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Archive for September, 2011

Rebecca and Fraser: A Polar Bear Wedding Announcement

Rebecca and Fraser are getting married!  It’s true.  Our daughter and her lifelong friend Fraser Issac have decided to throw their hats into the ring and tie the knot!

rebecca-n-fraser

Rebecca and Fraser

Rebecca and Fraser will be married on October 8, 2011.  The ceremony begins at 3 p.m. on our yard in Kleefeld, Manitoba.  They have decided to take a chance on Mother Nature and have planned for an outdoor wedding, so we are hoping for a beautiful fall day.  There should be an amazing backdrop for the event with all of the leaves changing colour. The trees will be gorgeous and the leaves that fall will provide us with an enchanting kaleidoscope carpet!

Let’s back up a few years and I will tell you how this all came to be.

Seven years ago, the Reimer Family decided to make the fateful move to Kleefeld, Manitoba from our long time home in Churchill.  It was a heart wrenching move, as Churchill was the childhood home for five out of the six members of our family.

Our move came about fairly quickly, without a lot of time to find just the right home, so we moved into a tiny house on Hanover Road until we could find what we needed for our family.  The family next door was the first to visit us and welcome us to our new home. And they had kids!

We became fast friends.  Their eldest, a boy named Fraser, just happened to be the same age as our oldest daughter, Rebecca.  Their daughter, Anja, a bubbly, friendly girl, soon spent many hours with our daughters.  Fraser made it his mission to welcome the new girl in his grade and the two fast became a pair.

Rebecca and Fraser “hung out” for all of Grade 9 and most of Grade 10, back when Rebecca was still taller than him!  By the end of Grade 10 their social circles were changing, we had moved to a new home down the road and their paths did not cross as much for a few years.

Fast forward three years and we found our daughter in college and living in Winnipeg with relatives and Fraser working in the city in between his university terms.  They seemed to find time to start “hanging out” again and before we knew it, they had made it official and started dating.  That was a year and half ago, and we are so pleased to have Fraser joining our family.  He is literally the “boy next door”, but now MUCH taller than Rebecca, working on a college engineering degree and growing into a man of strong integrity who we have been proud to welcome into our lives.

As previously mentioned, Rebecca is our oldest daughter and just recently turned 21.  She has grown up with Polar Bears at Seal River and fishing at North Knife Lake.  She has been charged by a Polar Bear (fortunately when on the right side of the fence!), caught Manitoba Master angler fish and had a photo published in National Geographic Traveler. She has also spent countless hours snowmobiling with her family and friends, successfully hunted caribou and moose with her dad, been back up driver on Seal River ATV tours.  She’s proven she can take on anything that’s thrown at her.  Rebecca is thrilled to have found someone to share her love of the outdoors and adventure with. Fraser has embraced the north, but has also shown her the magic and beauty of the south.

peek-a-boo polar bear

Rebecca's picture appeared in National Geographic Traveler Magazine in a story about Churchill Wild's Seal River Heritage Lodge

We expect to see both of them making cameo appearances at the lodges over the next several years – if we can’t hook ‘em into some full time work!

Immediate future plans involve living in an apartment in Winnipeg while Fraser finishes the last year and a half of his education. From there, the possibilities are wide open!

You can read their engagement story and see their smiling faces on www.FraserandRebecca.com.  Thanks for reading and sharing in our lives!

Please head over to our Facebook page, “like us” and send your comments to Rebecca & Fraser.

Jeanne & Mike

Cape Tatnam mission accomplished! Another first for Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge!

Cape Tatnam - Nature at its Finest

Cape Tatnam - Nature at its Finest

Yesterday Albert (Butch) Saunders and Mike Reimer completed their first overland expedition by ATV from Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge to the legendary Cape Tatnam.

Mike was complaining of a sore backside after the 135 km “jaunt” but the many sightings of polar bears and a black wolf within 20 meters helped ease the pain. Butch pointed out that his grandfather and his uncles had walked this coastline on many a hunting trip in days gone by, so we certainly were not the first people there. And we did find evidence of old camp sites, which was very interesting.

The spectacular beaches and sand dunes at Cape Tatnam rival some the finest beaches in Mexico. But these beaches also provide a beautiful if slightly surreal setting for polar bears. Many bear dens – day beds actually – were investigated on the dunes, further proof that this is obviously a major resting area for the polar bears when they first come off the sea ice. All the polar bears sighted appeared to be healthy and in excellent condition.

Thank you Mother Nature, for another wild and wonderful Churchill Wild adventure!

Sun sets on a polar bear at Nanuk

Polar bear at sunset Nanuk Polar bear Lodge

Sun sets on a polar bear...

by Andy MacPherson

After changing the batteries and cards on the Go Pro cameras we were using to see who had been feeding on a two-week old bear carcass, we continued heading east through the grassy coastal flats of  Hudson Bay at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge.

The “We” I’m referring to is Adam Ravetch of Arctic Bear Productions and his film crew, who came to Nanuk to film some fall polar bear activity for his upcoming film to be released in 2012. The Go Pro camera has been filming a variety of critters large and small, all coming to feed on the remains of an unfortunate bear that passed along we think due to injuries and infection, possibly due to the usual, battling for females earlier this past spring. We should know the full details of his demise soon, as Conservation officers flew in this past week and checked him out. We’re hoping they’ll pass along their findings.

We were hoping to find a few bears going about their daily business of sleeping, wandering or being led by their nose to anything deserving of their interest. We spotted our third bear of the day lounging contentedly out on the tidal flats, disappointingly just a little out of our reach.

Ground level polar bear photography at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge

Polar bear photography up close and personal

We tried to get closer, but the Hudson Bay mud was a little too intimidating, causing us to leave an empty boot behind with every step forward. The bear was 150 meters away – secure as gold in Fort Knox – lazily watching our failed attempts to reach him over his left shoulder. Adam reluctantly admitted defeat to the mud and we made our way back to the chariot. But that turned out to be a good thing.

As soon as we reached the chariot we spotted another bear moving towards us from the east. At the same time we also noticed fellow guide Gordy and his buggy full of guests paralleling the bear at a distance. We moved a little closer, set up our camera gear and waited. We weren’t disappointed this time.

A beautiful four or five year old female polar bear moved towards us in the glow of late afternoon light. She hopped numerous small streams and slid effortlessly through the grass, providing us with some amazing footage. She stopped to the sound of my voice when she was about 30 meters away, then casually moved around us to the seaward side, giving us the over the shoulder looks as she passed by.

We quickly packed and played leap frog with the bear all the way back to the Misatkoken River, where she sniffed out our poor unfortunate friend. That was where we left her at twilight, outlined in golden light, standing on the crest of the beach ridge.  All caught on the cameras of Adam Ravetch and…

soon to be a star on the big screen.

Four days at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge – A Guide’s Diary

Polar bear yawning with cub Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge

A yawn, a growl and a pleasant good morning to you too!

by Nolan Booth

There were three big polar bears hanging around Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge on the first day, one you could see from the Lodge. A mix of honkers and snow geese were buzzing the coast on and off all day. The numbers were low but it was still early. A mother black bear with three cubs showed up just outside the compound this afternoon while the guests were out “playing” with the white bears.

We have a small group of people for this trip and all are really getting along well with each other. Now all settled in and excited about the early bear sightings. Guest expectations were met right off the bat.

Had some good polar sighting bear sightings over the next two days and the guests got within 30 feet of a wicked black wolf. It was slower trying to travel east against a high tide and lots of water. Dinner was a little less formal than at Seal River Heritage Lodge as per guest recommendations and also the Aussies kept trying to clear the table etc. Everyone enjoyed the York Factory DVD.

Arctic wolves at Nanuk

Arctic wolves at Nanuk

The final day of the trip started off with a bang, literally! Lying in bed after the alarm went off I was woken up by a Kapow! That made me jump, and the screamer that followed it had me out the door in seconds to see one of our guides, Andy, backing off a big polar bear that had charged the fence. The bear backed off and we started getting the guests moving, but they certainly didn’t need much encouragement after that!

The big bear stayed with us, circling, hissing, and showing us how thrilled he was with Andy. He walked the entire way around from the kitchen to the runway. He then laid around for awhile before heading towards Hudson Bay to wake up another old timer for an argument followed by a morning mud bath. There was a wolf running east on the coast. All the guests spotted him, then another and another, five arctic wolves in total. Then the horseshoe jokes started.

It was a great way to end the trip!

Me? Fly a Plane?

Or “Rough Company at Cape Churchill”
by Ian Thorleifson

Ian Thorleifson with polar bear cubs

Ian Thorleifson with polar bear cubs

Working with wildlife is always full of surprises. One day in November, my assignment was to meet an airplane and a pilot at Thompson airport, fly to Cape Churchill (a favourite resting place for Polar bears during their on land season), land on the beach ridge, and pick up two Wildlife Service biologists. Then we were to fly along the coast of Hudson Bay, searching for radio- collared polar bears.

Sunday at ten in the morning was the agreed time to meet at the airport, and I was there in plenty of time. The only other person around the hangar was a mechanic, working on another plane. I asked him which plane we were to fly with, and he indicated a Cessna 206 parked nearby. I walked over and checked it out, and noted a couple of unique features. The 206’s I’d seen were “tail- dragger” – two wheels under the body and one more under the back of the tail. This one was on “tricycle gear” – three wheels in a triangle configuration under the front of the fuselage with the load balanced by the weight of the engine. Every other 206 I remembered had a three blade prop – each blade being about 2 and a half feet – 80 cm – long. This one had a two blade prop instead, with three foot blades to make up the difference.  Besides, it was a “Trainer” – two equal sets of operating gear to allow the pilot to take control anytime from a person who was learning to fly. I mentioned all this to the mechanic, and he said “Doesn’t make any difference”, and I reckoned he was right.

“It’s quarter to eleven”, I remarked, “Where’s that pilot?”

“He’ll be here”, the mechanic reassured, and sure enough, in walked a sharply dressed young fellow with a city haircut and the meanest set of blood shot eyes I’d seen since earlier that morning. I don’t like the looks of this, I thought as I introduced myself. “Been bush flying long?” I asked. “Just arrived from Calgary yesterday,” he explained, “And they threw a heck of a welcome party for me last night.” Oh, great….  “You look pretty rough – you sure you’re ok to fly??” “For sure! They’ll fire me if I blow my first assignment!”

Against my better judgement, we loaded up and took off toward Gillam, me in the left front seat. I knew my way from Thompson to Cape Churchill “like the back of my hand”, so I reassured the pilot I could navigate for him without maps. That reassured him, and he visibly relaxed – so much so that in about fifteen minutes, his head was bobbing! “Hey, what are you doing?” I yelled. He snapped to attention, then said, “Man, I’m so tired – Can you fly a plane?” I protested vehemently, summarized my flying experiences from the passenger seat, then realized that we weren’t going anywhere with that.  “It’s easy now we’re in the air” my sad specimen of a pilot reassured me – just do this and this and I’ll just have a quick nap.

He was mostly right – Weather was calm, only a few controls to manipulate. The challenge was navigating. I didn’t have the confidence to fly AND look at a map, but, no problem, I could navigate to the Cape from my own memory of the terrain. But – I had to be able to see the ground! We left Thompson with a complete overcast sky and a 3000 foot ceiling. As I flew NE, the ceiling kept dropping. So did I.  By the time sad sack started stirring, we were at 300 feet and getting close to the Cape. He stretched, glanced out the window and LEAPED towards the controls! “What the … are you doing so low?!” I explained, and he settled down. I then described the terrain at the Cape – open gravel beach ridges, one that led to a tower where the researchers were. We would carefully land on the ridge, taxi to the tower, pick them up and go.

206 cockpit with trainer gear

206 cockpit with trainer gear

He surprised me with his very good landing! Because of our tricycle landing gear, he landed “nose up” then slowly lowered the front until all three wheels were rolling along the ridge – rolling right into a polar bear day bed!  Only about eight inches deep, but just deep enough to make our extra-long blades on the propeller contact the gravel. “Praaang” was the sound, and the plane started to vibrate. We were almost right at the tower, so he quickly shut off the engine. We got out to look, and our biologist buddies came down from the tower. No question – we were not flying anywhere with those twisted and broken blades!

In keeping with the “no problems” attitude, the tower crew invited us up for a meal of spaghetti and red wine, and talk things over. Great supper, but a quick look at the tower did not reveal anywhere for two more people to sleep except in layers. Not the best way to get along. I suggested “That plane is big enough – we’ll pull out the seats and Good Luck the Pilot and I will sleep in there – Any bears around?” The biologists informed me that just before we landed, they had scanned all the way around and counted 43 big male polar bears! Pilot’s eyes got very big – but I said “No Problem – I’ve got scare pistols and heavy rifles and shotguns – They’ll never take us alive!” He was not reassured, but really had little choice.

We climbed down to the plane, removed the seats and stored them safely, laid out our sleeping bags and snuggled in with all but our outer parka and boots on. It was comfortable enough, and I was asleep quickly – but not for long. Pilot had me by the shoulder and shaking, hissing through his teeth “Ian there’s a bear at the window right beside you” and sure enough, I looked up and could see a big black nose pressed up against the Plexiglas, five feet up off the ground. No problem – I just waited until he pulled his nose back, opened the door and bumped his nose, then fired a “cracker shell” onto the ground in front of him – BOOM! FLASH! and away he ran. That happened eight times that night. They pounded on the tail of the plane, pulled the insulating engine cover off, banged on the windows. I chased them away each time, but my eyes were sore from the Flashes, my ears were dull from the Booms. I got very little sleep. Pilot got none.

In the morning, we climbed back up into the tower for coffee. The biologists had radioed to town, and soon two rescue planes appeared! Pilot just about leaped right out of the tower. We flew away with one plane and a regular pilot to do our radio collar surveys. The mechanics put another propeller on the plane, and, incredibly, they flew it to town without it falling out of the sky – but it did have a cracked crankshaft when they took it apart, and that could have come apart at any time in the air…

And, you know, I never did see or hear from that Pilot again!