IN the blue light of an early Arctic morning, seven wolves slid across a frozen pond, yipping and squealing and chasing a chink of ice about the size of a hockey puck.

The pond was opalescent at that hour, a mirror of the universe, and the wolves also seemed otherworldly in their happiness.

Back and forth across the pond they chased, four pups scrambling after the puck and three older wolves knocked them down, checking their little bodies into frozen grass at the shore.

In my notebook, in letter nearly made illegible by my shivering, I wrote the word ''goofy.'' The largest wolf, a yearling male, was a bully at 70 pounds or so. The smallest, the runt of that year's litter, was hardly bigger than a throw pillow, her eyes lined in black.

A pair of ravens sailed overhead, and apart from their jeering, there was no sound on the tundra but the voices of wolves and the click of claws on the ice. Eventually, the pup skittered  into the grass, and the largest pup chased it down and chomped it to pieces.

The rest stood watching, heads cocked to the side. As though they were stunned by the rudeness of it. Then, one by one, the wolves turned and looked at me.

This is a difficult sensation to describe - the lock-on moment when a group of predators sights you and holds your gaze for a dozen heartbeats.

Humans aren't usually the objects of such appraisal, though my body seemed to recognize it way down beyond thought. I shivered again, and this time it wasn't from the cold. However playful they'd appeared a few minutes ago, they were wild wolves.

Their white coats were deck with gore. The carcass they's d been feeding on, a muskbox many times larger than me, lay nearby with its rib rage cracked open, the bones splayed like a fan against the sky.

The wolves watched me silently, but they were talking to each other with flicks of their ears, the posture of their tails. They were making decisions. And after a few minutes they decided to come closer.

THERE is probably no place on Earth where this would happen. It's why I traveled to Ellesmere Island, high in the Canadian Arctic, joining a documentary film crew.

The landscape is so remote, and in winter so cold, that humans rarely visit.

A weather station named EUREKA is pinned to the west coast and maintains a year round staff of about eight. Otherwise the nearest community [population 129] is Grise Fiord, 250 miles to the south.

A thousand miles past that stands the nearest plant you would actually recognize as a tree.

The honor and serving of this beautiful writing and publishing, continues. The World Students Society thanks author Neil Shea, and photographer Ronan Donovan.


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