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Posts Tagged ‘2014’

Polar bear fight on Hudson Bay puts kink in plans at Seal River Lodge (in a good way!)

Polar bear pounces on rivals in Hudson Bay.

Polar bear pounces on rivals in Hudson Bay.

by Andy MacPherson, Polar Bear Guide

The winds blowing from the northeast put a small kink in our planned activities for the morning, but three restless polar bears stirring on One Bear Point certainly provided enough distraction to keep everyone’s mind off the weather.

And the change of plans paid off in photo opportunities!

After breakfast I went out to see if our neighbours had begun to move, but I was too late. They had already ventured 100 meters into the water and were fully engaged in a three-way brouhaha! We spread the word to the guests that departure time was moved up and all came surging out of the Lodge to watch the melee from ringside seats. Front row!

The bears were already swinging for the cheap seats and leaping off the turnbuckles as we settled in for the show. Sucker punches were definitely part of the action and an ongoing hushed commentary could be heard from the guests.

Mork, a resident bear, was chewing on Bob’s neck, while Nanu Nanu circled looking for a weakness before submarining and emerging to pounce and dunk whichever rival was within his reach. The show and the combatants never seemed to slow down.  Moving back and forth in front of us in the water, the bears used every tactical advantage the terrain provided, especially boulders. To climb on, hide behind and leap from.

Amazing!

Ouch! Just kidding. Love bite.

Ouch!!! Just kidding. Love bite.

What were we going to do for an encore? How about a Beluga trip?

Low and behold the wind dropped and the sea calmed as we finished our lunch. The decision was made to try a dropping-tide Beluga trip on the spur of the moment, and everyone rushed to catch the high water before it was too late to launch the Zodiacs. The weather and whales cooperated and everyone was excited to have another opportunity to commune with the whales, both from the surface and in the water.

We ended the perfect day with a glass of wine before bed, and the promise of Northern Lights still to come.

Fingers crossed.

A perfect day  for polar bears.

A perfect day for polar bears…

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.

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.