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Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge

You flew in from where? Unexpected guest arrives at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge

Rhino and guests meet polar bear at Nanuk.

Rhino and guests meet polar bear at Nanuk. Charles Glatzer photo.

by Nolan Booth, Director of Lodge Operations, Churchill Wild

Saturday August 30, 2 p.m. Allison Reimer and I are doing our rounds, checking on guest quarters, cleaning and tweaking the common areas at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, when out of the blue we hear engines in the air.

A little white and teal plane circles the Lodge a few times, lines up with our strip, and comes in from the west, rolling to a stop just metres from the front gate. Keeping in mind we are 120 nautical miles from civilization and the closest inhabitants at this time of year may be at a lodge 50 miles to the east of us, seeing a plane on this remote piece of the Hudson Bay coast is not a very common occurrence.

Our new guest is the lone occupant and pilot of the Husky Aviat A1B, and goes by the name of Thorsten. Turns out he’s a pilot for a large German airline flying 747s at 30,000 feet, and this little Husky is his way of getting away from it all.

Thorsten is a lot like the rest of us out here when it comes to his love of wildlife and the urge to get away from it all. I invite him to join us for the night, but there are a few small matters to be taken care of before that can happen.

His plane needs to be protected from not only the winds, but also from the 800 pound polar bear that has decided to hang around on the runway eating berries and smiling for our guests’ clicking shutters.

Thorsten gets to tying down the plane I gather some bear boards, and we set up an electric fence perimeter. We have a great evening with the guests, and an after-dinner slide show from one of our leaders and an unbelievable Northern lights show later in the evening. The next morning, after everyone is filled up with coffee and a delectable breakfast, they head out east on the lookout for more of the big white bears.

Northern lights at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge. Charles Glatzer photo.

Northern lights at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge. Charles Glatzer photo.

Thorsten offers to take Chas up for a few aerial photos of the Lodge, more difficult than you might think though, in the little two-seater plane. After we get Chas belted in we pile in multiple cameras and a few more lenses for good measure. Up they go, windows and doors wide open and the breeze blasting through Chas’s hair. An hour and a half later they return and the photos are astounding.

They tracked down our Rhino’s full of guests and took some great shots with bears and guests. They also found a multitude of other wildlife spread over approximately 30 miles of coastline east of the Lodge. Churchill Wild now has great aerial shots of wolves, a lone Caribou, and numerous bears just doing their thing. The guys even managed to find some moose on the creek just west of the Lodge.

Thorsten also did numerous low level fly-bys of our property, and we now have a number of great shots of the new Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge and compound.

With most of the day gone and a weather front moving, we decided to keep Thorsten for one more night. He had started the day out at Reindeer Lake, stopped in Gillam, and was headed for Pickle Lake, Ontario, with his final destination being Vermont, USA, but after we burned all his fuel he decided to head to Gillam the next morning to refuel and take a more direct route to Pickle Lake.

Thank you Thorsten, for the stories you shared, and for photographs we will always cherish.

New Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge guest wings, from the air.

New Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge guest wings, from the air.


Rhino II adds Mom and Cub to memory banks at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge

by Nolan Booth, Director of Lodge Operations, Churchill Wild

Polar Bear Mom and Cub at Nanuk

Polar bear Mom and Cub at Nanuk Polar bear Lodge.

At 9 p.m. last night our hard working crew of builders at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge decided it was time to blow off a little steam and go for a ride in our new custom-built Rhino II all-terrain vehicle. We’ll call it that for now, at least until our guests decide to overrule us with something better. West was our direction of choice this time and off we went.

About a kilometre from the Lodge we spotted a nice size polar bear out on the coast, but it was too far out in the surf to get a decent look, so onward we went, enjoying a beautiful evening and some good laughs.

Kelly, one of our carpenters, spotted a bear at 300 metres and we decide to try a little stalk with the new Rhino. We closed the gap to approximately 100 metres and were treated to a close-up of a very healthy looking Mom and her COY (cub of the year), who would be lucky to tip the scale at 40 pounds. We shut off  Rhino II and parked to enjoy the show!

Mom got up and decided to our delight that we had worked hard and that we should have a better look. The wander and stretch began and they closed the gap to 60 metres, deciding that a nearby sandbar would be a good vantage point to watch us from.

We spent another 20 minutes chatting and laughing in amazement before deciding to back up and let them be. Mom wasn’t bothered by us a bit. She never even stood up. Baby got up and checked us out one last time as we rode off into the sunset, with yet another shared piece of awesomeness…

for the memory banks.

We don’t play soccer at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge. We might now.

by Nolan Booth, Director of Lodge Operations, Churchill Wild

Look what I found!

Look what I found!

We have a new hire this year and it’s been a pleasure to have him around. Joshua Robson came on board this past winter to help with the hauling of equipment and materials over the sea ice to Seal River Heritage Lodge and Dymond Lake Lodge. We cut wood and hauled materials for 10 days and Josh was instantly hooked on our lifestyle.

Josh made his love of soccer known from the very beginning. He had traveled to Ecuador on a mission to build homes, and his stories of playing soccer with the kids as a way of getting to know them were inspiring.

We don’t play soccer at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge. We don’t own a soccer ball, and the bears would likely be too tough to beat anyways. Eating the ball all the time and… well, you know.

Anyways, last Friday night a funny thing happened. The guys and I needed to get out of the compound and blow off a little steam after a long week so we gassed up the bikes and loaded up the new Rhino II for its maiden voyage to the Mistikokan River east of the Lodge.

After about an hour of laughing and bumping along the coast with numerous stops on the sand ridges to gather handfuls of fresh strawberries, take photos of giant wolf prints in the mud and enjoy a wandering polar bear, we were nearing the river and the end of our journey, when Josh suddenly yells “Soccer Ball! and jumps out of the moving vehicle to snare his prize.

A young man with an extreme love of soccer, finds an old weathered soccer ball still full of air, hundreds of miles away from civilization, on the remote coast of Hudson Bay. What are the chances of that?

Good karma.

Polar bear outsmarts wolf, or…

Come closer. I won't eat you. I promise.

Come closer. I won’t eat you. I promise.

by Nolan Booth, Director of Lodge Operations, Churchill Wild

Wow, did we have a great breakfast encounter!

Our group of tuckered out carpenters had a little extra sleep, and our 9 a.m. Sunday breakfast was well deserved after many long hours of hard work on the new guest accommodations at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge.

The sun was shining and there was a light breeze from the east at 9:20 a.m. when Shelby spotted a young polar bear through the scope. The bear was wandering westward down the coast at a fair pace and following the tide line.

At the same time, Mike Sigurdsson noticed a nice black wolf wandering on a sandbar moving eastward towards the Lodge. Someone at the table said, “I wonder what will happen if they meet?”

We found out!

The wolf spotted the bear first and immediately turned and ran 100 metres in the opposite direction. He then stopped for a look. The bear continued to wander west, getting closer by the minute. Then the wolf decided to try a different tactic and bolted straight towards the young stocky white bear.

To everyone’s surprise the polar bear darted and ran straight north into the depths of Hudson Bay. The last we saw of the bear was a swimming white bum heading north.

We decided that one of two things must have happened. First, bears are believed to have a great memory, and this one may have had a previous run-in with a pack of wolves. Second, this bear may have known something we didn’t. The rest of the pack may have been hiding in the willows ready to back up their leader.

Polar bears live in an unforgiving environment and even a small injury could lead to an untimely death, so it’s possible the bear just decided that running (and swimming) away were the safest actions at the time.

He was fat and very healthy after a long winter of eating seals, and a meal at this time of year was not high on the priority list, especially not a wolf…

with an ambush in the waiting.

Whose afraid of the big bad wolf?

No thanks, I’m a little smarter than that.


Strolling through time at Nanuk

by Nolan Booth, Director of Lodge Operations, Churchill Wild

Small girls. Big history. Mooswa.

Small girls. Big history. Moosawa.

We have the honor of doing a major construction project at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge this year with a big anniversary at hand.

One hundred years ago this summer, during the limited months that Hudson Bay was not frozen, a small vessel took on water and sunk near the shore just miles from what is now Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge. To this day we still enjoy short trips out west to see the Moosawa and explore the area. Quite often there are polar bear or wolf tracks surrounding the vessel.

And if nothing else, it is just a nice place to sit up off the ground and think about our past and the incredible things people have accomplished on or near this unforgiving landscape.

About eight miles up the coast from Nanuk is the wreckage of a Hudson Bay Company boat which wrecked in 1914. Reportedly, the boat was never seaworthy enough for the shallow water of the bay. Strong winds and high waves resulted in the boat taking on water, the engine room filled and the ship broached.

We have done a fair bit of research and have even had scholars investigate the wreckage, yet to this day the name of this lady evades us. The only clue we have is a notation in the typed History of Nanuk booklet at the Lodge, which I would assume was started by the original owner and has been carried on over the years.

Not too many years ago Mike and Jeanne Reimer took over the Nanuk location and added it to the lodges in the Churchill Wild family. We are now creating new memories and writing our own history.

What will people discover about us 100 years from now?

Strolling through time...

Strolling through time… at Nanuk.