Day Five-Tundra Lodge

This post was written on the lodge on Sunday, October 27th.

I can’t even begin to explain how magical it is here. It’s been a blizzard on and off since we arrived which has been perfect. Polar Bears and Snow and Ice. It makes sense to me.

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This morning half of us headed out on the Polar Rover with Bonnie while the other half remained behind. It was so peaceful and almost a white out at times. The Rovers go through small lakes as they run on their approved roads and it’s interesting to watch the ice break up as we go through. I asked Jason, the driver, to stop a few times to get photos of what looks like islands of trees in an all white ocean. We saw an arctic fox. He was quick. I’m not sure any of the pictures turned out very well or at least they are blurring showing how fast he is. Then we saw a ptarmigan. He was still against the snow and right by the rover. I don’t know how these guides see spot the really small animals that are white. It’s nice with only half of us on the Rover so we have easy access to windows. There is also a back deck outside so we can step out. Brrr!

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The best part of the morning drive, of course, was the polar bears. They are hard to spot in very snowy and blowing conditions because they tend to hunker down and sleep. But we saw two and they were magnificent!!

The first polar bear was lying right next to the road and lifted his head as we came closer. In order not to stress the bear, we stopped until it looked like he settled down and then we creeped up and stopped about thirty-forty feet away. He’d sleep for awhile and then lift his head up to look around. He even sat up once and lifted his nose to the sky to gather in the scents. I managed to get quite a few pictures. He was gorgeous. Another rover drove up, so we moved on.

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It wasn’t much longer before we saw another rover near a second bear. Again, right next to the roadway lying down. It was blowing really hard so the bears lie down on the opposite side of the willows and sleep. I guess this bear, who we have affectionately decided to call Flasher, had enough sleep. The guides have said many times that the polar bears are curious and Flasher certainly was. He first decided to give us a show and rolled around, sitting up just like a person. These are the photos that I’ve seen with great captions. Now I have my gallery full of them. He was so funny that we were laughing out loud. Then, the other pictures of polar bears interacting with the rovers. Flasher decided to do just that. He walked around our vehicle and then stood up. I have a closeup or two. The best photos were of him on his hind legs up beside the other rover. It was incredible how close he got to the people.

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One woman had her camera strap hanging over the edge. I guess the bear swatted at it. I must have missed that, because I don’t remember seeing that happen. I do remember our guide, Bonnie, yelling across about the woman in the red jacket with the dangling strap. She stepped back to safety.

It was about that time I filled my memory card and I couldn’t find where I had “safely” stored them the night before. One of the other Canon shooters was willing to share his and as I went to put it in my camera, I found a zippered section in my bag where I had put mine, so I managed to get a new card in. In the meantime I had resorted to my little camera. Those shots are amazing.

Flasher wasn’t done yet. He walked over toward another rover a distance away who were observing the first bear we saw. Then, it was time for sparring. What an amazing thing to watch. I took a lot of pictures, but they were at a distance in a blizzard, so I don’t think most of them turned out. Thank goodness the closer shots are much clearer.

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We relaxed in the afternoon and listened to Bonnie tell us the story of how tourism began in Churchill. It was a great story. Her husband had put together a large snow type machine sometime in the mid 70’s, he and a friend could get pictures of the polar bears. It took them a couple of years to figure out how to approach the bears so they wouldn’t run. Then people began hearing about it so they started giving tours. Some strangers came into town and were referred to Bonnie and her husband. They went out and were thrilled with the photos and then a few months later, there was a multiple page spread in a newspaper back east showing the polar bears. Within days, Churchill had 3,000 letters from people asking to come on a trip. So everyone pulled together and shared the cost for designing and printing brochures and for the postage to mail them and people began to come from all over the world. There’s way more to it than that, but there are the basics. That’s how it all began and Bonnie was right in the middle. She has guided for incredible photographers who’s books I’ve seen. Just goes to show the quality of the Nat Hab guides. Annie is just as skilled and knowledgable. And…I have to admit I love that two women are leading this trip.

Dinner again was good. There are two polar bears outside the lodge and an arctic fox. Other than that, things have been quiet. The sunset was incredible. I’m not sure my camera captured what I saw, but I know it was orange and pink with light shining straight up.

Tired and ready for bed. We get to sleep in tomorrow since we go out on the rover in the afternoon. I’m sure I’ll still be up for breakfast. Good night!!

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