Day 413 Beluga Whale Snorkelling in Churchill, Manitoba

Today was a long time coming.  Before we left Australia Dan had found on YouTube a guy’s GoPro video of snorkelling in Hudson Bay with beluga whales – footage I found terrifying but attracted Dan like doctors to free food at a lunch time meeting.  I mentally prepared myself for the experience by watching Jaws and reminiscing on all three of my near-drowning experiences.  I’m was not looking forward to it.  We waited out front of Polar Inn, along with other tour groups.  The Sea North Tours shuttle bus transported us across to the dock.  We headed toward the snorkel shack.  There were eight in total for the snorkel tour.  Our briefing began.

The Cold

My first apprehension was that we had to snorkel in the Hudson Bay, which is frozen for a lot of the year, and expected to be a liquid 4 degrees Celcius.  Don’t worry about feeling cold; these wetsuits are 7 mm thick.  We have trouble getting people out of the water.  I didn’t really believe the guy until I squeezed myself into the wetsuit.  I was encased in rubber.  And not the glistening fetish wear thin and slippery kind but the thick insulating if-you-move-you-spring-back-into-shape-kind.  It was a workout just to bend over and pick up my gloves.  An overall legs section went on first.  Then you step your right leg into the leg-hole of the top section, and  reverse-peel into that.   If successful you squeeze your feet into boots, and zip the legs over the boots.  Gloves and a head section are last – we looked like Medieval knights without armour.


Our two groups of four headed out towards Hudson Bay.  There weren’t any sharks.  But we saw another mother polar bear and her yearling.  Three zodiacs (the black buoyant boats that they ferry around people on) were manoeuvred as close to the point as possible, without disturbing the bears that were lumbering along the coastline.  The cub jumped into the water to cool down.  My face sweated; it was the only exposed skin.  Sandflies began to swarm around us, mostly around Dan for some reason.

The Whales

There are bush fires in Northwest Territories or something and that somehow leads to murky water in the Churchill River and poor visibility for snorkelling.  We drove past the small pods of whales in the shallow water of the river and out into Hudson Bay, where the water changes from warmer fresh water to colder salt water.  The visibility was marginally better but the whale pods were more spread out, and not interested in staying in one spot.  Eventually we headed back toward the river to join the other zodiac – where all four snorkelers were surrounded by pods of whales.  We got in but I struggled to see more than a few metres and could only just make out vague white whale-shaped shadows in the depths.  When we got out of the water we encountered a feeding frenzy and it was a real treat for Dan and his GoPro.

Another mother & cub.  Beluga whale snorkelling.  Churchill, Manitoba.
Another mother & cub. Beluga whale snorkelling. Churchill, Manitoba.

The Coma

When we finally got back to land (a short but significantly bumpy ride on the slightly choppy water because three of us had very full bladders) we raced out of our wetsuits toward the single toilet.  I had got salt water up my noise and it was dripping with salt water snot.  We left piles of wetsuit components on the floors for the staff to rinse off and drank warm black tea out of a thermos flask.

It was past lunchtime so Dan and I went back to the Seaport for lunch.  We ate salad.  Even though it’s only been two days here the fish & chips and chicken tenders we ate for supper last night (all carbs, all fried) left us hungering for something leafy.  The waiter was abrupt again, but chatty to the ladies behind us, leaving us wondering how we’d offended him.  He didn’t make eye contact and was curt in response.  We won’t go back.

I had grand plans to update my blog but crawled into bed and closed my eyes, waking up three hours later with weakened muscles.  Salad for dinner and an early night for us!

#beluga #snorkel #churchill #manitoba

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