Polar Bears International

Watching a red fox leap to catch lemmings, bury the small ones for later consumption, and eat the larger ones immediately, was one of many memorable moments.

© Soren Koch

11/3/2017 1:58:02 PM

Arctic Impressions: Three Amazing Days Frozen in Time

By Brad Fountain, Discovery Education 

What an amazing couple of days in Churchill, Manitoba, polar bear capital of the world!

As I begin to absorb the breathtaking experiences, one theme continually stands out to me: professional passion. The passion and enthusiasm the folks with Polar Bears International (PBI) show in their work is astonishing. Each waking moment is spent thinking and working toward bettering the lives of the polar bears and the world as a whole. Their mission of education about the environment, protecting it, and how this, in turn, protects polar bears is inspirational.

It reminds me of another group I have the pleasure to work with daily: the teachers of the Discovery Educator Network community. These leaders work tirelessly to better the lives of the children and to bring about a better world for all of us through the way they impact students. Both groups are driven to assist another group in forging the path to their fullest potential; a path that is necessary but could not be forged alone. Both groups are determined to educate others to fully appreciate the way in which great things can be achieved when we work together.

Large male polar bear.A polar bear approaches our Tundra Buggy. Photo copyright Brad Fountain.

For a first-time visitor to Churchill there was so much to take in yet so little time to experience all it had to offer. You might think that a town with total population of less than 900 people would not have much to offer, but you would be terribly mistaken. Churchill’s rich history goes back over one thousand years, but is probably most remembered for the Hudson Bay Company’s involvement in the early 1700s and events after.

During my time in the town of Churchill, I not only began to learn and love the history of Churchill, but I also got to meet some of its historians who keep Churchill’s history alive. Several things struck me about these individuals. One was their unequivocal knowledge of the town. Yet just as impressive was their eagerness to share this knowledge with anyone interested in listening. There was also a sense of compassionate grace that I felt when I met anyone in town. The people are strong, passionate, and proud of their heritage and town, but also welcoming and kind to all who come to Churchill.

While I loved exploring Churchill, I also relished the time on the tundra with the amazing scientists and directors from PBI. Just like the folks in town, the folks from PBI have so much knowledge to share. Their breadth of understanding of not only the polar bears, but also the environment polar bears and so many other amazing animals call home, is remarkable. Also like the people of Churchill, the folks at PBI are willing and eager to share their knowledge with anyone who comes out to the tundra to witness its majesty. 

My two days on the tundra are days I will never forget. From the first day’s polar bear sighting (and eventual shooing so she would not damage the buggy’s broadcast wiring) to the second day’s sightseeing and world-wide school broadcasts, every moment seemed to both freeze in time and flash by in an instant. Images of a polar bear resting his head peacefully on a mound of kelp, only occasionally opening his eyes to check on the world around him, are etched in my memory. The spectacle of watching a red fox leap to catch lemmings, and bury the small ones for later consumption, while eating the larger ones immediately, was simultaneously humorous and mystifying for both me and the PBI team. Finally, to have a beautiful polar bear find us and the cameras during a live broadcast was something that brought me incredible joy and excitement.

To know that we were not only educating viewers about polar bears, but allowing them to experience what might be their only opportunity to see a polar bear live in his natural habitat, left me feeling awestruck. Although the frozen tundra will give way to a spring thaw, these memories and experiences are forever frozen in my mind for the polar bears to venture across any time they please.

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