POLAR BEARS – CHURCHILL MANITOBA

Mother with Cubs – Keep your Distance

We were posted to HMCS Churchill in 1968 and stayed there until the base closed in June, 1970. It was a bit wild still in those days but we enjoyed every moment of our stay. A few stragglers from the Army and the Air Force still remained but their days were numbered.

In addition to the Polar Bears we had the excitement of the Rocket Range which was an extension of NASA operations from Cape Canaveral, FL. So there were a steady stream of scientists visiting Churchill and they were often invited to our Officer’s Wardroom as well as to the Mess at Fort Churchill. As well, the Brits were there each winter testing their heliocopters and vehicles under Arctic Conditions.

We socialized regularly and to such a degree that we thought we would wear ourselves out. I played hockey for the two winters we were there on our Navy team in the local league. The local league comprised: the Navy, the Town, Rocket Range, and the Fort. It was quite good hockey but very rough. The arena was located next to the hospital and for good reason. Best compliment I was ever paid was one night, (I was growing a beard for the winter carnival) while playing defence I was playing my usual rough game when a couple of women in the stands kept yelling at me and calling me a, “dirty fucking French man.” I thought that was a great complement.

Carmen used to bowl and catch the bus with her friends in front of our quarters. One night I looked out to wave her goodbye when lo and behold just behind her in the ditch was a huge polar bear. Before I could warn her or yell out the bus came and picked her up. I would often using the Navy four by four drive out to the garbage dump at night watching the polar bears rummage through the dump eating their lunch.  Unfortunately they were in competition with the local Indians (to our shame) who every morning with their children and babes in arms would walk past our quarters from Camp 20 to the dump. They stayed there all day eating what they could find and fill their sacks with extra food. As I remember not many people complained about it or even mentioned it.

One evening on the way to the dump I saw a polar bear off in the distance and drove down to about a hundred yards of where he was and left the truck door open and took my camera and walked towards the bear. I walked to about 40 to 50 yards and thought that would be close enough and was confident he couldn’t catch me in a hundred yard dash. I got back and several nights later I was driving out to the dump and came upon a bear running along the road I caught up to him and stayed with him going at over 40 mph. If he had chased me the night I was trying to get a picture I would never had outrun him. I lived another day to tell this yarn to you.

We had a neighour who had a couple of huskies as pets and they lived outside tied up. They were beautiful dogs. He took many pictures including pictures of polar bears that walked by our place regularly and would stop and nuzzle the huskies. One night a polar bear broke into Sid Fowler’s (Navy Boy) place in the back shed where the bear could smell food. Another time a bear broke into the RCMP dependant’s living quarters and went into the clothes drying room and went to sleep. The dilemma the RCMP was faced with was to tranquilize it how would they ever get it out. Finally with noise and flashers the bear got fed up and left on its own.

Have a look now at how polar bears play with dogs. One evening on my way home from work a bunch of teenagers from the local school were down in the rocks facing the Hudson Bay teasing a couple of bears when one came up to an 18 year old and swatted him. He tore the boy’s scalp from the back of his neck, over his head and down his face down to his neck. They flew him out to Winnipeg and sewed him up. He was a lucky boy to have survived this encounter which left him with scars but his life intact.

Coming for a Visit

Checking Credentials and getting Acquainted

Aah you so Cute

 

Want to Snuggle

 

That is Nice and Cozy

I am tuckered out for Today

 

(Pictures courtesy of Dianne Peddle – CAPER)

 

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