From the tight, conical confines of the blue-and-silver helicopter, I delighted in the view outside the thick porthole glass. We floated above the rippling rolls of bare oak and dull-green pine of the central Sikhote-Alin Mountains, and although it was already mid-April, winter still lingered. These mountains held snow where I expected to see the timid offerings of early spring.
My companions on this journey did not share my sense of wonder, however. Rather, they gazed introspectively at the metal floor or distractedly out the other portholes, silently analyzing their recent failures. We flew empty-handed to the village of Ternei after several hours unsuccessfully trying to locate and dart tigers for the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Siberian Tiger Project.