Yesterday, this National Geographic Student Expedition took a trip out to see the fen ecosystem and explore the trails around Churchill’s famous Twin Lakes. Here, black and white spruce trees as well as poplar trees fill the area and grow much taller than those in the rest of town. Residents of Churchill will often come out to camp or picnic in “The Burn” as it is affectionately called due to fires that have spread through the area in decades past. Through secondary succession the Twin Lakes area was able to repopulate, from gooseberries growing on the ground to many species of Arctic birds soaring high above the trees.

The fen: a biome of Northern Canada with swampy flowers, muddy pools, and short trees.

The fen: a biome of Northern Canada with swampy flowers, muddy pools, and short trees. (Photo by Harrison)

After feasting on lunch at the beach of one of the two lakes, the travelers headed back to the research center in order to rest up for the upcoming afternoon. After a few hours of rest and working on on-assignment projects, the wildlife group departed with leaders Alex and Matthias to go snorkeling with beluga whales. The students rode the Zodiac boats out into the Hudson Bay and hopped out to see belugas circling around them.

Navigating north toward sea ice on the Hudson Bay.

Navigating north toward sea ice on the Hudson Bay. (Photo by Harrison)

Students are greeted by a curious beluga.

Students are greeted by a curious beluga. (photo by Harrison)

Belugas are intelligent, friendly whales that use high-pitched sounds to communicate. The snorkelers were advised to mimic the sounds to attract whales, or even sing Beatles songs. On the boat, a hydrophone was used to amplify the beautiful whale songs. Some even swam close enough to the boat to see their whole bodies through the water. Evening is feeding time for the whales, so the students could also see their tales coming out of the water when they surfaced, signaling that they were about to dive deeper for food. While the Wildlife students were out on the water, the Photography group stayed back at the research center in order to learn new techniques about photographing wildlife in order to prepare for tomorrow’s experience snorkeling in the water.

Here’s a couple of short videos we made of our Beluga encounters!