Immerse yourself in their world
What makes the Beluga Boat so unique is our ability to share the whales with thousands of people around the world via live Beluga Cams in partnership with explore.org. Rigged with above-water and underwater cameras, complete with hydrophones, we have the ability to stream live footage of the whales in their natural habitat. Not only are viewers able to enjoy these incredible animals interacting with the boat and their surrounding environment, but they have the opportunity to take part in a citizen science project, Beluga Bits, by taking snapshots on the explore.org site.
When the Beluga Bits project started in 2016, a main goal was to find out if the same whales were returning to the estuary every year. It wasn’t long before the research team, led by Dr. Stephen Petersen at the Assiniboine Park Zoo, realized there was a lot more we could learn about the belugas through this method of data accumulation.
With the support of volunteers, student researchers, and new machine learning methods, researchers can now collect more robust information on mothers and calves, the social behavior and structure of the pods, wounds and their healing process, the overall health of the beluga population, and other aspects of the river’s ecology. One of the exciting findings from this project so far has been photo evidence of two new jellyfish species in the estuary—the melon comb jellyfish and common northern comb jellyfish (not previously documented within Hudson Bay).
The polar bears return
It is now early August, the middle of the beluga season, and now that the boat is up and running my eyes are no longer solely fixed on the water. Each summer as the sea ice in Hudson Bay diminishes, eventually melting entirely, the polar bears who had spent their winter on the ice hunting for seals now find themselves forced to shore, where they will wait patiently until the fall when the bay freezes again. During this time, it becomes common to see the bears roaming the shorelines, sleeping among the rocks, or taking a swim in an attempt to cool off in the summer heat.