Jeffy and his guns:  the wolf was smarter (Axel Heiberg Island, July 1984)

After spending a day in the field, Jeffy was not happy. He discovered that his meat supply for 10 days stored in a metal bucket in a snow bank was snatched by a wolf.

Jeffy in the Muskox Ridge Camp.

... and his telescope riffle.

Jeffy petting a lemming in his glove. Lemming was shitting trying to get free.

Arctic Wolf, photographs taken in the Californian Sierra Nevada see [1].


I got very well-acquainted with Jeffy  over the past year. He was an MSc student and called our professor, of East German descent, 'Herr Oberst' and I, as the research assistant,  was ‘Herr Leutnant".

Herr Oberst

Herr Leutnant

His father was a RCMP officer (Canadian equivalent of the FBI) which could explain his interest with the military.

He really wanted to be an air force pilot and almost made it into the Air Force Training School during summer training school but ended up third rank. He didn’t even qualify as a reserve pilot but would get desk job.

Geology was his second choice and he loved the High Arctic Field Work Project as he would be able to do something adventurous resembling a military operation.  We would go close to Alert, the ultimate military training camp for the Canadian Special Forces on the Northern Tip of Ellesmere Island. Here one of training exercise is to survive a few days outside in the winter at -55 degrees Celsius by sleeping  in a lean toe, a tarp used as wind brake only, and a sleeping bag.

He was also a practical joker and made fun of my lunchbox with the organic sandwiches with cheese, lettuce and alfalfa (bean spouts). He only had the real army stuff for lunch, french-fries with vinegar and hamburger. One day I was eating my organic lunch in the office, happily chewing till I found out that the stuff was a bit difficult to break up. At the same time there was a roaring laughter outside the room and I quickly found out that Jeffy put small slices of newspaper in my sandwiches.

1985 Expedition to Axel Heiberg Island

Jeffy didn't like our three shotguns and considered them poor protection against polar bears. He had better guns to bring up from his private collection. They were frightening, two accurate high powered riffles able to kill an elephant at a long distance and even a Magnum .357 hand gun, probably licensed through daddy, the RCMP officer. Even the hand gun could kill a polar bear.

Strand Fiord

Strand Fiord, Western Axel Heiberg Island, late June, Fiord still frozen.

Late June Jeffy landed on Strand Fiord on the West coast of Axel Heiberg Island. Located close to the Arctic Ocean, it was still covered by snow with a temperature around zero. Wild-life is sparse on the West coast as the climate is colder. Here the mountain range of Central Axel Heiberg Island and Ellesmere Island form a warmer oasis.

I was already on the East side with slightly warmer weather but we also suffered from a major snow storm in a higher camp and very high winds under a perfectly blue sky in a lower camp that damaged our light weight kitchen tent.

After a snow storm

Strong winds almost blowing away the tents

Meat stolen

On the third days Jeffy got into trouble with the rare wolves of Western Axel Heiberg Island.  The smart wolf got away with Jeffy’s meat supply for 10 days and as a meat hungry Canadian he was royally pissed off. The evidence was clear, foot prints in the snow around the metal bucket in which  the meat was stored.

We normally store meat in a big aluminum box and put this outside in a snow bank, not only to keep it cold but also to divert polar bears from the camp and to avoid other animals like foxes and wolves from taking  it. Jeffy, instead, put the meat in a sample pail (metal bucket) and just closed the lid. He used the sturdy aluminum box with proper locks for the kitchen utensils which is handy, this is how we ship it to keep it organized and clean, but definitely not the idea. A pail with a closed lid will keep a fox but a wolf?

Was the wolf so smart or was Jeffy so careless. Opening a lid may be difficult for foxes but wolves are much stronger. Jeffy knew there could be wolves in this area and you should not store garbage in a tent as they will rip it open based on past experience.

He said he was going to track it down and kill it with one of his high powered telescope riffles.

Wolves are the biggest carnivores in this area but they are harmless as they avoid other big animals and have a strict preference for prey. Man is avoided, keeping a large distance and on Western Axel Heiberg Island I never saw one but they are around.

As a near vegetarian I took sides of course with the wolves and suggested to eat the canned meat and fish as it is more healthy anyway. Jeffy settled for the cans of "Spam", the unpopular ham and corned beef which looks fine when eating cold but disintegrates totally into water, grease and soft meat when fried up.

Musk ox Ridge Camp

After two weeks I joined Jeffy using a helicopter for the camp move and the helicopter brought him frozen meat from our storage in Eureka. We now camped in a well-sheltered valley (see first two hotos). For 7 days the weather was very good, full summer and 7-8 degrees Celsius and no wind.

The well-insulated pyramid tents we used for sleeping that served us well during the snow storm in and high winds in June were now too warm. When we moved after 10 days we discovered that the grass underneath our tents had grown 10 cm. At Alexander Fiord with plastic green houses to grow food like in a kitchen garden and with 24-hour light this was possible, even at 80 degrees lattitude.

Telescope Riffle

Jeffy offered me to try out his best high-powered telescope riffle. This was his elephant gun with dum-dum (hollow point) bullets, real killers. He suggested to aim at a small rock a large distance across the valley.

Muxkox ridge valley, distance of shot.

I leaned on a rock to stabilize the barrel and aimed at the rock using the telescope viewer which is as clear as binoculars. The distance must have been around a km .To my surprise I hit the target the first time.

 I am a reasonable shooter from practicing with pellet guns when I was 15 years. I must have shot small birds in the orchard regularly after coming home from school.

The frightening part of Jeffy’s gun was that is showed how easy it was to hit a small target from a large distance. Anybody can do it. Kennedy was assassinated at a distance of only 200 m by an ex-marine (according to the movie “Full Metal Jacket”).

The wolf that stole Jeffy’s meat could easily be shot if spotted from a long range of 1 or 2 km, the save distance they normally keep. Luckily they are highly protected and Jeffy had to back off. Being a nature lover and a friendly guy he would not have done it anyway. Just see how he cuddles the lemming with care. He was the only student who did field work twice in this region and he did well.

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