Teen Arctic Ambassador Lives Life in the North

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This young male bear hung around our tundra buggy this afternoon

This young male bear hung around our tundra buggy this afternoon

Getting to the Arctic Circle is not easy. When we left San Diego on Sunday, September 27, the weather forecast was predicting highs in the upper 90s. So the hard part started before I even left, having to put warm clothes in a suitcase with such hot weather outside. We stopped in Winnipeg for the first night and then flew onward to Churchill on a small plane that carried 16 of us teen ambassadors from places in Canada, the U.S., and Australia. I am attending Polar Bears International’s Teen Leadership Camp for a week. This cool program is done as a partnership between Polar Bears International and the Arctic Ambassador Center network of zoos that is headquartered at the San Diego Zoo.

Being the Arctic Ambassador from San Diego Zoo means that I get to represent our awesome zoo and city on this adventure in the Arctic. It also means that when I get home, I plan to share my experience with my hometown and hopefully get people to care about polar bears and want to make a difference for them. In the meantime, I will do my best to post photos and notes from the Arctic as long as our Internet on the Tundra Buggy Lodge holds up. It seems crazy that we are out here parked on the edge of the Arctic Ocean and it seems like we should be disconnected from the world but, as long as it’s not too windy or snowy, we have a microwave feed going to town.

Today we saw a cool polar right outside our tundra buggy vehicle. He was technically the third bear we have seen in the two days we have been here but the other two were at more of a distance. A small bear, probably two years old, was walking down the road in front of our vehicle as we traveled to the Lodge. It ran off into the willows near another larger bear, maybe its mom.

Teen Arctic Ambassador Daniel Straub learns to scare away polar bears by making noise shooting blanks

The author learns to scare away polar bears by making noise shooting cracker shells.

On Monday, when we arrived in Churchill, we had some really exciting experiences. I touched the Arctic Ocean and then ran away from the cold water. Definitely NOT Pacific Beach in August. We also met with some Manitoba Conservation officers at the bear detention center and they told us about their amazing program for darting and keeping “trouble bears.” They don’t want to have to catch them, so the first thing they do is try to scare them aware from the town of Churchill by shooting cracker shells and screamers into the air. It just sounds like fireworks, but it’s scary enough for some bears and they run off. The officers gave a few of us the chance to try out the cracker pistol. I gave it a shot.

Daniel Straub is the San Diego Zoo’s 2009 Teen Arctic Ambassador.