16/12/2014 10:53 AM
An early start this morning as we headed out on our very first polar rover experience tracking the polar bears of Churchill.
The morning was spent admiring the landscape, now awash with reds and oranges from the rising sun, keeping our eye out for ptarmigan nestled in the stubby willow thickets, and snowy owls atop the spruce trees. These trees had such interesting shapes as the the ice crystals from the prevailing winds blasted one side of them, hailing some of them as 'flag trees' as you could tell the wind direction by looking at them.
We didn't get too close so as not to disturb, but stayed with him for a couple of hours, watching him pop his head up every now and then for a sniff and a yawn, before getting back to the important business of napping whilst basking in the hazy sunlight.
After an amazingly tasty picnic lunch aboard the rover, we set off around the bay as our driver had heard of a sighting elsewhere. The sleeping polar bear had been lovely but everyone was craving a more dynamic encounter, so we eagerly kept our faces pinned to the windows in anticipation. We found the other bear lying down in the scrub about 100 metres in front of us, and got overly excited when he not only popped his head up, but got up and started slowing lumbering over the scrub, using the small willow trees to scratch his belly as he bulldozed over them!
He quite rapidly moved away from us so we thought our encounter was over, until our clever driver strategically set off around the lake shore, predicting the polar bears onward direction towards the ice, and heading him off before he got there.
The oohs and aahs and general excited chatter soon became enraptured silence as the huge healthy male padded right up to the vehicle, looked us all straight in the eyes, and reached up to put his front paws against the side for a good old investigative sniff!
Even though we had all been waiting for this kind of encounter, it took many of us by surprise, especially the emotional reaction it elicited as we caught our breath and wiped a tear from our eyes! Such an impressive indomitable creature, but he looked so gentle and sweet with those small flickering eyes and graceful movements.
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16/12/2014 10:53 AM