A pair of polar bears walks across the ice near Churchill. Photo: FloridaStock/Shutterstock
The first European to encounter the polar bears of what is now Churchill, Manitoba, was Jens Munk, a Norwegian explorer who wintered on the southern edge of Hudson Bay in 1619 during a doomed expedition to find the Northwest Passage. Munk and the crew of one of his ships, the Enhiörningen, woke early one September morning to find the "large white bear" on the ice nearby, where it was scavenging scraps of blubber and meat from the carcass of a beluga that they had caught the day before. At as much as twice the weight of a Eurasian brown bear, the creature must have seemed absolutely massive to captain and crew.