OUR COUNTRY Daily Planet host Ziya Tong on the magic of the beluga whale migration in Churchill, Man.
The host of Discovery Channel’s hit science show Daily Planet on experiencing a magical moment near Churchill, Man.
People talk about animal migrations in the Serengeti, but the most magnificent migration I’ve ever seen was 50,000 beluga whales in the Seal River, near Churchill. It was pretty spectacular to be out on the water and see what looked like little bobbing pieces of ice everywhere — and then realize that they were actually beluga whales. I was there to do a story on monitoring beluga estuary habitats, which is incredible to see, too. The scientists have to be like cowboys and jump onto the belugas — safely, of course, with vets present — to capture and tag them. After we did the story, I was with the folks at the Seal River Heritage Lodge, and they basically tied my feet together, gave me a snorkel and a mask, and told me to lie face down as they dragged me backward through the murky water. I felt like I was in an episode of The Sopranos. But then they told me to sing. And when I did, the belugas came right up to me. It was pure magic. I was very blessed to be there in the water with them. I think that in this digital world people are increasingly looking for true wonder and solace, and that they find it when they go back out into the real world. I never thought you could go to Churchill and see something that would blow your mind, but you can. You’re there with the polar bears, the northern lights, the belugas. All the creatures are just going about their business, and there’s this tremendous sense of peace and order. I think it’s calming, being out there and knowing that you’re a part of something that’s so much bigger than you are.