Marty crouches over, exhausted, his head hanging between his legs.
‘Pete, we’re never going to make it.’
I stay quiet, trying not to get too high or low. I know it’s best to keep it steady and just get it done. But I’m discouraged. Heartbroken. And it’s hard not to be. We have too much gear and the snow is too soft to ski on. It seems impossible. We’re actively racing against the animals we’re seeking, but we’ve only made 3km of progress in 8 hours – at this rate, we’re going to miss the migrating caribou completely.
I’m chasing an image of the incredible migration the caribou take every year. Growing up in the Yukon, everyone hears about the caribou. They’re larger than life. Anyone who has seen thousands of caribou moving together never forgets it, and hearing so many stories about this awe-inspiring spectacle helped to build my interest.
The Porcupine caribou herd in north-western Canada is thought to have the longest mammal migration on the planet. The image I wanted to capture is hard to describe. Videos I’d seen of them migrating in long lines of thousands reminded me of images of the Klondike Gold Rush a century ago, with a line of 400 men following a trail straight up the mountain. I wanted to recreate this image, but with caribou. I wanted the image to be intimate, so it was important to me to have the lead caribou very close to the camera. I was looking for caribou trails going up a mountain, where I could set up a laser-activated camera trap that would photograph the lead animal close up and then photograph the line of caribou leading down the mountain and across the valley floor as well. I wanted to give a sense of the number of caribou in the herd and the teamwork that they employ when moving in winter.