A winter storm thrashed at the Churchill region over the past two days. Snowfall was not heavy though the winds were…driving blowing snow sideways and insuring the true low temperatures felt much colder- minus 55 C. Even Churchill has a threshold for cold as schools were forced to close to avoid frost-bitten little ones.
Via rail is in the process of refurbishing many of the old train cars so Guide Karen and her Natural Habitat group departed from Winnipeg with the fortune of having an observation dome car for their trip North to Churchill. Stars shone through on both nights affording a magnificent view of the incredibly clear arctic sky. As the train rumbled on in a Northerly direction, travelers were able to slow to the pace of the land and prepare themselves for their arctic adventure. What may have been the most punctual train to Churchill in the history of the Hudson Bay line; the locomotive chugged into Churchill at 5:58 am…actually early! Wow..the engineer must have been drinking Red Bull!
Welcomed by sideways -blowing snow, the group boarded a coach and headed for the hotel to settle in for some good ole arctic weather for the next three days. The Hudson Bay could not even be seen from the large window upstairs in the town complex….pretty thick. The grainery down at the port was barely visible as well.
While the skies remained clear for awhile the following day….clouds reappeared at night. Temperatures plummeted with the clearing down to -55c forcing schools to cancel for a couple of days. The determined travelers headed out to the aurora observation domes out past the airport anyway to no avail and to the wonderment of the locals. Winter weather was reeking havoc on the viewing process as well as keeping kids from their math equations.
Although the clear skies and cold weather held pat during the next couple of days, the night ushered in clouds preventing aurora sightings. Bill Calnan-local historian/shuttle driver- provided colorful historical reference to fill some of the chilly void and also presented at the Anglican church. Caroline Bjorklund; local Metis speaker also gave the group some in -depth insight into the Dene culture. And, Myrtle also explained the Metis heritage with her background of a trapper’s daughter growing up in Saskatchewan.
All in all the travelers got right to the heart of what Northern living is all about…dealing with the cold. This experience is exhilarating to most and just darn cold to some. Either way a dog -sled ride through boreal forest in the minus fifties is something these brave souls will not soon forget. Dave Daley’s dogs are well trained for this weather and soon he will be off with his select team to run the Yukon Quest.
With no break in the weather at all, Karen and her group finally returned to Winnipeg after 11pm…nine hours delayed due to fierce winds and snow. Changed forever after experiencing the arctic grip…..and off to a beach for some I’m sure.