“This is the best job I’ve ever had, and I’ve had a lot of good ones,” says Beluga Boat operator, Neil Mumby.
Neil is a highly experienced wildlife guide who has years of experience driving tourists all around the tundra to find polar bears during the autumn months. This summer, though, he gets a new challenge: finding belugas.
He searches for them in the Churchill River and shows them to viewers all over the world via the Beluga Boat Cam. Neil’s preferred method of getting good beluga cam shots is similar to how he finds polar bears on the tundra. “The best method,” Neil explained, “is to get in front of the belugas and then hang out, letting them come to you.” This seems to be less threatening to the whales and is more successful in getting good cam shots. Neil knows what he’s talking about, he’s had a lot of success finding belugas this summer.
The whales are so friendly, the 44-year-old from Tete Jaune Cache, British Columbia, says, it’s hard not to smile. “I find myself smiling even though I’m the only person in the boat,” Mumby says. “Just looking at them makes me happy.” Normally, Mumby might worry about getting the boat too close to the animals. But with belugas, who use sonar to navigate, proximity is not an issue. “They’re the ones who dictate how close we get,” he quips. Mumby’s favorite time to head out and find belugas in the estuary is during low tide. “Sometimes there are so many white dots sticking out of the river, you think you could walk across on their backs.”
So far the cam has captured many playful interactions, lots of baby belugas, and plenty of close ups, including one beluga trying to eat the cam! While there has been some murky water to contend with, Neil is confident that it will clear up soon and that we will continue to have some great views of belugas in the coming weeks. Please let us know if you have questions or comments for Neil and we will pass them along!