If you havn’t spent time in Churchill, MB in the summer, you need to go. It’s an amazing, relaxing experience you will rarely find..other than say ..Alaska. The fact that even Alaska can be more accessible makes Churchill a hidden oasis in this frenetic -paced world we live in. Everything slows down in Churchill and unlike polar bear season, nobody seems to mind at all. One comes away from a summer trip to Churchill with a refreshed peace of mind.

Lesser yellowlegs by the Hudson Bay coast.

Lesser yellowlegs by the Hudson Bay coast. Sue Zajac photo.

Before the nearly 2,500 beluga whales arrive in the region, numerous species of birds make their annual migration to the rich food source that is the wetlands surrounding the Hudson Bay. Of course the one species that makes the longest sojourn being the Arctic tern …flying pole to pole in extreme conditions. The bird sees two summers each year traveling 44,300 miles annually. Now there’s some frequent flyer miles!

Arctic tern resting on a rock. Photo Gerrit Vyn.

Numerous other shorebirds as well as inland species enjoy a bountiful summer in Churchill and a majority overlap with the whale population’s arrival in the bay and surrounding rivers. Whales truly are the main character in this incredible performance of Wildlife in the Arctic. Everything else…the birds,wildflowers,tundra,coastal and boreal forest landscape. aurora borealis….and even the polar bears…are the supporting actors. beluga whales bring the essence of the north to the soul.

Travelers get intimate with beuga whales from a zodiac.

Viewing beluga whales from a zodiac. Photo Steve Selden.

No single day is the same out on the water either in the Churchill River or the Hudson Bay. Weather has a huge influence on whale behavior. Calm, placid days allow whales to fish for capelin with no effort…continuously breaking the glass-like plane of the water’s surface. Other windy,choppy days make for more erratic behavior..often making the sightings less unique. Whales stay lower in the water though the experience is just as intense…being with these magnificent creatures in the wild northern waters.

Clear water in the mouth of the Churchill River.

Beluga whales in the clear, cold water of the mouth of the Churchill River. Photo Steve selden

Beluga whale in the Churchill River.

Beluga whale in the Churchill River. Steve Selden photo.

Because of heavy ice -pack in the north, beluga’s do not have a dorsal fin. Fins would be at serious risk of damage when surfacing among the ice….causing life threatening injury. Increased acuity at tail fluke maneuverability and pectoral fin movement compensate for the lack of the dorsal fin. These animals can turn on a dime and dive in the same instant..their fine sense of space and motion is rounded out by echolocation that is so fine tuned in the water. Whales are very comfortable in their surroundings.

Many more secrets are waiting for those who travel to Churchill in the summer…..find out for yourself.

Beluga looking curiously up from the Churchill River.

Beluga looking curiously up from the Churchill River. Steve Selden photo.


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