On perfect cue, the arctic freeze settled into the Churchill Region just as widespread panic (not the musicians) started to surface in the media. True, the Hudson Bay was pretty much ice-free up until a week ago…but it always seems to find a way to freeze just about the same time every year. In most recent years it seems everyone has been panicking in the other direction with hopes that the bay doesn’t freeze too quickly so that the polar bears don’t evacuate the land before all travelers/photographers get good sightings. The Spring ice break-up has surely been more of a harbinger in the global warming debate. Let’s hope that there is enough ways for polar bears to adapt to the changes of more time on land due to a shortened season of seal hunting on the ice. I’m optimistic.
During the last few days of the tundra lodge being occupied with a group of photographers led by guides Rinie and Eric, they experienced the firsthand transition of the Hudson Bay freezing sufficiently to allow the polar bears in the area to venture out of sight onto the ice. Even on some helicopter excursions, only four bears were seen out around Cape Churchill…a sure sign that secure ice is almost there. The temperature, as we know, dropped suddenly to minus 27 Celsius with biting northerly winds so quickly that, in the course of less than a week, the ice platform extended into the bay as far as the eye could see. However the group was fortunate in experiencing ample sparring due to the cold ….encouraging bears to become extremely active. A sparring party of three bears together along the coast on the sea ice enthralled the photographers in the perfect, soft light of the morning. Seemingly a choreographed farewell on the edge of their new home for the next several months. Back around the lodge two arctic foxes visited on a regular basis and one day a Canada Goose landed quite close to the lodge and looked around as if it was thinking “which way is south”? All those cameras clicking away around him may have given him reason to try and extend his fame just a little longer. We all know Canada geese are so vain….I can’t stand it.
Throughout the week the lighting for the avid group of photographers was “perfect” according to both Rinie and Eric. Sunrises and sunsets generated a multitude of colorful shades of pinks, oranges and vibrant reds. More sun this week than any stretch of the entire season. A last night of stellar aurora borealis also seemed some sort of grand finale to the strange season. There is a certain feel to the end of the polar bear season in Churchill that transcends words and even photo’s…just a feel ..a blend of ending with beginning…”frozen” time.
Sleeping polar bears along the coast seemed content and reassured now that the ice would once again form in the Hudson Bay. Content that another season of age old rituals had somehow been rewarded with another Winter of assured sustenance. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!