I started watching the cams in 2011. Like many of you, I quickly became infatuated by the Bears of Katmai. I lurked for a time and then posted as a guest for a while (back when that was an option) before signing up and becoming an official member of the explore.org family of viewers. When bear season ended, I visited all the other incredible cams, stumbling onto the Churchill cams. They were a bit different back then, but I instantly felt I was home. The Northern Lights, polar bears, and belugas were my gateway, as Churchill seeped into my soul. I’ve been hanging out there ever since. My name is Cloud and I’m a Churchill-aholic.
I’ve thought about volunteering as a CamOp, but life gets in the way and I knew it would be a while before my time was my own and I could give it the attention it deserves. I’ve always held our CamOps in the highest regard. These are people like you and me who give of themselves, their time and talents so that we can all enjoy the sights and sounds of these magical cams. Imagine my surprise when I was invited to be a CamOp for a Day on the Beluga Boat. I was honored beyond words.
The night before, CamOp Kat taught me the basics and let me practice a bit on the Cape South cam, a cam I am pretty familiar with. It’s not too hard to learn but takes a lot of practice to make it look as effortless as they do. Moving boat, moving whales, moving cam. How do they do it? How would I do it? My admiration for them grew even stronger.
When my big day arrived I was so excited and nervous, worried I’d let the Crew and the viewers down, but everyone so welcoming and kind. My Crew, CamOp BB, CamOp Greg, CamOp Pan, CamOp Maise and CamOp Kat, were all so helpful and encouraging. Other CamOps not working that shift popped in to wish me well. Even Captain Kieran welcomed me, as he announced the Crew for the day. What a great group of people we have operating the cams.
My first rotation came up and I was off! The belugas were there for me, hanging out behind the boat, as they do, so I didn’t need to do too much. CamOp Kat asked if I wanted to take the next rotation, but I declined. I needed a moment to calm down from the excitement and nerves and compose myself before my next turn. When my next rotation came up, I was ready. And when Kat offered to give me her spot, I took it too! What a feeling: watching the cam and knowing you are helping others see those breathtaking sights while enjoying them yourself. It doesn’t get any better than that!
There is a white plastic lawn chair that has been sitting by the boat launch in Churchill all summer long. I’ve claimed it as my own, looking for it every day, imagining myself sitting there watching the happenings on the river and the Beluga swimming by. When my day on the Beluga Boat was over and the zodiac arrived back at the launch, I was shocked and overwhelmed with joy to see that my awesome CamOp Crew and Captain Kieran had commemorated my day on the cam with a sign on that chair that read “Cloud’s Chair”. Tears of joy were shed. They will never know hope much the simple gesture meant to me.
I am so grateful for explore.org, our outstanding CamOps, and my fellow viewers. Explore.org is a lot of things to a lot of people. One of the main things is Community. I cannot thank everyone enough for allowing me to be CamOp for a day.
If you have ever thought about volunteering as a CamOp or have never given it a thought, I urge you to do it. You will get much more out of it than you give and you’ll be in the company of some very special people. When my time becomes my own again, I will. Hopefully, on the Churchill cams.