Churchill, Manitoba is one of the best places in the world to view the incredible night-time displays of aurora borealis.…or “northern lights”. February and March will have 10 or more Natural Habitat Adventures groups venturing north to experience the Arctic feel and see the lights. Here are some photo’s from some Nat Hab guides that rank among the best I have seen over the years. Also, watch for regular blog posts once the season begins up north for all the groups.
Northern lights over the Hudson Bay behind the Inukshuk in Churchill. Sean Beckett photo.
Aurora domes provide cozy viewing in the heart of winter. Jeremy Pearson photo.
Captivating aurora borealis in Churchill,MB. Brad Josephs photo.
Photographers under the aurora borealis. Photo Brad Josephs.
Aurora last lights, Photo Eric Rock.
Jeremy Pearson photo.
Polar bear with aurora in background. Eric rock photo.
Check out another compilation of promo video from TravelManitoba. So well done…leaving the mystery of Churchill and Winnipeg something worth discovering. Whether polar bear season, Arctic Summer or aurora season in February and March, Natural Habitat Adventures can bring you to the shores of the Hudson Bay to explore these lands where discovery still beckons our inner spirits.
Travelmanitoba just released this trailer to get people excited about traveling to Churchill in the summer. I wish the trailer was longer..really well done. After spending a decade guiding summer adventures up north in Churchill there will always be a longing to return for the belugas as well as all the other sights and sounds of this special season. Natural Habitat runs amazing trips from Winnipeg north to Churchill. Many travel by train on the Hudson Bay Railroad...an adventure all its’ own. Come aboard this Arctic summer and see for yourself!
Polar bear season is over for travelers to Churchill yet the real polar bear season is ongoing out on the Hudson Bay ice. Polar bears are hunting seals, mostly ringed seals, as the birthing season is building. While this goes on, Churchill is recouping and slowly settling in to the long winter. Seasonal workers have headed south for the winter with the exception of those brave few who will try to make it through to spring. Most restaurants and some hotels have closed for the season. Even many locals head out of town for some much needed relaxation and warmth before returning back home. Another amazing array of healthy polar bears and the return of good numbers of Arctic fox provided thrills for everyone involved in this year’s polar bear season. Here are some more photographs from this past fall…enjoy!
Red fox along the coast in Churchill,MB. Brad Josephs photo.
Inukshuk group photo with aurora over the bay. Colby Brokvist photo.
Two large polar bears waltz across the tundra in a sparring session. Eric Rock photo.
Snow covered Fort Prince of Wales. Karen Walker photo.
Polar bears sparring in the willows. Colby Brokvist photo.
I saw my first polar bear through a window. No, not at a zoo exhibit or aquarium or anywhere in captivity. My very first visit to Churchill, MB I saw the bear through the rear observation window in the town complex that looks down over the “beach”, a word used loosely in the north, and out across the Hudson Bay. With all the polar bears meandering wildly throughout the area you wouldn’t think seeing a bear from the comfort and warmth of the building would be too thrilling. It was.
Sow and cubs along the Hudson Bay. Brad Josephs photo.
I was reading a report from Natural Habitat guide Karen Walker recently and she was explaining what her group was up to in the throes of some snow squalls, again words used loosely in the north, when they finally ended up at that same window viewing point in the complex. Here’s that account:
“Cape Merry was open, so we headed out there. Ranger Marcandre gave us some background on the fur trade then most of the guests ventured up to the “view point”. We could barely make out the icy river and definitely couldn’t see the Fort Prince of Wales. My intrepid guests headed out to the cannon battery for a brief visit and really got to experience the weather. It’s hard to imagine that the early explorers were able to survive in weather like this. Then we warmed up in the Town Complex. While we were up by the big window, by the Pioneer Gallery, a guest spotted a bear walking out on the ice, in the blowing snow. Then another bear appeared. They were heading toward each other. They veered away from each other and went their separate ways. Then one decided to head toward town, right toward the Enterprise (the wooden ship up in the beach-grass. The blowing snow cleared for a moment and we were able to see Bear Patrol parked by the inukshuk. The bear came closer, then they moved over by the Enterprise and fire- crackered it. It took off running, south along the shore. The other bear stayed out on the ice and headed south as well. It was really interesting to see it walking on the ice, but rolling up and down with the wind-driven swells. We never saw the bear close to shore again, but not too much later a bear was spotted in town, or near the castle. It might have been our bear.”
My experience wasn’t as dramatic though it was an incredible moment etched in my memory forever. As I gazed out across the ice -strewn bay, I saw the tell-tale yellow spot shifting over chunks of ice. Polar bears do not appear white when observed from such a distance and this one was quite small as I peered through the telescope mounted on the small ledge by the window. After some time, I was able to focus in quite nicely on the tiny bear maneuvering over the floes. Periodically the animal would step from solid ice to slushy leads and have to swim to the next floe. Watching this scene unfold touched the most primal instincts inside of me. In many ways it was more exhilarating then many of the hundreds of polar bear sightings I have witnessed since. Other than this being my first sighting, it was special because it was mine and only mine. From my mind to the polar bear across the expanse of ice I connected through my eyes only to a biological existence so unexplainable, how an animal could survive in this climate, that I felt this once in a lifetime experience deeper than most others.
Polar bear out on the isolation of the Hudson Bay ice enjoying a seal feast. Colby Brokvist photo.
I’ve since seen bears all over the tundra, boreal forest, in nets high above, in the compound, and in town. Yes they were exciting but in comparison up-close is not always better. The isolation of that lone bear surviving on the ice and in the frigid water will be frozen in my mind forever. It was and still is “my bear”.