Wednesday, November 14, 2012
LAST DAY WITH THE BEARS
The Last Day with the Bears:
Today was our last day to go out and visit the polar bears. It started out already cold and getting colder as there was a steady wind blowing about 20-25 mph. Once again we were playing hurry up and wait as we are at the end van pick up process.
After picking up JP, our driver extraordinaire, we were off to launch site. It was already windy and cold. The weather was overcast and snowing as well. We learned that the Bay had frozen up enough that most of the bears had traveled out onto the ice in the past 36 hours. We saw no bears for the first two hours away from the launch site. The first bear we saw was quite a way out on the ice. It looked very small in the big picture of the bay.
We then moved on and came upon another subadult who was dozing. It did not take long to wake up, stretch, and then start walking toward us. In the heat of the moment, I ran out of "film", or memory. So while it was walking toward me I had to change cards!!! This normally does not take very long, but I am outside on the back of the buggy with cold wind blowing and chilled fingers in gloves. By the time I finished that evolution the bear was underneath the back platform that I was standing on.
The bear stayed under the platform for quite some time. I did get pictures of him sticking his face and nose up to the grate. He seemed quite inquisitive.
The rest of the afternoon was very quiet. We actually went back and photographed the first bear of the day. It had never really moved. It was out on the ice about 500 yards away from shore line sitting waiting for the ice to firm up more. If it continues to stay cold the bears are basically gone. There is still another five days of tours which are totally booked. We hope for others who have traveled so far to see them that they do have a chance to see the bears, but right now it is not likely.
We had another opportunity to photograph another sunset, as well as a very rusted ship out in the frozen bay. The ship came in many years ago and got stuck when the tide went out. There is a very long tidal flat here. They were never able to refloat it. We also saw and attempted to photograph a sundog due to the high moisture in the sky. It was a wonderful way to end a hectic stay in Churchill.
Our hosts at the B&Bs had allowed us to leave our gear at their places until our return from the day's activity on the ice. At Bear's Den we stashed all of our gear behind a large couch as they had other guests coming in today. If someone had had a video it would have been rather humorous to see seven people change clothes, and repack some stuff in our large bag, and reorganize our roll-on bags. We also wanted to remove a couple of layers of clothing for the upcoming train ride. They very graciously shuttled us to the train station which took two trips for each B&B.
We were at the train station about 1800 to wait for boarding the train, which began about 1910. We tagged our checked luggage and then waited for boarding. Boarding the train went smoothly and under a banner of Northern Lights! This light show went on until well after midnight. Thankfully we could not stay behind another day as the wind was blowing at least 25 mph and it was about -5˚F. It would have been a very cold night for this girl from Southern California. We would have had to jump into the vehicles to get out of the cold, and use the heater to thaw out. The heater in the van was not very productive so that might have worked for a short time. Hopefully we will arrive on time in Thompson which will be about noon. I took a few pictures through the train windows but the show was much better on the North side of the train. One of our group was in a sleeper on the North side with a window and could basically eliminate car reflections. She got
some great shots. The lights were fluctuating and putting on quite a show.
Sleeping in the coach area was not too bad. The seats have leg rests that make it comfortable, and you can actually create a bed like area if you were small enough. I did wake up a couple of times to change positions, and I would use these times to again look at the Lights and actually photograph it.