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Full Circle

Day 7: Kodiak Island

Michael Palin - Full CircleThe bears are less than a hundred yards away and we are advised to keep quiet and not attempt to move any closer. (As usual, the experts are divided when discussing wild animal behaviour, between those who insist they wouldn't hurt a fly and those who saw them rip someone to pieces only last week.) There are not many Kodiak Brown bears left, maybe two and a half thousand on the whole island and, though they can roam up to 50 miles, Scott knows the regulars in this river. Olga, the female we first saw, is now sitting back, staring down intently at the brisk stream spilling around her great haunches. Food is abundant at this time of year as the river is bulging with red salmon returning from three years at sea to spawn in the same river in which they were born. Fully-grown bears like Olga will eat about thirty of them a day.

Another two females come sloshing up the river with yearling cubs in tow, distinguished from the adults by their collars of white fur. Maggie, the leading female, makes a grab at a passing salmon which darts away. Instead of waiting for another, she doubles back and galumphs off after it. Eventually she finds something to her satisfaction and collapses on top of it, front paws out like a cat when it traps a mouse. Then, with delicate precision, she lifts the salmon, tugs the skin off with her teeth and carries the fish back to her cubs.

It's our cameraman Nigel's birthday today (on Pole to Pole it was celebrated while watching a belly dancer in southern Egypt) and we've smuggled a couple of bottles of champagne onto the island to celebrate. Timed perfectly to coincide with this moment of rejoicing, my incipient cold, which I have been trying to hold at bay with an alphabet of vitamins, finally hits with a vengeance. I take to my bed and end the day sneezing and snuffling in my tent beside the lake as the sounds of 'Happy Birthday' drift out over the water.
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  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 7
  • Country/sea: USA
  • Place: Camp Island - Alaska
  • Book page no: 23

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  • Day 35 
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