Of Mammoths and Men

Ancient hunters killed woolly mammoths for their meat. Today in Russia’s Arctic the search is on for their valuable tusks.

  1. One last chance. That’s all the Siberian hunter wants. For five months Karl Gorokhov has tracked his ancient prey across a desolate island in the East Siberian Sea, slogging 18 hours a day over the icy tundra. He is cold and exhausted, with a hunger so primal that he has been reduced to eating seagulls. Even the two polar bears that attacked his camp were famished; their stomachs, slit open after they were shot dead, were empty. Gorokhov, a 46-year-old with wind-chapped cheeks and a scraggly, reddish beard, heads out every day past the nine graves near his camp—the final resting places, he presumes, for unlucky souls who came to the island to escape the Soviet gulag.

    Gorokhov is running out of time. Late summer blizzards are howling across Kotelnyy Island, 600 miles north of the Arctic Circle, and the deep freeze of another northern winter looms. His fingers and palms start to itch. It’s “a lucky sign,” Gorokhov said later. The itching usually strikes when he’s on the verge of findi...

The complete text of “Of Mammoths and Men” is not in the Byliner library, but we love it so much we included an excerpt and a link to the full story on ngm.nationalgeographic.com.

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