Bears, Bears everywhere!

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Hi! This is Glenn with the Arctic Voice report on 31st July. We didn’t leave a report yesterday as we got into camp very late. Our position at the moment is just short of halfway through the first stage of the journey. We’re camped at the moment about two miles west of Clifton Point and that’s just next to the entrance to the Dolphin Union Strait. I’ve just come in from thoroughly washing out my kayak. We were inside the tent and Stephen looked out of the tent and saw a mother bear and two cubs within about 3 yards of the tent and they caught a smell of us and disappeared up onto the tundra. But it’s been so windy that we’ve been holed up today that we didn’t hear them and one of them ripped his way into my kayak and one of the cubs actually got into the kayak and crawled right into the other end and chewed its way into our spares kit and made a right mess in the process! So we’ve spent most of the afternoon tidying the kayak. Fortunately for us there’s only one real problem in that it bit into our mosquito repellent which sprayed out all over the inside of the kayak. I was concerned because it’s quite a corrosive substance so I’ve had to wash it out very, very thoroughly. But I think I’ve caught it in time.

Fortunately as well it didn’t damage anything – it tore the spraydeck off and generally ripped into it but all it did was leave lots of fur and so on for us to clear up afterwards. So a lesson to be learned there – leave the kayaks in view, although we just didn’t hear what was going on. The other day we were sitting on the tundra having some lunch and were musing together about the complete wilderness and the awesome size of this place. There is absolutely no sign of human beings at all and we were looking around and wondering who the last people to pass by might have been — they might have been even the early migrants many thousands of years ago. It’s such a wilderness and absolutely astounding from that point of view but it suddenly occurred to us that in the half an hour or so we’ve been sitting and looking over the tundra that about five plane loads of people have passed overhead so perhaps we weren’t quite as alone as we thought!

The silence here is amazing. I’ve experienced effects on the senses before in the Arctic but this is incredible. Sometimes we sit down and can’t hear a thing. The other morning I was lying down and had my eyes closed and could hear church bells – I think it was trick my mind was playing on me. I could almost imagine someone wandering across the village green and getting their Sunday paper and the trees around the church. It was as real as it could be and then I opened my eyes and it was all the sound was lost in the window on the tundra.

The wildlife encounters for us have been amazing in these last few days. We wondered whether we would see any bears and you probably understood from Stephen’s report that we saw about two by that time. We’re now seeing bears every day! We’ve seen two huge male Grizzlies — obviously today we’ve had a very close encounter with bears. And a short while ago, a few days ago we had all the kayaks loaded and ready to leave and we suddenly realised that there was a bear coming down the beach straight towards us. The last thing we load onto the kayaks is our rifles and we took the rifles off and the bear started running towards us and being from the UK I’m not really accustomed to being charged by a huge, rabid bear. So I must stay I started to perspire freely at that point! I’ve always prided myself on the fact that I’m a bit of a coward and I thought well now is the time to prove it! But in fact I didn’t need to – rather than run away and leave Stephen to face the bear – what actually happened was the bear smelt us and loped off up into the hill away from us. Stephen fired a warning shot above its head and I think that probably did the trick.

Otherwise our encounters have been with a Caribou with its young which was great. It sort of followed us along as we kayaked along the coast. And the most amazing one, I have to say, was when we were out in a very calm, flat sea and an enormous seal had been following us for a while. We had just stopped and were chatting and this thing came right up out of the water next to my kayak at a fortuitous moment because Stephen had a camera ready. It was almost as if it had risen up for a chat and Stephen took a picture so we’re hoping it will come out.

We had another close encounter with a Beluga (whale) which came up right near us, about ten yards or so away. With its white smiling face looking at us. All in all things are going well. However, the only downside is that there’s a lot of stop, starting. We kayaked about 60 kilometres yesterday but we’ve been lumbered again with some very bad weather. We’re on time, but we tend to do a lot of mileage then have days when we can’t do anything. And that’s the case today – the wind is about force 5 with some great big breakers crashing down on the shore which makes it very difficult for us to get in and out.

The photos below are a few of a selection that Glenn and Stephen managed to send back (thanks to Chris Currie!). They show Glenn kayaking through the ice at Liverpool Bay and a beautiful Eider Duck’s nest with eggs.

Glenn kayaking through ice at Liverpool Bay

An Eider Duck's nest with eggs

5 Responses to “Bears, Bears everywhere!”

  1. Gordon J in Kent Says:

    Hi, Elaine and I are still keeping track of your progress. Good to hear you are enjoying yourselves. All the best Gordon and Elaine

  2. dana biscotti myskowski Says:

    Absolutely riveting reports. Thank you for sharing this with the rest of the world! It’s an incredible journey and I applaud your efforts–both the physical event and the educational component.

    I was hired a few years ago to write a planetarium show on global climate change directed at junior high students (”Breathing Space,” which screens at the Christa McAuliffe Planetarium in Concord, New Hampshire, USA). Interviewing the numerous scientists has changed my life and inspired my current graduate thesis project: a Nunavut and Newfoundland-set Inuit and qallunaat story of respect, love, and family amidst a backdrop of oil-company wrong doings that have devastating results on the local coastal villages. (So you can imagine that I found your Shell adventures especially interesting!)

    Safe travels!

    Cheers,
    dana

    (I’m in my final semester of study as a low-residency MFA in Creative Writing student, focusing on writing for the stage and screen, at Goddard College, in Plainfield, Vermont.)

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  5. kiloutimuk Says:

    Hi all!

    I am really excited. Keep up the great work. Good resources here.

    G’night