With fresh snow on the ground in Churchill, these polar bear images are an indication that winter is creeping into the region. Polar bears are being spotted out in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area as well as along the coast road and near the Mile Five area too. The early snowfall has contributed to more active polar bears along access roads and areas accessible to travelers. We will be posting more frequent field notes and images now that the polar bear season is roaring with bears! In the meantime enjoy these fantastic photos from Churchill!
Polar bear family huddles together near the willows along the coast. Jodi Grosbrink photo.
Polar bear mother with her two healthy cubs in Churchill. Alex De Vries – Magnifico photo.
A polar bear looks curiously from a snowbank near mile 5 in Churchill. Jodi Grosbrink photo.
“Oh no, not another photo.” Polar bear in the snow. Jodi Grosbrink photo.
Another great close up of a polar bear near mile 5 in Churchill. Jodi Grosbrink photo.
Resting polar bear out near mile 5 in Churchill. Jodi Grosbrink photo.
Alex De Vries – Magnifico took these awesome wave shots of the Hudson Bay in Churchill after the recent blizzard slammed the region. Winds up to 80 kilometers per hour were stirring up the water with ferocious results. During the heart of the polar bear season, this storm has churned up the Hudson Bay to a mighty froth. I have been on the water with big rollers but nothing close to this action. You can envision how travel on the Hudson Bay for early mariners and explorers was during the early days of ship travel. What an experience with the added stress of ice forming in the fall and being stranded through the Arctic winter.
Waves on the Hudson Bay after the storm. Alex De Vries – Magnifico photo.
Hudson Bay turmoil after a winter storm. Alex De Vries -Magnifico photo.
The Hudson Bay all stirred up in Churchill. Alex De Vries – Magnifico photo.
Hudson Bay waves crashing along Churchill shore. Alex De Vries – Magnifico photo.
People in Churchill and the north have been talking about a road to Churchill for as long as I can remember. Now the dream will become a reality sooner than later with the original “ice road truckers” coming to the rescue! Only news such as this can take the lead news story during the polar bear season!
The Churchill train depot sits idle as no service from the south is operating due to damaged tracks. A proposed winter ice road may ease the burden for local residents. Natural Habitat Adventures photo.
While the solution is not exactly what Churchillians had in mind to replace the abandoned and washed out Hudson Bay Line, it will allow a reprieve of sorts from the lack of supplies and disconnect with the outer world. The only way to get in and out of Churchill at the moment is by air. The sea route will soon be closed off with the winter ice forming.
Fox Lake Cree Nation and Remote Area Services is partnering with Polar Industries based in Winnipeg are joining forces to construct a winter road to Churchill from Gillam.
Mark Kohaykewych, president of Polar Industries, hopes to haul roughly 250 loads throughout winter to isolated Churchill on the shores of the Hudson Bay. The initial plan is to haul loads of 10,000 to 15,000 pounds to start and increase to 80,000 pounds per load as the ice road takes form over the winter.
“I’ve never backed down from a challenge,” Kohaykewych said. “We’re confident we can get this done.”
Kohaykewych stated that three alternate routes have been mapped out with plans to build the road prior to Christmas. Cargo vehicles will begin hauling by January, dependant on the amount of snowfall and presiding weather conditions. With a rough terrain formed by glacial movement over thousands of years, the small thermokarsts or ponds formed as a result were partly responsible for the flooding that washed out the tracks. As they freeze over winter and snow build -up occurs, the ice road will be more level.
Up to 15 vehicles will be utilized on the ice road project. Wide -track vehicles that are good in the snow with light, wide trackpads will be needed to sufficiently transport heavy loads at a moderate speed. Kohaykewych estimates that three-vehicle convoys will leave daily from Gillam and take 30 hours to cover the 300 – kilometer distance in about 30 hours.
However, he notes that this is not a long-term solution to the crisis the disabled rail line has caused for the town of 900 people. Once winter ends the road will not be passable. Hopes are that a solution to the train route will be found by then.
“I don’t think we’ll be able to keep up with the demand,” Kohaykewych said.
“We have customers in hand and we’re talking with various Churchill operations who will need help.”
Kohaykewych, originally a hometown boy from Churchill, has been collaborating on the project for several months with Churchill Mayor Mike Spence. The two, along with Fox Lake, are prepared to finance the ice road themselves though they are hoping for some provincial assistance as well.
“This effort is to provide much-needed goods and supplies to the community in the short term,” said Fox Lake Chief Walter Spence. “Fox Lake continues to support the Churchill community and Mayor Spence’s efforts to have the rail line repaired and back in operation as quickly as possible.”
Polar Industries is the longest-featured company on Ice Road Truckers and if any company can get this done it’s them. Their experience in many of the most dangerous places to build winter ice roads in North America will be ample knowledge for the relatively safe terrain between Gillam and Churchill.
“This is not unfamiliar territory. We have gone into places like Peawanuck and Fort Severn (on the Hudson Bay coast in Ontario) and that’s a 450-500-kilometre stretch of strictly bush travel,” Kohaykewych said.
With all the media coverage on this potential new venture, Churchill should get the much-needed rail service back sooner than later.