This one doesn’t involve marathon walking , or music, or sightseeing through an ancient city. Nope, this adventure is totally different. I’m going on a Polar Bear expedition in Churchill Manitoba in north eastern Canada. Okay, so maybe the word expedition is a slight exaggeration. I guess a more appropriate description would be “Tour”, but the bottom line is that I’m going out onto the frozen subarctic tundra on one of these…
…………in search of these magnificent creatures.
The idea of doing this came to me a few years ago after watching a documentary all about getting up close and personal with the Polar Bears. (With Churchill being the Polar Bear capital of the world, the film might very well have been filmed there.) I remember I was struck by how regular people could actually go on these type of arctic wildlife safaris. Well, I had totally forgotten about it until just recently when I saw yet another documentary on the same topic. It looked wonderful. I said to myself, this is something I gotta do if I can. Ive always been attracted to desolate and extreme places with extreme climates, like area 51 in the Nevada desert (remember the ET Midnight marathon I did there?) or cold places like Antarctica. I’ll obviously never get to go to Antarctica, but North Canada is doable. I’m very excited and just hoping I can stay reasonably healthy for the next couple weeks.
The adventure begins on Nov 12th. I’m flying from San Francisco to Winnipeg. From there I continue the journey by train a thousand miles north to the town of Churchill.(The train portion takes about 2 days.) Once in Churchill I’ll be spending 2 of the days on a tundra buggy in search of Polar bears and other wildlife. The tundra buggies are wonderful because they allow for an up close and personal view of the bears in their natural habitat, and of course protect the observers from becoming bear food. With a little luck I might also get to see the Northern lights.
Interesting factoid: Polar bears often roam into town, so locals don’t lock their vehicles or houses, thereby giving people a place to escape to if confronted by a bear. This is one of the reasons that they recommend not walking around the parameter of the town in hopes of spotting a bear. Bears that do come into town are trapped and put in a huge holding facility called the Polar Bear jail (or more politically correctly called ‘the polar bear holding area). Interesting, it’s the only air conditioned building in Churchill. They are held there until the ice has formed then released miles away. They have no human contact while there and are just fed enough hay to keep them alive – Not very pleasant for the bears, but better than being shot as they were years ago. They even now have a fully enclosed rubbish dump inside a giant shed to stop the bears from scavenging.
Not sure how my lungs are gonna react on this trip, but I’m hoping for the best. Generally I do OK in colder dry climates. It’s the warm humid ones that make me sick. I had originally planned to take the train both ways to and from Winnipeg and Churchill, but after giving it more thought, I decided it would probably be better to spend a little more money and fly back from Churchill to Winnipeg rather than be on a crowded train for 2 additional days, not to mention seeing the same scenery again. For piece of mind I also purchased an emergency medical air evacuation policy. Churchill is pretty isolated, the nearest town with a hospital is 300 miles away. So it’s probably best to be prepared for every eventuality.
As an added bonus, since I have to spend the night in Winnipeg on both legs of my trip, I also get to meet up again with my friend Kerri. She’s promised to play local tour guide for me…very cool.
Hopefully the next time I post, I’ll have some Polar Bear picture to share:-)