Report from the Tundra: Magical Moments

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November 13th, 2011
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First post from Andy McKiel as he sets out on his Tundra connections.  See a Recap of his adventures in Venture Beat!

My first day in Churchill was filled with so many incredible experiences that I don’t even know how to start relating all of them. So many notable and memorable things have occurred already, and we haven’t even headed out on Buggy One yet!Of course, one of my highlights has to revolve around the mighty polar bear. I saw my first polar bears ‘in the wild’ today, but not the way I wanted to see them. The polar bears are gathering along the shore of Hudson Bay awaiting the arrival of the sea ice, where they’ll spend the winter months hunting seals.

Unfortunately, freeze-up hasn’t even begun yet this year, which is a real cause for concern! The ice is forming later in the fall and melting faster in the spring, which is having a real impact on polar bear populations. As the bears wait for the ice to form, they’re forced to eat anything they can scrounge up. We stumbled upon about a dozen polar bears that have discovered piles of fermenting grain that they’ve turned to for sustenance.

Another highlight of my first day here was finding out more about D20, otherwise known as ‘The Polar Bear Jail’. This facility has the capacity to accommodate up to 28 polar bears in holding cells until they can be safely released onto the sea ice. Polar bears that become ‘problematic’ within the town of Churchill can either be airlifted to D20 or captured in the bear traps you see below and transferred to the jail, where they typically spend at least 30 days before being set free.

I have learned so much throughout the day by spending time with so many people who are very knowledgeable about this unique location. They drove me around, walked along with me & made sure that I saw all of the essential sights within the town of Churchill, including the Eskimo Museum – what a collection of Inuit artifacts and artwork!

But the best part of my day has been getting to know all of the people who I’m sharing this adventure with – I feel so fortunate to be working alongside such a dedicated team for the next several days! Everyone involved with Polar Bears International is fantastic, and they’ve all been so warm & welcoming. From the accommodations they’re providing us with to the dinner and presentation that they hosted tonight for Manitoba Conservation officials, they know how to take care of business by balancing it with the perfect mix of purpose and pleasure :-)

The team is heading out on Buggy One today to begin the next phase of our Arctic adventure.  Tonight we’ll all be sleeping aboard Tundra Buggy Lodge and we’re all looking forward to our first Tundra Connections webcast tomorrow – I hope you’ll join us :-)


13 Responses to “Report from the Tundra: Magical Moments”

  1. Lauree Kopetsky says:

    Hi Andy. It sounds like you are part of an exciting adventure. Enjoy.

  2. Fantastic Andy.in contact :-) Sincerely Andrés.

  3. Hi Andy,
    We are so excited for you and can’t wait to watch the webcast this afternoon.

    We’ve learned so much about polar bears thanks to Edmodo, getting us interested.

    Now we have lots of questions that we would like to share during the webcast.

    Good Luck!
    Mr. DeLuca’s Grade 3′s at Prince Andrew Public School in LaSalle.

  4. maryyfers says:

    pss Q maal Q tooDoo sstoo sstee paaSaandO….pff

  5. Mrs. Rohne says:

    Hi, we were so excited to join the webcast today from Selkirk, Manitoba. We have skyped with Polar bears international students in previous years. This was a new and neat way to learn more about polar bears in Churchill. Thanks, Mapleton School Grade Four Students

  6. Nice journey!! I love polar bears !!!

  7. Andrea Weaver says:

    Mrs. Weaver’s class is very excited for our visit to the arctic today. We have a few questions.
    Alex wants to know about how many animal species are living in the arctic now? and how many are endangered?
    Emma wants to know what the temperature is in the tundra.
    Ryan C. would like to know how we are helping polar bears survive.
    Ilyssa would like to know some adaptations that polar bears have to help them survive in such a cold climate.

  8. Ashley says:

    I love the pics!!!!! did you take the pics cause if you did you are a good photographer!!!!! LOVE IT!!!!!!

  9. Wow, that’s great! I would love to see Polar Bears in the wild, but ofcourse, I’d keep my distance. I can’t believe they put Polar Bears in jail! At least the serve only 30 days. Human Criminals would love to serve that amount of time over the years we usally serve.

  10. Alex says:

    That was cool! I didn’t know polar bears can be put into jail!!

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