Published: December 3rd 2008December 2nd 2008
The last few weeks out on the frozen wastelands of northern Manitoba were incredible! Huge numbers of bears came by the camp and waited for the bay to freeze over. A mother and cubs would keep their distance from a pair of sparring males, but then they were gone! The ice formed over night as a crisp minus 20 rolled in from the north, within hours the bears were gone.. I guess there was no point in staying if the bears weren't there, so we decided to dismantle the camp and haul it out to Cape Churchill (Cape) in Wapusk National Park 35kms to the east. The park has a very high concentration of bears who have learnt not to migrate to the town of Churchill because it is more energy efficient to stay in the park until the sea freezes there (which is normally about 10 days later because of the currents). So we started to dismantle the camp at 6am and then drive out to Wapusk N.P. We drove in blizzard conditions for 10 hours before we got to Cape. It took that long because there were a couple of soft spots where we all got
stuck and had to be towed out by the utility vehicles, buggy 17 crashed through the ice on a frozen lake, and the staff accommodation trailer slid off its chassis (nothing that a bit of weld couldn't fix though)! Then we set up camp in a white-out at night in minus 25 with a howling gale in prime polar bear country! It went surprisingly smooth actually, within 2 hours we had everyone on the camp awaiting supper. While the girls dished out a tasty "bison bolognese", the mechanics and I had to thaw a few frozen waterlines and fix a few panels that got rattled loose, but otherwise the lodge was in great shape.
The following 8 days were almost beyond words! Lots of fights between the big boys, lots of mothers and cubs. Arctic foxes and snowy owls. Beautiful sunrises and sunsets, mind-blowing northern lights!!!! And a fog-bow!
The amazing ice formations on the sea as the tide lifted and smashed the ice sheets into each other, and to witness the bears as they ran onto the ice to their winter hunting ground... And then they were gone too!
The guests left the next day. We stayed an extra
At this time of the year, the bears figure each other out so that when the fighting is for real during breeding season, they know who they have a good chance against.
day to clean up, dismantle and haul the camp back to Churchill......
Back in town.... It was an odd feeling to be back in Churchill (or anywhere for that matter) after spending 7 weeks on a lodge in the middle of nowhere on the edge of the Canadian arctic. It was a nice feeling. After dropping my buggy off at the Tundra Buggy yard, I ran along the main street throwing snow balls at my co-workers. With no real need to worry about being eaten by a polar bear (even though they do come into town sometimes) I felt totally free. Being on the ground has never felt so good...! Ordering a cold beer from the bar felt pretty good too...
The hotel in Churchill was perfect... My own little space... For the first time in 7 weeks I could actually put my feet up and relax... Two days later I landed in Winnipeg.
It's amazing what an extended time in relative isolation can do to you, so I spent a night in The Peg brushing up on my somewhat rusty social skills. They seem to be in good shape after chatting up a storm at M.E.C (outdoor equipment store)
and getting two pairs of boots for half price......
On the Sunday, I caught the train back to Sioux Lookout... A 6 hour ride from the prairie to the boreal forest and the land of a million lakes...
Signing off for now, Dave.
There are more photos below