10/24/2012 5:46:46 PM

Connecting with the Tundra

Soft shuffling brought me slowly to awareness as people began to stir and morning light began to tease the horizon. I crawled down from the top bunk of Buggy 8, barely able to crouch upright despite my 5'2" stature. Dawn cast a gentle purple glow across the barren tundra pools. I glanced at Lance over breakfast, sipping my coffee, "Quite a way to start the day..." 

Our Buggy One film studio pulled away from the lodge, gear jostling as BJ maneuvered over rocks and through mud flats. Master of many trades, BJ not only drives the buggy but also runs the webcasts, wires the internet, maintains the polar bear cameras, wrenches on the machinery, fills the propane tanks, and attends phone conferences with scientists and conservationists all over the world. PBI's Tundra Connections would not be possible without him. 

We stopped to spend time with a few different bears throughout the day. Alysa cheerfully chimes in with observations about the bears, a reflection of her intimate knowledge of the majestic creatures. A few jokes are tossed around, "Yupp, see that kelp she's chewing on. polar bears are grazing animals..." We chuckle. 

The truth is that these bears could not adapt enough to life on land. There is nothing substantial enough to provide the fat that a polar bear requires to survive.  Polar bears depend on seal fat. Less ice = less access to seals = less bears = an unhealthy global environment.  You know, just that environment that sustains all life on earth, yeah... that one. 

Time snuck by and we needed to find a bear to hang out near for our first videoconference. We crawled through the boulders in Buggy One. Inside the buggy, anything slightly loose lurched into motion swinging from side to side. We came to stillness near a mother and two yearlings. Unfortunately, the family wandered away from the buggy as we began. 

A class of second graders in Vermont appeared on the screen in front of our panelists. We mostly do webcasts now, however this particular class has been conferencing with Tundra Connections for a few years, and it has become a tradition. The unique thing about a videoconference is that we can actually see the kids reacting to the dialogue, pictures, and squirming in restless delight waiting to ask their question. It's moving to experience our Arctic classroom in action.

The day came to a close with a beautiful rainbow of colors reflecting in the still waters of Hudson Bay. The sunsets here seem to linger on the horizon longer than most I have experienced. We stepped inside to listen to Brandon Laforest's presentation on the Tundra Buggy Lodge. The guests were captivated by his immense knowledge of the bears in southern Hudson Bay. 

Shortly after, Buggy Bob whisked away interested guests for a short night buggy tour to watch the aurora borealis. A short but vivid display of northern lights danced across the sky as our second day of Tundra Connections came to a close. 

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