Enjoy these fantastic short northern lights video clips that will remind us all of the season of lights in January and March. The Arctic summer season is almost upon us and soon beluga whales will take over the spotlight. Wildflowers, birds and whales will highlight our postings for the next few months and if the conditions are just right we may see some spectacular late evening northern lights as the summer wanes. Looking forward to an exciting summer beluga whale season with all types of treasures uncovered on the Hudson Bay water and the Churchill tundra.
Churchill Summer Adventures – 2016
A Field Report by Natural Habitat AdventuresExpedition Leader: Moira Le Patourel
We walked across the Churchill Airport tarmac towards the waiting plane, heading back to Winnipeg. The most incredible Churchill summer experience had played out for our little band of Natural Habitat Adventurer’s over the past five days. I have been travelling to Churchill with tour groups and enjoying the sub-Arctic wonders of this area for the past three years, but I had never had an experience quite like this one.
Our trip started off with an early morning flight from Winnipeg to Churchill in the sunshine. Over the next five days, our group enjoyed absolutely incredible encounters with belugas; in zodiacs, the Sea North II (a larger jet-drive vessel), in kayaks and even through a snorkel mask! We were able to watch belugas exhibiting playful behavior, feeding behavior, calm-day and stormy-day activities and listen in on their incredibly active social lives in the Churchill River and the Hudson’s Bay.
We were also extremely lucky to spot not one but FOUR polar bears on our five-day adventure as well! Two lone individuals, one resting on Eskimo Point and one swimming about a mile off shore in Button Bay, and one mother and cub-of-the-year onshore. I couldn’t believe our luck! The wildflowers were bursting with colour all across the landscape, with more purples and creams than I have ever seen before; it was quite a sight to behold. The bird life was also out in full force; we enjoyed sightings of Sandhill Cranes, Tundra Swans, Arctic Terns, Parasitic Jaegers, Pacific Loons with young, Snow Geese and an American Golden-Plover, to name a few.
As we were headed to the airport for our departure, we were lucky enough to receive a tip from a local that the Polar Bear Holding Facility was open for tours for the next couple of hours. We only had 15 minutes to squeak in a look at the inside of the Holding Facility, but what a view it was! The Polar Bear Holding Facility has an open-house once a year, and we were just lucky enough to be there at just the right time!
As the Churchill River and the Hudson’s Bay faded out of view from the airplane windows, obscured by cloud, I looked around and could see the broad smiles on the faces of my travelling companions. This had truly been the trip of a lifetime in Churchill for all of us!
If you have been to Churchill you probably have heard of Button Bay. If you have been to Churchill in the Summer you might have even ventured by boat to the bay itself.
Button Bay lies northwest of Churchill just a short spin by zodiac around the tip of Eskimo Point and Fort Prince of Wales. From the fort you can gaze across the thickets of willows and wildflowers to the often glassy surface of the secluded inlet. It’s also possible to look across the Churchill River past Fort Prince of Wales on the point and see the glimmering surface of the bay.
The bay was commemorated by Sir Thomas Button in 1612 when he and the crew of the Resolution ventured to “New Wales”, as he named it for England. He is credited with securing the lands along the west coast of the Hudson Bay for England. The Nelson River estuary and Port Nelson within those lands, were named after the Master of the Resolution who perished on the journey and is buried there.
On May 15, 1912, 300 years later, when Manitoba’s boundaries were extended, Port Nelson was included in the new territory designated to the province. Thomas Button is therefore known to be the first white man to visit this area in Manitoba.
Button Bay is a well known beluga whale hot spot in the summer. On the fairly rare occasions when whales are scarce in the Churchill River and mouth of the Hudson Bay, the 20 minute motor over to Button Bay usually produces pods of whales following the capelin run. On the journey by boat or zodiac, there’s always the chance of spotting a polar bear or two nestled along the rocky coast. I have often seen bears dipping paws into the bay or pulling up onto the rocks after a swim.
Button Bay is a little secret gem of the region. the bay itself is considered part of the Nunavut territory.
Come see the whales and bears of Button Bay! Arctic summer trips are still available.
Churchill’s summer is just around the corner….well, not really but it’s nice to think about on these frigid days and nights. With the temperatures averaging around -30 C for the next 10 days according to Environment Canada, thoughts of an Arctic summer in Churchill are almost like daydreaming of the Caribbean. Almost. Here are five good reasons to dream of summer in Churchill:
1.- Beluga Whales- Whether arriving by plane, train or ship, most summer travelers to Churchill come for the beluga whales. A few days out on the water, in and out of whale pods, can release any kind of stress from daily life. Add in the coarse summer fog and cool breezes blowing in across the Hudson Bay, and you have a unique wonderland evoking a feeling of transcendence from the modern technologically saturated world.
2.- Polar Bear Dip- Not talking about something you might find at Gypsy’s Deli in town…although it might be more enjoyable do jump into a vat of your favorite chip-dip then immersing yourself in the Hudson Bay in July. Canada Day falls on July 1st and the weekend closest to the date is filled with fun activities around the town of Churchill. One of the looniest, angst-packed endeavors is the annual Polar Bear Dip behind the town complex in the Hudson Bay. “Fun” might be an odd description for jumping and running into water around 40F or lower. Most legs turn to wood before ten seconds elapse and then the real fun begins. Watching people struggle to get back on shore after running out to a flag-line and back is great entertainment. This is a must try event if you happen to travel to Churchill in summertime.
3.- Ghost Town- Summer in Churchill gives you a chance to really feel the frontier lifestyle with considerably less fellow travelers. The majority of people see Churchill in October and November, which in its own right is amazing….though different. However, the weather during this time limits one’s ability to grasp the full feeling of living on the edge of the Earth. Getting out on the land and water to experience the full circle of life fills in gaps left from seeing mainly polar bears.
4.- Wildflowers- The diversity of flora in Churchill is the main reason I loved guiding the Arctic Summer groups. Hiking along tundra trails flooded with wildflowers, berry plants and orchids was a never ending adventure and classroom of biodiversity. Getting down and viewing the plants up close unveils a magical world that exists only a few short months. Each plant has a unique story of survival and propensity to propagate in opportunistic ways.
5.- Meeting Churchillians- When less travelers are in Churchill, businesses and the people in town have more time on their hands. This is the “normal” lifestyle locals are accustomed to and are more apt to take time to share stories about their lives in the north. After all, this is what “tundra time” is all about!
Come see Churchill, the beluga whales and native culture in it’s full splendor up close this summer.
Natural Habitat guide Stephanie Fernandez has had a busy Arctic summer in Churchill. These recent photos portray an amazing July and August full of wildlife, wildflowers and tundra life. The next couple of weeks will show a subtle transition toward fall as the land begins to paint itself in more earthen colors signaling the onset of the wild winter ahead. Nothing matches the liveliness of Churchill in summertime….a naturalists and explorers dreamworld!