Polar Bear Blog

The Year the Caribou Came Back. The Story Behind the Photo.

Caribou return to Seal River. Andy Skillen photo.
Caribou return to Seal River. Andy Skillen photo.

Story and photo by Andy Skillen

The Qamanirjuaq caribou herd typically migrates past Seal River Heritage Lodge in late fall and guests on our Polar Bear Photo Safari are often witness to this magnificent sight. In 2015 and 2016 the caribou were noticeably absent, having seemingly altered their migratory route. Over breakfast in late October 2017, staff and guests alike were treated to the return of the caribou as they made a long-awaited appearance at the lodge. Award-winning photographer and Churchill Wild photo leader Andy Skillen, recounts the experience.

A rolling sea of shaggy coats, upon which, it appears that giant antlers sail like the tall ships of old, bobbing and weaving in an ocean of cream and brown. More and more pour over the horizon, endlessly creeping towards an unknown goal, peaceful movement punctuated by occasional sparring; an unpredictable squall flaring up in an otherwise calm and endless vista.

There is no turning of this tide. It never ebbs but flows at a steady pace through unseen channels marked only by the sense of previous generations, soft hooves rolling over the tundra in muffled harmony. Noses, wide, wet and curious push through the landscape comparing opportunity and impossibility at every turn as eyes and ears, ever alert to the howling of a pursuant enemy, record every movement.

Photographer Andy Skillen of FaunaVista.com has been a photo leader with Churchill Wild for a number of years. This fall he will lead two departures of the Polar Bear Photo Safari at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge. Andy’s photo of the caribou at Seal River Heritage Lodge also appears in our recently published Churchill Wild 25th Anniversary Book, which features a number of images from our polar bear lodges that include “The Story Behind the Photo” as provided by the photographer.

Copies of Churchill Wild — 25 Years of Adventure on the Hudson Bay Coast are now available online and in-store at McNally Robinson Booksellers and at our head office. There are also a limited number of copies available at our polar bear lodges from July through November, during our polar bear walking safaris. For more information please call 1.866.UGO.WILD (846.9453) or email [email protected].

Churchill Wild 25th Anniversary Book. Now available in-store and online at at McNally Robinson Booksellers.
Churchill Wild 25th Anniversary Book. Now available in-store and online at at McNally Robinson Booksellers.

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