My favorite season in Churchill is not polar bear season. No…Winter would not be my next choice….although hailing from New England I do love the cold. Well, that’s not really “cold” compared to the Arctic. Summer in Churchill is unmatched anywhere in the world I have traveled to. Alaska is very close. I think the beauty is enhanced for me by spending close to 15 years of alternating seasons….both Fall polar bear season and Summer beluga whale season... within the same year. Experiencing different seasons bonds one with the land, water and people quite differently then only seeing the place during one particular time of year. If I had to choose a season…Summer would be the one!
Over the years I passed up many opportunities to guide polar bear trips full time out on the tundra of the Churchill Wildlife Management Area for Natural Habitat Adventures … instead staying with the Churchill logistical team organizing everything from dog sled trips to personal photography tours to escorting hospital visits for over a thousand travelers per season. I am more of an outdoor naturalist and the Summer trips encompass more in terms of piecing together a complete ecosystem. Life becomes so intertwined out of necessity as the season to reproduce and gather energy is extremely short. October and November in Churchill are the busiest tourist months of the year as everyone wants to experience the realm of the polar bear. Get in, see a polar bear, get out is the mantra for many tourists yet they are missing a myriad of life buried beneath the snow and ice. That’s why many travelers return….in Summer.
Just as polar bears are the star everyone comes to see in the Fall, beluga whales are the main focus of the Summer season. However, it’s a different feel in the Summer. Since so much time is spent hiking on the land, much more is taken in. Multifarious flowers..including various orchids..bird life, ground animals, geological formations and fossils, Boreal forest and of course the marine environment provides an outdoor classroom for all ages with diverse interests. Whales are the headliner…though the journey around the land between time out on the water reveals the true secrets of life in the Arctic. An incredible web of life continually links the present with the past in this timeless landscape. Researchers in numerous fields return to Churchill annually and set up at the Churchill Northern Studies Center to learn more about how every living and even non-living thing relies on another.
I’ve often said that the biggest kept secret about Churchill is the Summer season. I feel as if I’ve only scratched the surface of the tundra so to speak. The incredible array of life and history observed on a trip to Churchill in the summer will peak the interest of anyone. Twelve years or more have left me yearning to learn more.