Day 18 - August 24, 2013 - Churchill, Manitoba, Canada
By Karolina Karas, General Naturalist/Polar Bear Guard
Coordinates: 58˚46’41” N, 94˚11’53” W
Pressure: 1006 hPa
Temp. 64˚ F, 18˚C
This morning as I entered The Restaurant lit with the bright light of the sun, I could see the clear blue sky. I immediately knew it would be a good day. As I had this thought, I noticed a sea of white objects swimming in the water - Beluga whales!
What a great sight. How often do you get to eat your breakfast and drink your morning tea all while watching Beluga whales swimming beside you?
After breakfast the Expedition Team got ready for a Zodiac tour that was planned for the morning. Just before 9:00 a.m. we were all sitting in the Zodiacs waiting to meet up with five additional Zodiacs with local guides to join us.
Our Expedition Leader Robin West had a great plan for our guests this morning. With 13 zodiacs we could get everyone out at the same time for a two hour cruise to see the Belugas.
Remi, one of the local guides, told us about a Polar Bear nearby, so the plan became clear. With eight guests in the Zodiac and Chris Srigley as our driver, we followed the local guide to the bear’s location.
At first we could not see the bear as we approached the shore. But finally there he was, laying on one of the stones and having a nap. Since the bear was a bit grayish (probably because he had been rolling in the dirt) he was hard to spot. Soon after, we discovered not one, but two Polar Bears on the shore. What a treat! Our guests’ faces were immediately lit with smiles as they started taking pictures.
After spending half an hour with the bears, it was time to change course and head towards Mosquito Bay where the Belugas were.
As we arrived to our destination, you would not believe - hundreds of Beluga Whales were swimming around our Zodiacs! From time to time we had few of them following us and enjoying the bubbles that our Zodiac was making. Remi told us the whales tend to do that, as it’s sort of a massage for them and to me it looked like they really enjoyed it.
Even though I live on Svalbard and tend to see Belugas occasionally, I don’t think I had ever been so close to these magnificent creatures. With no wind and the warm sun shinning on us, we could see them clearly in the water next to or even under our zodiac. But most of the times it was the whites of their bodies coming to the surface as the whales where taking a breath of fresh air.
At one point Remi called on the radio asking if we wanted to hear the whales. Belugas are also known as the “canaries of the seas” and that’s because they have rich vocalization.
Approaching Remi’s Zodiac, Chris turned off our motor. Soon after Remi turned on the hydrophone in order for us to hear the whales, the noises that came from the speakers were indescribable. They varied from clicking to gentle singing.
After several minutes of the incredible “concert” we left Remi and his guests so that Claudia with her group could hear the singing.
Chris directed our Zodiac towards another group of Belugas. Again they were all around us.
But we were running out of time and we had to to get back to the ship where lunch was being served.
At 2:00 p.m. we had four busses waiting at the wharf ready to take us to the planned afternoon activities.
The tour started with the bus driving through the little town of Churchill that has less than 1,000 inhabitants. Leaving town behind our next stop was an old fort that was built by the English in late 1600’s to early 1700’s and was lost to the French. Our guide told us the story of the “battle” during which the fort was surrendered with not a single shot being fired. But one of the sides had to lose, this time it was the English.
Our last stop was an old rocket launch site now used as a research center.
It was now time to board the buses and head back to Silver Explorer where this evening our on board photographer Richard Sidey will play the final video of our voyage.
It is amazing how fast 18 days can pass.
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