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Archive for July, 2013

Contentment at Seal River

Polar bear mom with nursing cubs at Seal River Lodge.

Contentment in the morning at Seal River Lodge. Photo by Richard Voliva.

There is a reason the adventure tours at Seal River Heritage Lodge are called Birds, Bears & Belugas at this time of the year. The guests are treated to the most amazing wildlife sights in the North.

It is said “if you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes.”  That applies to the wildlife here at the Lodge as well. Just “wait five minutes” and there is something new to see. To say the views, sunsets and wildlife are stunning here, falls short. From polar bears on the ground, to swimming with beluga whales, we have seen it all.

Including this morning’s sighting of a mamma polar bear nursing her two cubs, that I was able to capture on what we call “film” these days.

Fantastic!

Direct from Seal River Heritage Lodge,

Richard Voliva

New Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge construction well underway

by Nolan Booth, Director of Lodge Operations, Churchill Wild

Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge. Timber-frame lounge/dining room construction well on its way!

Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge. Timber-frame lounge/dining room construction well on its way!

First we had to plan and organize all the building materials, which included lumber, timber frame, plumbing, electrical supplies, solar panels, inverters, a 45 kW generator and more. Then we had to find a way to haul it 110 nautical miles from Gillam to Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, along with two construction crews and even more helpers.

After that we could start building the brand new state-of-the-art 24 x 60 shop with a triple phase electrical system. Once the shop was complete we could start on the new Nanuk lounge and dining hall that will be attached to one of the existing buildings and completely renovated into a new kitchen.

Albert, Vinnie and myself were on the apron of the Gillam runway when the bright yellow Bassler BT67 from Cargo North coasted in and rolled to a stop. The modified DC-3 has been stretched approximately 10 feet and has had its power converted from an old radial engine to brand new turbine engines that can haul over 10,000 pounds. Everything from stacks of lumber to the Tundra Rhino were going to fit on this plane.

The Tundra Rhino was custom built by Stewart Reimer to travel the coastline and move up to eight guests at a time. It was 8-wheeler when we started loading and a 2-wheeler by the time we were done, but it fit! We also had less than an inch of space left when the loader put the generator through the door.

Tundra Rhino!

The Tundra Rhino has been tamed!

With a crew of three including myself in Gillam, a front-end loader; the pilot, co-pilot-worker, engineer-worker and another helper; Riley, Karli and four more helpers on the ground at Nanuk; the hauling began. Load after load after load for a total of 18.

Fourteen-hour days ensued and we managed to complete the task of hauling everything in over five days. The only downside to having a plane as large as the modified DC3 that did the hauling was the fact that our runway is only 3,000 feet long and 120 feet wide, which left nowhere for the plane to turn around. We came up with a fun solution for that. See video below.

We are now one month into the project. The shop is built, the power system overhaul is complete and includes 16 235 W solar panels that deliver 4000 W of charging power to the 48-volt battery bank. We also have an eco-friendly 45 kW diesel generator as backup, but the generator rarely runs due to the ample solar power.

The floor is built for the new lounge and the erection of the timber frame has begun. Stewart Reimer is in camp with his trusty helper Ryan and they are working on a list of mechanical repairs an Indy pit crew could not complete in the timeframe I’ve given them: Retro-fit the guest trailers; get the Tundra Rhino up and running; perform maintenance on all five quads; move a bunch of buildings; get the CAT running and clean up the runway.

And it’s all getting done!

We’ve had four-legged visitors almost every day. Seems all the animals on the coast and in the forest want to know what is going on. The workers have to be weary by now of the two polar bears at camp posing for pictures, and I counted at least six more polar bears within 10 km of us during our flight out to Gilliam.

There have been multiple black bears on site and Ivan recently got us all up from coffee to check out two 6-foot tall yearling moose twins standing beside a pile of lumber. Riel also managed to call a young black wolf right up to the fence.

There are never ending chirps to wake us at 4:30 a.m. so we are never late getting started. And the weasels and bunnies are a common site all through the evening as we sit outside enjoying the smell of the fresh salt air.

But enough chit-chat for now, there are things to do. We have an incredible combination of crew and family working on this project, doing what they love to do. By the end of August, when the first guests arrive at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, we will have a very special experience waiting for them.

Something that only Churchill Wild can provide.

Panoramic landscape at Nanuk. Click for larger image.

Panoramic landscape at Nanuk.

Great Ice Bear Adventure: The Original Arctic Safari celebrates 20 years!

Polar Bears on the Great Ice Bear Adventure

The Original Arctic Safari

2013 is Churchill Wild’s 20th anniversary and to celebrate this milestone we are offering a chance to have Two Arctic Safaris for the price of one!

Churchill Wild’s Great Ice Bear Adventure was the first package offered back in 1993. To commemorate the creation of the Original Arctic Safari we are presenting a Special Offer to anyone booking a Great Ice Bear Adventure for the 2013 season.

Every guest who books a 2013 Great Ice Bear Adventure will be entered to win a trip for two to the new Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge (redeemable in the 2014 or 2015 season).

Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge is Churchill Wild’s newest remote lodge and it is getting newer! A construction crew was dispatched to Nanuk in late June 2013, where they are spending six weeks building a new lodge which will feature a kitchen, lounge, dining area and more. In 2014 we will be building new guest quarters.

Owner Mike Reimer and the designers have taken the timber frame influence of the Seal River Heritage Lodge and created what is expected to be an Arctic oasis.

Book your Great Ice Bear Adventure, the Original Arctic Safari, and be eligible to win one Trip For Two to Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge. For more information please call 1 (204) 377-5090 or Toll Free: 1 (866) UGO-WILD (846-9453) or e-mail info@churchillwild.com.

Churchill Wild – The World’s Next Great Safari

The polar bears are back at Seal River Lodge!

by Mike Reimer 

The polar bears are back in town!

Mom with polar bear cubs heading towards Seal River Lodge

We’re off to an incredible opening week at Seal River Lodge! This has all the makings of a banner year for wildlife enthusiasts at Churchill Wild!

Yesterday’s sightings of 16 bears included two sets of mothers with coys (cub of year) that were enough to send any camera clutcher into spasms of ecstasy. Okay, that’s maybe a little over the top, but it was pretty darn amazing, not to mention our video canners practically got mobbed by pods of anxious belugas all vying to be the first to land a spot on “Build Films” latest flick. Stay tuned for this one. It comes out in the fall.

On the rocks at Seal River

On the rocks at Seal River

Nolan and crew are down at Nanuk building the new Polar Bear Lodge and they’re having some great adventures with pesky black bears, roaming polar bears, black wolves and curious moose twins coming to visit at coffee time.

Adventure at its finest.

Adventure on Hudson Bay

And over at North Knife Lake Lodge our very own Wolf Whisperer, Doug Webber, is keeping busy playing host to an entire family of wolves spanning several generations. Photos and video coming soon!

Sunrise at Seal River

Sunrise at Seal River

All in all, 2013 is off to a roaring start!

Photos on this page courtesy of  BUILD FILMS.

Magical time with wolves at North Knife Lake Lodge

by Doug Webber

It’s been a banner few months for the wolves of North Knife Lake!

Saw the big Momma, two of her offspring from last year and two pups about three months old, all at the runway in the evening last week. In total, we have seen seven different wolves so far this spring and summer!

All have typical timber wolf colouring with one having distinct reddish tinges on its side. Pups are sandy coloured and they look well fed, quite chubby actually. All the fish must be going to them. The adults did quite a bit of howling and one disappeared into the bush after doing the bark-bark-bark-howl bark-bark-bark. The wolf that stayed on the runway continued to bark-howl-bark until we left.

Josh went ahead with the 5-wheeler while we walked. A big wolf came out of the bush at the sand bowl and followed him until the turnoff to the equipment grounds. What an evening! About 30 trout caught at Hahn Hole and out in front of the Lodge. We kept a couple for eating and released the rest. Two were master anglers!

A few days later we had more wolf sightings down at the runway. We took some fish trimmings out to them, howled and waited. After about 10 minutes we noticed something moving at a hill to the south of a turnaround.

It was a small pup lying down in a bit of a washout. We got a few photos before it disappeared into the bush. We drove back to the Lodge and while I was cleaning pails the adults started to howl, so Norm and I drove back out to the runway.

We saw four pups, two with the momma, one black and one gray, and two off by themselves near the turnaround. Momma was on the south hill with the black and gray ones. So far we have seen Momma, papa, three smaller ones that we suspect are last year’s pups and four pups from this year.

One of the young adults is very brave and has come within five meters of us on the 4-wheeler. She shows up pretty much right away when we arrive at the runway with supper. Another one or two wolves generally happen along five to 10 minutes later.

The wolves have also been getting close to the Lodge a couple of times a day. We’ve only seen them outside the Lodge on three occasions, but we see their tracks at least once a day.

I can’t tell you how wonderful it feels to have the wolf families back at North Knife Lake Lodge.

It’s a magical time… in a special place.