Saturday, November 8, 2008

Arrival in Churchill

Wow! Up at 4AM. That is worse than birdwatching in May! Our early flight out of Winnipeg aboard the winter conditions outfitted ATR 42, one of the workhorses of the northern fleet, was early but way smoother than we all had anticipated considering the conditions on the two previous day.

Once up over the low cloud ceiling, the sun which we had not seen for two days, greeted us with a poetic start to the day. Two and a half hours later, we were on the ground, enjoying our first introduction to Churchill, "Polar Bear Capital of the the World."

We made a brief stop at the Polar Bear "Jail" where town roaming bears are taken until the ice forms, then to the famed Gypsy"s Diner for our first of many home cooked meals. We spent some time driving around town for an orientation kind of tour, checked into the hotel, did a little shopping, and then ventured over to the Eskimo Museum.

This small but inspirational museum talks superbly about the life of peoples in the north, how they manage with the harsh conditions, their relationship with Nanook (their name for the Polar Bear), and exhibits the best of Inuit art in its superb collection of carved soapstone and walrus ivory.

Pat Rouseau is a wealth of knowledge having lived many years along the eastern shores of Baffin Island. No bears today but none were expected or hoped for in town. Tomorrow we head south along Hudson Bay to Cape Churchill where we have heard that many bears are now congregating.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Winnipeg: Gateway to the Canadian West
Our first sop today was Manitoba's provincial capitol building, a stunning example of the Free Masons' astounding abilities. The detail of the carvings in the fossil laden limestone, enormous bronze statues of bison, and shear elegance of the building were captivating.

With early winter grayness, raw, windy conditions, a day at the museum was a great way to introduce ones self to the environs of the Canadian north. The natural history and cultural museum here in Winnipeg is one of Canada's hidden gems.

This museum embraces the aboriginal cultures, early European influences, and northern ecology with superb focus and delivery. Displays include great information about the Hudson Bay Company and its early endeavors to tame the Canadian wilderness.

Dioramas were among the finest I have seen and rival the best New York and Boston have to offer. It was hard to pull tour participants from the very informative, entertainingly diverse exhibits offered by this museum.
This inukshuk is an ancient navigational aid used in the arctic and still used today, apparently more reliable than modern aids.
And apparently the gift shop was good too.

Early flight to Churchill tomorrow.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Arrival in Winnipeg
Our intrepid group of travelers arrived with no delays or flight troubles. Winnipeg weather is a reminder of what's ahead for us in the next month or so at home with driving rain and frozen precipitation on the menu for tomorrow; hopefully clearing in time for our early flight on Saturday.
Delise and Joan

Our group dwindled a bit with Fran T. not being able to make it last minute. We will miss you Fran and promise to keep an eye on your husband Paul. He seemed to enjoy himself at dinner and truly is a kind and welcome addition to the adventurous team.

We have a number of single ladies on the tour, a large family group of five, two brother-in-laws, two young 10 year old boys, a retired attorney, a graduate of Yale Forestry School, an international investor, medical sales person, two artists, a retired executive, and a few more I have not yet discovered...a real eclectic group. It promises to be a very interesting eight days full of engaging conversation.

Pat Rouseau
Pat Rouseau, our Canadian guide with over 30 years of experience with the Canadian parks service, gave us our evening briefing of things to come. A great dinner kicked off the evening and anticipation of coming events has everyone energised...perhaps a bit more so after catching up on lost sleep from all the early morning departures.

More to come. Off to explore Winnipeg tomorrow.

Cheers, AG

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Heading for Adventure
I have been packing for the last four hours, first starting with all the stuff that I think I need, and then culling it out to what I really need, about 65 pounds of gear, tripod, winter coat, and high tech thermal gear. Oh yeah...did I mention we are off to Churchill, Manitoba to see the annual Polar Bear migration? This will be my third time there and for many reasons promises to be the most memorable with a great group of travelers, including my wife and Sam, our ten year old son. I look forward most to seeing how Sam will react upon seeing his first bear, the largest land carnivore.

Well, lots of travel ahead for tomorrow. Talk with you soon.