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Posts Tagged ‘2014’

June snowstorm, wolves, welcome new wind power installation at North Knife Lake Lodge

June 2014 Manitoba snowstorm at North Knife Lake Lodge.

Enjoying the June snowstorm at North Knife Lake Lodge.

by Doug Webber

June 4 started with a feeling of excitement. I was getting ready to fly to Thompson to pick up Danny, the man who was going to install the final pieces of equipment that would give us a major infusion of power into our existing solar power system at North Knife Lake Lodge.

The newly designed ultra-efficient 3,500 Watt wind generator is in its final stages of installation. The associated cabinetry and controllers are state of the art and in some cases, clearly innovative. The specially designed blades are environmentally friendly, as they are low rpm and have the exceptional capacity of negative bird strikes. During the three year trial run of the wind generator, not one bird was struck.

As I prepped the airplane for the flight, the matriarch of the resident wolf family poked her head out of the bush across the runway to see what I was up to. As I warmed up the engine, she scooted across the runway about 100 meters away, obviously intent on a mission that likely had something to do with food.

It was a clear beautiful day and the flight to Thompson was uneventful, so I was able to enjoy the gorgeous panorama of another Northern Manitoba spring as it unfolded around me. While waiting for Danny’s plane, I had time to run a few errands, pick up parts, groceries and fuel for the trip back. Danny arrived and we climbed aboard for the flight back to North Knife Lake.

As we came in for landing I noticed the momma wolf standing by the runway watching our progress. Despite the presence of a strong cross wind, I managed to pull off an acceptable landing and we coasted to a stop at the “terminal building” where the road leads to the Lodge just a quarter mile away. The wolf continued to watch us, and as long as we ignored her, she was content with our presence. Any attempt to approach her would see her melting into the forest.

A quick supper after Danny was settled in brought about the usual end-of-day tiredness. We checked the equipment we brought and crawled off to bed.

The expected cruddy weather arrived in the middle of the night. Flying back to Thompson for the additional bodies we required for tower erection was out of the question. There was a lot to do, with the mounting of the equipment and the hooking up the control charger. As the weather deteriorated over the next three days we got the Internet sorted out and set up for monitoring the equipment from the Lodge. From the office we could now see what was happening in the Battery Room, where all the solar and wind charging takes place.

During the storm, the wolf continued making her rounds near the Lodge. There were new tracks morning and evening through steadily increasing snow cover. We expected to see the pups make their first foray out into the world shortly after the storm had run its course and the snow had melted back into the ground.

New birds continued to show up on a daily basis. The loons, mergansers, mallards, pintails, Canada geese and bald eagles are all prepping their nests and getting ready to lay eggs. We also saw Pine and Evening grosbeaks, two or three species of warblers, Bank and Tree swallows, nighthawks, redpolls, robins, various gulls and peregrine falcons.

Some of the birds are residents and others are just passing through. Pine martins, mink and foxes are evident in the sand and occasional sightings confirm their presence. Beavers at the creek and south river are sending numerous bark-stripped branches downstream, indicating healthy numbers.

The continuing storm compromised the completion of the windmill project, as high winds were detrimental to the raising of the tower. As with many projects in the seasonal lodge business, a few weeks or months delay may be the outcome, but all will get done.

Danny’s unique skills in the alternate energy arena are necessary to make final adjustments once the windmill is producing power. As his departure day drew near and the storm continued, with eight inches of snow already on the ground, resignation of the inevitable began to take hold.

In time however, all this will be in the past and our carbon footprint at North Knife Lake Lodge will continue to shrink as we bring the wind generator on line. Stay tuned for the conclusion of Project Wind Power at some time in the near future!

June 7, 2014 Update: We put the blades on the windmill yesterday and with it resting on the barrel it was producing a couple of amps of power, which is going right into the batteries!

Cat train on the move to upgrade Churchill Wild polar bear lodges for 2014

by Nolan Booth, Director of Lodge Operations, Churchill Wild

The Cat Train Crew, led by Mike Reimer and myself, will soon be on our way to Dymond Lake Eco-Lodge and Seal River Heritage Lodge with the materials required for a number of exciting Lodge upgrades! You can watch part of last year’s cat train adventure on the video below.

Once again we have hired Jarret O’Connor to drag his big sleigh and move a few of the heavier pieces, but for the most part it just takes some adventurous teamwork and cooperation combined with a little good luck, favourable tides and decent weather, to get this all done in a timely fashion.

The heavier items include a customized 1970-era dump truck that we built for runway work, and a Stuart Reimer-designed trailer dubbed The Beluga Hydration Unit, that will be used for hauling fresh water, as well as for fire truck duties in its down time.

Now for the upgrades!

Seal River Heritage Lodge

Seal River Heritage Lodge is home to our Birds, Bears & Belugas safari, and it will receive some well-earned equipment to improve the road out to Swan Lake, along with a Kubota tractor and a custom water trailer to help with the movement of water. We will also be completing power upgrades that will bring Seal River up to the level of power we are running at Nanuk, with a 1500-Watt addition to the solar array and a revamp of the power grid. This will help meet the power demands of electric heat and the charging of camera batteries and laptops. We’re also hauling in new dining room furniture to enhance the look and feel Jeanne Reimer has worked so hard to create in the beautiful octagonal dining room, which overlooks Hudson Bay.

Dymond Lake Eco-Lodge

Last year we hauled an entirely new three-phase power system into Dymond Lake Eco-Lodge, but it was put on the back burner until we could finish the main Lodge and shop at Nanuk. Now Dymond gets to shine! There will be much focus on installing the new system along with 3000-Watt solar panels and a 45 kW Shindaiwa generator. We’re also hauling in new kitchen tables and chairs and a large deck/viewing platform that will be erected overlooking Hudson Bay off the north end of the runway. Dymond Lake’s Great Ice Bear Adventure visitors will now dine in luxury while having a fabulous view of the Bay!

Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge

I’ll be taking a crew into Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge at the beginning of June along with some birders and scientists, to study the northern bird migration. Shortly after that we’ll begin working on a long list of planned improvements for this Lodge. In the middle of June we’ll fill the sky with Cargo North’s Bassler BT67 loaded up with the remaining construction materials we need to complete Mike Reimer’s new vision for this Arctic Safari location, which includes two new guest wings with eight bedrooms and bathrooms. The construction will continue through July and into a portion of August but will be completed before the start of the Mothers and Cubs Adventure.