By Mike Koopsen
The Canadian Arctic is one of the most remote regions in North America. A couple of years ago my wife and I took a trip there in hopes of seeing and photographing some wild musk-ox. We flew into Kuujjuaq, an Inuit community in Nunavik, Quebec, Canada, about 1,000 miles north of Montreal. The next day we boarded a floatplane and flew north to a mobile tent “spike” camp near the Ungava Bay, just east of Hudson Bay near the Arctic Circle. This area is enormous in size and extremely remote. Just before we landed in a small lake near our camp we could see the musk-ox herd in the distance moving across the tundra plains.
Each morning after breakfast one or two of the guides would take a small group of us by boat to an area where we hoped to find the musk-ox herd. Some days we hiked miles and miles across the tundra looking for them while enjoying the incredible wilderness landscapes. When we did see them we had to be very quiet and non-threatening so they would not run away. We were told that today’s musk-ox are descendants of animals that have been in North America for as much as 200,00 years. Adult musk-ox average around 4–5 feet high at the shoulder and the females are typically 4–6 feet in length while the males are usually 6–8 feet in length. They can weigh between 400 and 900 pounds. Their wool, qiviut, is known for its softness, length, and insulation qualities, and can cost between $40 and $90 an ounce. They usually live 12–20 years. Arctic and Tundra wolves are their primary predators and although we did not have an opportunity to see the wolves up close we did find their den and could hear their howling and vocalizing from our camp at night.
After dinner we would watch for the flocks of Canadian geese that would fly into the pond behind our tent to rest for the night and we would enjoy the sunsets in the twilight of the midnight sun. Afterwards, if the skies were clear, we would anxiously await the arrival of the Northern Lights.
The daily temperatures while we were there at the end of August and the first week in September were in the mid-fifties with enough of a breeze to keep the black flies away. The nights were predictably cold, usually in the thirties, but the stars in the night skies were amazing to see. Overall it was quite an adventure.
Mike Koopsen of Trails Traveled Photography lives in Sedona. firstname.lastname@example.org