2018 Hudson Bay Quest Canceled

Hudson Bay Quest Churchill, Manitoba

Dave Daley leaving the start in Churchill. Nace Hageman photo.

For a second consecutive year the Hudson Bay Quest dog sled race, that runs from Churchill to Gillam every March, has been canceled. The ongoing saga of a washed out train line, known as the Hudson Bay Line, after runoff from two late-season blizzards in 2017 has again wreaked havoc on the region’s lifestyle. Without the train line to transport dogs and supplies for mushers, the expenses would be too steep for those wanting to compete.

“Normally what would happen was we would have our sponsors bring the mushers’ dog teams either to Churchill or from Churchill, depending on which direction the race was going,” said Bill Dingwall, Hudson Bay Quest committee chair.

“But this year, without the train, we couldn’t guarantee that the teams would either be able to get to the start or the finish, or home from the finish.”

The alternative would be returning by land with the dog teams after the race finishes and the cost for most mushers would be prohibitive

“That was quite a daunting task for a lot of the mushers and it would have cost them a lot more money,” said Dingwell.

“Once we put out that you’d be on your own to get to the start and home after the finish, I think it was an easy decision for a lot of the guys.”

Last year the Quest was canceled as well by one of the severe blizzards that buried the open tundra and made the trail too treacherous to run the dog teams.

“We were very disappointed last year because it was such a last minute decision to cancel,” he said. “This year we knew going in not having a rail line was going to be extremely hard to do with logistics of moving mushers, moving handlers, moving even our race marshal, our vets, and everybody … It wasn’t safe to do it, honestly.”

The Hudson Bay Quest is well known among the heartiest mushers as one of the most challenging races in North America. it annually draws mushers from all over the world and some use it as a stepping stone to bigger races such as the Iditarod and the Yukon Quest. On a smaller scale, mushers are self – sufficient out on the land just like those races.

“It’s not as long [as others] but it’s a hard race … It’s so hard that if you finish the race, you get your registration money back. Doesn’t matter when you finish, we have a timeline, but if you finish we give your registration money back just because it’s that much of an accomplishment, we feel.”

In a “normal year”, which in the north such a phrase carries a completely different meaning, the Quest will draw from 12 – 16 mushers and dog teams. This year only four had entered this far and three of those opted to defer their registration fees to next years event with the hope that the train line will be repaired and the region will be back in business. A decision to only proceed this year if a minimum of six racers entered was made early on. With the deadline to enter looming race organizers officially pulled the plug on this one.

The race has been an iconic event for the region for a long time and once the rail line is repaired it will happen again. Churchill, in particular, has suffered extensively from the lack of train service. The polar bear season was a needed boost to the morale and economy of the town but a long-term solution is needed. Town officials expect news soon on the transfer of the port and accompanying rail line and the future of the Hudson Bay Quest. Stay posted to our site for upcoming news on the ongoing drama in the north!

Images of Polar Bear Season

For decades Great White Bear Tours has been Natural Habitat’s partner in logistics and providing travelers with access to the most heavily polar bear populated region in North America. The Churchill Wildlife Management Area is where all the incredible polar bear action takes place and Great White Bear Tundra Lodge has been home to lucky Nat Hab travelers for years now during October and November. These photos from GWB wonderfully capture the polar bear season that just finished up in Churchill. Enjoy!

Great White Bear polar rover churchill

Great White Bear polar rover in Churchill. Konan Wendt photo.

 

polar bear in Churchill

Pensive polar bear in the Churchill willows. GWB photo.

 

Red fox in Churchill

Red fox staring out at the water in Churchill. GWB photo.

 

Polar bears in Churchill

Polar bears sparring in the CWMA. Henry Zhang photo.

 

Snowy owl in Churchill.

Snowy owl above the Churchill tundra. Don Walkoski photo.

 

Massive Caribou Herd in 360

Some of North America’s largest caribou herd – females only- are heading north toward Nunavik. The females head out of Quebec’s boreal forest a few weeks ahead of males to get settled in and have their calves. Averaging 20 km per day, the caribou will used their scoop – shaped hooves to dig for lichen deep beneath the snow to keep energy for the trek. Once they arrive in the north they will feast on a plethora of grasses and plants.

This amazing footage was captured by Wild Canadian Year film crew lead by filmmaker Justin McGuire. The crew flew by helicopter into the barren tundra region and placed a 360 degree camera ahead of the herd and hoped for the best.

“You find yourself in another world. It’s a landscape of quietness and caribou tracks – a vast expanse of compacted snow formed by thousands of moving animals.” stated McGuire . “We watched hopefully. After all our efforts, it would still take a bit of luck to get a our shot. And then – success! The migrating caribou passed right by the 360-camera, seemingly inquisitive of this foreign arrival in their land.”

The never – before – seen footage is truly unique and intimate!

Churchill Video of the Week – Space Aurora

Aurora season is coming soon to Churchill and we are getting excited for another incredible few months of spectacular northern lights viewing. Churchill, in the heart of winter, is quite the magical place. With all the population growth around beautiful places in North America it’s rare to be able to escape to a town that is surrounded with amazing natural beauty yet has very few people living there. If you’re looking for respite from the maddening crowd and need some time for reflection beneath the glimmering aurora borealis, this is the place to be. Enjoy this look down on our planet highlighted by the green halo of of mysterious northern lights.

 

Common Crane Makes Rare Appearance in Churchill

This photograph by Parcs Canada is an amazing discovery of a common crane. The bird is rarely seen in North America and Churchill has been lucky enough to be the landing spot for this particular crane. Mixed in with a group of sandhill cranes, this common crane seems to be on the lam from somewhere. The cranes were spotted at the grain ponds by the Port of Churchill. Birdwatchers are keeping eyes open for other rare bird species in Churchill!

common crane in Churchill

Common crane spotted in Churchill mixed in with sandhill cranes. Parcs Canada photo.

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