One Man’s Polar Bear is a blog by Dennis Compayre, one of the original Tundra Buggy Drivers, originator of the Polar Bear Cam and Dancer’s buddy. Here is an excerpt… pretty cool stuff!
One Man’s Polar Bear: Len and Dan
Len was built low to the ground, barrel chested with hands thick from gripping wrenches. When the work day was nearly over he liked to gulp whiskey and cola from eight ounce red plastic cups chilled with ice chipped from the windshield of his pick-up truck. Len played hard and worked harder. He built big four wheel drive buggies that could handle any terrain the rough country around Churchill had to offer.
Stately is a word that comes to mind when thinking of Dan. Ram rod straight in stance and very much a gentleman. Picture Mark Twain dressed for 40 below. A biologist and photographer with a passion for Polar bears. A man with a vision. Under any other circumstance there was no reason why these two men should meet. Given Dans’ quest it was inevitable they would. Dan sipped scotch.
Cape Churchill juts into Hudson Bay like a hitchhikers thumb. Follow the coast east from town for fifty kilometres; when it drops sharply to the south there you are. This was where Dan needed to go and was looking for someone to take him. Len was just the guy.
Dan Guravich got a taste of polar bears while on the SS Manhattan, an ice classed oil tanker testing the frozen waters of the Northwest Passage, looking for a viable route to ship crude. He was hired on as official photographer. Seeing a polar bear in the wild is always an intense experience so I can’t help but think when Dan spotted his first polar bear from the deck of the ship he was smitten. His concern for the well being of these iconic animals grew and eventually led him to my home town of Churchill, a small historic seaport on the west side of Hudson Bay just south of the fifty ninth parallel.
Almost arctic, this scrappy little town was first a trading post when Canada was in its infancy. The town endured. Those that chose to live here also chose to accept hardship and isolation in exchange for freedoms only found on the frontier. Like the tidal waters of Hudson Bay the town’s prospects ebbed and flowed but nothing was ever secure. Still isn’t. But Dans’ vision and Len’s hard work and tenacity brought an era of change and hope and a chance for a new identity, one that would be recognized world wide.