You’ve heard the expression “Island time”.  In fact you’ve probably uttered it once or twice yourself after experiencing the casual, slowed down lifestyle of people in places that seem to have figured out how to enjoy life…well at least vacation life…usually by the warm, blue water somewhere.

Sundogs in Churchill, Manitoba. Brad Josephs photo.

Sundogs in Churchill, Manitoba. Brad Josephs photo.


Well “tundra time” is a similar lifestyle but perhaps comes from the opposite end of the weather comfort spectrum. Churchill and the rest of the northern Arctic region of Canada moves at a pace most southerners would call…um…slow. And that’ s being generous. Maybe because the north exists in a cryogenic state of frozen time for a good part of the year there’s really no energy to go fast at any point. Tundra time.

When visiting Churchill, everything moves slower. Restaurant service is slower..hence meals  take longer. Vehicles move slower…especially Polar Rovers looking for slow, ambling polar bears. Maybe that’s the key…polar bears set the pace for everything around the area. They are in no hurry to go anywhere…except out on the ice. However,  they can’t make the ice form so they instinctively know to take it easy….cause it’s “tundra time” mon!

Polar bear cooling off in Churchill, Manitoba.

Polar bear cooling off in Churchill, MB. Natural Habitat Adventures photo.

The train….ha..well anyone that has traveled with Via rail along the Hudson Bay Railway knows the literal definition of “tundra time”. The train tracks often turn a 36 hour trip into a 42 hour trip or more. Why? Because the tracks wind across the tundra that contains permafrost….icy ground. When that icy permafrost heats up and melts a bit, especially in summer, the tracks move slightly and a speeding train has to slow down so to not exert too much force on the steel rails and then end up on tundra…stopped in the middle of nowhere. Tundra time.

Most of all the people in Churchill move slower. Churchillian’s by and large are not going far. Well, they can’t drive far as there are no roads out of town unless you want to go to the Churchill Northern Studies Center or a bit further out to Twin Lakes. People in Churchill actually have time to talk with one another, not email or telephone. They actually meet at Gypsy’s or the Seaport Hotel and sit and talk for sometimes hours and enjoy multiple cups of coffee. There’s a “local table” at Gypsy’s up front that is just for that…talking….slowly … and in person. Tundra time.

Nearly everything in the north operates on tundra time. We should all experience it once in awhile.

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