With their coats glistening white like ghosts, they emerged from an afternoon fog. They have left the ice – it is melting – and their food source is leaving with it. They swim ashore seeking a place to rest and wait for the ice to return – along with their primary food source – the ring seal.
Two cubs are usually born in October, but now there is just one. The arctic is a harsh place. Only the fittest survive. After leaving a den of snow, the mother has been eating seal blubber and snuggling down into the white landscape to feed her cub on rich breast milk. On the ice, they have traveled far, always looking for food. Patiently waiting, the mother stands still near a seal’s breathing hole, never moving, waiting, for the instant when she will lunge for a meal.
Now ashore, they wait for the ice to build again; their white coats contrasting with the dark tundra. The playful cub will be schooled by its mother and growing bigger. For the next two years, the mother will always be ready to repel a threat.
They came to the Churchill Northern Studies Centre for a visit but the threat is too great – to us and to them. So they have moved on to a quiet area where they can wait in peace for the ice to form. Then they will return, ghostly moving in a sea of white.