The magazine of the photo-essay
April 2017 back issue
A Hunter in the Wilds  of Svalbard
“A free, really high quality photo-essay magazine.  Fabulous!” Stephen Fry. British actor, writer and film & documentary maker
by Sverre Chr. Jarild & Julie C. Knarvik
Part II
The polar bear constantly attempts to reach the food on the meat rack, and it is important to make it as difficult as possible for it to do this. Tommy lowers the ladder as soon as the seal carcasses have been hung up. The ladder is made from timber logs and is padded with metal at the bottom to prevent the predator from getting hold of it with its claws and climbing up. “We humans should not assume the role of judging whether this or that species has the right to live. We don’t have the right to do this, we humans, because we are also animals.”
On day three of sausage making, the sausages are hung up in the smokehouse. All that remains is to light the oven again with chopped driftwood. He also whittles some small shavings out of the wood.
“We must not romanticise nature. It will always be raw and brutal. It is we who have deluded ourselves into the idea that everyone should be friends and live for ever.”
The weather changes quickly here, and it is easy for someone not familiar with the sudden changes to be caught out by bad weather. But Tommy knows these conditions. He knows how volatile the weather can be up here and how small the margins are. He knows the weather’s temperament.
“It’s almost as if you develop a personal relationship with each and every sausage, as you’ve worked so much with them,” laughs the hunter. He is satisfied with the thought that three days making reindeer sausages has resulted in food for the entire winter and well into March.
He lights the stove in the tiny sauna that a previous hunter built. Then he heats water that he pours into a bowl. He lights candles in the tiny log hut, places his shotgun outside, and with a polar bear lying in the snowdrift a short distance from the cabin, he washes himself thoroughly.
“We have forgotten that we are a part of nature.”
He likes to work hard, to toil, sweat, hear the sound of the dogs howling expectantly and ready for work before every trip, and the silence and concentration as they run across the ice. Even though it takes longer and is tiresome at times, he would never exchange the sled for a snowmobile. Tommy hunts in the old-fashioned way and doesn’t want any motorised means of conveyance apart from the boat, which he needs in the spring and summer.
The large Greenland dog, Rusk, is let loose and storms towards the bear, while Tommy lets off a shot from a flare pen. It explodes above the head of the large predator. The bear swings around and runs across the ice with the dog in pursuit. After a while Rusk returns triumphantly with his tail in the air. The bear slinks away.
“There is not a breath of wind, the polar bear is up there on the hill, the dogs are curled up asleep, the seal is resting on the ice, grouse are hopping around me here. No, at such times I don’t miss anything.”
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