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Posts Tagged ‘cat train’

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.

Spring Cat Train conquers tundra, Hudson Bay, arrives safely at Dymond Lake Lodge

by Mike Reimer, Churchill Wild

I’d like to say once again that man has prevailed against the brutal ravages of our Arctic wilderness, but that would be stretching it a little. We were blessed with beautiful weather (only -15C), perfect snow and ice conditions and no breakdowns — a real treat but almost a bit of a yawner.

Cat Train Inspection

Cat Train inspection!

Nothing quite beats the excitement of feeling the ice sag under your load knowing you’re a split second away from a heart pounding disaster or madly shoveling snow on to a burning engine, but alas it was not to be.

We managed to get all the windows, lumber and the new generator hauled safely over the sea ice to Dymond Lake Lodge. A fair bit of firewood was also cut and hauled in by snowmobile, though the deep snow played havoc with walking in the bush. That would be waist deep for Mike or chest deep for Kevin!

Cat Train team relaxing before doing battle with the tundra.

Cat Train team relaxing before doing battle with the tundra.

Nolan and Mike “escaped” from wood cutting one afternoon and zipped up to Seal River to check the Lodge there and make sure no polar bears were lounging on the couches. The ride across the sea ice of Hudson Bay is spectacular at this time of the year and we even spotted a few seals hauled up near open leads.

We also ran into Thomas Kudlik and his brother camped out in an igloo on the Bay. They were dogsledding from Churchill to Arviat  in honour of their father, who passed away last winter. We felt that a 300 km trek across the sea ice was a pretty ambitious under taking at their ages of 61 and 67 respectively, but they seem to build those Inuks a little tougher then us white guys!

Building an igloo for a night on the tundra.

Building an igloo, luxury accommodations for a night on the tundra.

I’m not sure our cat train team of Nolan Booth, Riley Friesen, Kevin Brightnose and Jarrett O’Conner would tolerate having to build a snow house for the night after a long day of hauling and wood cutting. But if they had to they could!

Jarrett O’Conner and his snow machine, which has now be tagged with the appropriate name of Conan, put on an inspiring display of superb driving skills, utilizing all that great power and showing off the amazing capabilities of his cool ride. I think I want one!

Everyone returned safe and sound with a nice Arctic suntan…

From the neck up!

Cat Train arrives at Dymond Lake Lodge

We’re here! Cat Train arrives at Dymond Lake Lodge.

Churchill Wild enhances environmental stewardship programs with installation of VBINE Vertical Access Wind Turbines at northern eco-lodges

VBINE ENERGY Vertical Access Wind Turbine - VAWT

VBINE ENERGY Vertical Access Wind Turbine - VAWT

Churchill Wild has always been devoted to minimizing their environmental footprint at their remote northern eco-lodges. Now they’re enhancing their environmental stewardship programs even further with the installation of Vertical Access Wind Turbines (VAWTs) manufactured by VBINE ENERGY in Winkler, Manitoba.

The combined power generated by the VAWTs and the solar panels currently in place at their eco-lodges will virtually eliminate the need to use fossil fuels at Seal River Heritage Lodge, Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, North Knife Lake Lodge and Dymond Lake Lodge. Generators will still be in place for backup power, but the combination of the current solar-panel system combined with VAWTs is expected to provide for almost, if not all, their power needs in the future.

“The beauty of it is that we have a battery storage system,” said Mike Reimer of Churchill Wild. “The power generated from the VAWTs and the solar panels is stored in the batteries and we draw off of them. And they’re eco-friendly and economical. There’s less noise pollution, less of a carbon footprint and we’ll be paying substantially less than the $1-$1.30 per kilowatt it costs for diesel generated power.”

The VAWTs were invented by Barry Ireland about six years ago and refined by an engineering team. Their showcase installations include the Dr. David Suzuki Public School in Windsor, Ontario, Canada and Wayne State Universityin Detroit, Michigan, but the rugged VAWTs were also designed to work in remote northern locations. “They were originally designed to work on smokestacks and silos,” said Ireland. “We had to build them so that the center wouldn’t rotate. We also had remote communication towers in mind when we built them. Many of those towers are powered by diesel and the VAWTs cut costs by quite a bit. That also means they will be popular with many northern lodges and outfitters.”

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VBINE is currently working with Canadian Solaron a combination wind/solar solution that will work for northern communities. “VAWTs are generating a large amount of interest because of the significant cost savings that can be realized,” said Ireland. “And the fact that the big windmills won’t work in the north. They ice up, they have too much vibration and they won’t go into the permafrost. The VAWTs are the only ones that will work up north.” VAWTs mount easily on existing buildings; they’re only two meters in width; they’re quiet and they’re suitable for grid tie-in or battery storage. And because of the vertical design, VAWTs can take wind from any direction. They start generating power at wind speeds of 1.2 meters per second and run 24/7 generating 5 kilowatts of power with a 25 mph wind. They have a permanent magnet generator with two long-life bearings, no drive shaft and no slips springs or brushes. The lifespan of the VAWTs is estimated at 30 years with very little maintenance. Their sleek design also minimizes interference with wildlife.

Hudson Bay CAT Train in Blizzard

CAT Train in a pending Hudson Bay blizzard

The first of the Churchill Wild VAWTs were hauled up to Seal River Heritage Lodge last week via CAT train (caterpillar pulling a freight sled) across the Hudson Bay sea ice, which is still about six feet thick.

Hauling tons of freight across the Hudson Bay ice in -20 degree weather is actually better than doing it at 0 degrees. The ice can get sticky and wet in warm weather, making for dangerous conditions. While there is generally no immediate danger from polar bears, which are still further out on the ice filling up on seals before the ice melts, the weather can still cause problems.

“The wind chills can get to as low as -40,” said Reimer. “And there’s always the possibility of blizzards, flooding sea ice and slush holes. CATS have actually gone through the ice on a couple of occasions.”

The trip takes about 15 hours from Dymond Lake Lodge to Seal River Heritage Lodge and Churchill Wild utilizes one of their two CAT track-type tractors, 1956 and 1972 models built by Caterpillar.  But how fast does that CAT really go? “About two miles an hour downhill with a tailwind,”  said Reimer.

To learn more about how VBINE ENERGY VAWTs can benefit your operations and goals for a greener future, please visit http://www.VBINE.com, call their head office at (204) 325-0228 or e-mail info@vbine.com

Hauling Jeanne’s new gourmet kitchen through polar bear country and across the sea ice to Seal River Lodge

by Mike Reimer

Arctic sunshine on Hudson Bay

Sunshine in polar bear country!

Well folks, once again man pitted his slightly aging wits against the elements of Hudson Bay and survived. Thank goodness we were blessed with exceptionally good weather and sea ice conditions that were perfect for transporting materials to the lodges from Churchill.

Jeanne’s gourmet kitchen equipment and cupboards had been shipped from Winnipeg to Churchill by train a month prior and now all that remained was the “simple” task of getting them over the rugged Hudson Bay ice to the polar bear lodge.

All of our winter hauls involve a high level of adventure including high tide overflow, jumbled pack ice on Hudson Bay, raging blizzards, wind chills down to -50 degrees, marauding polar bears, frozen limbs, broken equipment and workers that actually wanted to eat more than once a day.

I think we could sell this as an “Extreme Adventure” to polar bear land or maybe do one of those reality TV shows! Fortunately other than some long, hard days in the saddle, the “extreme conditions” gave us a break this year and almost everything went off without a hitch.

A welcome fire on the sea ice

A welcome fire on a frigid day!

The Hauling Team consisted of Mike Reimer, Dave Schellenberg, Fraser Issac and Steve Toews, ably supported by Doug Webber as chief cook and bottle washer. Due to the relatively light load (7000 kgs) we elected to transport everything via snowmobile and komatik rather than firing up the old D6 Cat we normally use.

Freighting went well, weather was brilliant and all pieces arrived safe and sound after a two day adventure. Once the hauling was done the real worked commenced, that being the business of collecting our supply of firewood.

Visitors to our polar bear lodges will quickly see that this in itself is quite a feat, as there is hardly a stick in sight! Luckily, travel and exploration inland by snowmobile usually yields some pretty good stands of dead timber for burning, some of it over 300 years old!

Fraser and Steve had a tough time keeping up with the old guys and probably won’t care to see a wood haul for a bit, at least not until next year.

 

Polar Bear tries to make off with D6 Cat at Seal River Lodge on Hudson Bay

Polar Bear decides to be cat driver on Hudson Bay

Polar Bear decides to be cat driver on Hudson Bay

In late March and early April we spend two weeks working between Churchill, Dymond Lake Lodge and Seal River Lodge. A typical day during these two weeks generally begins at 5 a.m. and goes until about 10:30 p.m.

What are we doing in below zero temperatures? On the frozen Hudson Bay? With the occasional white out thrown at us just for fun?

We are the Cat Train crew.

Those of you who have spent time with us at Seal River Lodge have probably seen the photos of the D6 Caterpillar hauling freight over the sea ice during the winter for various projects that are planned in advance for the summer. We also spend what seems like endless days cutting and hauling fire wood to both Seal River Lodge and Dymond Lake Lodge.

D6 Cat towing 40,000 pounds on Hudson Bay

D6 Cat towing 40,000 pounds on Hudson Bay

We would like to introduce you to the newest member of our crew. He was a little eager and showed up about eight months early, but seems to be ready to go. This nice white bear decided he would try and take our Cat out for a spin, and a couple of our guests were lucky enough to snap a few shots before he noticed them.

For those of you who have not joined us at the Lodge I have also included a couple shots of the real cat train departing Churchill, Manitoba on its two-day trip, hauling almost 40,000 pounds en route to Seal River Lodge.

Cat train arrives at Seal River Lodge

Cat train arrives at Seal River Lodge