Israeli wildlife photographer Emit Eshel recounts his ‘spiritual’ encounter with friendly Arctic wolvesKira Wronska Dorward, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

“This has always been my biggest dream,” says Amit Eshel, speaking to Nunavut News from his home country of Israel, where he is in the process of being filmed for Israeli national television and setting up an exhibit in Tel Aviv with the incredible photos he shot on his recent trip to photograph Arctic wolves on northern Ellesmere Island.

Eshel and his team spent 18 days in the High Arctic around Grise Fiord in what was his second, and this time wildly successful endeavour to track the elusive white wolves.

“Just getting there is very expensive,” he says, “and you never know if you’re going to find them. Usually these kinds of photos are only managed by publications like National Geographic or BBC [British Broadcasting Corporation] that have the resources.”

Eshel’s team included Inuk guide Terry Noah, who runs a company in the area called Ausuittuq Adventures, three other Inuit guides and another photographer. They encountered a pack of wolves in “what is an experience you almost just can’t describe” — one that was “spiritual” for the experienced wildlife photographer.

No fear

“I still have to pinch myself!” reads a Facebook post dated May 16 that shows a wolf pack tearing apart a young muskox carcass feet from Eshel, while a wolf at the back of the pack stares directly into the camera.

On this particular day, after 12 days of exploring with temperatures ranging from -35 C to 10 C, Eshel and his team happened upon a group of “very friendly and curious” wolves so isolated from humanity that they had not learned to fear people. They let Eshel and his team follow and photograph them, resulting in the captivating images.

At one point, a wolf noticed the group standing on a hill and curiously and approached. After carefully checking them out for a few minutes, he stood and howled.

“The sound gave us goosebumps,” Eshel recalls in his Facebook post. “What happened next I can only describe as one of the most epic experiences of my life.”

Nine more wolves showed up and joined their leader. It felt like they were waiting for the pack leader to assess the humans before they approached, and the howl symbolized his approval, Eshel states.

“For the next seven hours we followed the wolf pack, well at times it felt like they are following us while we where driving the snowmobiles. [We] laid on the ground and waited for them and they approached us for a distance of only few feet away, they [were] so gentle and playful!

“They kept moving and covering ground on the frozen land and [it became] clear that they [were] on a mission,” he states.

The wolves then hunted three muskox calves just in front of the expedition.

Photos with wolves

Eshel, who plans to return to Nunavut next year, describes this outing “as a huge success,” but emphasizes he could not have done it without the help of the local guides — three from Grise Fiord and one from Resolute Bay.

“One of the things that’s very important to me is to support the local communities,” he says. 

“It’s not so important to me that my photos will go viral,” Eshel clarifies, “I’m not a ‘like’ junky. It’s more important for me to get professional recognition for my work.”

In what he considers to be “the biggest achievement of my career,” Eshel was also recently named the Wildlife Photographer of the Year for his photo “Life on the Edge” at London’s Natural History Museum. There’s a possibility he may become a double recipient of the extremely prestigious international award with his images of Nunavut and Arctic wolves.

By Kira Wronska Dorward, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jun 03, 2024 at 08:43

This item reprinted with permission from   Nunavut News   Iqaluit, Nunavut
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