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A Guide’s Notes – The First Night Trip

October 20, 2015 | Heather Chrystie

One of the joys of guiding is sharing insights that provide increased understanding and therefore increased awe at the things we see.  However, much of the time nature does its own talking.  I love it when things are naturally incredible, and this evening was one of those unscripted mind-blowing Churchill experiences.  

One activity we have in trips sometimes is dinner on the tundra, onboard a tundra vehicle.  We chat about polar bears, arctic ecology, travel, and anything else that comes up in what amounts to one of the most unusual restaurants ever conceived – our own oasis of light and companionship and food in an ocean of empty land.

This evening our night trip was unfolding just beautifully, stories and tall tales were flying, laughter and new friendships flourishing.  The anticipation of first wildlife sightings was still upon us, and the full moon was rising slowly above the crashing waves of the as-yet-unfrozen mighty Hudson Bay.

As we wrapped up dessert, and got stuck in to the Irish cream and coffee course, I suddenly heard a telltale gasp of breath from the guests at the front of the machine.  The instant hush that settled, thrumming with energy and few unsuppressable squeals of joy told me that the thing I rooted for most was already happening – a polar bear was in view.

I headed down to check things out, and realized why this polar bear was having such a profound effect.  For one thing, it wasn’t just one bear.  Two large males were eyeing each other balefully, having risen like phantoms out of the shadows of the willows.  Glistening with power in the moonlight they were an incredible sight.  But that wasn’t all nature had planned for us.  As we watched, those two bears reared to their ever-impressive heights, and began to spar together bathed in silvery light.  With the Bay in the background, a light dusting of snow being stirred to ethereal patterns around the silently stamping furred feet of the bears, and the moon lingering on its ascent above the horizon, this was a truly surreal polar bear sighting that I know nobody will forget in a hurry.

A great start to this trip, and a good omen for a fantastic season still to come!