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2013 should be a great year at Churchill Wild for Aurora Borealis!

Aurora Borealis / Northern Lights at Seal River Lodge, Manitoba, Canada

2013 should be a great year at the Lodge for the Northern Lights!

2013 is being forecast as an unbelievable opportunity for star gazers to witness an Aurora Borealis year like few others. Churchill Wild is hoping for just that!

Just as the earth has cycles which we call seasons, the sun’s energy output also has changes. These changes occur roughly every 11 years. We call these changes the solar cycle. During the last cycle, there were few magnetic storms on the sun, sunspots were rare, and geomagnetic disturbances on earth were nearly nonexistent. We are now however, five years into a solar maximum cycle which is approaching its projected peak in 2013.

As far back as 2006, solar scientists began predicting that our next solar maximum would be one of the strongest yet. The next sunspot cycle will be 30% to 50% stronger than the previous one. If correct, the year ahead could produce a burst of solar activity second only to the historic Solar Max of 1958. So what can happens during this predicted solar season?Northern-Lights

Sunspots increase and harbor more energy. At times, this energy is released in the form of coronal mass ejections (CMEs). A CME consists of plasma from the sun itself — electrons and protons — with an accompanying magnetic field.

When the charged particles strike the earth’s magnetosphere, they travel down the magnetic field lines to the poles, colliding with atoms in our atmosphere along the way. These collisions can create an Aurora Borealis display that can incredibly be seen as far south as Mexico during strong solar events.

Everyone here at Churchill Wild is keeping their fingers crossed for clear and cloudless nights in 2013, so we can all enjoy the show.

One of the best places in the north to see the Aurora Borealis is at Dymond Lake Eco-Lodge in our custom made Aurora Viewing Platform during our Great Ice Bear Adventure. Spots are filling up for this one-of-a-kind wilderness safari as Aurora and polar bear enthusiasts worldwide are anticipating an incredible viewing season.

We hope you’ll join us!

Helen’s Heavenly Cake… And it is!

Helen's Heavenly Cake

Helen's Heavenly Cake

Helen's Heavenly Cake... And it is!

Helen’s Heavenly Cake

This is a basic chocolate cake recipe that lends itself to these two variations of icing, among others.

Cake Ingredients

  • ¾ cup butter or margarine 175 mL
  • 2 cups sugar 500 mL
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla 5 mL
  • 2 ½ cups flour 625 mL
  • ½ cup cocoa 125 mL
  • 2 tsp. baking soda 10 mL
  • ½ tsp. salt 2 mL
  • 2 cups buttermilk or sour milk* 500 mL

 

Directions

  1.  To prepare the cake, in a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar.  Add eggs and vanilla and mix well.
  2. In another bowl, mix flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.
  3. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk, making three dry and two liquid additions, starting and ending with the flour.  Mix just until blended.
  4. Spread batter in well-greased baking pans, either a 9 x 13” (23 x 33 cm) pan or, two 8” (20 cm) round pans.
  5. Bake in a 350°F oven for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry.  Let the cake cool in the pan for five minutes before turning out on a rack to cool.

*for sour milk, add 2 tbsp. (30 mL) lemon juice or vinegar to 1 7/8 cups (460 mL) milk.

Jeanne’s Quick Icing

Ingredients

  •  3 ¾ oz pkg. instant chocolate pudding 113 gm
  • 1 cup whipping cream 250 mL

 

Directions

  1. Prepare the pudding according to the package direction.
  2. Whip the cream until stiff.
  3. Fold the whipped cream into the pudding mix and spread over the cooled cake.

 

Jeanne’s Bakery Icing

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup flour 60 mL
  • 1 cup milk 250 mL
  • 1 cup shortening 250 mL
  • 1 cup icing sugar 250 mL
  • ¼ tsp. salt 1 mL
  • 1 tsp. vanilla 10 mL

 

Directions

  1. Blend the flour with ¼ cup of milk in a small saucepan.  Gradually add the remaining milk, stirring to avoid lumps.  It helps to use a whisk.  If, at this point, you do have some lumps, strain them out of your mixture. Cook and stir constantly, over medium-heat, until thick. Set aside to cool.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, cream together shortening, sugar, salt and vanilla.
  3. Add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture 1 tbsp. at a time, beating constantly.
  4. Spread over the cake.

*For chocolate icing, melt 1 cup (250 mL) of chocolate chips, let cool slightly and add after step 3. 

From the best-selling Blueberries & Polar Bears Cookbook Series

Raspberry Walnut Torte – A taste sensation!

Raspberry Walnut Torte Recipe Churchill Wild

Raspberry Walnut Torte - From the Blueberries & Polar Bears Cookbook Series

Looks can be deceiving! This simple dessert is absolutely delicious!

Raspberry Walnut Torte

Torte Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup icing sugar
  • ½ cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 10 oz.  frozen raspberries, thawed
  • ¾ cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ cup flour
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • whipped cream or ice cream for garnish

 

Raspberry Sauce Ingredients

  • ½ cup cold water
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch
  • ½ cup reserved raspberry juice
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice

 

Directions

Combine 1 cup flour, icing sugar and butter and blend well. Press mixture into bottom of a 9” x 13” pan.  Bake at 350°F for 15 minutes.

  1. Drain the raspberries, reserving liquid for sauce.  Spoon the raspberries over the crust and sprinkle with walnuts.
  2. In a small mixing bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar until light and fluffy.  Add salt, ¼ cup flour, baking powder and vanilla. Blend well and pour over walnuts.
  3. Bake at 350°F for 30-35 minutes. Cool in the pan.
  4. Combine all the sauce ingredients, except lemon juice, in a saucepan. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened and clear. Remove the saucepan from the heat, stir in lemon juice and let cool.
  5. Cut the torte into squares and serve with whipped cream or ice cream and Raspberry Sauce.

From the second book in the best-selling Blueberries & Polar Bears Cookbook Series, Cranberries & Canada Geese

Arctic fox steals the show on sunny day at Seal River

Arctic fox with guide Terry Elliot at Churchill Wild

Taming the Hunter: The Perfect Pose

by Churchill Wild Guide Terry Elliot

People come to Seal River Heritage Lodge to see the polar bears, but on this occasion the arctic fox obviously stole the show!

Vulpes Lagopus has cyclical population numbers. More prey equals more foxes, and we were seeing lots of lemmings all summer so this was obviously good for the kits (baby foxes). We counted as many as 14 at one time this year, probably a family group with lots of infighting for position in the pecking order.

The arctic foxes have always been bold and inquisitive creatures, but especially so in this photo. Typically they will follow a polar bear out on to the ice and scavenge for the winter. During the summer their coat turns brown, they breed and eat lemmings, eggs, birds, hares, even insects and frogs.

In a prosperous year the females can have as many as 16 kits. Their dense fur enables them to withstand extreme cold temperatures and leave their red-haired cousins behind at the tree line. When sleeping, they will curl into a tight ball with their bushy tail over their nose.

My wife calls this picture “Taming the Hunter”. Unfortunately the photo I was taking here did not turn out as well as the photo of me taking it. It’s a terrible thing when the wildlife is so close to your camera that you can’t get focused. But you have to take the wonderful with the almost-wonderful.

And I did get a decent shot of his ear :)

Hudson Bay helicopter ride a first for Churchill adventure travel specialist

by Doreen Booth, Adventure Travel Specialist, Churchill Wild

Hudson Bay Helicopter, Churchill, Manitoba

Julie, Jeff & Doreen. Ready. Set. Go! - Photo Credit: Terry Allen

This year I finally had the opportunity to join a group of our winter guests at Seal River Heritage Lodge. I was able to squeeze in on our last trip of the season – the Polar Bear Photo Safari!

I had a couple of guests, Julie and Jeff, looking to add something extra to their trip, and they had decided to charter a helicopter to the Lodge. When they found out I would be joining them on their departure, they very generously offered me the extra seat they had on their helicopter flight.

I have to admit, I’m a nervous flier, so I wasn’t sure what to say at first, but I didn’t know when an opportunity like this would come again. I accepted their offer with butterflies in my stomach and off I went!

November had come and gone quickly and before I knew it I was done organizing our winter season. My dinner presentations were complete and our final guests were on their way to the Lodge, so I headed up to Churchill for my “partial” holiday. When you’re part of the family, your work is never done.

I met up with Julie and Jeff in Churchill and we headed out to collect their winter gear before making our way to Hudson Bay Helicopters. I was feeling pretty good – a little nervous maybe – but totally excited! I didn’t want anyone to know how I was really feeling. Our pilot took our bags and gave us a rundown on the safety guidelines for the chopper, we buckled in, put on our headsets, and it was time to take flight!

The take off was surprisingly smooth. The winds were calm that day so we were in for a good 30-minute ride. We flew over the town of Churchill and headed up the coastline of Hudson Bay. It was amazing to see the sprawling tundra with a fresh coat of snow. I had forgotten how flat the land is up there.

Half way through the trip we flew over our Dymond Lake Lodge and noticed that some of the staff had ventured outside to wave to us. How nice! A short time later our pilot came on the headset and asked me where we should land at the polar bear lodge.

Doreen Booth, Adventure Travel Specialist, Churchill Wild

I wasn’t sure, so I told him to pick the best place he could find. He thought that would be right outside the front door of the Lodge! Needless to say, the staff didn’t have to bring out the luggage buggy to meet us. And the polar bears kept their distance!

A few months have gone by now and I’ve had time to think about that wonderful trip and the emotions I experienced while flying in a helicopter for the first time. I have to say it was an amazing experience and I would love to do it again.

Thanks again to my friends Julie and Jeff, for helping me check another item off my life’s to do list!