10/20/2013 9:52:18 PM

Think Wind Before Opening Door: A Churchill Primer

By Emily Ringer, PBI volunteer

As we descend through the clouds, I anticipate my first sighting of the Hudson Bay and miles upon miles of boundless tundra. For weeks I have bombarded Google Images with searches of "Churchill," '"Tundra," "Sea Ice," "Hudson Bay Coast" -an attempt to mentally construct a visual for a scene so foreign to me.

We drop beneath the clouds and within moments I find myself jolting forward, abruptly coming to stillness, grounded in Churchill. Google Images didn't tell me that the cloud ceiling sits on top of town like another layer of soil!

Loading my things into the truck, I open the door and read the warning on the window: "Think wind before opening door." You only need to be smacked in the face with a door once to believe this bright red lettering. Rest assured I will precede with intense caution for the remainder of my time in Churchill.

Within three hours of arriving in town, I encounter an arctic fox out on Cape Merry. It scurries across the lichen-covered rocks, looking back curiously to see if we are still watching. Its white fur practically glows against the autumn covered ground. On this mild fall day, I am wrapped in layers of wool and down and still feel the cold seeping into my bones. The bushy white fox prevails in such bitter conditions, and as I watch it disappear between the sloping coastal rocks, I am already overwhelmed by an immense appreciation for the ecosystem here.

It doesn't take long to see why people fall so madly in love with Churchill. With no roads leading in or out of town, it exudes an authentic sense of solitude and remoteness. Winds blow completely horizontally, shrubs hover close to the ground, pools of water splatter the landscape, and trees often only have branches on one side due to such strong winds. Bear patrol trucks cruise through town ready to alert people when a polar bear is roaming the streets, and everything from signs to statues to satellite dishes have an artistic rendition of a polar bear on them.

Churchill loves the polar and the polar bear loves the sea ice outside of Churchill.

This is my first time in northern Canada, and these are just my first impressions of Churchill. As a PBI volunteer during bear season, every day there is a new person to meet, a new challenge to take on, and a laundry list of tasks from cooking a group meal to scrubbing the salty windows of the Tundra Buggy. I am thrilled for this opportunity to observe and soak in the charms of the environment in all of its sub-arctic intricacies—while also doing my part to help preserve it.

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