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Joshywashington ventures to Churchill, Manitoba, the “Beluga Capital of the World.” This post is part of Matador’s partnership with Canada, where journalists show how to explore Canada like a local.

IT’S ONE OF THOSE THINGS that mustering words to describe is nearly an insult to the thing itself. How then, when faced with the obligatory “How was it?” should one respond?

“Amazing?” It was, but so is everything — my leftover pizza is amazing, that movie was amazing. So what?

“Beautiful?” Yes, but that hardly separates belugas from begonias.

“Way-better-than-it-sounds” is getting nearer to the thing, but I seem to get closest to the heart of the matter when I allow myself liberal use of expletives.

“It was fucking nuts,” I say. Belugas (which at this point I describe as “like a dolphin on steroids”) are so curious, so playful, and there are SO MANY OF THEM that at times I was sure they would swamp my kayak. Imagine scores of 12-foot whales gliding just below the surface of the tannic-brown water of the Churchill River, jostling the underbelly of your wobbly boat.

Imagine them breaking the surface with their shiny, polished-bone backs to the blue sky. Imagine shifting your focus from the cluster of whales surrounding your kayak to further afield and realizing you are surrounded, near and far.

“Cold.” That is how I describe swimming among them. The Churchill River feeds into the Hudson Bay and neither are exactly tropic in temperature, although the river is slightly warmer. Warmer in this context means slightly less numbing and slightly more tolerable. Even in the double-layered 7cmm full-length wetsuit I was shocked when my naked face hit the Hudson.

But how to describe the feeling of awe — of feeling lucky to the point of happy-tears? How do you distill some of life’s most exhilarating (and cold) seconds into a few sounds borne on a puff of bad breath?

You can’t.

Or rather, I can’t.

So I settle for “It was awesome — watch this video.”

About The Author


Joshywashington is a Travel Media Ninja from Seattle who enjoys writing, climbing trees and strong coffee.

  • Ryan Gargiulo

    This video ROCKS Josh! Nice work. Looks like an incredible experience.

  • Coreen Haydock

    Great video! Jeessh could this really be my son doing such awesome things! Watch the latest from Joshywashington!

  • Mike Surber

    Joshua Johnson, you are rad. Fantastic video, and I always love your writing. That map of the world with little pins where you’ve been has to be looking like it’s been sprayed with buckshot by now…

    • Nicole Thorburn

      Agreed. Plus every time I read/watch something @[102214219829445:274:Joshywashington] writes/makes, I think to myself “He has the coolest job.” Seriously.

  • Peter Bragiel

    That was awesome! Great shots!

  • Danielle Logan

    This video is incredible. I love belugas! Ahhh what a cool way to capture it.

  • Monica Prelle

    A fine example of awesome, love the under water shots!

  • GoPro

    Wow! What an incredible experience. Thank you so much for sharing that with us! Team GoPro

    • Joshua Johnson

      It was my pleasure – Giant aquatic mammals and my trusty GoPro = kid in a candy store for this travel junkie. Thanks for watching!

  • William Drumm

    Damn Joshy too cool! You found the white whale and 50,000 of his bros!

  • Dustin Johnson

    Those were the friendliest looking animals I have ever seen!

  • Spencer Klein

    I wanted to jump down to the deck on the boat ride out there. Nice angle… and video.

  • Hal Amen

    such a gnarly edit, josh!

  • Marie Lisa Jose

    Wow! This is AWESOME Josh… I love belugas.. They seem to be always smiling!

  • Candice Walsh

    This video has reaffirmed three life truths for me. 1) I need to swim with belugas 2) I need a GoPro 3) Josh is awesome.

  • Connie Thoene

    Love all the smiles…including mine!

  • Kenny Shields

    I’d like to point out my presence in this amazing video – Mr. Kenny, first mate of the SeaNorth II.

    • Thomas Fitzpatrick

      ouuuuf whose that stud up front?

    • Monica Robinson

      Hey don’t forget about me Kenny!! Yours truly Monica the Fort Tour Guide :)

    • Kenny Shields

      no of course not. I’d also like to point out the presence of Monica the fort interpreter in this video (probably slacking off as per usual).

    • Monica Robinson

      take a closer look on the video I am clearly taking important photos for the company haha that is not constituted as slacking its still work :)

  • PhotoJBartlett is The Adventure Freelancer

    Definitely not the typical whale watching experience! Awesome video.

  • FWCanada – Immigration Law Firm

    Amazing video!

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