Kayakers surrounded by beluga whales in the Hudson Bay. Sea North Tours photo.
Summer in Churchill usually involves wearing a fleece jacket, long pants, hat and sometimes gloves. It also can be the “hotspot” of Manitoba with temperatures pushing 90F. These fluctuations make Churchill …well..Churchill. As a guide, I always enjoyed the cooler temperatures in the summer far away from the hot sun of Colorado. The fresh salt air from the Hudson Bay invigorates the soul. Out on the water interacting with beluga whales and seabirds hovering above and feeding off the capelin at the surface, refreshes anyone searching for nature’s freedom.The theme here is that everything is unpredictable and new adventures are around every corner in Churchill!
Arctic tern with a capelin in mouth. David Hemmings photo.
Yes, the thousands of beluga whales are the marquee attraction in summertime in Churchill. However, the tundra’s micro ecosystems of plants and lichen as well as the various birds that migrate to the area for the short season are all part of the magical experience. And, we surely know there’s always a chance to see a polar bear or two in the “off- season”!
A polar bear rolling in fireweed. A summer treasure in Churchill. Dennis Fast photo.
The best part of an Churchill Arctic summer adventure is that it changes from day to day in the northern frontier town on the Hudson Bay. Guiding ten years in Churchill allowed me to see almost everything, yet I feel as if I only scratched the surface of the tundra when it comes to deciphering the mystery of the region. The land is constantly changing, literally, with isostatic rebound of the Precambrian shield. Walking across this ancient land stirs so many emotions deep within the soul. The quietness leads one to thoughts of how we used to live and how we still can live in some remote places like Churchill. Solitude is rare these days.
The colors of the tundra as summer wanes. Ed Bouvier photo.
Incredible cumulus cloud over the Hudson Bay in Churchill. Alex De Vries – Magnifico photo.
Beluga whales in the Churchill river. Alex De Vries – Magnifico photo.
Churchill’s Arctic summer season for Natural Habitat Adventures groups has been incredibly exciting so far. Aside from the bountiful array of beluga whales in the Churchill River and Hudson Bay, there’s been some polar bear action out on Eskimo point just north of Fort Prince of Wales. This peninsula of land juts into the bay and the isostatic rebound over the years has caused the land to emerge from the water and grow in size.
Male polar bear holding his position on Eskimo Point. Moira Le Patourel photo.
The “point” has also become traditional resting spot for polar bears in the summer months and quite often mother’s and cubs are found there. Because it is somewhat isolated from the town, it may attract bears hoping to nab a seal or beluga whale venturing too close to shore. I have seen bears swimming across from Cape merry over the years and a couple of times we were able to approach them fairly closely in zodiacs.
Male polar bear on Eskimo Point. Moira Le Patourel photo.
Natural Habitat guide Moira Le Patourel and her group of travelers spotted three polar bears in this area just a few days ago. These were the first such sightings of this incredible Arctic summer campaign. The first healthy adult male polar bear was seen from Cape Merry with a spotting scope looking across to Eskimo Point. A little later the group was able to get up close in zodiacs during a whale watching excursion. What a way to see two of the largest animals in the Arctic at the same time.
Mother and her cub on the tip of Eskimo Point. Moira Le Patourel photo.
Continuing out into the crystal clear waters of the Hudson Bay, the group came to the tip of the point and was surprised by a mom and cub nestled in the rocks and enjoying a beautiful day in the north. Travelers were ecstatic with their fortune!
Travelers on this trip took advantage of the fantastic water clarity and engaged in some snorkeling with belugas in the Churchill River and kayaking with the whales as well. One tandem kayak had the incredible thrill of getting “fluked” as a beluga slapped the water with his tail as he submerged for a dive. Water cascaded over the travelers and their boats.
The icing on the was documenting 31 various bird species over the course of the trip. Highlights were a short-eared owl, northern goshawk, pacific loons and young, tundra swans and cygnets and an Arctic tern chick.
Sunset from the beach in Churchill. Moira Le Patourel photo.
Fireweed is beginning to bloom across the tundra and white mountain avens are fast disappearing…summer is already half over in Churchill!
Here are some landscape photo’s with Natural Habitat travelers enjoying the solitude of summer in the sub Arctic. Churchill, at the south end of the Hudson Bay is an accessible place to experience the wonders of a world that remains secluded to an ever growing shrinking planet. Development continues to erode our most iconic and beautiful, natural environments…though the Arctic remains a place where the mind can be free and open to endless possibilities of the unexplored natural world.
Natural Habitat travelers enjoying the Hudson Bay coast. Stephanie Fernandez photo.
The coastline around Churchill has been developing over millions of years. The precambrian sheild that frames the bay is some of the oldest rock on the planet and continues to emerge from the land. Isostatic rebound is the process of the land rising up from the enormous weight of the past ice age. Even though the weight of the ice is long gone, the land or sheild, continues to rise up from the event. Incredible when you think of the slow process.
Photographing the rocks from a past era. Stephanie Fernandez photo.
With thousands of beluga whales migrating to the Churchill River estuary in the summer, the opportunities abound to experience wildlife in a pristine environment. A short zodiac excursion on the river presents pods of whales feeding on capelin and often curious enough to approach the boats at arms length.
Zodiac excursion onto the Churchill River in search of beluga whales. Stephanie Fernandez photo.
Polar bear season in the fall is one of the most scintillating experiences on Earth…a dramatic encounter with one of the most fascinating creatures to live. The mystery of the north adds to their beauty by capturing the imagination of an unexplored world. Seeing bears in the summer is an even more singular event defined by a feeling of isolation.
Polar bears on Eskimo Point. Stephanie Fernandez photo.
Enjoying a BBQ on a journey to the coast via polar rover. Stephanie Fernandez.