Natural Habitat Adventures guide Brad Josephs and his group of avid and hearty travelers in Churchill for northern lights had time to learn the art of igloo building in frigid minus 50 C Arctic temperatures. Despite the piercing cold, everyone enjoyed the experience and immersed themselves in an authentic Arctic situation and survivalist technique utilized by hunters and travelers out on the tundra and ice of the far north. This system has saved lives every year in the extreme weather of the Arctic. Hopefully, we will bring you some tantalizing northern lights from this adventure in the next couple of days. Churchill’s aurora borealis season is heating up even during this incredibly cold stretch!
This awesome ice inukshuk welcomes travelers to Iqaluit in the Arctic. These iconic northern features mark trails or food caches. They were also used by caribou hunters to herd the animals toward an area for harvest. No feature, other than the stoic polar bear, is more recognizable in the open Arctic tundra then these, usually stone inukshuks. An ice one captures the soft colors and light of the region!
Santa Claus might just make it to the polar bear capital of the world via his sleigh this year! If all goes a planned, this coming Christmas Churchillians will have an “ice road” that will allow shipping of various goods and supplies, not to mention Christmas presents to the isolated town from the south.
The “road”, over frozen tundra and icy ponds, is being carved out between Gillam and Churchill and reports are that two-thirds of the passage is complete. Christmas is the projected finish date though the hope is that it will be functional before that.
“I kind of want to bring this as a Christmas Present to Churchill,” said Mark Kohaykewych of Polar Industries. “I want to roll in there before the 25th.”
Fox Lake Cree Nation and Churchill’s Remote Area Services have been working with Polar Industries, the main contractor, for weeks constructing a 300-kilometre “ice road” between Churchill and Gillam. With the Hudson Bay Line, as the stretch is referred to, washed out, the town has become isolated by no land accessibility. Cargo shipped by air has become prohibitively costly for businesses and residents. Line and port owner Omnitrax continues to battle with the Federal government over who’s responsible for the track repairs. In the meantime, and basically out of desperation, the three groups launched a plan to bring perishable food and supplies and fuel to Churchill.
Progress over the rough terrain has been unexpectantly faster than anticipated.Check out this video link of the work taking place in the north:
“We went up on Friday just to see the progress of what my crew was doing and I was pleasantly surprised,” he said. “We’ve probably got about 110 kilometres left to go.”
Work crews have faced one major barrier despite the unseasonal frigid temperatures in November…waiting for freeze-up of some of the deeper thermokarsts or tundra ponds and connecting creeks that are scattered all across the tundra.
“You’re pushing snow over it, then you’ve got to let it freeze, flood, create ice. For my crew up there and myself, we’re not very patient up there, let me tell you that. Trying to wait for the ice to freeze up properly is like watching paint dry for most folks.”
While on site, work crews are utilizing old trappers cabins to sleep and get out of the cold after long, extended shifts in efforts to finish before Christmas.
“I think at the start, a lot of people were skeptical about this and as we get closer and closer and sharing our progress, the response is overwhelming. I didn’t realize how much of an effect we’d actually have on the town.” stated Kohaykewych.
While major efforts are enduring and progress has been dramatic, Kohaykewych is appealing to the Canadian government for some funding to help with the meager budget Polar Industries has for the project.
“So, if anybody out there can assist us to put pressure on some government agencies to get some funding and assistance here, and get this done on a non-shoe-strong budget, we’d greatly appreciate it.”
The project comes on the heels of the polar bear season in Churchill, a much needed economic boost to the community!
Another classic “end of polar bear season” photo from the Churchill tundra. Katie de Meulles captured this one as another memorable season come to and end. Churchillpolarbears.org hopes that the momentum of polar bear season will continue on for Churchill and soon finds a solution to the Hudson Bay Rail line crisis. Best wishes to all Churchillians for the holiday season and impending good news surrounding the sale of the Port of Churchill!
Some amazing photos from the tundra in Churchill and sky above the Northwest Territories! The images we are receiving from the north have been just incredible all season long. Some exciting news as well that the ice that has been forming in the Hudson Bay has been blown to the north by some steady south winds. Hopefully, this will keep polar bears on land for the duration of the polar bear season in Churchill!