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Venturing into Wapusk National Park

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The WWF Arctic Global Polar Bear specialist, Geoff York, is on a field trip in Churchill on the Hudson Bay, observing and blogging about polar bears. Below is the fifth blog from our ‘eyes and ears on the tundra’. Read more blogs by Geoff York.

By Geoff York

Today I’m joining a special group of visitors from Germany led by a colleague from their WWF home office.  WWF Germany, in partnership with Wick’s (the company many of us know as Vick’s), has become a funding partner of the WWF Global Arctic Program and our polar bear conservation efforts. We are all very lucky to be joining Frontiers North Adventures for their final trip of 2010, and the only trip that is permitted into Wapusk National Park and all the way to Cape Churchill.

Cape Churchill is historically a summer resting area for large adult males and becomes a jump off point for bears migrating north in the fall. It is a unique trip as it is only open to 40 guests per year and the bear viewing opportunities are second to none.

I meet the group at 4:30 PM and it is already getting dark. It will take 40 minutes by bus to the “Buggy Launch” where we will board our transportation across the tundra. From launch we have about an hour trip across the dark windswept tundra in what might be described as a cross between a Monster Truck and a large bus. The wheels alone stand nearly 6 feet tall – keeping you well above the bears and the terrain.

We arrive at the Tundra Buggy Lodge around 8 PM. The Lodge is a series of cars, much like railway cars, also perched atop the same large wheels. There are two sleeper cars, a lounge car, a dining car, and two service cars. Docked to the lodge, like an arctic space station, are the buggies we will be using over the next week.

We are welcomed with a warm dinner and soon spy the first polar bear of the trip sitting just at the edge of the light spilling out from the dining car windows. It’s a large male in good condition that seems interested in watching the evening show. Up here, roles are reversed and the people are as much on display as the wildlife – or so it seems at times!


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