"The midnight sun cast a deep golden glow across the Arctic tundra. It's 1.25 a.m. and the Earth is hushed as I walk alone across its soft green carpet. This is a vast remote area with shades of green and brown treeless tundra as far as the eye can see. The deep golden light of the low angle of the sun spreads gently across this wonderful landscape.
The predominant feature here is a deep silence. Every brief sound seems subdued at this magical time. The silence is broken briefly by the cry of a distant loon, or the unexpected splash of a paddle being dipped into the water as two youths clad in reindeer skin clothes row silently across the lake to the conical reindeer skin tents of the Chukchi reindeer herder’s camp. A faint peel of spontaneous laughter comes from happy children who are still out playing. We have been told that the Chukchi are night people and sleep very little in the summer.
We flew here yesterday afternoon in an ancient Russian helicopter that had a dirty oil exhaust stripe across its orange paint work.
These helicopters usually have a crew of four. It’s Sunday so we only have a pilot who is not in uniform, with his bottle of vodka under the seat. Hessian bags of supplies for the reindeer herders are piled in the centre between our seats. Lying on top of the bags is a very inebriated local who is cadging a lift to somewhere further out!
After half an hour’s flying the cloud thickens. The pilot asks if anyone has a map. He is lost. No one has a map! It’s a case of just flying around to find where the herd is grazing.
We land beside some tumble down ancient huts, the home of a ranger who looks as if he has been here for years. We are in luck; by chance there are three families of reindeer herders camped on the other side of the lake.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union the Chukchi now own some reindeer. Previously they were all owned by the state.
The next morning we notice a strange brown cloud moving on the horizon. It’s the herd! They are bringing them in, slowly grazing them in our direction; thousands of reindeer with the herders walking quietly amongst them.