AND ENCOUNTERS WITH
A 2017 BIG
FISH EXPEDITIONS TRIP REPORT
Our 2017 Beluga and Polar
Bear Expedition in a Nutshell:
Visibility was sometimes challenging but
there were plenty of friendly belugas, great polar bear
encounters and an epic heavenly light show!
Endangered Belugas? Not in
One of the main reasons we conduct our beluga
trips in Churchill is the shear number of belugas that visit
Hudson Bay each summer. This year was no exception! Each day
on the water we saw many individuals, lots of family units
(4 or 5 adults with 1 or 2 young) and numerous socializing
pods of 10-20 animals. There is nowhere else in the world
where you can find such consistently high numbers of
Chasing Clear Water
As I already mentioned, visibility wasn't
always great in the river so we had to head out into the bay
to find clearer water. However, even in the river (where the
belugas are usually thickest) there were still days with
decent water clarity where portraits of belugas swimming
over the river bed were possible.
Very Friendly Whales!
The key to successful encounters, rests with
finding the right pod to interact with. Many pods are aloof,
preferring to hunt for capelin (their favourite food fish)
in private. So, we usually drive from one pod to the next
seeing if they are curious and want to inteact with the
boat. If they do, then we slip in.
Another Good Year for
Its always a shock to me, how many bears we
see in the summer time. Before I started running trips, I
thought you had to be extremely lucky to see a summer bear.
Although I wouldn't want to 'guarantee' bear sightings, the
bears have been consistently good during all of our summer
This year we were fortunate to see them:
From the zodiac:
From the Tundra Buggy:
And numerous times while we drove our trucks
around on the tundra before or after our beluga swims:
Touring the Tundra
We like our beluga trips to be well rounded.
We spend four mornings or afternoons (depending on the
tides) playing with belugas. We also spend a full day on the
tundra buggy. That still leaves us some downtime so we rent
trucks and drive around the tundra looking for bears,
photographing belugas from the shore and generally enjoying
the unique vibe of this pristine part of the sub-arctic.
Here are some of the OTHER highlights:
Bald and Golden Eagle spotting:
Exploring the wreck of the 100 year old
Visiting the last remaining Canadian Eskimo
Dogs; an ancient breed that has almost gone extinct except
for here in Hudson Bay.
And, visiting an Arctic Tern Colony.
There were faint auroras most nights during
the trip but on our last night, we were treated to an
incredible heavenly spectacle!
Encouraged by the intensity of the solar
storm, we drove out of town to an area far from any light
pollution and spent the night trying to capture the
unforgettable aurora borealis.
To make the images just a little more
creative, I spent sometime painting with flashlights in the
foreground. In my opinion, this resulted in some very nice
A shot of some of our intrepid guests during
a lull in the solar activity :)
Although our focus (as always) was on big
animals, I was thrilled to finally see a wood frog in the
arctic. This fascinating species freezes solid during the
winter and then thaws again completely unharmed during the
brief northern summer. To do this, it has a type of
antifreeze in its blood that allows it to survive in a
dormant state during the long harsh arctic winters. A truly
One More Encounter I have
I had to share this beluga image. On our last
day, high tide was quite late in the day so we stayed out
until the sun has almost set. I've always wanted this
opportunity when the light dances on the surface and send
shafts of colour into the deep green water. Fortunately, the
belugas were in a particularly playful mood as well. This
image is the best I could do to sum up the scene. Its not
surprising photographers call this The Magic Hour.
Join us for Belugas and
Bears in 2018
Needless to say, it was another dreamy trip
and we will do our best to repeat it, or maybe even improve
on it next year. 2018 is almost full already but you still
have a chance to join us if you would like to experience the
belugas of Hudson Bay:
Belugas and Polar Bears 2018