Churchill has been buried in a thick, dense fog for some days last this past week. Spring in this area tends to bring this affect as the melting ice becomes open swaths of water in the Hudson Bay. Fresh -water rivers such as the Churchill, Knife and Nelson among others flow into the bay as their earlier break-up signals the onset of Spring. This fresh water facilitates a speedier melting time -frame as the warmer water from the South mixes with the frigid salt water. All of these varied water temperatures blending with warming and cooling air temperatures create air moisture leading to increased fog. If your from the coast you really can love this time of year. If your from the coast and work with boats, not so much.
Yesterday, June 11th, the wind-chill temperature was -7 C with a 40% chance of snow flurries. The unpredictable weather is another charm of the North. I remember guiding a group of Summer travelers and we were on Kelsey Blvd. watching the Canada day parade (July 1) some years back. The snow started lightly but then turned into an all out storm. The makeshift floats, polar rovers and fire engines sped up and disappeared fairly quickly into the white -out at the East end of town. We all scurried to Gypsy’s for hot toddy’s. Snow in July…..that’s Churchill.
While the fog is clearing, beluga whales begin to appear in the Hudson Bay and the bird population is building. Soon the Churchill River will be full with beluga’s chasing capelin and gulls and jaegers above picking off fish pushed close to the surface by hungry pods of whales. The weather will still be inconsistent but there will be glorious days in between that will allow the Arctic to unveil its’ magnificent beauty.
Out on the water fog can be both exhilarating and heart – wrenching. Out on the zodiac boats whale – viewing, the fog transports one to another world. Even though the massive grain port structure might be within sight, the fog dilutes the place and moments with the belugas into a memory of a lifetime. It’s only fitting to share this space in time with intelligence under the frigid waters of the Arctic. Beluga’s belong in this environment. After sharing so many years with these animals in the wild, the thought of even one confined to an aquarium is numbing.
There have also been instances when the fog has created sense of doubt and even fear. Early in the Spring the ice can clog the river channels like an ever changing jig -saw puzzle. shallow areas can creep up on you and the weather can turn on a dime. One minute of doubt and indecision can create a tense scenario in the mind and then subsequent decisions are quite important. Water creates a sense of beauty and horror all within the same thought sequence. Respect is the common thread whenever a boat is under foot. The Churchill River presents one feel while the Hudson Bay places a magnifying glass over the situation. These dynamics however go hand in hand with the experience…leaving a traveler with a sense of awe for the Arctic environment.