A week at home in Australia has already come and gone and tomorrow I am heading back to the airport (I have lost count of how many times I have been to the airport this year) to begin the lengthy trek to the wild outback regions of Mongolia. This expedition begins with a non stop flight from Melbourne to Beijing before a transfer and second flight from Beijing to Ulanbatar (the capital of Mongolia). From the capital it will be approximately a days drive out into the wilderness to a remote location where we intended to establish our base camp and where we plan to be based for the better part of two weeks.
This expedition to Mongolia has been more than a year in the planning now and as I have alluded to in several previous posts is an attempt to find and photograph a very rare and elusive wild cat. The idea for this expedition first came to me several years ago when I was conducting some preliminary research into possible locations to find and photograph Snow leopard. My research eventually led me to the conclusion that I really needed to invest at least six months of personal time into the Snow leopard project if I was going to give myself a chance to not only find, but to create really powerful and evocative images of this majestic and rarely scene predator. In the end, I decided to shelve the Snow leopard project as I simply did not have the free time to invest to ensure the best chance of success. I was also quite honestly somewhat concerned about the requirement to live at high altitude for extended periods as historically I have not done well above 14,000 feet. During my research however, I stumbled upon a small wild cat that lives in the high step regions of Mongolia of which I had never heard of. A cat for which I could find very little information about and even less in the way of photographs captured in the wild (most of the photographs online are taken in zoos). I decided right then and there that trying to find and photograph this cat in the wild was the perfect personal project for me. I then spent my free time over the coming months reading and researching everything I could get my hands on.
Known as the Pallas cat, this small cat lives in burrows or dens in a remote region of Mongolia (and other parts of Asia) where it hunts small rodents for food. Pallas cats are kept in captivity in several zoos around the world but very little is actually known about their life in the wild. Additionally, there are very few photographs of wild Pallas Cat and their numbers are known to be drastically reducing due to poaching and habitat encroachment by humans.
This expedition will see myself and friend spending our time in an extremely remote area of Mongolia where we expect to be fully cut off from civilisation.There is no infrastructure where we will be basing ourselves so have to resort to tents and camping. It is winter in Mongolia now and temperatures as low as -40ºC are more than possible (and expected).
Our aim is to try and locate a Pallas cat den and then spend our time waiting in portable hides. With luck, the ground will be covered with fresh snow and the Pallas cat will be waiting. The latest weather reports are that snow has begun to fall as of a few days ago.
For this expedition I am taking the following camera equipment:
2 x Canon EOS 1DX MKII Camera bodies
2 x Canon EOS 1DX MKII Spare batteries
1 x Canon 600mm f4L IS MKIII
1 x Canon 70-200mm f2.8L IS MKIII
1 x Canon 24-70mm f4L IS
1 x Canon 1.4 TC MKIII
Because we are likely to be fully cut off for our time at basecamp this will likely be my only post and update for at least the next two weeks. Cross your fingers (all of them) for us! See you in the wilds of Mongolia.