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Posts Tagged ‘Mike Reimer’

Churchill Wild sponsors 2nd Annual Polar Bear Marathon in Churchill, Manitoba

Polar Bear Marathon 2013. Athletes in Action. Sponsored by Churchill Wild.

Polar Bear Marathon 2013. Will you be there? Click Image for Registration Form.

by Ray Hildebrand

Churchill Wild is pleased to be the sole sponsor of the 2nd Annual Polar Bear Marathon, scheduled for November 22, 2013 in Churchill, Manitoba.

This is a very unique running event that requires resolution and perseverance in order to complete the marathon course in and around Churchill. The weather at this time of year can be very harsh and this environment adds a unique challenge to the test that a marathon represents for the participating athletes.

The time of year also sees the last of the polar bears gathering on the Hudson Bay coastline in anticipation of freeze-up, which enables them to access food and replenish their depleted nutritional demands out on the Bay ice. All runners are required to run in pairs with an accompanying vehicle that secures their safety from these large predators and also serves as a mobile aid station if required.

This event is in support of the Athletes in Action work done in the Sayisi Dene First Nations community of Tadoule Lake, and this year three members of this community are registered to participate in the race.

Polar Bear Marathon 2013 was snowy!

Polar Bear Marathon 2012 was snowy!

“The Dene people have a rich history with the Hudson Bay coast that we operate in,” said Jeanne Reimer of Churchill Wild.  “We are now benefiting from the stewardship that they applied to the environment that they managed generation after generation, and we are very pleased to be able to participate in this marathon as a means to reciprocate through our support of this community”.

“Our business involves hosting guests from around the world and we have the privilege of showcasing this incredible eco-system to them,” said Jeanne’s husband Mike.  “Our involvement in the Polar Bear Marathon provides an opportunity to promote the deep connection we have with the Dene people through the world of sport, which shows no boundaries or cultural distinctions.”

“Of course we will be cheering for the Dene runners to win the race!” added Jeanne.

Your course awaits... Polar Bear Marathon 2014.

Your course awaits… Polar Bear Marathon 2013. Churchill, Manitoba.

The Polar Bear Marathon provides a unique spectacle for the residents of Churchill as well, and events are planned that will be open to everyone.

If you would like more information on this year’s Polar Bear Marathon please contact Albert Martens via e-mail at aemart@mts.net, phone (204) 346-1345 or mobile (204) 371-9780. Download: 2013 Polar Bear Marathon Registration Form (PDF)

Need more inspiration?  Read Albert Marten’s Report on the 2012 Polar Bear Marathon, check out his photo album of the event and watch the video below by one of last year’s star participants, Eric Alexander of Higher Summits.

We look forward to seeing you this year!

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 celebrates 20th Anniversary! Thank You!

by Mike Reimer, Churchill Wild

Seal River Heritage Lodge 2013

Celebrating 20 years! Seal River Heritage Lodge 2013.

20 years? Say it isn’t so. Wow!

Seems like just yesterday we were flying north up the coast from Churchill to have a look at a couple of old tumbled down shacks near the mouth of the Seal River, with hopes of finding a spot for a polar bear lodge.

Dennis Fast shook his head in disbelief when he first spotted the site.

“You better buy it quick before Jeanne sees it!”

Seal River Lodge in 1993

What we saw from the plane in 1993!

Well, we made the plunge, and as they say, the rest is history.

The first few seasons were “interesting” to say the least, and thank goodness we had Jeanne’s parents Doug and Helen Webber backing the program with their years of experience in the fishing and hunting lodge business.

Our first summer (1993) was spent cleaning up the site and making the existing building habitable. It had been used previously as a whale research station and for some goose hunting, but had sat abandoned for many years. All the windows and doors had been knocked out by marauding polar bears; the swallows were nesting in the light fixtures; and the Arctic foxes had found it a convenient spot to get out of the wind for a bathroom break.

With much elbow grease, lots of paint, new beds, plumbing, electrical, roofing and some new doors and windows, we eventually had a place to call home. Of course, just to remind us of whose turf we were on, a curious polar bear smashed out one of the new windows in the first week before we had a chance to get some bars up.

That first season was not a real money maker to say the least, with only one client, but the adventure level was very high. We had an endless supply of new routes and trails to explore and establish!

Like most small businesses, Jeanne and I ran the whole show for a few seasons while we got our feet under us. Jeanne was chef/housekeeper/bear guard/hostess/expeditor/berry picker (with our kids as helpers) while I did all the other stuff, none of which I can seem to remember right now!

I do remember that our first bedroom, which eventually became the laundry room, was five feet wide by 14 feet long with Jeanne and I at one end and our girls — Rebecca, Karli and Allison — stacked three deep like cordwood at the other end. When Adam came along he slept on a shelf above our bed! All very cozy, the kids loved it and thought it was all one big adventure, though Jeanne had some other ideas at times.

Dining Room at Seal River Heritage Lodge

Dining Room at Seal River Heritage Lodge today. We've come a long way!

We discovered, much to our delight, that Seal River had an incredible array of flora and fauna. It was going to be a spectacular choice for an ecolodge! The mechanics of building and operating the lodge came naturally (mostly!) as we had both gained a wealth of very valuable experience working together with Doug and Helen at their lodges. They were pillars of much needed support in those early years.

Operating any sort of lodges or remote camps in the Arctic has its share of challenges, as the source of all supplies is usually hundreds of miles away. And they are being purchased from people who really do not have a clue as to how difficult it is to get anything to us.

Everything must be ordered weeks and sometimes months in advance, to be shipped by train from Winnipeg to Churchill where it can be flown to the lodge, or, in the case of building materials, dragged over the sea ice during the winter with our old 1956 D6 Cat. If anything breaks down you can measure in days and weeks the amount of time it takes to get a replacement part, and sometimes the season ends before the new parts arrive!

Our environment entirely dictates our activities, and on this type of jobsite you might find yourself stuck offshore on an ice flow; broke down in a howling blizzard on Hudson Bay; or sitting in the floatplane on a lonely stretch of river waiting for the fog to lift so you can get much needed groceries to the lodge.

Inside Seal River Heritage Lodge

Interior of Seal River Heritage Lodge today. It wasn't always this nice!

Occasionally you might find yourself whacking an overly curious polar bear on the nose for sticking his head through the shop door, or crawling under the lodge at 3 a.m. to thaw out frozen pipes. There’s a whole host of weird and challenging things at all kinds of crazy hours, in all sorts of weather. Never a dull moment in this business!

There have been many, many adventures and challenges over the years. Maybe someday we’ll find the time to write them all down in a book. At present we continue to add new destinations and safaris. Along with Seal River Heritage Lodge and the Birds, Bears & Belugas summer polar bear experience, we also operate Dymond Lake EcoLodge, home of the Great Ice Bear Adventure, and Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, home of Mothers & Cubs, as well as North Knife Lake Fishing Lodge, the Arctic Safari, Polar Bear Photo Safari and Black & White Adventure. Our growth has resulted in the need for more staff. Luckily, we have been blessed with the best. Those little kids we used to stack up on the shelves are now our chefs, managers and admin staff!

Jeanne & Mike

Jeanne & Mike Reimer

Of course, we couldn’t have done any of this without you, our guests. A big polar bear hug goes out to all of you, for spending your hard earned dollars and time with us. We have thoroughly enjoyed your company and made many lifelong friends.

Thank you for making it all possible.

Mike Reimer, Churchill Wild

Award-winning photographer Robert Postma to lead Polar Bear Photo Safari at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge

Polar Bear Roll - Photo Credit: Robert Postma

Polar Bear Roll - Photo Credit: Robert Postma

Award-winning photographer Robert Postma will lead the 2013 Polar Bear Photo Safari at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge in early September, and he’s excited about getting back on the tundra at ground-level with the world’s largest land carnivore.

“It’s an amazing opportunity,” said Postma speaking from his home in Whitehorse, Yukon. “I’ve never been to Nanuk, but have wanted to go ever since I started visiting the Churchill Wild Lodges, especially to head a photo safari. I’m looking forward to helping the other photographers get some great shots, give tips and advice, answer any questions they might have.”

The 41-year-old Postma has worked as professional photographer since 2003. His photos have appeared in numerous magazines including National Geographic, Canadian Geographic, Up Here, Our Canada, Mountain Equipment Co-op and Astronomy, as well as in brochures, annual reports and calendars. On April 2, 2012 his photo of a great horned owl bursting from an abandoned toolshed in Saskatchewan appeared as the Photo of the Day on the National Geographic Web site. Examples of Postma’s work can also be seen on the gallery section of his website at at www.DistantHorizons.ca and also on his Robert Postma Photography Facebook Page.

A few of Postma’s photo contest wins include the 2010 Banff Mountain Festival Photography Competition, The Nature of Things and Planet in Focus Nature in Focus Environmental Photography Competition, the Show us your Canada photo contest in 2004 and 2008, the Up Here Fantastic Photo Contest and Canadian Geographic Photo Club’s Annual Photography Contest in 2011, for which the theme was extreme weather. He has worked on Ellesmere Island in Nunavut and traveled all over North America as well as to Iceland, Australia, Bolivia, Peru, Guyana and Lebanon.

The Nanuk Polar Bear Safari represents a perfect progression for Postma, who was part of the group that attended the 2012 Polar Bear Photo Safari at Seal River.

“I always look forward to my trips with Churchill Wild,” he said. “I‘ve been to both Seal River Heritage Lodge and Dymond Lake Lodge and they were phenomenal experiences — first class, great meals, gracious hosts and excellent guides. And for some reason I’m just drawn to remote landscapes.”

It doesn’t get much more remote than Nanuk. Located approximately 150 kilometers southeast of Churchill on the Hudson Bay Coast within the Kaskatamagan Wildlife Management Area, Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge is only a 10 minute bush plane flight from Canada’s historic York Factory, the original trading post established in 1684 by Governor George Geyer of the Hudson’s Bay Company.

“We still find remnants of old ships occasionally in the mud flats,” said Churchill Wild’s Mike Reimer in an earlier interview, perhaps referring to the Battle of Hudson Bay in 1697, the largest Arctic naval battle ever fought. “From brass railings to cannons to old grave sites, you never know what you might find. And our guides are direct descendants of the Western Woods Cree, the “Home Guard Indians” who worked with the Hudson Bay Company over 300 years ago at the original settlements — guiding, hunting, interpreting and procuring wild game and furs for them.”

And not only is the area surrounding Nanuk drenched in history, it’s right in the heart both the newly discovered polar bear denning areas and the impending solar maximum, which occurs approximately every 11 years. According to Canadian Geographic in their January/February article Sun Struck, 2013 promises to be a once-in-a-decade opportunity to experience the sun’s magnetic power at its height, which could mean northern lights displays that are even more spectacular than usual at Nanuk.

“Solar activity, — flares, sunspots, solar winds and other forms of radiation — is governed by changes in the sun’s magnetic field,” writes Peter McMahon in the article. “These activities wax and wane on a fairly predictable 11-year cycle known as the solar maximum. The peak of this cycle hits this year (predicted to be September 2013 or later), which is why skywatchers and scientists are so excited. The solar maximum should bring with it the brightest and most frequent auroral displays for more than a decade.”

“If we get clear skies during the solar max we could see some stunning aurora borealis displays,” said Postma, who has taken numerous photos of nature’s most spectacular light show.  But what he’s really looking forward to is photographing polar bears at ground level on a picture-perfect backdrop that includes the Hudson Bay coastline, fall colours and beautiful interior lagoons.

“I’ve photographed polar bears from both the tundra buggies and on the ground,” said Postma. “But it’s on the ground where you can really get the good shots. I like to try to portray emotion in my photographs. I want people to experience what I was feeling when I took the shot. I like to get down low, looking up at the bears. People don’t think about that, but when you’re on your knees at eye level with a polar bear, it’s intense, and that comes across in the photos.”

“If the bears are interested they will sometimes get as close to 30 feet from you,” continued Postma” “But I’ve never felt scared or threatened. The guides are knowledgeable; they know the bears and they always have their eye on them. All precautions are taken.”

After a hearty breakfast, Postma and his band of photographers will hike the tundra in search of polar bears and the perfect shot. They’ll do the same after lunch and sometimes even after dinner. That’s assuming they aren’t interrupted by polar bears at the Lodge fence or a spectacular Northern Lights display.

“Walking on the tundra up there is a special kind of experience,” said Postma. “I’ve done it a lot, but I’ll never get bored of the wide open spaces. It awakens a part of me that just lays dormant.”

“It’s good for the soul.”

Polar Bears Sparring - Photo Credit: Robert Postma

Polar Bears Sparring - Photo Credit: Robert Postma

Polar Bears: A Summer Odyssey, filmed at Churchill Wild lodges, wins two Canadian Screen Awards

Polar bear posing for the camera near Seal River Lodge

Polar Bear Perfect Pose

 Polar Bears: A Summer Odyssey, much of which was filmed at Churchill Wild’s Seal River Lodge and Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, was a big winner at the inaugural Canadian Screen Awards!

The Canadian Screen Awards celebrate TV, film and digital productions in Canada. Considered similar to the Golden Globe Awards in the United States, they are the result of a consolidation of Canada’s Genie and Gemini awards. The untelevised portion of the Canadian Screen Awards took place this past Wednesday and Thursday, and the final gala event in the celebration will be broadcast by CBC on Sunday, March 3 at 8 p.m. and hosted by Canadian comedian Martin Short.

Polar Bears: A Summer Odyssey won awards for Best Science or Nature Documentary Program or Series and Best Photography in a Documentary Program or Series. Directed by Adam Ravetch and Sarah Robertson of Arctic Bear Productions, the film was produced by Arcadia Entertainment in association with CBC’s Science and Natural History Documentary Unit.

“It is a great honour to receive both of these prestigious awards,” said Ravetch, who is also the Cinematographer of the documentary. “I know Arcadia TV, Sarah Robertson, Tim O’Brien and our production and post-production team are all grateful for the collaboration with CBC’s Caroline Underwood, David Suzuki, and The Nature of Things.”

Polar Bears: A Summer Odyssey, which was also produced in 2D for National Geographic, 3D for Sky TV,  and released on 3D/2D Blue Ray by Universal Pictures, tells the story of a teenage polar bear’s adventures in and around the icy waters of Hudson Bay, where he spends his first ice-free season during the summer without his mother to guide him as he struggles to survive on his own. Set against a background theme of climate change, The Nature of Things perhaps described the film best when they wrote:

“Watch the desperate acts of a bear pushed to the brink. Witness the wisdom and commitment of a protective mother bear. Observe the seemingly ferocious social rituals of massive male bears. Polar Bears: A Summer Odyssey features breath-taking cinematography capturing rarely seen bear behavior including the young bear climbing a 250 meter cliff in search of a meal and a bold male who has learnt the art of hunting walrus.”

Polar Bear Movie Film Crew: L to R Andy MacPherson, Stewart Mayer, Adam Ravetch, Indy Saini

A Happy Polar Bear Film Crew! L to R: Andy MacPherson, Stewart Mayer, Adam Ravetch, Indy Saini

Images for the film were captured using a myriad of cameras including a remote-control truck cam, a heli-cam, a polar bear collar cam and numerous underwater cameras. In our original blog post about the filming, 3D Polar Bear Movie filmed at Seal River Lodge, guide Andrew MacPherson described a day on the set.

“There wasn’t a day during the filming when we didn’t find some kind of interesting bear activity, interaction or social behavior. Adam’s movie unfolded in front of us daily, but we won’t see the final result of his efforts for a while. We were excited to be a part of the creative process and can only imagine what Adam will weave together with all the incredible footage he recorded.”

Ravetch admits he became addicted to close-up wildlife photography when he filmed polar bears underwater for the film To the Arctic.

“Water is 800 times denser than air,” he said. “So you had to get really close to the animals to actually see them. Not only was that experience a high-energy adrenaline rush, but when you get that close to a wild animal it becomes a very intimate personal experience. You really get to know the animals. I wanted the audience to have that same experience.”

“I wanted them to really connect with the polar bear’s struggle for life,” continued Ravetch. “And the only way to do that was to get up-close imagery and wrap it into an intimate story. At the same time we had to get the bears to relax and let them go about their business. We were able to stay with a mother and two cubs, for week in the fall. That enabled us to get a lot of natural behavior.

Ravetch went on to say that making a film like this requires a team of very talented creative people, both during and post production.

“Every film is a collaboration,” he said. “This isn’t just you and your camera. It requires a lot of talented people to tell a good story. Mike and Jeanne Reimer, their family and their guides at Churchill Wild are invaluable. They have specialized knowledge of the territory, the wilderness and life-long experience with the polar bears. Their family-run operation at Churchill Wild is very unique in that you can get very close to the polar bears in a safe manner. It’s very remote yet you have all the comforts of home. You’re not camping out. They have beautiful lodges and a one of a kind experience you can’t find anywhere else. Great food, cocktails, cozy and comfortable accommodations, smack right in the middle of the tundra on Hudson Bay in the center of polar bear country.”

“It’s a huge challenge to film in 3D in the arctic,” said Ravetch in an earlier blog post, Churchill Wild polar bears to appear on CBC’s The Nature of Things in Polar Bears: A Summer Odyssey.

Churchill Wild’s Mike Reimer and polar bear guides Terry Elliot and Andy MacPherson were essential in getting very specific polar bear shots, especially of a young male polar bear, so that we could have the type of imagery to tell a strong character driven story. The guides have to have experience specifically with polar bears. They concentrate on safety so we can focus on camera angles and getting the shots we need. Being up close with the bears is quite spectacular for a filmmaker, but safety is paramount. The last thing we want is for a person or a bear to get hurt. You’re not in a cage or a vehicle; you’re at ground level with the polar bears. I’ve always worked at ground level, but there are very few places where you can photograph polar bears like this. Seal River and Nanuk are among the best places on the planet for this type of wildlife photography.”

Polar Bears: A Summer Odyssey - 3D film crew in action near Seal River Lodge.

Polar Bears: A Summer Odyssey - 3D film crew in action near Seal River Lodge

“Filming in 3D was much more work. But we wanted immersive images so the audience could experience what it’s really like to be up close at ground level with polar bears. It required multiple cameras operating at the same time to produce the special 3D effects and three of us including Stereographer Indy Saini and Camera Engineering Specialist Stewart Meyer to get the distances between the objects and between the lenses just right. Stewart also developed a smaller mobile camera system that could produce some very rare images.”

In Sun sets on a polar bear at Nanuk, guide Andrew MacPherson described some of the filming that took place at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge.

“A beautiful four or 5-year-old female polar bear moved towards us in the glow of late afternoon light. She hopped numerous small streams and slid effortlessly through the grass, providing us with some amazing footage. She stopped to the sound of my voice when she was about 30 meters away, then casually moved around us to the seaward side, giving us the over the shoulder looks as she passed by. We quickly packed and played leap frog with the bear all the way back to the Misatkoken River, where she sniffed out our poor unfortunate friend. That was where we left her at twilight, outlined in golden light, standing on the crest of the beach ridge.”

Ravetch went on to explain how polar bears have their own their own society. How each bear has their own personality and different character attributes. And that when you get to know the bears, you start to understand how and why they interact with each other the way they do; how they teach their offspring to survive in the wilderness; and how much they worry about their young. In other words, polar bears are a lot like us.

“This is a film about one of the biggest stories of our time,” said Tim O’Brien of Arcadia Entertainment. “Climate change and its impact on our natural world. Specifically the polar bear population. Somehow we managed to tell a very dramatic and personal story about the journey of one bear. And, that’s really a credit to Adam Ravetch and all the many people and organizations like Churchill Wild, who made it happen.”

A movie you don’t want to miss, Polar Bears: A Summer Odyssey will soon be available in major online retail outlets.

Sun sets on a polar bear near Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge

Sun sets on a polar bear near Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge