She tried her hardest to understand what she was seeing. This was no newbie when it comes to wildlife, she’d been through dozens of encounters in all her years working as a fisherwoman. But this was different. It was unlike anything she’d seen before. She couldn’t even understand how this came to be. But she couldn’t waste too much time thinking about it. She had to act fast, so they came up with a way to rescue this poor creature. But little did they know that their plan wasn’t going to be easy.
Mallory Harrigan lives a hectic life thanks to her work as a commercial fisherwoman. It’s pretty much one of the toughest jobs anyone can have. Working under one of the most unforgiving temperatures on the face of the earth, she has to do many things, such as hauling super heavy nets. This isn’t your typical 9 to 5, to say the least! Fortunately for Mallory, she’s got some coworkers that have her back, and would also jump at the chance to help a creature.
Mallory, Cliff Russell, (Mallory’s boyfriend) along with his brother Alan, all work at their own commercial boat, the Northern Swan. They usually hunt for crab near the Labrador coast, in the Eastern Canadian province of Newfoundland. The snow crab, a type of crab that is known for its delicate sweet flavor, is their main catch. But fishing is not your run-of-the mill kind of job. Even though the Northern Swan’s crew has pretty much seen it all, they were about to find out that life always has a way to challenge what you think you know!
Snow crabs usually live in the North Atlantic and the North Pacific regions due to the icy cold temperatures. Fishing season starts in May, right when the chill winter ice starts to break up, which allows boats to sail through. But the undeniable climate change has taken everyone by surprise on more than one occasion. Sometimes, ice takes a bit longer to break, and melt, which causes fishermen to lose money and precious time, as they can’t sail safely. This happened last year too, and it ended up taking the Northern Swan on an unexpected quest.
“We were off to a late start,” Mallory remembers. “But there had been an unusual amount of ice that prevented us from getting out.” Finally, on June 22, they were meant to set sail and head towards Pincent’s Arm, which is a tiny coastal town that would let them fuel up their boat in order to keep going. The crew was pretty used to doing their routine, but they had no idea that on that day they were about to embark on quite an adventure. At just 4 miles away from the coast, they saw something that caught them off guard on top of a piece of floating ice.
The fishermen noticed that a bunch of seagulls were hovering near a tiny iceberg. And that’s when they spotted it. There was something standing over it too, but they couldn’t make up what it was. The tiny grayish lump was just standing there. They knew it had to be an animal, but they weren’t able to figure out what it was. The crew decided they needed to investigate further and get closer to see what it was.
When they first saw it, the crew and even Mallory assumed that the tiny animal was probably a seal. It would’ve been pretty common to see them around that area, lying on top of a piece of floating ice, as they rested from all that swimming and hunting. But that didn’t seem to be the case. Seagulls wouldn’t be swarming near a seal! For some reason, the seagulls seemed to be preying on this tiny creature. The crew got closer, and even though the boat was really close to the animal, it still didn’t move. A seal wouldn’t have thought twice about ditching and swimming away. Finally, they realized what it was!
The majestic creature they had stumbled upon was none other than the mysterious arctic fox. But why was it doing so far out to sea? Foxes weren’t the type of animal you’d expect to see on top of floating ice. The poor animal must’ve been standing on top of a piece of ice that must’ve broken off. Then, as it started to drift away, the animal was left stranded all on its own. It was heartbreaking to say the lest. But what could they do to help?
There was no chance in hell that this poor creature would make it all alone if he remained on that piece of ice, and the fishermen knew it. They needed to get him back on land. But they weren’t so sure about letting him inside their boat. “He’s a wild animal and we didn’t know how he’d react,” Mallory explained. But they were willing to risk it. After all, they couldn’t just let him to fend for himself, right? They pulled in closer, but they knew that the terrified animal wouldn’t just passively allow himself to get caught.
The boat got as close as possible to the piece of floating ice in order for the crew to try to lure the poor little guy into getting inside the boat. If only they were able to explain that they were only looking after him. As you can imagine, the fox sprinted away to the farthest corner on the iceberg. He wanted to be far, far away from the crew. “He fought hard to try to get away,” Mallory remembered. Their plan wasn’t really working, so they needed to try something else, evidently.
Since they weren’t able to lure the little guy in, they crew was set on giving it one more shot. Only this time, they’d try something a bit riskier. They decided to break off the chunk of ice where the fox was standing in an attempt to make him fall into the ocean. Since they were pro fishermen, they’d have no issue picking him up with their dipnet, right? But nothing would end up working according to their plan.
The poor fox attempted to swim away from the crew, while in a state of panic. If he only knew that this was his only chance of survival, he would’ve made things easier for sure. The water was so cold, that he quickly run out of energy. He was completely worn down, but that was a good thing, since now, he was too defeated to swim away. The crew scooped him right up. Sadly, they were able to notice the awful condition he was in.
Mallory still remembers that day, “he crawled into a corner and curled into a ball. We tried to feed him chips and crackers, whatever we had on hand, but he wouldn’t eat for a long time.” When the Northern Swan finally reached Pincent’s Arm Cliff, Mallory’s boyfriend and his brother used four fish pans, and some sawdust to build a comfy bed for the fox, who was exhausted by now. The creature was finally starting to feel safe among the crew.
Mallory recalls, “Once we got him in his makeshift bed he fell fast asleep.” The poor thing had been through so much! Afterwards, the Northern Swan made its way to William’s Harbour, a small island community that allowed them to dock. The fox woke up from his much-needed nap, and he seemed to be doing so much better. We were able to feed and water him,” said Mallory. “We gave him a tin of Vienna sausages and a bowl of water.” The fox was now healthier and condition to fend for himself.
The wonderful crew took the poor little creature and placed him in an area that was known for housing sled dogs. “We put him into one of the old dog houses on the island and gave him some space,” said Mallory. The beautiful arctic fox inspected the area until he was brave enough to sprint towards the hills. But that would not be the last they’d see of him. “We can still see him from time to time, running around the island chasing small animals.”