Day Six- Tundra Lodge

This post was written Monday, October 28th.

This morning I got up early and headed to the lounge car to gather my thoughts for the journal. There were only a few people out and it was nice and quiet. The wind was still blowing outside and the cars sway as the gusts come through.

Then as more people came in, someone asked Linda, one of our Sex in the City gals, how she slept and her answer was, “the pill ran out after four hours.” I laughed. She is just so funny. After a couple days her hair isn’t perfect, almost perfect but she is still fashionable in her warm gear.

It was our morning to remain at the lodge while the other half headed out in the tundra rover. Annie taught yoga and then a class on Interpreting the Environment. I grabbed my shower while the yoga class was going on and then participated in the interpretation class. It was about focusing on listening, smelling, seeing and your feelings to fully appreciate the environment you are in. It was very powerful and I found myself tearing up when it was time to just stand on the platform and look out across the tundra.

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What was I feeling? Very humble; very blessed and grateful to be part of this incredible experience; small in the midst of such a vast and unforgiving environment, only protected by the lodge and vehicles that are heated and closed off to the cold; very weak and fragile against the strength of the animals and plants strong enough to survive.

What did I hear? A symphony of wind from a constant hum in the background, bass, tenor and even an occasional gust of soprano. Metal from the lodge banging added percussion to the sounds. Not only did it provide the music, but pushed against me in the beat of the song.

What did I smell? I couldn’t really smell much of anything. I guess it was fresh, clean air free of the exhaust of the city. It made me appreciate the fact I was breathing the same air as the polar bears, breathing in and out, cleansing myself.

What did I see? Ice, snow, water, waves, drifts, bushes, clouds, trees, texture, pattern, clouds, movement, stillness, animal tracks, rocks, the lodge.

Only about seven or eight people participated and Annie asked for people’s thoughts and created a poem she read at dinner. We’ll each get a copy of it that I’ll share later.

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We headed out on the rover in the afternoon. We saw several bears and then headed inland to see if we could see a bear with cubs. The females tend to stay away from the shore because the large males frequent the area and will kill her cubs. They only come this way after the ice freezes. Polar bears eat the vast majority of their diet when the ice is frozen, because they hunt seals. They store lots of fat and live on their fat reserves the rest of the year, with the addition of some berries and other minor snacks. In essence, they are in a walking hibernation. It’s fascinating.

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We saw a hare. The only things that stood out were the black eyes and the black tips on his ears. Otherwise, he blended almost perfectly into the show. He was very still for the time we observed him.

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The rules here are strict. The saying goes, “a fed bear is a dead bear”. Once the bear gets used to getting food, they will begin breaking into cabins and frequenting areas where humans live. If that occurs more than a couple of times, the bears can be euthanized. The guides assured us that we had signed the agreement that said we wouldn’t feed the bears. They removed a tourist immediately from a trip early on and had her sent home for violating this rule.

The tundra rovers are required to stay on specific tracks. That allows bears and other wildlife that are afraid to move away and saves the plants that are tough enough to survive. The trees, which are few and far between, grow very slowly here and tend to have more branches at the bottom where they are protected by snow. Bonnie pointed out a tree that might have been 6-8 feet tall (it’s hard to judge the height when we are so far up) was probably 400 years old. It’s interesting how everything has adapted.

The educational session tonight was about the loss of the sea ice. Annie did a great job helping me understand more about global warming. I’m a bit leery of the “sky is falling” mentality that has become part of the global warming argument. I worked the Democratic National Convention and remember Al Gore’s people demanding a motorcade to escort him to the event. Really? Mr. Global Warming Guru?

Annie compared the polar ice to the rainforest and the destruction of ecosystems that support specific food chains and species. It was very compelling and it challenges me to become more aware of both sides of the science, or at least the parts I can understand. I get the rain forest comparison. I clearly have a lot of thinking to do.

It was another great day. I can’t believe we only have tonight and tomorrow night and then we head back to Winnipeg. Tomorrow is Tuesday and I’m home on Thursday. This trip is flying by and I want to grasp every precious moment.

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