Story and photos by Jad Davenport, Churchill Wild NatGeo Photo Leader
Pilot Jesse gave the groups some nice aerial photo ops of seven polar bears between Churchill and the Lodge, and no sooner had we touched down when a young polar bear swam up to the point, shook off and rolled around in the lush green grass. It turned out that the best photo vantage point was the dining room, so for the next few hours, guests made pictures with cameras in one hand and cocktails in the other.
Wake-up came at 5 a.m. thanks to a mother polar bear and her two coys (Cubs of the Year) who showed up right beside the lodge in rich morning light. While the kitchen crew graciously fortified everyone with coffee and hot chocolate, we made pictures of the polar bear family.
The dining room was once again a popular vantage point, and some hardy photographers ventured out to the viewing platforms and faced the bugs, but got wonderful tight portraits. A lone wolf also ventured along the high-tide line outside the Lodge, spending some time exploring the tall grass and intertidal zone.
A few days earlier Churchill Wild co-owner Jeanne Reimer reported having a tough day in the kitchen at the Lodge. Guests could hardly find time to go on a hike as the bear action would just not let up.
A mother and cubs on the breakwater early in the morning, coffee on before 5:30 a.m. (thanks Mike!), and a dining room full of guests watching Mom nurse. Another mother and cubs showed up on the runway just before dinner and swung around to the front of the Lodge and the guests had six bears in sight for dinner! A single male attempted to approach but mother #2 would have none of it. At one point the guests were looking through the dining room picture windows at eight different polar bears!
Since then we’ve filled our days with more mothers and cubs (at one point there were three mothers and six cubs scattered around the Lodge) and some fun hikes to explore the archaeological sites – stone tent rings — from the Thule and Dorset people, and the macro-world of the tundra.
We’ve just returned from a long sunny day snorkeling with several hundred of the more than 60,000 beluga whales who are currently gathering along the coast here. We gave our GoPros a good workout underwater. Safe and warm in our dry suits, we sang our hearts out to the delight of the whales, which showed up by the dozens and got close enough to bump our cameras.
Tomorrow we’re off on a six-wheel adventure to Jack’s Cabin.