.
I try not to annoy him with too many questions, but there are many things I'd like to know.
When he was young he used to follow the wolves on their hunts.
The wolf is his helping spirit: amarok.
- Ama... Amarok.
Ama... The wolf.
He went 30 days without food and without protection from the cold.
Then he saw the wolf.
He felt the wolf bite into his heart.
When he woke up, he was all in one piece.
That's how the wolf became his helping spirit.
I wonder what makes them howl like that.
They howl when they're lonely.
Or to call their friends.
That way, the other... the others will know where they are.
And then sooner or later they're bound to meet up.
That's the way to catch wolves. Go where they're howling.
Hide behind a rock.
And then howl like one of them.
And then... they will come to investigate.
When they get close enough. You shoot 'em.
You shoot 'em. Hopefully you hit 'em.
That's how you kill a wolf.
To me, wolves mean money.
It's a way of making a living.
One wolf pelt costs about $350.
And I've got to feed my family, my children.
Buy a snowmobile.
Food, rifle, bullets. Whatever.
I mean, you wouldn't kill these wolves?
These ones? Oh.
No, I don't think so.
Besides, you would get mad if I killed one of them.
And your gun is bigger than mine.
I'd like to, though.
Last week in August.
The Arctic summer has almost ended.
As the time grows short, I'm reluctant to even sleep, for fear of missing something.
It's hard to imagine that soon I'll have to leave.
But this place doesn't belong to man. It belongs to the wolves.
I can't really be sad, because it's here that I've begun to feel wonder again.
Like when I was a kid, and this makes me deeply happy.
I wish I could say thank you, just so, straight into the universe.
The rest of Ootek's family, traveling through on their way north, stopped by to spend the night.
He wants me to tell you a story of when there was nothing in the world except for a man and a woman.
The woman came to a hole in the ice.
And she reached in and felt something. So she pulled it out.
And it was a tuktu, which is the caribou.
And it was this animal that the Inuit needed for their food and clothing.
For many years there were so many caribou that the people called them lice.
But soon all the hunting killed off all the fat, healthy animals.
And the only ones left over were the weak, sick ones.
Soon they began to breed and multiply.
And the herd got weak.
So the people came back to the woman to ask her what to do.
She went back to the hole in the ice.
Because she needed a tool to cut the sickness out of the herd.
And the amarok was born.
The wolves hunted the caribou and they killed off all the weak, sick ones.
And the people had all the caribou that they needed.
She says maybe you're like Ootek.
Maybe a long time ago the wolf devoured you.
He knows, doesn't he?
He knows what they're saying.
The caribou are coming south and the hunting will be good.
And the amarok will be there.
We broke camp and went in separate directions.
Mike went south, while Ootek led me on a three-day trek, down out of the high country and on to the tundra.
There will be wolves there, he said, as well as the "tuktu", the great caribou herds that once had sustained his people.
His endurance is very much greater than mine, but there are no expectations of me.
Not, I think, because I am the "kabloona", the white man, but because he doesn't recognize such a thing as impatience.
Deep in the bone, the marrow reveals the disease.
And she had found the tool to cut the sickness from the herd.
Gunfire and the smell of gasoline.
Come on, right over here!
Is that you, Tyler?
They called off the search, they wrote you off.
I even said a few Hail Marys for you myself.
But I never believed in ghosts. How are you?
You all right? You got all your pieces? I'm all right, yeah.
You've changed. I've changed?
What the hell you been doing out here, anyway?
Tyler, you wouldn't believe what's happened. It's fantastic. I hit the jackpot.
Two new planes. A new hotel.
Have you seen an old Inuk?
Inuk? Eskimo? Drunk or sober?
Join the party.
Altogether, 1400 acres.
Top of the mountain down to the lake. Including mineral rights.
But the real ace in the hole for us right now is the hot spring right up there.
Amazing, incredible, steaming hot water coming right out of the ground.
When I say hot water, what are you thinking?
Sitting in the bath tub?
Japanese. A little bit of advertising. Plenty of raw fish.
Beautiful country all right.
Japanese. That's a great angle, Rosie.
Wait, you haven't heard the best part. Listen to this.
Once they've soaked their little buns in our magic, medicinal hot spring.
You bottle it up, stick a fancy label on it. They take it home with them.
Before you know it, we'll be shipping it outta here by the truckload.
And what does it cost us? Nothing. Just bubbles right out of the ground.
I bet you we could figure out a way to bottle the air up here, too.
Gentlemen, here's to the future.
Watch the horns.
Come on, Tyler. Climb in.
I'm taking you out.
Look, Tyler. Maybe you can't see it. But you've gone round the bend a little.
I know, I've seen it before.
Come on, get in the...
I know where your camp is, Tyler.
I'll meet you there in a couple of days. We'll talk it over.
How could he have known about Lupus Base unless he'd been there?
To get back would be a three-day hike for me, but for him, it's only minutes away.
Pups, where's your folks?
It's pretty lonely around here.
Don't you worry about anything. Everything's gonna be just fine.
Get outta there!
Get out of here, Rosie! I don't want you here! Get out of here!
What are you doing here?
I'm on my way north. The snow is coming.
Have you seen Ootek?
He just disappeared. We were out there and he...
Yeah, I know. The old ones seem to have a way of doing that. Just disappearing.
Which is what I'm about to do.
Have you seen the wolves? Have you seen George and Angie?
No. They must have gone north.
No. No. The puppies are still here. They wouldn't go off and leave the puppies.
Stop worrying about the pups and start worrying about yourself.
This thing that's happening is too big for you.
It's a question of how you survive it.
Survival... of the fittest.
In the end, there were no simple answers.
No heroes, no villains.
But it began the moment that I first saw the wolf.
By the act of watching them, with the eyes of a man, I had pointed the way for those who followed.
The pack returned for the cubs, as there are no orphans among the wolves.
And eventually the losses of that autumn became a distant memory.
I believe the wolves went off to a wild and distant place somewhere, although I don't really know, because I turned away and didn't watch them go.
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