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A Guide’s Notes – Welcome to Churchill

October 19, 2015 | Heather Chrystie

Back to Churchill today! A new group, a new trip, new adventures to have. Again I’m glued to the window to see if there are any bears actually visible from the plane or airport (there’s no reason why there wouldn’t be, but I have yet to experience that kind of welcome to Churchill!). Cookies devoured and a brisk wind blowing, the group is ready to disembark before we even touchdown. But it turns out there’s some excitement in store for us first as the captain comes on the tannoy to announce some turbulence due to high winds in Churchill.

In fact, nobody can believe it when the plane has come to a stop as it is still shuddering in the wind, and indeed we laughed to see that the plane was actually being tied to the ground in order to hold it still enough for us to scramble down the stairs and make a beeline for the shelter of the terminal, hanging on to each other’s arms for support.

Inside we had a bare (no pun intended!) second to catch our breaths before word came in on my radio that we should make our way posthaste to the famous Bear Jail, or Polar Bear holding Facility. I love this news! We leaped into our waiting bus and wheeled just around the corner to the Jail and found a cordoned-off area surrounded by excited viewers. Securing a good spot for photography, we waited and watched as a large, French-vanilla colored, slumbering furry thing was brought out on a wooden pallet, and gently slid onto a waiting cargo net. Conservation staff considerately re positioned the bear’s legs and head for comfort, and hooked the net on to a waiting rope, dangling from the belly of the helicopter that we barely noticed approaching, so engrossed were we with watching this unreal first-polar-bear encounter.

As soon as everything was deemed to be in order, the helicopter eased up, took the strain, and whisked the bear away over the town on its journey north, a common occurrence for bears who have been too persistent in approaching town and need to be relocated.

So yes, this is a real ‘Welcome to Churchill’, the only place in the world you can vacation to where polar bears might fly!