The lower Churchill River is often clouded from run off along the banks further south. Therefore, because of the clarity, the mouth of the river or near that area is the best place to view belugas and get close and personal with the beautiful mammals. The downside is that the water is much colder there where it melds more quickly with the frigid Hudson Bay waters. Dry suits with gloves, booties and hoods aide in getting in with the whales and enjoying the day.
These photos by Churchill photographer Alex De Vries – Magnifico portrays just how incredible sharing the Arctic waters with these animals can be!
catching up with belugas in the Churchill River. Alex De Vries – Magnifico photo.
Snorkeling with the belugas in crystal clear water. Alex De Vries – Magnifico photo.
Great visibilty with the belugas in the Churchill River. Alex De Vries – Magnifico photo.
Serenity with the belugas. Alex de Vries – Magnifico photo.
Last week a very unusual sighting of a bowhead whale in the Churchill River created a buzz in town and around the whale watching community. Churchill is known for its beluga whales that return from the north every summer and infiltrate the estuaries surrounding the Churchill region. Thousands of belugas come south with calves or to give birth to them. They also come for the warmer waters which produce a bounty of marine food such as capelin.
In recent years, sightings of orca and bowhead whales have caused a stir and talk of climate change allowing for the unusual presence of these magnificent creatures. Whatever the reasons the thrill of seeing these whales is unbelievable!
Bowhead whale 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!
Canada day was just a few weeks ago and part of the festivities is the annual Hudson Bay dip took place in Churchill. The dip is an outpouring of community fun and bravery to enter the 40 degree F water. The year I took part there was still ice floating near shore and the water was exceptionally cold. Extremities become numb almost immediately but the thrill is worth the pain! Enjoy the fun from this 2013 footage!
Summer on the Churchill River is predominately for beluga whale watching. However, occasionally each season presents the amazing opportunity to view polar bears on the rocks around Cape Merry or Eskimo Point just north of Fort Prince of Wales across river. This video was filmed by Sea North Tours near Eskimo Point and the sow and cub polar bears are in clear view. What an unbelievable experience for all travelers lucky enough to be aboard the zodiacs in Churchill!