BJ Kirschhoffer, PBI's director of field operations, takes the beluga cam boat on a test drive in the open waters of Hudson Bay. When the bay ice melts, polar bears are forced ashore--and beluga whales arrive to mate and give birth to their young

© Kt Miller/Polar Bears International.

7/21/2015 6:29:12 PM

Getting Ready for the Beluga Cam

By Kt Miller, Assistant Media Manager  

It's been a bit of a whirlwind up in Churchill this summer, but it's always a bit of a whirlwind when you are working in the north. It seems like no matter how hard you try to plan ahead, things always go awry and problem solving is a constant: cargo is late, flights are cancelled, weather rolls in ....

This makes things especially challenging when we're trying to bring complex technology to a remote region and get it functioning without flaws. I suppose that's part of the thrill of it, though, and once we finally succeed in getting things right, it's very rewarding.

One of our projects this summer is assisting explore.org with the LIVE beluga whale boat camera. We are helping to rig two cameras on a Zodiac, one underwater and one above, that will stream live to the internet during high tide each day. It's a unique way to allow people from all over the world a glimpse into the incredible ecosystem surrounding the town of Churchill, Manitoba. Given that it's a very expensive place to travel, the LIVE cams allow everyone a peek into this surreal environment and an opportunity to experience the wonder of the beluga whales.

I'm no expert, but from my perspective it seems like the first step in conserving something— be it sea ice, polar bears, or beluga whales— is to connect with it. As humans we tend to protect the things we love, the things we care about, the things that have pulled our heartstrings in some way. And although there's nothing quite like seeing something in person with your own two eyes, the live cams come close, and the window into remote regions of the world has the ability to foster the connection that people crave—to allow us to see, feel, and experience an extraordinary place.

Earlier in the week a deep fog rolled in and settled onto the town of Churchill for a full 24 hours. It seemed to slow everything down. Nothing could come and go. Flights were cancelled. The air was still. Some work was delayed, other work pushed on. In the middle of the hustle-bustle it seemed to cause pause.

I took a moment to stop on the shore of Hudson Bay and connect. I gazed into the vast white nothingness. As I looked out over the horizon I appreciated it as it is now— its vast, wild, expanse stretching as far as the eye can see, waves gently lapping on the shore— and I thought about how crazy it is that Hudson Bay is completely frozen over for much of the year, a vastly difference surface providing a vastly different ecosystem and way of life. I thought about how sad it is that sea ice is covering Hudson Bay for less and less time each year and how stressful that is on the people and animals' way of life.

As I walked away from the shore of Hudson Bay I thought about the things that are are in our control, like carbon emissions, business practices, and what we buy at the grocery store, and I thought about the things that out of our control, like the foggy weather and the delayed flights. 

As explore.org counts down to the launch of the Beluga Cam, take a moment to meet adventurer, boat captain, and beluga whale guide Haley Shephard, and polar bear biologist and assistant beluga boat captain Patrick Mislan.

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