The Polar Bear Swim, Not Just for Bears Anymore – Staff and Guests take the Polar Plunge at Seal River Lodge.

October 31, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, Polar Bear Tours

Mom wants me to have a positive outlook on today’s blog, and the weather. So here it is: I’m positive that the winds were the strongest they’ve been since we got here. I’m quite positive that it switched between raining and snowing at least four times today. And I’m positive that the polar bears loved it. As for the guests, their soggy clothes are still drying by the fire.

Becca and Mark take a Polar Dip - Photo by Nolan Booth

Becca and Mark take a Polar Dip - Nolan Booth Photo

Fortunately, braving the weather merited several rewards. Not only did the bears put on another spectacular display of wrestling within meters of the group, but enduring the cold only made the crackling fire, the hot coffee and the delicious appetizers all the more inviting at the end of the day.

Of course, to you, dear reader, this may sound like the perfect day to curl up by the fire and wait out the storm (which I’ve heard isn’t expected to blow over for a couple days yet…), but to one of our more adventurous guests and staff members, this sounded like the perfect day to…take a dip in the freezing Hudson Bay.

It was easy really. All they had to do was peel down to their gitch, run through the snow, avoid the half dozen or so polar bears in the area and the ice piling up around the shore. Then plunge into a body of water that was already starting to freeze. Not for the faint-hearted.

Our courageous polar dippers today were Becca Letkeman, one of the famed and fabulous dish pit girls and Mark Murphy, who is, as his brother Dan agreed with me, the crazy one. They had the entire staff and guests as an audience and almost everyone had a camera out. I stood by with towels for the moment that Becca leaped from the water and was once again subjected to the cruel, howling wind. Strangely enough, she forgot all about her towels and ran to the lodge as fast as her frozen feet could take her.

Congratulations, well wishes and “You’re nuts” aside,  Becca and Mark ran to their respective rooms to warm themselves up, which didn’t take long with a cup of hot chocolate in hand. As my mom gave Becca a hug and a laugh, Nolan summed up the day with a little quip, “You shouldn’t get a hug for being stupid.”

Stupid? Probably. Crazy? Most likely. Unforgettable? Absolutely.

Karli Reimer, Churchill Wild.

Introducing People and Polar Bears Gets Easier Every Year

Two male polar bears spar on frozen Hudson Bay at Seal River Lodge

Two male polar bears spar on frozen Hudson Bay at Seal River Lodge

As a guide for Churchill Wild for many years I have had the pleasure of introducing people to polar bears and the Northern Experience on many occasions. This year was no exception, and it just seems to be getting easier every year.

I land with part of my group at the airport runway on the tundra near Seal River Heritage Lodge. From there it’s a 5-10 minute walk to the lodge with our resident guards, Andy and Terry. But wait, look at that. Two large polar bears wrestling down on the Hudson Bay ice just a stone’s throw away. We stand mesmerized, cameras blazing away in the soft afternoon light while two huge males push, shove and pummel each other to exhaustion. The only sound is the shock of their blows as they make contact, and the sharp exhalations of breath caught in the clear crisp air.

No other animals would fight so intensely or with such power without a lot of anger involved. But these bears seem to be enjoying it as much as we are. Then, just as dramatically, it is over. Thirsty and over-heated from the extreme exertion, they scoop up great mouthfuls of snow before drifting apart and finding their own quiet spot to have a rest and cool off only a short shuffle away.

Just as we attempt to continue the walk to the lodge, a sik-sik, or arctic ground squirrel, comes bouncing our way. Stopping at only 2 meters, he rears up and gives us all a thorough military inspection! Satisfied that the intimidating group before him is not a real threat, he spins away, spurts around us, and finds his favourite burrow. For me he is a big surprise because, apparently, he doesn’t know that he should have been in bed for the winter by early September at the latest, and it is now well past mid-October.

Taking a Rest After The Match

A Polar Bear Takes a Rest After The Match

Soup is waiting, so we hurry a little more now as we start to feel some hunger pangs. But still another bear is blocking the path to the gate as we approach. Walking up as close as we dare, he finally yields the right of way reluctantly.

You would think all that excitement would be a good enough start for a four day experience at Seal River Heritage Lodge, but Mother Nature isn’t done yet. That evening, just as we are about to begin dinner at 7:00 PM, Terry announces that the Northern Lights have begun to appear in an ever-clearing sky. Dinner will have to wait, much to the chagrin of our hard-working and dedicated kitchen staff.

The Aurora display is breath-taking. Wave after wave waltzes across the sky’s dome in great undulating curtains of green, tinged with red. What a show! Finally, we have to go for dinner, but the aurora continues to dance well into the night.

The next morning a perfect sunrise over the steadily freezing bay, dotted with boulders of lunar style and proportions, is a special omen that the best is yet to come. Are those two bears outside the window really going to start another shoving match? Yes, they are! Without regard to the faces pressed against glass at less than 4 meters away, the titans of the tundra tear up the turf once again.

Nobody on a wildlife trip deserves so much good fortune, but we’ll take it, thank you very much.

Dennis Fast

Polar bear photos, arctic wildlife, landscapes and people highlight 2009 Churchill Wild Photo Contest

October 20, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, Polar Bear Tours

Churchill polar bears high-five each other at sunset on Seal River

Churchill polar bears high-five each other at sunset on Seal River - Winner! Best Polar Bear Category - Photo Credit: Wendy Kaveney

There were some spectacular photos taken by Churchill Wild guests during the 2008 season! Many of the guests proved to be fabulous photographers, as evidenced by their submissions to the 2009 Churchill Wild Photo Contest.

There were four categories in our first annual contest: Best Polar Bears, Best Wildlife, Best Landscape  and Best People.

Wendy Kaveny was the winner in the Best Polar Bears category for her excellent photo of two happy polar bears high-fiving each other at sunset.  Joy Roberts won in the Best Other Wildlife category for her incredible photo of a Snowy Owl.

Best Landscape honors went to Judi Pennock for her gorgeous sunset over the Hudson Bay rocks at low tide and Best People photo honors went to Gary Potts for his picture of 11 photographers trekking out on to the tundra in the snow to photograph the mighty polar bears and more.

Churchill Polar Bears Wrestling - Photo Credit: Gary Potts

Polar bears wrestling - Photo Credit: Gary Potts

Churchill Wild offers the only arctic adventure vacations in Canada that allow you to actually walk with the polar bears and get up close and personal. And that makes for some great photographs!

A big thank you to all of our wonderful guests who participated in the 2009 photo contest! We’ll be running  another photo contest this year and would love to have more of your awesome photos!

To view all the entries and winners in the 2009 Churchill Wild Photo Contest please visit our Wild Things Gallery page at the Churchill Wild Web site: