Explore is a philanthropic media organization


 / Post by Katie Billing (Wildlife Katie) of Polar Bears International

I am currently writing to you from the lovely town of Churchill! Population: 800. It has been a long journey, but I have finally returned to the extraordinary place that forever changed my life.

I received a cold blast of -10 °C /14 °F as I exited the charter plane. This weather is all too familiar, except this time around there is snow, and not just a sprinkle, HEAPS of it! Driving into Churchill sent chills down my spine (literally and figuratively) as I reconnected to the familiar landscape. The sparse landscape and endless sky was mesmerizing.

We decided to grab brunch at Gypsy’s, the premiere café/restaurant in Churchill.  Inside, we were greeted by our dear friends from Polar Bears International. Erica and I, being PBI leadership camp alums, were overjoyed to see our colleagues. The combination of old friends, freezing weather, and delicious food makes for a great start to the day.  We reconnected, filling in the gaps of time. I have never been so genuinely happy!

Soon, the explore.org crew decided to go to Cape Merry, where the Prince of Wales Fort is located. We ran into Dave, an employee of Parks Canada and old friend. He brought our crew over to see our first wild polar bear. Using binoculars, I eventually spied the male bear Dave was raving about. The bear had recently swum to the fort across the cape from us just minutes before we arrived and was rolling around in the snow. The playful antics of the bear brought a warm fuzzy feeling to my heart. This is where the polar bears belong: in the wild, roaming the desolate (yet not lifeless) tundra!

We are heading out on the tundra buggy with high hopes of seeing even more bears. This feels like a dream, but I’ve pinched myself several times to know that it’s not.