A barren expanse of frozen tundra; wind-driven snow; temperatures between minus 35 and minus 40. Fletcher Lake is my “home” for the
week, deep inside Wapusk National Park. Standing on 5 feet of ice for 6 hours a day, I’m waiting, waiting in the only place on earth where I can be on “land” and experience little mounds of white fur with black noses and eyes, the first venture into the world for polar bear cubs and their moms. To native Cree, Wapusk means polar bear, and this park protects the largest known denning area in the world. Weighing only a pound at birth in December, these cubs are nursed to 25 - 30 pounds by the end of February, and are now leaving the relative comfort of their snow dens for the first time.
I’m not sure who sleeps more in a day, a mother polar bear in the frigid Arctic, or a lion in the heat of the savannah. I’ve experienced
both, but right now, I would prefer to feel my fingers. The numbness is worth every painful second, however, for the first moment a bear cub sees the world from the shelter of its mother’s body is breathtakingly tender and beautiful. Patience greater than that of a polar bear is a prerequisite for the images I am so fortunate to have captured.
Evenings offered their share of nature’s wonder, too. Four crystal clear nights brought magical northern lights, set against a backdrop of millions of stars. Shimmering curtains of green spanned the sky from one horizon to the other, dancing for hours in the cold night sky. Native legend says the lights are torches carried by those gone before us to illuminate the land for the living during the long Arctic winter. I’m mesmerized.