78 Photos - Oct 31, 2010
Photo: Our adventure takes place in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada in Oct. 2010Photo: Churchill is 950 miles north of Winnipeg. Thompson is a little over half way, and the road ENDS at Thompson so the only way to Churchill from there is by plane or train (that  goes 3 days/week and is notoriously undependable)Photo: The Hudson river runs through Churchill, and the town in on the banks of the Hudson BayPhoto: The only air service to Churchill is via Calm Air, which is quite expensive (over $1000/person from Winnepeg)Photo: This is the Hudson River with a fort on the other side.  The river is brackish water, and a reason the Hudson freezes first around ChurchillPhoto: The Hudson Bay freezes in the winter (temp in Churchill hits 60 below zero), with 5-6 feet of ice.  The Polar Bears go out on the ice for the winter.  On the ice they hunt seals, eating most in the Spring when the ice begins to split and the seals come up.  Because of climate change the ice is breaking up about 6 weeks earlier than it used to, resulting in the bears weighing less than they used to.  They leave the ice (in late June or so) and hibernate (they do not go into dens but slow their metabolism and experience what is called "walking hibernation) until the ice starts to freeze in Oct or Nov. Because the the river, the Hudson bay freezes earlier in Churchill which is why the bears congregate there first.  As a result, Churchill is known as the Polar Bear Capitol of the World.Photo: Out group Harry, Benay and Kent Larson.  Kent's wife Stella Larson is taking the photoPhoto: Churchill is a town of 800 that gets about 25,000 visitors during the 7 weeks of "bear season" Oct thru mid Nov.  This bakery and restaurant, Gipsy, was one our our favorites. (great breakfasts)Photo: It gets so windy and cold in Churchill that the tree buds on the windy side of the tree cannot grow, and the trees become known as "flag trees"Photo: To view the bears you go in vehicles called Tundra buggies.  They hold about 40 people and have an open back porch.  The windows go down for picture taking.Photo: Here is Benay standing in front of the tires of the vehicle.  They are about 5 feet tall.Photo: Inside the Tundra Buggies are quite toasty and nice, having a fire place....Photo: ...and a bathroom.  The trips are from about 8:30 am till about 4:30 pmPhoto: This is our group of about 20.. Stella is taking a picture of me.....taking a picture of her!Photo: Here is BenayPhoto: Here is yours truly, HarryPhoto: Interesting situation occurred when Bugy in front of ours got stuck.  The driver, and our driver stripped to undies, took off their shoes and got into water to hook tow chains.  The temp at the time was 28 degrees!Photo: Our group from the Road Scholar Program!Photo: This is a map of where we went on the Tundra Buggies.  You can see the "roads" which were originally built by the US & Canadian Military after WWII.  This area on the Hudson Bay was a military base which trained soldiers to fight in cold climate.  The roads have now deteriorated, and that is why the Tundra buggies with their giant tires are used.  The buggies go no more thatn 5-10 mph.  At the top see the "First Tower" (seen in the next px--those in charge watched the artillery hitting their targets on these towers.  Also note the location of the Tundra Buggy Lodge at the top right.  I have a px of the lodge in this collection.Photo: The First Tower....Photo: The Tundra Buggy Lodge.  They have combined several of the buggies, and made sleeping and eating quarters.  They move them at the end of bear season.  You can spend several nights there, though we did not.  You may have noticed that we went on two different buggy trips two days apart.  Thus the difference in the ground -- clear of snow the first day, covered with snow from a slurry the night before, on the second trip.Photo: And here they are....the magnificent bears --800-1500 pounds.  On land during summer and early fall...walking hibernation, and disappearing onto the ice from Oct/Nov thru June or July...Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Performing Bear!Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: From the road some looked like a large rockPhoto: Photo: Two Polar Bears -- I guess they are BiPolar Bears (haha)Photo: Kissing bearsPhoto: Photo: A male and female "sparring."Photo: Looks like "dancing bears."Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: These signs are posted on the tundra area, as well as in town...Sometimes the bears act "badly"--getting into the garbage dump, or into town homes....if done repeatedly (training young cubs) the bears are "rounded up" and taken to the bear holding facility called "Polar Bear Jail."Photo: Polar Bear Jail....If a moma has cubs they are all taken here together...Photo: Photo: In the old days this was the trap usedPhoto: Nowdays they use the more modern version.  These traps are made of colvert material...Photo: The bears are lured into the traps by soaking a cloth in seal blubber and placing it at the rear of the trap.  Bear sniffs and comes in, front steel reinforced door is closed and trap is put on the back of truck.  Bears remain in holding factility till the ice on Hudson Bay freezes and are then taken to ice where they remain for the winter...Photo: From an exhibit in Churchill here is a Polar Bear den.  Polar Bears do not hibernate in dens like other bears, but mothers use the den to have their young.  The ground is permafrost, and it takes a long time (several years) to dig them.  The same den can then be used in future years for other mothers.Photo: Mother with twins.  Polar Bears generally have only 1 cub but can have more...Photo: Before ski mobiles they used these vehicles call Bombardier vehicles during the winter season to get around.Photo: Before Bombardier's they used dog sleds to transport people and goods during the winter.  Here we are at the BlueSky dog sled facility.Photo: Gerald & Jennifer owners of Blue Sky KennelsPhoto: Here is the BleSky kennel.  They have about 30 dogs.  Most sleds use 8 at a time.  The dog "Houses" are to protect the dogs not from the cold, but from the heavy winds...Photo: Thew dog's names (this one is "odd job" are are the side of their houses. The owner of the kennel thinks he looks like "Lyle Lovett."Photo: Photo: Photo: We were at the kennel on two different days, one without and one with snow on the ground.  Dogs are chained with long chains to keep them from fighting (or mating) with each other.Photo: Benay and "friend"Photo: Lead dog...The kennel had another lead dog named Isobel, who went blind at age 4.  She wanted to get back to the group they allowed her to go with the pack and lead for 4 more years.  At the Canada Olympics NBC did a special piece on Isobel (google Isobel the blind lead dog to see the piece)  They are now writing a book (and perhaps doing a movie) on Isobel.Photo: Photo: Benay with a baby sled dogPhoto: Here we are in thePhoto: Photo: Benay is a good driver!Photo: Photo: Photo: Not a sled dog, but a pet at the Northern Stdies Center where our group stayed..Photo: Photo: Photo: The Center was a former rocket studies centerPhoto: Here with Benay is Nick, the foremost Polar Bear Expert in Canada, who lectured to us for 3 days, and went on our 2 buggy trips.  We were fortunate to learn from him.Photo: At the Eskimo Center in town this is one of the exhibits.  The indigenous people (Inuits--eskimos) from "up north of Churcill in the Canadian Territories) used to carve lots of things...whale bones, etc.  Here the "artist" carved 2 of his own..................teeth!