Blizzard day today, at least at ground level… Woke up to buckets of snow sweeping over the roof and the wind rattling the north wall of the cabin. If my chainsaw worked and I actually had firewood, this would be the start of a very comfortable cabin day but my chainsaw doesn’t work and my Japanese film crew gets up pretty early.
Once the northwind gathers steam, it does not take long for the ice to build along the coast. Sea ice sinks as it freezes and turns into something we call ‘grease ice’, a thick mix of slushy water, kind of resembling waves of gravy. There was a lot of freezing going on today, myself included, and no shortage of gravy either.
In fact, the Churchill River kind of skipped a couple steps and large pads of pancake ice were already forming south of ‘the Flats’. The coast would ripple and flare up as the breakers hit the soup of shore ice. Pretty cool – would have been even better if we weren’t filming directly into the wind.
And, of course, a raven tumbled through the shot as we stood in a cluster of frozen Japanese. Sometimes it seems like ravens thrive on cold, wind and misery, after any Churchill blizzard as soon as you open you curtains, there seems to be a raven almost ‘surfing’ in the wind, seemingly just out to have fun. Crazy.
Polar Bear Alert set out a couple more traps this week but not much moving today, at least not until dusk. There was one bear that tried to walk across the airport road only to retreat back east, only to sneak past about twenty unbeknownst tourists walking around at the polar bear jail. I think he ended up hunkered down at the old dump, probably planning a late night escape… to somewhere.
The first real sundogs of the season appeared as the temperature dropped through the day, by sunset, we were closing in on -30C windchill. Sundogs are basically two mini-rainbows on either side of the sun, an effect of frozen ice crystal swirling around in the sky. A wide band of light even poured down from the sun today, sometimes called the sun’s ‘walking stick’ by the Inuit. It basically means that the weather is going to stay harsh and cold for at least a couple days.
The tricky thing is that four or five days of this kind of wind and cold (daily highs of -15C or so) will mean a fast and hard freeze-up. Good news for the bears, a bit tricky for late season tourists… on the bright side, a last minute south wind almost always delays freezeup for a week or so.