Miyax loses her navigation skills in the tundra because "the barren slope stretches for three hundred miles...no roads cross it...the view in every direction is exactly the same". It is during the height of summer when the sun never sets in the extreme Northern latitudes, and "there is no North Star to guide her". At home on Nunivak Island, Miyax would have been able to look at the berry bushes, which "bend under the polar wind and point to the south", or follow the flight of the puffins and sandpipiers, who travel to the sea twice a day, but here on the great tundra, nothing grows, and the only birds inhabiting the area are buntings and longspurs.
Miyax manages to survive on the tundra with the help of a pack of wolves and their pups. She waits out the weeks of summer until one day, the sun finally sets, signalling the coming of autumn and winter. Miyax knows that now the nights will get longer and longer, and she will have the stars to guide her once again. She also observes that the Arctic terns are beginning their migration to the South. By marking their course as they fly overhead and aligning one of her outstretched arms with their flight, she deduces that her other arm will then point to the coast. Miyax now has a makeshift compass; whenever she needs to know the direction in which she is heading, all she needs to do is look up to see which way the birds are flying, and she will know where south is, and all the other directions as well (Part 1).