Wed July 28:
As suspected, the weather changed, with a heavy dense fog rolling in during the early morning hours. I lay in the tent, listening to fat droplets occasionally striking the tent fly. Snow buntings flit and fly around the tent, one lands on top, I can hear tiny toenails as they seek to grasp on the tight nylon. Ravens croak and fly close, I can hear the whoosh of their wing beats. Ever so often a very low deep rumble vibrates across the tundra, is this the sea ice finally breaking up? It’s not the hard sharp sound of a rock fall or slide, in spite of the fogs muffling effect. With no wind and little white noise, our ears have become sensitized to even the slightest change in sound (or lack of sound).
It’s a lazy day. Neither of us is inspired to wander far a field, given the damp weather. Even the muskox are clumped together in groups of 10 to 15 compared to their sunny weather (and good visibility yesterday) behaviour of scattering randomly across the plains. Some survival gene dictates grouping in foggy weather is a good thing to do! A few ducks and their chicks swim in our water pond but the fog is too dense and pond margins too wet for closer inspection.
After an afternoon nap, we are ready for some distraction. Temperature is always good, we guess then measure with the ‘weather station’, a plain thermometer. Outside air temp is 4C, inside the tent its 13C and inside Alfred’s’ sleeping bag its 23C! inside A’s long johns it’s a sultry 35C but I didn’t take that temperature…outside, the wind seems to be increasing from the north-west, perhaps it will blow out the fog.
At 10pm, its time for dinner. Peeking outside the tent, a group of 15 muskox has wandered within 10 meters of our tent, some grazing, some laying down, some standing. I watch a calf suckle, bunting mom’s udder for milk. Everyone is just hanging out, conserving energy. Three animals come very close, almost stepping on the tent guys – we are glued to the door, watching. Suddenly, four muskox come running through the fog, dash through the camp, making low rumbling sounds, before exiting on the other side of the ditch. Musk ox start to mill about, slowly moving uphill and around the knoll – I count 27 animals while still sitting warm and dry inside my tent cum animal blind. Slowly, ever so slowly the last animal disappears in to the fog – and a fat grey lemming scurries between the rock cracks, as if waiting for their departure before moving.
What a show has taken place over the last 2 hours…the drizzle now stopped, clouds are lifting and at long last, we venture out to make dinner. Fog oozes over the top of Cape Hardy, finger like tentacles clasping red rocks, pulling slowly skywards. As the sea fog disappears, a new fog bank develops near the Sverdrup Glacier, creeping to engulf us. An exciting end to a dull wet day!