BELUGA WHALES 2015
I thought that last year we had great
beluga encounters until we went back this year!
When we first arrived in Churchill the
forecast wasn't that great. Strong winds and rain further
south in Manitoba had reduced visibility in the river mouth
to just a few inches. That is the area with the thickest
belugas so I expected a challenging week ahead but
fortunately with 3500 belugas in this part of Hudson Bay, it
was always possible to find pockets of clear water that
To give the viz a chance to improve, we spent
the first day (instead of the last) aboard the Tundra Buggy.
It was a lovely day with mixed sun and cloud, lots of great
avian sightings for the birders in the group and two laid
back polar bears. One of the bears was very chilled out and
let us trundle right up to where he was lounging.
The next day the viz had improved a little
and we went to sea. It was great to be back among the
friendly belugas, some of which would swim right up to the
boat and blow bubbles as if to say get in and play.
For the next four days we did just that. The
visibility improved everyday. By the end of the trip we were
enjoying encounters with large pods of whales that would
congregate 2-3m below the surface and wait for us to swim
down to them.
They were extremely playful. Some were shy
but others would swim right up to my camera and look into
When we were in shallow enough water I tried
my best to get right to the bottom on my duck dives. I am am
not a great free-diver (especially when wearing a drysuit)
but it was worth the effort to watch them hunting for
capelin over the seafloor.
At one point I picked up a pebble and started
tapping it against my camera housing. This elicited a loud
chorus of squeals and chirps from the surrounding belugas;
one more way in which we were able to communicate.
While we were at sea each day we would also
take a daily run by Eskimo Point; an isolated peninsula on
the far side of the river mouth that is a favorite summer
haunt of polar bears. We saw bears there everyday including
this momma and cub that we watched relaxing together and
sometimes wandering along the point.
Between beluga tours, we jumped in our trucks
and drove far and wide exploring the shoreline for bears and
generally soaking in the tundra landscape.
On some nights the clouds parted to reveal
the Aurora in all its splendor. I confess that I slept
through the whole event but some of our guests wandered down
to the shore to enjoy the light show.
All told it was a fabulous week. Hudson Bay
is a beautiful place with a desolate charm that is hard to
convey in just a few paragraphs and pictures. If you would
like to see this gem for yourself, please join us next year
on our third annual