My shift on the Explore.org polar bear cams cams this week was quiet and "cold." The weather had turned in Churchill with sharply blowing winds and snow squalls across the bay. Very few critters are out in this - including polar bears. So what I "caught" on cam yesterday were photos of Tundra Buggies. And it was hard to shake the impression that I needed a warm blanket to snuggle in and a thermos of hot chocolate by my side. Even though it was 50+ degrees in my own backyard!
Don't get me wrong, any time on camera is still exhilarating. Our cameras are located in two locations east of Churchill. One set of cameras are mounted on Frontier North's Tundra Buggy Lodge - a long train of cars that include sleeping, dining and learning spaces. The other cameras (Cape Cams below) are mounted on a tower much further east in Wapusk National Park. An overhead view of the region gives a sense of scale:
When I was there in 2016, I stayed at the Churchill Northern Studies Centre. Having the lodge available 21 miles east of the Centre means much more time can be spent looking for bears than bouncing over the shoreline getting to the point and back each day. These are not paved roads. They're barely two-tracks, with mountainous potholes. Having a vehicle like a Buggy and their trained drivers complete with radio contact to everyone in the area is reassuring.
The cameras that are on the Cape Tower would look like this if we were there:
Note the cages on the ground. Polar bears are vvvvveeeerrrry inquisitive animals. The cages make for good protection if you've brought equipment you don't want to take up into the tower or if you are on the ground and need protective cover fast.
In any number of ways I consider myself really, really fortunate to be able to observe what the cameras are monitoring without the physical discomfort of being on site. When it's 4 degrees F and snowing the bare necessities (what do we eat, how do we go to the bathroom) take on enormous significance - even more so as I get older. I know how cold I was when I was there in 2016 and we had the luxury of travel in a heated bus with warm bedding and provided food. I've had to admit that my days as an arctic researcher, if I ever really had any, are well behind me. And I applaud the work of PBI with their many research projects intended to give us better, less intrusive, insight into the lives of Polar Bears.
And so I grab some decaf...and my strongest glasses...and a sense of patience...and we go to a place via the cameras that can look very, very bleak.
Until the weather clears and the sun comes back out,
and those very curious bears
....grace us again with their presence.
(all photos courtesy of Explore.org's live polar bear cams and the amazing, dedicated viewers and cam operators that are among us)