I was a polar bear guide aboard One Ocean Expeditions’ One Ocean Voyager in the summer of 2016, travelling from western Greenland through the Northwest Passage to Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. I’m a conservation officer and have been hunting and camping on the land since I was little, but this was my first time guiding on an expedition ship. My job, along with my fiancé’s, was to go ashore first and ensure the area was clear of polar bears before the guests arrived. I also guided hikes and provided information about the flora and fauna.
This experience made me realize how much I take living in the North for granted: the landscape, vegetation, wildlife. I see these things every day, but others from the south have never seen them and might not see them again in their lifetimes.
A really exciting moment for everyone was when we went into Coningham Bay off Prince of Wales Island, Nunavut. It’s really shallow, so you have to time your entry with high tide (at low tide, even a Zodiac will hit bottom). In this giant bay, the rocks are smooth and whales will come and rub against them. People from the region hunt whales here and when they bring one ashore, they take what they need and leave the carcass, which attracts polar bears. When we were there, we must’ve seen about 10 to 15 polar bears all along the shoreline digging into a beluga carcass.
Growing up in Iqaluit, it’s not a good thing if you see a polar bear and you try to get it away from you. So, I’ve never seen a bear that’s not being deterred. That was the first time I just enjoyed watching these amazing creatures.