The Australian yacht ‘Drina’ first informed us of these shaggy ungulates
via a boat email telling us to keep our eyes peeled for Musk ox and
walrus on the rocks and tundra of Cuming inlet.
We first spotted this lone animal as it grazed on the high Arctic meadow
on the port side. All it was really interested in was grazing, and
eventually lay down on the grassy ground.
After the first sighting, we were bidding for more: our wish was granted
in the form of two beasts, this time on the opposite bank of the inlet,
making their ambling way alongside and then past Aventura.
Musk ox are, one could say, the remnants of ice ages which have passed;
their ability to withstand -50°C blizzards due to coarse outer hairs and
a thick, light fleece of wool which is called qiviut by the Inuit. They
moult in summer and the qiviut hangs tattered around their ankles adding
another skirt-like layer to the already hanging, long outer hairs.
As the ox walks, you can see the muscles rippling under the coat as his
cloven hooves strike the rocks beneath him. He comes to a stand still
and glances behind him, opening his muzzle slightly as if to usher on
his companion. His headdress of curling horns sits above his brows and
captures the attention as the pale contrasts with his dark mahogany pelt.
Another interesting phenomena was when one chose to run into the water,
splashing great washes of salty spray into the air. Leaping up and
allowing gravity to pull him down, he sent water in every direction and
finally, having satisfied his need he shook several times and came out
of the cold water. As he joined the other, he charged and they galloped
across the beach and towards the rocks.
You’d never guess that a calm-looking animal such as that would move so
fast. Luckily, we were firmly planted on the boat rather than anywhere
near their pounding hooves.