• Michelle Valberg captured the typically bustling eastern entrance to Ottawa’s World Exchange Plaza completely empty on April 17, 2020, amidst pandemic-related closures. (Photo: Michelle Valberg)

It came as no surprise that the stories in our map series at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic were the most-read stories on CanGeo.ca this year, followed closely by some wildlife favourites and an untold story.

Your favourites

Top hit: Mapping COVID-19 cases in Canada per capita
April 2020
76,483 hits

Cartographer Chris Brackley looked at the relative number of cases of COVID-19 by regional health authorities across the country. While the numbers quickly became outdated, introducing population into the map showed a better relative rate of infection. 

An oldie but a goodie: The truth about polar bears
December 2012
39,042 hits

Year after year this story tops our charts — you must really love polar bears! Depending on whom you ask, the North’s sentinel species is either on the edge of extinction or an environmental success story. Written back in 2012, this in-depth look at the complicated, contradictory and controversial science behind the sound bites is still relevant today.

A secret fave: The untold story of the Hudson’s Bay Company
May 2020
14,000 hits

There are many ways to tell the story of the Hudson’s Bay Company, which claimed and traded on some eight million square kilometres of the Earth’s surface, including large parts of Canada and the northwestern United States. Writer Melissa Gismondi takes us through the history of the iconic company. 

Our favourites

The Pause
October 2020

After the year we’ve had, how could this photo essay not make the list of our top stories? Justine Bohn, our education program coordinator chose this story as her favourite.

“I remember being impacted by this article so much,” she says. “I found it so incredible, all of the images and the story just showed how this year changed so significantly.”

Written by digital editor Alex Pope, the essay accompanying the photos was something difficult to write.

“Because of the way magazine deadlines work, I had to write the text for this piece in July,” says Pope. “At that time, new cases of COVID-19 had slowed to a trickle in most places, and the long hot days of patio and park gatherings had many people feeling optimistic that we had managed to bring the pandemic under control. I wondered if by September the anxiety and loneliness of the spring would like just a painful but distant memory. As we now know, the summer was just its own kind of pause; a brief respite before the inevitable second wave.”

Reclaiming our relationship with wild foods
May 2020

CanGeo intern Samantha Pope wrote about a new book from Gina Rae La Cerva, Feasting Wild: In Search of the Last Untamed Food and it inspired graphic designer Christy Hutton to read the book. What about you?

What lies beneath: Ghost gear in our oceans
July 2020

Education program coordinator Dominique Patnaik learned a lot by reading this story, written by interim digital editor Angelica Haggert.  

“Fishing gear is not an issue that many people think of when they hear plastic in our oceans, but it is a major contributor, more so than plastic bottles, and it is a big issue for marine species,” says Patnaik. “I was surprised to learn that cleaning it up was actually discouraged until recently. I hope that the more people recognize the problem, the more they will lobby industries to create solutions.”

A bridge of ice
August 2020

“Arctic exploration in general is fascinating and there's a considerable amount of Canadian history that has its roots in the Arctic,” says production design Katherine Van der Ploeg, who chose this story as her top for 2020.  “This particular story and the idea that the sledge of the person who is giving their first hand encounter is sitting in our main hall and I have personally stood two feet from it is so cool! It's an amazing journey that I wish more people knew about.”

Do you have other favourite Canadian Geographic stories from 2020? Tell us in the comments!