November 15, 2012

There and Back Again - A Polar Bear Adventure

Have you noticed that I’ve been absent from visiting your blogs lately? Did you think that I fell off the face of the earth? Well, that’s nearly true. We ventured out again to the Canadian arctic wilderness and photographed white, furry creatures of the bear kind! Oh my, it was exciting, fun, and c-o-l-d!

old polar bear, Churchill, Manitoba, Canada

Some of my long-time followers know that we went up to Churchill two years ago to see polar bears. Well, we decided to go again! This remote town is populated with less than a thousand hearty individuals. It is located on the Hudson Bay and known as the polar bear capital of the world. As the bears gather near the coastline and wait for the Bay to freeze, several thousand tourists also descend upon the region. 

Here are a few highlights of our journey, in no particular order:
  • This adventure was two calendar weeks later than our previous trip, so the weather was much more frightful. Snow was already on the ground, and the Hudson Bay was in the process of freezing over. Our guide said that the high temperature was -11 degrees Fahrenheit during our last day on the polar rover. I don’t remember whether that was the regular temperature or with the wind chill factored in. Once the number goes negative, does it really matter?
  • I almost froze my fingers off when I ran to the back deck of the rover for a quick photography session. I forgot to grab my gloves and I stayed out there for about 10 minutes. Oh my, that was painful.
  • As illustrated in the above image, we enjoyed some glorious light conditions while we were out on the polar rover.
  • We saw polar bears walking, resting, and fighting. I was particularly thrilled to get photos of them sparring. Two bears visited our rover and sniffed the bottoms of our feet while we stood on the back deck. Such magic! We didn’t spot any bear cubs on this trip. But we had great luck in seeing a red fox and a white arctic fox along a rocky beach road. It is a rare occurrence for these two different types of foxes to be located in the same area and time.
  • We also witnessed the aurora borealis, also known as northern lights, dance across the arctic sky. This atmospheric phenomenon is not common in November and the sky has to be clear for it to be visible. It was a treat for me, since I never seen this natural light show before.
  • Someone flung germ cooties on me and I caught a bad cold. (Is there such a thing as a good cold?) Coughing, congestion, sneezing, sore throat - the works. Yesterday, I was losing my voice. My colds usually lead to bronchitis, but it seems this one will run a normal course and not take a bad turn.
  • We met some wonderful folks and made new friendships on the trip. It is always a bonus when this happens! We had an extra small group of 12 travelers, plus our guide. Several people had to cancel because of the recent storms on the east coast. Our tour guide was superb. Once again, we used Natural Habitat Adventures for this tour (see the link on my sidebar). Don’t even think about using any other outfitter for a journey to see polar bears!
  • New sneakers from L.L. Bean went missing during our Winnipeg hotel stay on the front end of the trip. They were merely 3 days old when they bolted. Alas, the fit was wonderful and that shoe style in my size is no longer available. I hope that the new owners will enjoy them. I packed a spare pair of sneakers, so I didn’t go barefoot on the way home.
  • My memory was not working the best on this trip, which was a bit disconcerting. I can blame cold medication on some of it, thank goodness. I even went on autopilot mode and took about 200 photos of a particular bear that I don’t remember. And the unprocessed images look just fine! It's good to know that I can successfully operate a camera while deeply stuck in a medicated mental fog.
  • I used my new camera throughout the trip  It befuddled me only a few times, and I quickly memorized the controls. The biggest problem I encountered was proper focus with heavy gloves on my hands. It was difficult to lock the focus since I couldn’t actually feel the shutter button. But this problem would apply to any camera. I also got frustrated several times in continuous shooting mode when the memory couldn’t keep up with my trigger finger, despite using fast speed cards. Taking out one card for automatic backup helped to rectify that issue.
  • It was a positively delightful trip, despite my illness and wayward sneakers. The timing to leave the country right after the election was accidental. But it was a good tonic to escape and not dwell on how our country’s destiny will unfold in the next few years.  We didn't watch television, nor read the newspapers. My mind was pleasantly occupied.  As many of you know, I dearly love my bears!
Well, if you read through this voluminous summary, you deserve a round of applause for extraordinary patience! I’ll catch up with everyone’s news in the next few days. Thank you for visiting my blog and leaving comments while I was absent. As always, the reward will be more photos in the days and months ahead!


  1. Welcome back, Donna. The greatest part of your journey for us is getting to see all of the wonderful polar bear photos on your blog. YEAH!!!!

    Glad you enjoyed your trip despite the shoes and the cold....

  2. i have no doubt that you take better photos in a head-cold, medically-induced fog than i ever could - barefoot and frozen fingers too! :)

    hope you can recover w/o getting worse, first!

  3. How exciting! I'm sorry you caught a cold and your new shoes got stolen, but other than that it sound like a wonderful time!

  4. What an exciting trip! I live in Canada and have never seen a polar bear in the wild. I hate being cold. But it would be worth it to get shots like you have.
    Hope the cold heals quickly, and I'm sorry you lost your shoes in my country.

  5. Welcome back and thanks for braving the extreme temperatures to bring us remarkable photos. Aside from the thrill of seeing the polar bears that would have been awesome seeing the aurora borealis. I have seen pictures before and oh my how fascinating

  6. WHAT? You mean we haven't extinguished all the polar bears yet? LOLOL just kidding. I can't believe it's been two years since y'all went up there the last time. Seems like yesterday to me. And better you to brave the frigid temps and get the pics than me! Looking forward to all the beauty you will be setting before our eager eyes! Meanwhile, Happy Thanksgiving!

  7. Donna
    How fabulous you were able to visit polar bear country again!
    I cant wait to see the rest of the photos. I'm not sure which is my favorite animal-polar bears or musk oxen. I love them both!
    When I was the manager of the Northern Images gallery in Whitehorse, my mentor and friend was the manager of the sister store in Churchill. Did you visit there by any chance?
    Hope your cold disappears soon!

  8. Oh, I can't wait for the pictures. I know they will be exceptional.
    I remember a documentary about Churchill years ago, before it became a destination. How very interesting!!

  9. No applause necessary as that was a wonderful read! I am so sorry about the sneakers. Gosh, someone has to be a real twit besides being a red-handed thief. I would have liked to have a polar bear escape after the election. I just slipped into a depression, almost as good. < insert weak grin >

    Hope that we get lots and lots of pictures out of this trip. I'm looking forward to them.

  10. What a wonderful adventure! Can't wait to see more bears.

  11. It really does sound like a marvelous trip. I'm sorry you got does seems to happen a lot to travelers but it's still a bummer. I would LOVE to see the Northern lights! That would be amazing. And I'm sure you got a lot of great photos! You need to post more in each of your posts! Glad you're back safe and sound. Get some rest!

  12. Wow! I have seen documentaries about Churchill! What an exciting trip!

    We have black bears wandering around town in the summer, and that's big enough for me!

    Welcome back!

  13. So glad you guys had a good trip, but sorry you weren't up to snuff. However, the photo is wonderful.

    It's so nice to visit now that for the first time EVER, we have dsl. WOW!! I used to play spider solitaire while waiting for blogs to load. What a difference! :)

    Take care of that cold, and thanks for sharing your trip. I always look forward to reading what ya'll have been up to, and seeing the great photo's!


  14. Just an amazing photo. This guy is looking right at the camera!!!

  15. What an amazing opportunity to see polar bears in their natural habitat. Too bad it had to be so cold up there, and that you caught a cold, but it's good to hear that it's almost over and that it didn't turn into bronchitis!

    Love this photo!


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