Grab a Blanket, It’s Time for Polar Bear Week

It kicks off this Wednesday with a concert by Kishi Bashi, straight out of the Arctic.

Scooching is the most fun way to travel around the snow. | aceshot1/Shutterstock
Scooching is the most fun way to travel around the snow. | aceshot1/Shutterstock

This Wednesday, while you’re snuggled up with a blanket and your hot chocolate in a pumpkin-shaped mug, you’ll have the opportunity to livestream a concert from where no concert has ever been live streamed before: a 12-foot Tundra Buggy in the ultra-remote arctic region of Churchill, Manitoba.

At 4:30 p.m. EST the ethereal sounds of multi-instrumentalist Kishi Bashi will waft out of the far-north Canadian town, where he’ll be performing atop the massive Jeep-like vehicle usually reserved for traversing the snowy terrain. Around him, his audience will be polar bears. Possibly swaying along.

Known as the Polar Bear Capital of the World, Churchill is part of the great polar bear migration. The timing here is everything: every October and November, hundreds of these furry land carnivores converge for feeding season, using the Hudson Bay as their launching point to reach the sea ice and their seal prey. Seeing this bear migration is a bucket-list opportunity for animal enthusiasts, who travel by rail and private plane to take polar bear safaris, riding the Tundra Buggies to get as close as possible to the action (and high enough to stay out of the bears’ reach. There's a good reason for the height).

But there’s a purpose for Kishi Bashi’s appearance other than, hey, look at these cute guys. In collaboration with Polar Bears International, the only nonprofit organization dedicated solely to wild polar bears and their sea ice home, the performance aims to bring awareness to the shrinking habitat of the bears. You can actually see it happening right now: there’s a livestream of the habitat, and the ice is woefully scarce.

Small polar bears, big Tundra Buggy. | Photo by Fang Tiemann, courtesy of Frontiers North Adventures

Shrinking habitats means less feeding on the ice, straining the bears’ fat reserves. It also drives polar bears ashore looking for food, leading to an uptick in encounters with humans that often end badly. It is estimated that because of climate change, polar bears could be gone by the year 2100. Following his performance the musician will discuss the challenges climate change pose with polar bear scientist Alysa McCall.

And then stick around: the concert leads into Polar Bear Week, with a “Detect and Protect” Polar Bear Challenge, information on coexisting with bears, and live streamed events like a live chat about Arctic innovations and technologies that allow scientists to keep studying the majestic creatures. And through it all you can check up on your new buddies with Explore.org’s Polar Bear Live Cam. Grab a break from work, or replace work altogether. It’s especially good for lowering stress levels.

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Vanita Salisbury is Thrillist's Senior Travel Writer. She's probably watching the polar bear cam right now.