I recently ventured back to Churchill, Manitoba for a week to help with set-up and installation of Natural Habitat’s new Aurora Pod. The project was finally nearing the end of a long process of design, production and delays and now came the time to test it all out. The time to see if all the work was worth the effort.
Natural Habitat’s Aurora Pod. Brad Josephs photo.
Upon arriving in Churchill and driving out to the proposed pod-site, just above the rock quarry across from the airport along the Hudson Bay coast, I knew immediately this was the place for the pod. Not a doubt.
The stillness in the frigid air froze me in my tracks as I stood just above the quarry and looked over the solid ice – packed Hudson Bay. The endless slab of ice extended north as far as I could see. To the east the Canadian shield rolled down to the edge of the rocky coast peaking through the snow where wind had whipped it clean. Stunted spruce with one – sided branches dotted the surface across the tundra and rock covered surface.
Northern lights above the boreal forest behind the Aurora Pod in Churchill. Justin Gibson photo.
Behind the pod and extending quite a distance to the west along the upland coast was a sturdy stretch of boreal forest holding fast like a battalion of soldiers guarding the bay. On my last day in Churchill I borrowed a friend’s snowshoes and made my way through the powder encrusted spruce pillars and found a wonder world of snowy silence. I worked my way through the heavy snow and came across fairly fresh wolf tracks winding their way back towards the quarry and westward along the coast. As I followed them with trepidation, I had the thrill of hoping to see the maker of these tracks and fear of doing so all at once. Eventually I turned back and left them as they disappeared over the snow covered rocky edge.
I stood one more time taking in the entire scene of boreal forest, rocky Precambrian shield and vast ice covered Hudson Bay all under a clear blue sky. As my nose hairs froze for a last time, I soaked it all in with pure pleasure. The sensation was incredible…one in all the years of working in Churchill I seemed to take for granted after some time.
Snow encrusted trees near the Aurora Pod. Brad Josephs photo.
A couple of days earlier I had joined photographer and former operator/ owner of Sea North whale watching tours Mike Macri on a ski – do trip across the frozen Churchill River to make a last visit to his rustic cabin. Hidden in the woods, just up river and about halfway between Churchill River and Button Bay, the journey was beautiful. Mike’s selling his last couple of pieces of property and heading east to Ontario with his wife to fish and retire to some extent. It was a great way to say goodbye to one of the last pieces of the original Churchill puzzle. As we sat in the cabin warming our toes by the wood stove, eating cookies warmed by the same fire and drinking hot tea, few words were spoken. Sometimes silence says it all. Old friends saying goodbye…though hopefully not forever.
After I returned home I realized that I had taken a trip back, not only physically but consciously, to a place where I have spent a substantial part of my life. Sitting around the “local” table in Gypsy’s restaurant listening to the stories and dialogues between people I remember from long ago reminded me why I fell in love with this place to begin with. Churchillian’s speak their mind ( sometimes with some pretty flowery language) and are very real. Those qualities separate places from the vast majority of towns in the world today.
Polar Bear season is still six months away and polar bears for the most part are enjoying a bountiful seal hunting season out on the ice of the Hudson Bay before finding their way back to the familiar shores of the rocky Hudson Bay.
This array of polar bear photos highlights various behavior during the season of October and November. When you visit Churchill during prime season you can witness first-hand all the different interactions at once if you have a bit of luck.
Alex DeVries – Magnifico’s unique look at the Ithaca shipwreck and Miss Piggy are exceptional creative images. Although these have been extensively photographed over the years, these perspectives and darkness give them a completely different feel. The northern lights also are are amazing as they have been all month in Churchill. Northern lights season is coming to an end with aurora continuing to shine in the Churchill skies.
Ithaca shipwreck in Hudson Bay ice. Alex De Vries Magnifico photo.
Ithaca shipwreck in the Hudson Bay pack ice. Alex De Vries – Magnifico photo.
Miss Piggy under the northern lights. Alex De Vries – Magnifico.photo.
Northern lights over the boreal forest with moon. Alex De Vries Magnifico photo.
This short documentary by Richard McManus highlights the amazing wildlife inhabiting Churchill region. The fall polar bear season is packed with various interactions between polar bears including sparring and nursing young. The other animals inhabiting the region are more visible at this time of year.
Polar bear near the Tundra Lodge. Colby Brokvist photo.
This concise and informative look into the world of the polar bear is a great primer on life in Churchill and the Arctic regions of the high north. Enjoy!
A study researching new ways to utilize the Town Centre facility in Churchill will be conducted with a total cost of $35,000. The centre is owned by the province and they are hoping to find new ways to enhance the building in order to initiate more interest in using the facility as a conference center.
Churchill Town Complex. Courtesy Town of Churchill.
Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation and Manitoba Tourism, Culture, Heritage, Sport, and Protection will both provide $15,000 toward the study and the Town of Churchill will kick in another $5,000. The idea of developing a conference center that will be capable of hosting 150 people will be the main focus and objective of the study
“While Churchill has become a premier eco-tourism destination and is internationally recognized for polar bear and beluga whale viewing, the community is wise to seek ways to diversify its economy,” said Minister Kostyshyn. “As well, the existing building is pivotal to community life and adding new services to its roster may benefit area residents.”
“We hope to improve Churchill’s economic sustainability by capturing business opportunities to build on its already successful tourism seasons,” said Minister Lemieux. “Churchill potentially offers a highly unique experience for meetings and conventions, which could be attractive to certain user groups.”
The assessment will explore this new objective and also analyze other remote northern facilities that have implemented meeting and convention centers as a means of drawing visitors to their communities. The study is expected to be finished by the fall.
“This partnership-based approach will seek to continue our community’s ongoing economic diversification efforts while at the same time enabling a new use for Town Centre Complex. We are pleased to undertake this necessary next step,” said Mayor Michael Spence, Town of Churchill.
Currently the Town Centre is operated through an annual grant from the Manitoba government. The many facets of the facility include a swimming pool, ice rink, movie theater, high school, bowling alley, public library, curling club, hospital, playground and town offices of Churchill.