Churchill Wild enhances environmental stewardship programs with installation of VBINE Vertical Access Wind Turbines at northern eco-lodges

April 24, 2012 by  
Filed under Blog, From The Lodge, In The News

VBINE ENERGY Vertical Access Wind Turbine - VAWT

VBINE ENERGY Vertical Access Wind Turbine - VAWT

Churchill Wild has always been devoted to minimizing their environmental footprint at their remote northern eco-lodges.

Now they’re enhancing their environmental stewardship programs even further with the installation of Vertical Access Wind Turbines (VAWTs) manufactured by VBINE ENERGY in Winkler, Manitoba.

The combined power generated by the VAWTs and the solar panels currently in place at their eco-lodges will virtually eliminate the need to use fossil fuels at Seal River Heritage Lodge, Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, North Knife Lake Lodge and Dymond Lake Lodge.

Generators will still be in place for backup power, but the combination of the current solar-panel system combined with VAWTs is expected to provide for almost, if not all, their power needs in the future.

“The beauty of it is that we have a battery storage system,” said Mike Reimer of Churchill Wild. “The power generated from the VAWTs and the solar panels is stored in the batteries and we draw off of them. And they’re eco-friendly and economical. There’s less noise pollution, less of a carbon footprint and we’ll be paying substantially less than the $1-$1.30 per kilowatt it costs for diesel generated power.”

The VAWTs were invented by Barry Ireland about six years ago and refined by an engineering team. Their showcase installations include the Dr. David Suzuki Public School in Windsor, Ontario, Canada and Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, but the rugged VAWTs were also designed to work in remote northern locations.

“They were originally designed to work on smokestacks and silos,” said Ireland. “We had to build them so that the center wouldn’t rotate. We also had remote communication towers in mind when we built them. Many of those towers are powered by diesel and the VAWTs cut costs by quite a bit. That also means they will be popular with many northern lodges and outfitters.”

VBINE is currently working with Canadian Solar on a combination wind/solar solution that will work for northern communities.

“VAWTs are generating a large amount of interest because of the significant cost savings that can be realized,” said Ireland. “And the fact that the big windmills won’t work in the north. They ice up, they have too much vibration and they won’t go into the permafrost. The VAWTs are the only ones that will work up north.”

VAWTs mount easily on existing buildings; they’re only two meters in width; they’re quiet and they’re suitable for grid tie-in or battery storage. And because of the vertical design, VAWTs can take wind from any direction. They start generating power at wind speeds of 1.2 meters per second and run 24/7 generating 5 kilowatts of power with a 25 mph wind. They have a permanent magnet generator with two long-life bearings, no drive shaft and no slips springs or brushes. The lifespan of the VAWTs is estimated at 30 years with very little maintenance. Their sleek design also minimizes interference with wildlife.

Hudson Bay CAT Train in Blizzard

CAT Train in a pending Hudson Bay blizzard

The first of the Churchill Wild VAWTs were hauled up to Seal River Heritage Lodge last week via CAT train (caterpillar pulling a freight sled) across the Hudson Bay sea ice, which is still about six feet thick.

Hauling tons of freight across the Hudson Bay ice in -20 degree weather is actually better than doing it at 0 degrees. The ice can get sticky and wet in warm weather, making for dangerous conditions. While there is generally no immediate danger from polar bears, which are still further out on the ice filling up on seals before the ice melts, the weather can still cause problems.

“The wind chills can get to as low as -40,” said Reimer. “And there’s always the possibility of blizzards, flooding sea ice and slush holes. CATS have actually gone through the ice on a couple of occasions.”

The trip takes about 15 hours from Dymond Lake Lodge to Seal River Heritage Lodge and Churchill Wild utilizes one of their two CAT track-type tractors, 1956 and 1972 models built by Caterpillar.  But how fast does that CAT really go?

“About two miles an hour downhill with a tailwind,”  said Reimer.

To learn more about how VBINE ENERGY VAWTs can benefit your operations and goals for a greener future, please visit http://www.VBINE.com, call their head office at (204) 325-0228 or e-mail info@vbine.com

Hudson Bay helicopter ride a first for Churchill adventure travel specialist

by Doreen Booth, Adventure Travel Specialist, Churchill Wild

Hudson Bay Helicopter, Churchill, Manitoba

Julie, Jeff & Doreen. Ready. Set. Go! - Photo Credit: Terry Allen

This year I finally had the opportunity to join a group of our winter guests at Seal River Heritage Lodge. I was able to squeeze in on our last trip of the season – the Polar Bear Photo Safari!

I had a couple of guests, Julie and Jeff, looking to add something extra to their trip, and they had decided to charter a helicopter to the Lodge. When they found out I would be joining them on their departure, they very generously offered me the extra seat they had on their helicopter flight.

I have to admit, I’m a nervous flier, so I wasn’t sure what to say at first, but I didn’t know when an opportunity like this would come again. I accepted their offer with butterflies in my stomach and off I went!

November had come and gone quickly and before I knew it I was done organizing our winter season. My dinner presentations were complete and our final guests were on their way to the Lodge, so I headed up to Churchill for my “partial” holiday. When you’re part of the family, your work is never done.

I met up with Julie and Jeff in Churchill and we headed out to collect their winter gear before making our way to Hudson Bay Helicopters. I was feeling pretty good – a little nervous maybe – but totally excited! I didn’t want anyone to know how I was really feeling. Our pilot took our bags and gave us a rundown on the safety guidelines for the chopper, we buckled in, put on our headsets, and it was time to take flight!

The take off was surprisingly smooth. The winds were calm that day so we were in for a good 30-minute ride. We flew over the town of Churchill and headed up the coastline of Hudson Bay. It was amazing to see the sprawling tundra with a fresh coat of snow. I had forgotten how flat the land is up there.

Half way through the trip we flew over our Dymond Lake Lodge and noticed that some of the staff had ventured outside to wave to us. How nice! A short time later our pilot came on the headset and asked me where we should land at the polar bear lodge.

Doreen Booth, Adventure Travel Specialist, Churchill Wild

I wasn’t sure, so I told him to pick the best place he could find. He thought that would be right outside the front door of the Lodge! Needless to say, the staff didn’t have to bring out the luggage buggy to meet us. And the polar bears kept their distance!

A few months have gone by now and I’ve had time to think about that wonderful trip and the emotions I experienced while flying in a helicopter for the first time. I have to say it was an amazing experience and I would love to do it again.

Thanks again to my friends Julie and Jeff, for helping me check another item off my life’s to do list!

 

A hissing good Halloween Churchill Wild style

November 4, 2011 by  
Filed under Blog, From The Lodge

Polar bear stands at the window of Seal River Heritage Lodge.

I can seeee youuuu... Trick or Treat!

by Tara Ryan

A few good things to know:

  1. Polar bears have about 20 vocalizations – one of which is a hiss.
  2. In Churchill, Manitoba the trick or treating set are accompanied by gun-toting bear patrol enforcers.
  3. Wearing any white costumes (ghosts, brides… polar bears) is generally frowned upon (see gun toting bear patrol enforcers for rationale).
  4. Did I mention polar bears hiss when they are angry?

“Halloweening” in Churchill takes on a paramilitary edge as kids out trick or treating are shadowed by gun-wielding bear patrol officers. This is not unexpected.

Jack-O-Lantern of the North

Jack-O-Lantern of the North

Kids are used to the bear patrol presence year around but these patrols are especially heightened during the months of October and November, when the bears are starting to gather around the edges of the Bay in greater numbers awaiting the freeze up. There are other restrictions local kids must endure at this sugar-laden time of year – most importantly: “Thou shalt not dress in white; ghosts, brides and especially no polar bear costumes.”  This is polar bear central after all.

Being a polar bear guide working away from the bright lights of the ‘big city’ of Churchill (about 60 miles north)  in the remote Churchill Wild Polar Bear Lodge at Seal River, my fellow guide (Andrew MacPherson) decided to try his luck at bucking this long-standing no-white for Halloween northern tradition.

For October 31 we came as “problem bears” – me as a garbage addicted grizzly bear and Andy as a bear from the old ‘polar bear jail’ days (when they  used to dart the bears and then spray paint numbers on them to keep track of repeat offenders).  While putting the finishing touches on our costumes, we began to hear a shushing/hissing noise from outside – not unlike the air being forced out of a tire with a puncture.

Halloween-costumed hissers at Churchill Wild

Hisssssss....!

Andy was silhouetted in one of the many bedroom windows looking out over the tundra. He was stunning in his white long johns appropriately padded with pillows for a fat bottom, a white fuzzy hat with ears, and matching gloves and claws.

The fall light had dimmed the immediate surroundings outside to near black. A ghostly movement accompanied by continued agitated hissing – and a nose print on the window – finally clued us in. There was a very annoyed polar bear outside our window that was letting the ‘polar bear’ on the inside know in no uncertain terms – that his presence was not welcome.

Andy hissed back.

Only at Churchill Wild!

Rebecca and Fraser: A Polar Bear Wedding Announcement

September 30, 2011 by  
Filed under Blog, In The News

Rebecca and Fraser are getting married!  It’s true.  Our daughter and her lifelong friend Fraser Issac have decided to throw their hats into the ring and tie the knot!

rebecca-n-fraser

Rebecca and Fraser

Rebecca and Fraser will be married on October 8, 2011.  The ceremony begins at 3 p.m. on our yard in Kleefeld, Manitoba.  They have decided to take a chance on Mother Nature and have planned for an outdoor wedding, so we are hoping for a beautiful fall day.  There should be an amazing backdrop for the event with all of the leaves changing colour. The trees will be gorgeous and the leaves that fall will provide us with an enchanting kaleidoscope carpet!

Let’s back up a few years and I will tell you how this all came to be.

Seven years ago, the Reimer Family decided to make the fateful move to Kleefeld, Manitoba from our long time home in Churchill.  It was a heart wrenching move, as Churchill was the childhood home for five out of the six members of our family.

Our move came about fairly quickly, without a lot of time to find just the right home, so we moved into a tiny house on Hanover Road until we could find what we needed for our family.  The family next door was the first to visit us and welcome us to our new home. And they had kids!

We became fast friends.  Their eldest, a boy named Fraser, just happened to be the same age as our oldest daughter, Rebecca.  Their daughter, Anja, a bubbly, friendly girl, soon spent many hours with our daughters.  Fraser made it his mission to welcome the new girl in his grade and the two fast became a pair.

Rebecca and Fraser “hung out” for all of Grade 9 and most of Grade 10, back when Rebecca was still taller than him!  By the end of Grade 10 their social circles were changing, we had moved to a new home down the road and their paths did not cross as much for a few years.

Fast forward three years and we found our daughter in college and living in Winnipeg with relatives and Fraser working in the city in between his university terms.  They seemed to find time to start “hanging out” again and before we knew it, they had made it official and started dating.  That was a year and half ago, and we are so pleased to have Fraser joining our family.  He is literally the “boy next door”, but now MUCH taller than Rebecca, working on a college engineering degree and growing into a man of strong integrity who we have been proud to welcome into our lives.

As previously mentioned, Rebecca is our oldest daughter and just recently turned 21.  She has grown up with Polar Bears at Seal River and fishing at North Knife Lake.  She has been charged by a Polar Bear (fortunately when on the right side of the fence!), caught Manitoba Master angler fish and had a photo published in National Geographic Traveler. She has also spent countless hours snowmobiling with her family and friends, successfully hunted caribou and moose with her dad, been back up driver on Seal River ATV tours.  She’s proven she can take on anything that’s thrown at her.  Rebecca is thrilled to have found someone to share her love of the outdoors and adventure with. Fraser has embraced the north, but has also shown her the magic and beauty of the south.

peek-a-boo polar bear

Rebecca's picture appeared in National Geographic Traveler Magazine in a story about Churchill Wild's Seal River Heritage Lodge

We expect to see both of them making cameo appearances at the lodges over the next several years – if we can’t hook ‘em into some full time work!

Immediate future plans involve living in an apartment in Winnipeg while Fraser finishes the last year and a half of his education. From there, the possibilities are wide open!

You can read their engagement story and see their smiling faces on www.FraserandRebecca.com.  Thanks for reading and sharing in our lives!

Please head over to our Facebook page, “like us” and send your comments to Rebecca & Fraser.

Jeanne & Mike

Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge season begins!

King polar bear surveys his domain.

King polar bear surveys his domain at Nanuk.

Churchill Wild has been the premier eco-outfitter in Northern Manitoba for over 40 years, but we’re always excited when polar bear watching season begins at our Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, the only tourist camp along a 100-mile stretch of Hudson Bay coastline in Northern Manitoba, Canada.

One of the most pristine wilderness areas left in the world, it hasn’t changed in thousands of years. And we promise that you won’t find a better place, anywhere in the world, for close encounters with polar bears.

Read Reviews of Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge at TripAdvisor.com

When the ice breaks up in June, the polar bears move ashore. During the summer months they socialize and prowl the shoreline, restlessly waiting for the ice to return. Many of these bears spend their summers within a few miles of our Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge. During an average season up to 400 bears pass by the Lodge.

Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge arrival day!

A gorgeous day at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge!

What makes this population of polar bears so unique is the high concentration of mother bears and cubs. At Nanuk, our guests will encounter polar bears, and often these will be mothers with their offspring. Many of these bears have never seen a person before, and they have the calm demeanor of bears that have not learned to fear people.

Guests who visit Nanuk count themselves among a small group of lucky individuals who have seen these majestic animals up close, undisturbed. These are not habituated “Park bears” or hunted bears that run at the sight of humans.

“We have already been in many nature places in this world. We have seen the lions in Africa; the tigers in India; the grizzlies in Alaska; orangutans in Borneo; the penguins in the Antarctic; but one of the most beautiful places is Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge with their many polar bears. We were overwhelmed to experience so many, so close. We thank the entire staff who made these special days a wonderful experience.” — Marlies & Hartmut Thierfelder and Marlies & Siegfried Neubüser, Hamburg, Germany

Polar bears everywhere! Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, Manitoba, Canada

Polar bears everywhere!

These are pure, wild polar bears living the way they have lived since time began.

Stay tuned for more blog posts about this year’s trip to Nanuk. If you would like more information about Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge please call us at: 1.204.377.5090 or Toll Free at:1.866.846.9453. You can also e-mail us at: info@churchillwild.com.

We would love to hear from you and…

Wish you were here!

Amazing Northern Lights show at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge

August 29, 2011 by  
Filed under From The Lodge

Here is a picture of the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) taken on August 28, 2011 at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge. Our staff are at the lodge preparing for today’s arrival of the first 2011 guests.

Northern Lights at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge - Photo Credit: Frank Melonas

Churchill polar bears not starving at Seal River

August 28, 2011 by  
Filed under Blog, Polar Bear Tours

Polar bears chowing down on the coast of Hudson Bay near Churchill Wild's Seal River Heritage Lodge.

Chow time for two hungry polar bears on the coast of Hudson Bay near Seal River Heritage Lodge.

There has been quite a bit of talk about polar bears starving in the arctic, but we’re not seeing that where we are on the coast of Hudson Bay in Manitoba, Canada. The photos in the gallery below were taken near our remote Seal River Heritage Lodge on the Hudson Bay coast during our recent Birds, Bears and Belugas Adventure.

Polar bear watching at its best, on the ground, up close and personal. But not too close. We have great respect for a polar bear’s personal space – as should everyone. Still, the photos our guests are able to take with ground level access can be spectacular. You can view more polar bear photos taken by our guests here.

The Birds, Bears and Belugas Adventure is now finished for the season and we’re off to Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, followed by the Great Ice Bear Tour and the Polar Bear Photo Safari.

Wish you were here!

Magazine editor Katie Nanton details trip to see Churchill polar bears at Seal River Heritage Lodge

August 22, 2011 by  
Filed under Blog, Polar Bear Tours

Polar bear relaxing on rocks at Seal River Heritage Lodge

Polar bear relaxing on rocks at Seal River Heritage Lodge - Photo Credit: Robert Postma

Katie Nanton, an assistant editor with NUVO Magazine, was at Seal River Heritage Lodge for the Birds, Bears and Belugas Adventure last summer.

A seasoned adventure traveler, writer and editor with world-wide safari experience, Katie wrote a story about her Churchill Wild experience for NUVO entitled A Canadian Safari – Churchill, Manitoba: the polar bear capital of the world, which appeared in their Spring 2011 Issue. Below are a few excerpts from Katie’s Story with a link to a PDF of the story at the end. Enjoy!

First polar bear

I see the first bear in the distance. A big, beautiful Ursus maritimus. Adrenaline kicks in and the quiet chatter halts, followed soon after by the clicking of camera shutters and zooming of lenses. Our guides remind us to be silent – although this bear is familiar with the presence of people by now, we don’t want to disturb or frighten it – and we take a few steps forward until I’m standing about 10 metres away from this larger-than-life beauty. I eye the guns slung over our guides’ shoulders: loaded, and a necessary precaution, they are very rarely used, and only to scare off an approaching bear. Nothing stands between us and this wild animal but a short distance and a few rocks; polar bears are capable of running up to 40 kilometres an hour.

A  fight in the morning

One foggy morning, I awaken to an early morning knock on my bedroom door and a commotion outside. A night watchman stands  guard over the lodge each night, eyes peeled for curious bears and Northern Lights. I’m expecting flashes of green and blue aurora borealis, but out of the main-room window is a more unexpected early morning sight: far in the rocky distance, two bears are stretched up on their hind legs, standing at least eight feet tall, their furry arms in the air like boxers, jabbing, dodging, and blocking each other, paws flailing. Their show of strength is spellbinding. I want to get closer. I walk with my guide until we come within about 15 metres…

Full PDF: A Canadian Safari – Churchill, Manitoba: the polar bear capital of the world

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About NUVO Magazine

NUVO Magazine LogoInspired by quality, NUVO is a lifestyle magazine for the Canadian sophisticate. It is our mandate to create an editorial environment that is stimulating, evocative, entertaining and informative, and relevant to both the amateur and the connoisseur.  The NUVO reader is the inquisitive, culturally aware, well-travelled urbanite who appreciates a blend of insight and entertainment. We share the NUVO reader’s discerning taste in travel, food and wine, film and TV, fashion, art, architecture, design, business, automobiles and music.  NUVO features the finest in writing, photography, illustration, design and production. Our commitment to quality is essential to being a leader in the magazine industry. It is thus our assiduous intention to craft a magazine that is quite simply unlike any other.

Polar bear tours with a rustic accent at Churchill Wild’s Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge

June 17, 2011 by  
Filed under Blog, Polar Bear Tours

Polar bear at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge

Polar bear surveys the arctic landscape on the Hudson Bay coast at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge

by Rick Kemp

Most of our Churchill Wild polar bear eco-adventures take place at Seal River Heritage Lodge. Every year we’ve added an upgrade or two and our guests rant about the service, accommodations, and the unequalled on-the-ground access to polar bears. We are the only company on the planet that operates remote fly-in polar bear eco-lodges.

Last year we added a new 1400 square foot dining room with huge picture windows overlooking Hudson Bay, to provide guests with a sea-side dining experience that makes viewing any polar bears that might walk by (and decide to peak in) an exceptional experience for both humans and bears!

This year we’re adding a kitchen fit for a celebrity chef. Construction starts next week and Jeanne is particularly excited about the concept of her new workspace.

Seal River is increasingly becoming THE destination in luxury arctic adventure travel and we’re proud to host whenever we have the opportunity. Seal is home to the popular summer adventure Birds, Bears & Belugas as well as September’s Arctic Safari and the Polar Bear Photo Safari.

But Seal River Heritage Lodge is not the only lodge in the Churchill Wild arsenal – we also operate Dymond Lake Eco-Lodge for our Great Ice Bear Adventure. And last year we started a new project – Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge – which is home to our Mothers & Cubs Adventure.

This converted old goose hunting camp is about as secluded as you can possibly get! Located approximately 150 kilometers southeast of Churchill, Nanuk is a 10 minute bush plane flight from the historic York Factory (and about an hour from Gillam). Nanuk has been around since the 1970s and the previous owner had often noted the massive number of polar bears in the area. As it turns out, Nanuk is situated right in the heart of newly discovered polar bear denning areas.

Last summer I went to Nanuk for the first time and it was a mind-blowing experience. The lodge can be best described as “rustic”. Individual cabins sleep two per room and at present the Nanuk operation can accommodate up to 12 people. Each cabin has its own bathroom and shower.

Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge

Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge

The main lodge has Wi-Fi, a kitchen, dining hall and a large common room with a fireplace and a bar. It’s all very cozy but not on the level of Seal River (yet). Plans are to bring it up to par with Seal but I must admit, the atmosphere at Nanuk lends itself well to an authentic arctic wilderness setting. The polar bears were plentiful and we also saw wolves, moose, Northern Lights and many different species of birds including eagles.

A number of media types were there with me (it was a media trip) and Michele Sponagle recounted our polar bear tale better than I could for MSN Travel in Polar Express. Angela Saurine came all the way from Australia and wrote Close Encounters with Polar Bears for News.com.au and Birgit-Cathrin Duval from Germany blogged about her experience in Guess who’s coming for dinner on her visual storytelling takkiwrites.com blog. We even had a trio from Mexico who gave us salsa dancing lessons one evening. Lucas Aykroyd and I spent our downtime talking about 1980’s hair bands and Euro heavy metal. Lucas wrote 1984: The Ultimate Van Halen Trivia Book so I knew ahead of time we would have lots to talk about.

The Mothers & Cubs Adventure at Nanuk takes place on the coast of Hudson Bay within the Cape Tatnam Wildlife Management Area, truly one of the most fascinating places on earth, with so much history I couldn’t get enough. I ended up reading three books about the area after my trip! Northern Manitoba is one of the most pristine wilderness areas left in the world – so remote that it has barely changed in thousands of years.

After a two hour flight from Winnipeg we arrived in Gillam and then took a bush plane to Nanuk. The breathtaking flight east from Gillam to Nanuk takes you over the Northern Taiga Forest and tracks the mighty Nelson River over the plains and tidal flats of Hudson Bay.

Following the same route the fur traders took for hundreds of years, you fly over York Factory, a trading post that was permanently established in 1684 by Governor George Geyer of the Hudson’s Bay Company – the beginning of Canada’s fur trade history. Some of the Nanuk staff expedition leaders are descendants of the Cree people who originally inhabited the area when the first Europeans arrived in the early 1600s.

This coastline of Hudson Bay around Nanuk and York Factory was in turmoil between 1600-1900 as the French and English played king of the hill – both looking to control the riches provided by the fur trade.

The early expeditions in search of the Northwest Passage would have followed the coast right past Nanuk. Many ships got wintered into the Bay and numerous explorers died in search of the elusive route. That in itself could be a blog post.

The polar bear and the cannon

Polar bear meets history at Nanuk

When you’re at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge you’ll notice all sorts of artifacts. The previous owner was an avid explorer of the area and always carried his trusty metal detector with him. Within the fenced compound you’ll find remnants of old shipwrecks such as brass railings and authentic cannons from the 1800s, possibly even earlier.

Butch and Gordie, two of the Nanuk guides, have been there for almost 30 years combined. Both are proud Canadian First Nations people who know the surrounding land through a deep spiritual connection. Gordie is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet and Butch was born at York Factory in the 1950s, before the residents were relocated to York Landing Cree Nation. In the off season, Butch manages the York Landing airport but he loves to return to Nanuk every year.

The trip to the Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge was my first Churchill Wild Adventure. I can’t wait to go back. There’s a shipwreck that we didn’t get a chance to see.

It’s on the top of my “to do” list.

Arctic Safari: The Qamanirjuaq Caribou Herd

May 20, 2011 by  
Filed under Blog

Four caribou on tundra ridge in Northern Manitoba, Canada

Caribou family outing. Photo Credit: Dennis Fast

by Rick Kemp

With the launch of the Churchill Wild Arctic Safari we are excited to be featuring something we have wanted to give our guests for over a decade – a fly out to witness a stunning caribou migration and a chance to experience Canadian arctic wildlife at its finest, all while immersed in a kaleidoscope of fabulous fall colors!

Churchill Wild’s polar bear tours will never be the same!

Polar bears are always the marquee stars of any Churchill Wild adventure but equal billing for the Arctic Safari can surely go to the caribou of the Qamanirjuaq herd. The Qamanirjuaq caribou herd (ka-min-YOO-ree-ak) is estimated to be between 300,000 to 400,000 strong, and Churchill Wild has located the perfect spot on the migration route to witness this stunning spectacle.

The Qamanirjuaq continues to have strong numbers, despite population declines in other major caribou herds in Canada’s North. The total area used by the herd during their migration spans more than 500,000 square kilometers north to south along the Hudson Bay’s west coast. The winter range primarily consists of forested lands in northern Manitoba and tundra in Manitoba and Nunavut.

In Inuit mythology Tekkeitsertok is the master of caribou, one of the most important gods in the pantheon. Many Dene and Inuit historically depended on caribou for food, clothing and shelter; so much so that the Inuit of the area were given the name “Caribou Eskimo” by early European explorers.

The Inuit survived by hunting and trapping in family groups while living in what is now Nunavut and Northern Manitoba. Although apprehensive for many generations, they began trading regularly with the Europeans in the early 1900s and by the late 1950s were moving into communities. They were encouraged by government to do this so their children could attend school and have access to medical care.

Today, the Qamanirjuaq caribou continue to be very important in maintaining the culture and traditional lifestyles of Dene, Métis, and Inuit across the north by providing food, materials for traditional clothing, special tools & shelter.

Tupik at Dymond Lake Lodge

Tupik at Dymond Lake Lodge

One of the shelters that was traditionally constructed is called a “tupik”. Last fall an Inuit couple named Peter and Mary graciously visited to teach our guests about their culture and their way of life during the Great Ice Bear Adventure at Dymond Lake Ecolodge. Peter and Mary built the tupik to show us what they would live in while traveling and hunting during the summer months in the north. The tupik is constructed of about 20 caribou hides and long skinny timbers.

An Inuit legend about the origin of caribou goes like this:

Once upon a time there were no caribou on the earth. But then there was a man who wished for caribou, and he cut a great hole deep into the ground, and up through this hole came caribou, many caribou.  The caribou came pouring out, till the earth was almost covered with them.  And when the man thought there were caribou enough for mankind, he closed up the hole again. Thus the caribou came up on earth.

The numbers of caribou seem to be inconsistent but plentiful. Distribution and migration of 10 adult female Qamanirjuaq caribou have been monitored since 1993 using radio-collars and tracked by satellites. The results of this study have provided insight to the herd’s recent distribution and movement patterns. This link has a downloadable QuickTime movie that shows a typical caribou migration route.

While Churchill Wild goes to great lengths to preserve the natural habitat we encounter, there are some external threats that are concerning. Hydro transmission lines, roads to communities in northern Manitoba, mineral exploration and mines are all issues local groups have voiced concern with. These activities continue to spread to the calving and post-calving areas.  Hydro-electric development could affect movement of the herd during spring and fall migration as they may need to make detours if traditional water crossing sites are impassable due to water level changes from hydro dams.

As a way of addressing these and other concerns the Beverly & Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board (BQCMB) was established in 1982 to coordinate management of the herds.  The Board’s responsibility is to make recommendations to government and conduct projects for conservation and management of the caribou herds and their habitat.

There are times when a caribou is in the vicinity of one of our lodges and guests are always amazed with their grace. To see one as part of a herd is fascinating and a spectacle we are excited to present as part of our Polar Bear Arctic Safari.

But caribou and polar bears? Together? Polar bears are often said to be the world’s largest land predators and our experienced guides (Andy & Terry) keep the guests safe. What about the caribou?

While there have been very few documented cases of the two species interacting, some observations indicate that polar bears will stalk and chase caribou, but you would not likely witness it during your adventure with Churchill Wild.

Fall colors in the arctic

Spectacular fall colors in the Arctic. Photo Credit: Dennis Fast

Churchill Wild’s polar bear guides have been reporting an increasing number of polar bear sightings on the caribou range, with bears spotted as far as 150 kilometres from the coast in recent years.

Last summer a polar bear found its way as far south as Shamattawa, Manitoba – about 400 kilometres away from the Hudson Bay coast. These instances are extremely rare but the phenomenon could explain the “grolar” or “pizzly” bears (which we will pretty much guarantee you will NOT see!)

Churchill Wild’s Arctic Safari is easily our most ambitious adventure to date and the timing is essential. A small window in early September provides the perfect apex to see the widest variety of wildlife and brilliant displays of the Aurora Borealis.

The Arctic Safari takes you over 20,000 square kilometres of the wildest regions in the Arctic; providing the potential “Big Five” (and then some) of wolves, caribou, moose, three species of bears (polar, black and grizzly), belugas, arctic and colored fox, wolverine, beaver, pine marten, arctic birds and of course, spectacular Northern Lights.

For more information about the Arctic Safari or any of our Arctic Adventure Travel Experiences, please call our office, sign up for our newsletter or e-mail us at info@churchillwild.com. We would love to hear from you!

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