“I had always wanted to visit Churchill. Once I got here, I decided that I had to stay.” This is a story I heard repeated often in this remote Manitoban community. From the bubbly English tour guide at the local museum, to the Dutch photographer that came up on a last-minute train ticket, to the college student who called all the businesses in Churchill alphabetically until she found a job that would let her live here. Something about the place gets in to the soul of certain people and does not let go.
Situated on the shores of icy Hudson Bay, Churchill is a town blasted by Arctic air that has very little to block its way south. This means that despite being at about the same latitude as my hometown of Anchorage, it is already well in to winter when I arrive in mid-October. Dry snow drifts are covering the ground and it’s a brisk 32 degrees with a stiff wind blowing off the water. It gives me a vaguely Christmas-y feeling rather than a couple of weeks before Halloween. But the conditions do not dampen the spirits of our group as we prepare for going out on the tundra over the next few days.
The experience on the tundra does not disappoint. We are treated to stunning views in ever changing hues of gray, green, and blue. Buttery yellow polar bears amble easily through the willow brush seemingly unbothered by our excited photography. The bears, owls, fox, hares, and lemmings simply carry on their routines as they have for thousands of years, whether we’re there or not. To sit in this place, surrounded by this ecosystem, is to feel like a small part of this larger connected earth.
After spending time in this unique and beautiful place, I understand the almost primal attraction people feel to Churchill. It offers a chance to be a small part in a long history of both man and nature. It’s an opportunity to see one of the natural wonders of the world and leave it for the next generation to enjoy.
By Stephanie Lee, WWF