Sunday, July 17, 2016

Battlements & Belugas

We booked a zodiac outing that would not only ferry us across the Churchill River estuary to Fort Prince of Wales, but also give us an opportunity to get up and close to the beluga whales that congregate in the inlet at that time of year.

The fort itself is a fascinating edifice whose thick walls of locally quarried rocks were no match for the excessive amount of men and guns that the French were prepared to apply to its destruction. Governor Samuel Hearne wisely elected to surrender the fort to save his men, and I hope he took some satisfaction in the fact that even without opposition, the French were unable to demolish the structure.

Armchair strategists considering likely places to wait out the zombie apocalypse should take note of the challenges faced by the fort's occupants before deciding on Churchill as a base of operations. While meat is not terribly hard to come by (fish, whales, hares, caribou, etc), the growing season is terribly short, and wood for cooking and heating must be dragged in from quite a distance. While the small population and remote location (coupled with a lack of direct roads) make the area desirable in some ways, an off-shore oil platform closer to the equator remains a superior choice in virtually every aspect.

On the trip back, our guide Jocelyn lead us to some promising areas to see the belugas. The whales themselves are amazing; playful, inquisitive and although not very fast, incredibly agile in the water. The brilliant white skin of the adults combined with the greenish tinge of the water gives them an almost ghostly appearance as they trailed behind our zodiacs, attracted to the noise or motion of the outboard's propellers.

Despite having been sun-roasted in the same area only 4 days earlier, we were bitterly cold on the water; this is, after all, the sub arctic.

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