November 6, 1998

How exciting!  This was a real hard night to get to sleep--in fact I didn't!  The excitement that I felt all night was about to come true!!  I received a call from Tundra Buggy, that they were on their way to pick me up before meeting the other people at the airport.  Also, I received a call from the Manitoba Department of Natural Resources that myself and my school (Clay) was approved to receive a special government film about the internal workings of the famous polar bear jail!  I had to apply and surrender information at their office in Churchill yesterday.  I understand that this process takes a few days, but this was sent through immediately.  They are supposed to fax Clay JHS with the appropriate paperwork to finally get the film later on.  The green school bus arrived to take me to the airport to join the group that is to go to the polar lodge and buggy.  Soon, the bus filled with people that were going out with me onto the tundra.  After a period of time, we arrived at the buggy launch.  The workers transferred all of our luggage onto the buggy.  (You will just have to see the photos to be able to comprehend what all of this looks like and how all of this was carried out!!!).  John Bykerk, of Winnipeg, is our guide and driver.  It turns out that he is a professional tour guide; photographer; works in ecotourism; and has spent a great deal of time in Churchill and the surrounding areas.  We headed out from the launch and during the first part of our drive, I met many people aboard the buggy.  They are from all parts of the country.  One family, Mrs. Lisa Garrison and her son Jon, from Ogden, Utah are traveling here to see the bears as well.  Jon is an eighth grade student who has shed an interesting view on things that we have seen during the course of the day.  I will try to expand on that a bit later.  This whole process is, well, absolutely amazing.  We are rolling across the tundra in this huge #10 Tundra Buggy towards the lodge.  There are a total of 37 on this exclusive adventure.  The vehicle seats 42.  Actually, the driver makes it 38.  Soon, we are traversing icy ponds and upon occasion, they break and the monster truck wheels grind to drag us out of the murky condition.  Within minutes we see our first polar bear.  In fact, it's two!  Then three, four, five.  As we continue to approach this mysterious lodge on wheels as we go across the tundra.  The vehicle is only moving a very few miles per hour.  The grinding power of this machine is incredible.  You won't believe the size of the rocks we are driving right over the top.  The machine (the Tundra Buggy) tilts as one wheel at a time makes it over the incredible boulders which have been left from glaciation.  The lodge is in sight.  An extraordinary chain of four, maybe five vehicles on these hugmongous wheels.  This will be our lodge for the next three days.  We will never touch ground---as that's where this deadly carnivore, the polar bear, are waiting.  The lodge or also called the "bunkhouses" is surrounded by polar bears.  We are given instructions as how to determine our berths (sleeping quarters) and what next will happen.  All the luggage, piece by piece is brought into this very narrow place and eventually winds up at the proper bunk.  There is enough room in the bed to actually park most of the stuff I brought and under my bed the suitcase can fit.  It's time for lunch.   Sandwiches, drinks are the bill of fare.  All are prepared right on site!  The bunkhouse has it's own chef and assistant, with a kitchen, lounge area, showers, toilets----all above---10 feet above the ground.  The bears are somewhat attracted to this place by the smells.  It should be noted that the bears are NOT fed or baited here.  This lodge is situated literally a stones throw from the edge of the Bay.  The natural place for the bears to collect.  But, too, I am sure the lure of food on board is an attractive smell, at least for curiosity.  An arctic fox is running back and forth around the lodge.  The bears are sparring off to the side.  There are five or six just in the area.  I think the count at this point is running appx 17 polar bears!  We are told the buggy is about to depart for our afternoon excursion around the area.  It has seemed that everything I have seen has been just out my window!!  There is no way to put in to words what was seen today.  I have no idea how to describe the incredibility of all of this!  We have a wonderful day of photography, seeing bears relax, play, spar (a friendly type of wrestling), chew kelp (seaweed),  As the sun starts to set, John spots a snowy owl.  Practically all white, it rests on the top of a rock right at the edge of the water of the Bay.  We finally lose the light and have to head to the bunkhouse.  Dinner was at 6pm sharp.  Everything was served to us as though in a fancy restaurant!  The care and attention to all details for every person was attended to!  Now, the people that are doing this are only three:  John, Tanya-the cook and daughter of owner and founder of the company (Len Smith) and Scott, her assistant.  The dinner was marvelous.  And out the window, polar bears are trying to get up on the tires of the dining car to get a look in at us--or the food!  WOW!  (look at the photos!!!!!!)  A home made cherry cobbler was served for desert.  After all of that, in the lounge, John gave a talk about the bears and their lives.  Most of that information I will discuss in the FAQ section of this site (as I have had many emails and questions sent regarding this subject).  I am exhausted!  The buggy is supposed to leave tomorrow morning at 8am.  Electricity and all power will be shut down on the whole lodge in just a few minutes (10pm).  As I look out the window of my cubicle--my "bedroom" I see a polar bear bedding down in a small clump of willows!  Oh, by the way:  the total amount of polar bears today: 29!!  Boom--power off, good night.