Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Posts tagged ‘polar bears’

Teacher Learns About Polar Bears in Icy Arctic

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Sometimes even polar bears just want to have fun.

Not everyone would consider sleeping in a tent on the ice the perfect vacation, but Bobbie Henderson thought it a great adventure. Over the past few years, she has made not one, but two trips to the far, far north just to get up close and personal with polar bears.

While she’s had a long-time passion for animals, one day while teaching an eighth grade class, they watched a film about polar bears. At the end of the film, it told about possible tours on the tundra where you could see polar bears just outside your window. Bobbie was hooked.

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Three polar bears relax in the setting sun on Hudson Bay.

Her first polar bear expedition headed to Churchill on Hudson Bay in the far north of Manitoba, Canada. Northern style shops lined the streets of this small town. Sirens went off to alert people when a polar bear came to visit. They even had a polar bear jail, where they placed tranquilized bears until they could be taken back to the wilds by helicopter.

At Churchill, a group of 32 boarded Tundra Buggies set high off the ground to take them exploring. Once they reached camp, the group settled in for a week of visiting polar bears.

Headquarters consisted of a stationary area with seven modular sections. Camp here was spartan, but comfortable…with excellent food. Showers were limited to two and a half minutes as all water had to be heated, while outhouses stood on the edge of camp. Overall, a relaxed atmosphere.

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The highlight of the trip for Bobbie was when this polar bear stuck its nose in the tundra buggy window right beside her.

Half the group would go polar bear watching in the morning, while the other half went in the afternoon. On one of these trips, windows were left down to take better pictures. The thrill of the trip for Bobbie was when one polar bear, 10′ tall, actually stuck its nose in the window right where she sat. She could have reached out and touched him…but took a picture instead.

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Forty polar bears were sighted on her first expedition.

One strict rule here states: “Don’t even think about feeding the bears.” Feeding was discouraged as it would make the bears too familiar with humans, perhaps causing both of them problems. If anyone did feed a bear, they were taken from camp in a helicopter at their expense. Bears find their own food and enjoy a steady diet of seals. They can eat a hundred pounds of blubber in a single sitting.

On that first expedition, Bobbie saw 40 polar bears in their natural environment. There’s a reason that Manitoba is called “The Polar Bear Capital of the World”.

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Their yellow tents were the only sign of civilization in this Arctic wilderness.

Her second polar bear adventure began in Nunavut near Pond Inlet on the northern tip of Baffin Island. Now she was 700 K north of the Arctic Circle! This small town said their biggest problems were drugs, family abuse, and alcohol. They did have a couple television sets and computers, which broadcast in their native Inuktitut language.

Snow machines pulled them to camp this time on 18′ komitak sleds…three people to a sled. The ride took eight bumpy hours. Camp consisted of bright yellow tents on the ice with an insulated pad underneath and a very warm sleeping bag. Native Eskimos served as guides and someone stood guard around the clock to make certain no bears invaded the camp.

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Bobbie, their guide Dave and Jenny from Australia listen through hydrophones to the world beneath the ice.

The reflection of the midnight sun off the ice gave members the worst sunburns on their faces that they could imagine. They would reach outside their tents at night to get ice to cool off their burning face.

Perhaps it was due to the weather, but on this trip they only saw four polar bears. They first faced blizzard conditions but by the end of the week, it started to rain, so ice was melting in spots especially along the crevices. Now the komitak sleds had to jump the crevices making for a very rough and wet ride back to town.

Living on the frozen ocean, they explored ancient ruins of the Thule people, followed tracks of polar bears in the snow, built snowmen and created snow angels. Each day provided another unique adventure, which made this magical place a once in a lifetime experience.

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Ms Henderson brought back her experiences and used them in the classroom.

Upon her return, Bobbie shared her Arctic adventures in her Florida classroom. She used the trip to teach spelling, vocabulary, map skills and wildlife conservation. Bringing personal experiences to the classroom always enhances learning. Now she enjoys sharing her experiences as a substitute teacher here in southeastern Ohio.

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Her house is overflowing with polar bear memorabilia.

While Bobbie was glad she did both trips, she wants to return to Churchill again because she saw more bears there, and camping was a little more relaxing. Since she likes cold weather, Greenland, the North Pole, and Arctic regions are places she would enjoy visiting.

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Bobbie volunteers at Dickens Victorian Village, where she dresses as a lovely Victorian lady.

Animals like Bobbie. At her home near Cambridge, she keeps several dogs, cats, and rare macaws. Deer hang out at her back deck. But if you happen to see a polar bear there, it’s just Bobbie in her polar bear costume.

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Sometimes she enjoys dressing as a polar bear.

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Polar Frontier at Columbus Zoo – A Cool Place to Visit

Polar Frontier Entrance

Polar Frontier Entrance

Perhaps the “coolest” spot at the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium occurs in North America’s Polar Frontier. On a recent visit to the zoo, howling winds and cold temperatures seemed the perfect time to check out the Polar Bears. They certainly weren’t bothered by the cold.

Set in what appears to be an abandoned mine camp in the Arctic Circle, Polar Frontier is home to four Arctic foxes, two brown bears, and two polar bears. Snow, ice and cold help create the atmosphere for their favorite time of the year. A sign near the entrance states:

An Arctic without ice would be like a garden without soil.

Polar Bear statues

Statues of Mother Polar Bear and two cubs

Polar bear statues of mother and two cubs welcome visitors to the Polar Frontier. Since North High School in Columbus, Ohio had as their mascot a Polar Bear, their alumni organizations funded the statues. Local artist, Mathew Palmer, created these delightful bronze figures covered with a white patina. Statues of animals frequently appear throughout the zoo and are perfect places for a close up picture with the animals.

Two brown bears sleep inside their glass cave.

Two brown bears sleep inside their glass cave.

Two Alaskan brown bears, brother Brutus and Buckeye – from Ohio of course, sleep soundly as they huddle against a heavy glass wall. They appear to believe in hibernation even at the zoo. Usually, they can be found swimming in their own small pool or having a bear wrestling match.

Polar bears play in the snow.

Polar bears play in the snow.

Polar bears, Aurora and Anana, have a playful time in the new fallen snow. Both rolled around on their backs taking a snow bath or perhaps just relaxing . Today they seemed happy to play in the snow and didn’t venture into either of their two pools for a dip

Salt water tunnel where  polar bears often swim overhead.

Salt water tunnel where polar bears often swim overhead.

The polar bears have a 167,000 gallon pool of salt water in which to swim and catch lunch. You can observe the bears diving in for a swim from eye-level, or underneath through a 5″ thick acrylic tunnel. There is an ample supply of fresh trout available when the polar bears decide they might like a snack. Two underground geothermal tanks keep the water in their pools at the perfect temperature for polar bears to enjoy.

Compare the size of various bears.

Compare the size of various bears.

Inside the Battelle Ice Bear Outpost, you can find videos regarding the life of the bears. This interpretive center provides many activities that focus on polar bears and climate changes. It shares ways to practice conservation at home to save the polar bears. They have pictures to compare the sizes of various bears and even an animated Polar Bear Band at Ice Bear Mining Camp.

Bear Band

Bear Band at Ice Bear Mining Camp

A fantastic playground for the youngsters is right outside the Polar Bear Exhibit where children can build an igloo, ride an ice teeter-totter, or slide down a snow bank. Parents can grab a snack at the Polar Grille and chill out while the children have a cool time.

This corner of the zoo is one of the favorite stops for most visitors. A winter visit also has the benefit of being able to see the animals more easily as the zoo isn’t crowded. Make sure you save time for the Polar Frontier…any time of the year!

To visit Columbus Zoo & Aquarium, take I-270 around Columbus, Ohio and use Exit 20. From there you will see signs directing you to the zoo. You’re sure to have a great day!

Chillin’ Out at the Columbus Zoo

Zoo Entrance with just snow flurries upon arrival.

Zoo Entrance with just snow flurries upon arrival. That soon changed.

Have cabin fever? Put on your warmest clothes and visit the Columbus Zoo for an entertaining, learning experience. Upon arrival,  a few snow flakes bounced through the air, but before long the zoo was blanketed in a cover of white.

Even on a crisp, cold winter day, the zoo had many visitors, although just a small portion when compared to a summer visit. Many animals were inside display areas or tucked away in barns just waiting for the summer season to arive, but there was still much to enjoy.

Snow covered Asian Quest very soon.

Snow quickly covered Asia Quest.

While the present Columbus Zoo opened in 1937, Jack Hanna, graduate of Muskingum College, developed the zoo into one of the best zoos in the United States. Hanna served as director from 1978-93 and still serves as director emeritus. Today over 9,000 animals live there.

This young elephant was inside bars during petting and feeding.

This young elephant was inside bars during petting and feeding.

Columbus Zoo & Aquarium provides something for everyone through five main areas: North America, Asia Quest, Australia & Islands, Congo, and Heart of Africa, the newest exhibit, which was closed on this visit. Still numerous displays make a visit worthwhile and memorable during the winter months, without the usual stops at the many gift shops and snack stands along the way.

While it’s impossible to mention all the adventures this winter day, here are a few gypsy highlights.

Hank, the largest elephant in a North American zoo weighed in at 15,600 pounds and measured 9’5″ tall. That’s one big elephant! People had the opportunity to pet and feed one of the smaller elephants, who kept looking for more treats.

Two Siberian Tigers lounge on top of their cave.

Two Siberian Tigers lounge on top of their cave.

Outside on Tiger Walk, several Siberian Tigers lounged in the snow, while one snuggled up in a corner of a stone cave. They watched movements carefully, probably ready to pounce at the slightest provocation.

Discovery Reef's Aquarium provides a break in the day.

Discovery Reef’s Aquarium provides a warm break in the day where you can sit and watch the fish among the coral reefs.

On a winter day, you might want a break from the cold, and a chance to rest your legs. Several possibilities exist. The giganitic Aquarium at Discovery Reef provides bleacher seats to watch the antics of the fish in a 100,000 gallon salt water aquarium. When you observe all the different species of fish from around the world swimming peacefully together, it seems there might be a lesson for those watching.

Close by, manatees also entertain as they pull lettuce and cabbage as a tasty treat from the surface of the water. Or perhaps you might want to slither over to the Reptile Building to see the snakes, lizards, and even turtles.

Two polar bears roll in the snow.

Two polar bears roll in the snow.

Visit North American’s Polar Frontier, which opened in 2010, to watch polar bears enjoy the new fallen snow. They like to be clean and dry as dirty fur provides little insulation, so they take a bath by rolling in the snow. Imagine the polar bears thought the weather perfect.

The Columbus Zoo & Aquarium is open every day of the year except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Of one thing you can be certain, every day’s a different experience while at the zoo. You never know what the animals will do next. Go to the zoo any season of the year!

To visit Columbus Zoo & Aquarium, take I-270 around Columbus, Ohio and use Exit 20. From there you will see signs directing you to the zoo. You’re sure to have a great day!

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