It was the smallest speck in a vast and awesome landscape, a hut so tiny you could almost miss it.
When Robyn Mundy first laid eyes on this tiny, isolated dwelling in Svalbard, an archipelago between mainland Norway and the North Pole, she imagined, idly, that it might be a nice little getaway.
"It was ... in the southwest corner of Spitsbergen, which is a large island, part of an archipelago, and it's so picturesque," she says.
"There's this massive mountain and it's just alive with birds, with breeding seabirds. It's a very picturesque setting on the edge of a fjord, there're icebergs, and you could almost miss this little trapper's hut, because compared to the mountain, it's like a speck on the ground, at sea level.
"And when I saw it, I just thought, that would be a neat place to spend a summer, with a beautiful view."
In fact, what she was looking at was the historic cabin once used by Wanny Woldstad, famous for being Norway's first female trapper in the 1930s.
Mundy was on one of the earliest of her many trips to the region as a ship-based tour guide, and on this particular journey, the travellers included a historian, who wasted no time telling her about the hut's origins. And Mundy, a Tasmanian-based writer who is drawn to wild places, was transfixed.
Her new novel, Cold Coast, is inspired by Wanny's story, and imagines her first year spent battling the elements with the taciturn Anders Saeterdal, the seasoned trapper who agreed, against all advice, to take her with him to spend a gruelling Svalbard winter, amidst foxes, polar bears, blizzards, glaciers and treacherous sea ice.
"That immediately piqued my interest, I suppose because she was a woman, but also because this was an era where it was such a male-dominated orbit, and I started thinking, how did she even break into that male world, and what was the experience for her as a woman?" she says.
"That was really what set me on a course of wanting to know more about her, but at the same time, being quite resistant to write about it because I was quite scared about writing about a woman from another country, a different culture, and, you know, it almost seemed too audacious to take on."
She needn't have worried; the book is a thoroughly immersive account of a deeply visceral and sensuous experience - one almost unimaginable for the average person. Even just contemplating facing the elements without our modern gear - Gortex, down - is enough to keep the reader on the edge of her seat. Wanny would have worn heavy leather boots, woollen mittens and undergarments, relied on firewood, matches and hard physical labour to keep her fit and stop her from menstruating.
But Wanny, a young and uncommonly capable widow, longing for a different life, is drawn to the vast, snowy landscape in a way that even she has difficulty comprehending. She leaves behind her two young sons, disregards the opinions of others, and follows her dream, beating the odds again and again throughout the winter. Through this, she earns the respect and trust of her companion, and the awe of the reader.
Mundy says few people outside northern Norway had ever heard of Wanny Woldstad, although her diaries are on display in the Polar Museum in the city of Tromso, and she wrote a memoir of her experiences after eventually spending five seasons hunting on Svalbard.
"When I discovered she had written this memoir, which by the way is in Norwegian, it took me about six months through a library document delivery service to get hold of a copy from a library in Wisconsin in the US," Mundy says.
"I'm just lucky enough to have a friend who's half-Norwegian, has a Norwegian mother, and she did an unofficial translation for me. That was just such an invaluable resource in terms of getting a window into the day-to-day life of a trapper."
Wanny's narrative is threaded through with sequences told through the eyes of animals, specifically the Arctic foxes so prized for their luxuriant winter pelts that, at the time, adorned the shoulders of wealthy European and American women.
The life of the little blue runt - the rare pelt branded "blue" because of its shimmering, silvery qualities - is another startling revelation of a book that already promises to transport the unsuspecting reader to the edges of the earth and the furthest reaches of human endeavour. Human beings may have exploited rare and precious wildlife with far less awareness of the future back in the 1930s, but their actions mirror, in many ways, those of the wild beasts with whom they share the island.
"One of my favourite parts of these experiences I've had and have in the Arctic - and I've been doing it now for 20 years - is that everyone wants to see a polar bear including me, but for me, the foxes are just enchanting," Mundy says.
"I'll never forget standing actually right beside Wanny's hut, standing out on a slope, and there's a den there which is used by foxes and they're probably the ancestors from Wanny's day. Standing there and the parents were sort of snoozing outside the den, while the kits, there were five of them, were just romping and tussling and rolling down the snow slope, just like little puppies and kittens. They were so animated and not bothered by us looking on, they were running between our legs."
This experience would be the inspiration for the opening sequence of Cold Coast, and for many further sequences throughout the narrative.
"I knew that I really wanted to write a contrasting viewpoint to that of the human hunter, but knowing that the fox itself is a hunter, and in this instance, he's also being hunted," she says.
"And I just thought, from a writing point of view, that that would be a potential for friction and tension, but also offer the capacity for Wanny to form affection for this particular blue fox."
And just as the descriptions of Wanny and Anders battling the elements and, on more than one occasion, facing down a fearsome polar bear, are disturbing to the more enlightened, modern-day reader, so too are the evocations of wild foxes behaving like the predators they are.
"I would say that one of the things I was really conscious of in writing from the point of view of a fox is I really wanted to avoid anthropomorphism, and I haven't given the fox thoughts or feelings," she says.
"Hopefully, any affection you feel is through its actions, and those actions, they're quite primal at times - it's all about survival and hunting and tearing into flesh."
Mundy herself had a less-than-stellar experience of the pandemic; the ship she was working on suffered a COVID outbreak in March, 2020. She herself caught the virus, and was forced to come home and stay put for an extended period.
But it meant she could finish writing Cold Coast, having taken a long hiatus from it after carrying out the initial research.
It was helpful, too, to imagine the pain Wanny had been through, before the story starts, when her husband died of the Spanish flu.
"I did a lot of research on that, but really, it wasn't until COVID touched all of our lives that I really got to think about what the mood of that world at that time must have been," she says.
And ultimately, she hopes her book, despite its sensitive themes and historical habits that jar with our times of looming environmental peril, is an inspiring tale of a woman well ahead of her time.