Impressive & moving: Churchill, Belugas and Polar Bears

WIAdmin, 29. September 2017

col3This is an old well known book called the „Children’s Cosmos – Animals in Ice and Snow“. In 1973 my parents gave it to me – and since then I know that there are white whales. Countless times, I read this book! And maybe it was part of the reason which allowed me to experience these fascinating animals!


When I found the book and looked at the sides, it seemed like i read it just yesterday for the last time. And i remmebered the certain smell of this book – do you know this special feeling when you rember a certain smell after many years? And there is a funny advice inside – for all people having a shipwreck in northern seas: „if you see white whales and its winter, then you are near Greenland. If you see them during summer then you are far north – in the middle of the polar sea!“ But as we experienced now it can also be different!

These where impressive days in Canada where the Churchill River flows into the Hudson Bay. Where Belugas find certain conditions for raising their young ones.


It seemed like the belugas wanted to say „good bye“

Here they find food and the protection of the river – which preserves them from hunting Orcas. The water is to shallow for their greatest natural enemy.

A remote place. And the marshy landscape of the subarctic Tundra seems endless.
Port Churchill and the giant grain elevator lookes somehow surreal.


Port of Churchill

The former economic factor is currently closed down. And also the train connection is closed since the 23rd of may. The company which is responsible for the maintenance of the railtrack has stopped the work.


The stranded train at churchill station – photo by Kerstin Meyer

Freshly stranded the train stood at Churchill station. A disaster for this town! There is no road connection! Planes are currently the only connection to the outside world.

One of the heaviest blizzards of the last 17 years with a big melting caused damage to the track. Now there are still about 4 weeks to decide whether it will continue or not … then the upcoming winter is already knocking on the door!


because of the polar bears garbage has to be stored safe

Before the ice comes it is polar bear season – then churchill will turn into the „world capital of polar bears“!

Years ago mainly a danger, they are now the economic factor no.1 for the village of 900 souls.

Churchill is on the natural migration route of the polar bears. Here they wait from October to November for the arriving ice. Then they are able to hunt seals and fill their energy stores.

Nevertheless, the people of Churchill are very aware that polar bears are no cuddly toys. „My internal alarm system is always on standby, because we also have polar bears in the streets of Churchill. That’s why we have no locked doors here … and they are all outward opening doors! You learn to listen to barking dogs and how they sound when they see a polar bear “ tells me Dwight of Sea North Tours.


Polar bear & arctic tern

The citizens of Churchill live on the pulse of nature. The entusiastic & extraordinary Natur photographer Alex Devries draws our attention to the breeding arctic tern. At first sight, this bird species doesn’t look very spectacular. But this bird undertakes annually the longest known migration in the animal kingdom. From the North to the South Pole region! A tagged animal travelled 96,000 kilometers in 10 months.

It was impressive to see two protagonists of the Arctic in the same season. I always try to avoid humanizing animals – but it is hard not to describe the extreme social Belugas as exceptionally sympathetic, playful and cute! On the last morning the white angels gave us unforgettable moments in the Hudson Bay. As if they wanted to say „good bye“! Thank you Jocelyn for this very special early morning ride! In the shimmering morning sun, a Beluga gently nibbled my fin, and several groups of whales welcomed us. Shaking their heads and squeaking to us. In such moments, time stands still and you are in the „here and now“ – in a world like a childhood dream(at least my childhood dreams). But it is reality – pure and innocent! And somehow you do not want to say goodbye!

And the polar bear? He embodies the melting ice and climate change like no other animal on our planet. He needs the ice to hunt and to survive! Our extreme consumption of energy and resources makes his world melt away!
We met the first polar bear of our life in the wild! Kerstin is very moved by this experience: „What do we humans do to this majestic animal?“

I felt like to apologize to him for my flight, because that is also a part of his dilemma! But also every burning lamp, every product which is produced with energy and every action which devours energy! It is completely irrelevant where in the world this action happens!

Also we humans will have to deal with the consequences – and there will be plenty! We can no longer avoid the climate change with its various correlations – we can only limit it! The polar bear is not to blame for this situation – it is only us!

So we leave Churchill and this changing world – deeply impressed, moved and full of thoughts…


a beluga gently nibbeld my fin on our last encounter with the whales