Churchill Summer Rolls On

The beluga whales, by the thousands, are very active thesee days as they move in and out of the Churchill river.  As the Summer “heat” (insert Arctic weather joke here) begins to wane somewhat…today’s temperature is around 14C…down a bit from earlier in the month. Personally, I feel this time of year is unmatched as far as all you can take in nature-wise. The cool, crisp air, ideal for all the trekking and whale viewing excursions, is a blend between the early Summer warmer days and the colder Fall days just around the bend. Wildflowers are hanging tough…especially the fireweed, and birds still in the area are feeling the slight urgency to journey South.
Churchill Fall colors.

Colors of Fall on the way.

Natural Habitat  Guide Sue Zajac, in town with a group of travelers, reports sadly that a third polar bear was shot after possibly breaking through a trailer house on the edge of town.  That same bear may have been responsible for another foray into a  Manitoba housing unit on the east side of town. This is the third fatal shooting of a polar bear this Summer as the  aggressive behavior continues…most likely due to a shorter ice season in the hudson Bay. Expect more seal-kills this Fall by hungry polar bears.
The group of travelers had some spectacular beluga viewing trips out on the water, albeit hindered a bit by some pesky black flies. Then on a rover trip to the tundra for a barbeque lunch they followed a wandering polar bear out on the tidal flats in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area. Always an awesome sight to see these bruins near the water with no snow around yet.
Sue also noted that her travelers had some good looks at red foxes that had moved back into a previously vacant den down by the orange, suunburst lichen-splattered rocks on the dirt road leading to Mike Macri’s boat docks. Arctic terns are starting to make their incredibly long journey South to the pole area as they take in their last feedings of capelin that escape the beluga’s mouths. Canada geese are also nearing their departure South just as soon as their flight feathers develop a bit more. Seems like all the species beach vacations are close to an end.
All in all the signs of Fall are creeping in and soon the the tundra will take on its’  vibrant Autumn colors. Within a short time the hustle and bustle of polar bear season will be upon us…another year in the sub -arctic ..season by season.

Churchill’s Port Fate Looming- OmniTRAX Diversifying

As the debate heats up regarding the federal government’s plan to introduce legislation this Fall to dissolve the Canadian Wheat board (CWB), OmiTRAX, current owner of the Port of Churchill is looking at ways to diversify itself in the Northern Arctic region.

Port of Churchill,MB

Churchill's Port growth could become frozen.

Canada’s conservative ruling party vows to end the monopoly of the CWB as early as August 1, 2012 thereby allowing prarie wheat farmers to sell their products on the open market. What seems to be a no-brainer for people looking at the issue from the outside, there seems to be a fair amount of resistance from those on the inside…particularly many Canadian wheat farmers that want to focus on farming instead of marketing. The CWB has been marketing the distribution of the products primarily through the Port of Churchill since the 1940’s.  The stability in pricing in low markets and reliability of  steady income has spawned resistance to change from the very farmers for whom the new legislation is aimed at liberating. It’s a sideways issue in many ways that the government is remaining stubbornly bent upon solving their way despite any resistance of a possible majority.

Earlier this month, the first of seven forums involving prarie farmers was opened to an overflowing crowd in Regina. Standing room only in a facility that held 400 seats indicated just how pressing this issue is. This plebiscite of sorts was initiated by the CWB in an effort to alert the government to what they feel is a majority of satisfaction with how the current system works.

However Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz states that despite the results of the forums, legislation will still be initiated this Fall.

“The CWB needs to realize that regardless of how many pro-board farmers attend their meetings or participate in their expensive survey, no one farmer should trump the rights of another farmer,” Ritz said in an email to The Canadian Press.

“In contrast, our government wants to provide every farmer with marketing choice, whether that’s selling individually or in a marketing pool.”

With all the turmoil brewing across the plains and in the chambers of government, OmniTRAX is stepping up it’s plans to diversify its’ usage of the only inland deep-water Arctic seaport in Canada. The company recently appointed  Canadian , Brad Chase, to oversee OmniTRAX’s Canadian operations at this current crossroads.

Last year, 656,298 tonnes were shipped through the Churchill port. That was the second-highest tonnage since Denver-based OmniTRAX bought the port and rail line in 1997. It was also the first time in three years that non-CWB shipments moved through the port. With the looming elimination of the CWB, that growth through wheat and barley sales could dissapate in the coming years. OmniTRAX is preparing for that possiblity by opening up new transportation lanes to Northern Manitoba and  Nunuvut communities to the North. Some of those potential viable markets include transporting fertilizer to and from Russia, the potential developments of huge, new iron ore mines on Baffin Island and the possible opening of the North West Passage to shipping transport. OmniTRAX also has been promoting the possibility of utilizing the Port of Churchill to import  mega-loads of  industrial equipment made in South Korea and needed in the Alberta oilsands.

With all these new possible markets OmniTRAX seems poised to keep the Port of Churchill viable through all the impending changes to come.

Aggressive Bears In Churchill

Good numbers of  polar bears are showing up in and around the Churchill area….however not all of these bears are behaving very …um..good. Or, maybe it’s the people who need to check their behavioral habits in what really is a town placed smack dab in the natural habitat of these wandering, hungry bears. In fact, there have been two incidents this Spring and Summer in which polar bears have behaved aggressively towards humans resulting in the bears having to be put down by Canadian Conservation officers. Not many people who live in or know about Churchill can remember the last time two bears have been put down in the same year, never mind the Summer season. With climate change possibly affecting polar bears behavior, residents and visitors to Churchill need to modify careless behavior in what really is a true wildlife refuge.

Wandering alone on the Churchill shores can be dangerous.


Aurora Borealis Intense Tonight

Multitudes of people travel to Churchill each year to try and glimpse the magical aurora borealis in the arctic sky. Weather often determines viewing success for these travelers and for that reason deep Winter is the optimal time to see the phenomenon. Cloudy skies in Fall and Summer can be barriers to optimal viewing while Winter, on the other hand, provides for more clear, crisp nights to take it all in.

Tonight and possibly friday night as well, might just provide the opportunity for many folks in North America to get a taste of this thrilling spectacle in the sky above. Depending on your location and darkness factor of your location, you just might be able to take it in as far South as Massachusetts and across the country through Colorado.

Intense solar flares occurring August 2nd from sunspot 1261, to be precise, have created optimal conditions in areas that normally would experience little or no “Northern lights” viewing possibilities. Hence the name, “Northern lights”. I guess it can be argued that just about evrywhere is “North” of somewhere and tonight, those more Southerly Northern spots will have the chance to see aurora. Follow me? Check this link at to clear things up…or confuse you a little more.

At any rate, if you have the chance and energy to get outside in a dark, low – lighted area, go for it and see if you can catch this amazing, mystical occurrence. it might just whet your appetite to venture North to Churchill and see the lights in all their glory above the arctic tundra.

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