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Posts Tagged ‘Nolan Booth’

Polar bear and black bear caught together in rare photo at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge

by Nolan Booth, Director of Lodge Operations, Churchill Wild

Polar bear and black bear together at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge

Polar bear and black bear together at Nanuk! Photo Credit: Robert Postma

Professional photographer Robert Postma was at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge in early September to lead photographers on our Mothers and Cubs Adventure and a Polar Bear Photo Safari.

He got me something I’ll treasure forever.

I am always after my professional and amateur photographers for something out of the ordinary, and while visiting Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge one of my requests has always been a picture of my favorite North American land carnivore the polar bear, and everybody’s cute and fuzzy black bear – together, in the same photograph. This time it really did feel like my request might finally become a reality.

Black bears were wandering around the compound regularly, cleaning up the last of the berries that this wonderful land produces, and polar bears were circling the Lodge enjoying the smells from our culinary expert Riley Friesen. I’m not sure whether it was the moose hamburger soup, the caribou bacon wraps, or the smell of freshly baked bread and Jayne’s delicious chocolate chip cookies that kept attracting the bears.

Whatever it was, it was working!

On numerous occasions our guests commented that today Nolan may just get his picture. Well, after three years of wonderful shots of these magnificent creatures on separate slides, my request was finally filled when Robert approached me and suggested he may have gotten a picture of both bears, but the light was not great.

As you can imagine, I was quite excited. Only once had I missed this opportunity myself. Polar bears and black bears do not like to spend time around each other, let alone posing together for photo!

Polar bears are generally solitary animals, but they will spend time with other polar bears. Black bears, on the other hand, will tolerate other black bears more freely, but there have been countless occasions at the Lodge in which we have seen black bears running into the tree line at the slightest whiff of an approaching polar bear.

Robert presented me with the photo of the black bear and the polar bear outside the Lodge at Nanuk on an early September evening. You can just see the black bear peeking out of the bushes in the top right hand corner of the photo. It is one of my most coveted photographs and I am proud to share it with all of you.

Thank you Robert!

Happy days from up here at The Next Great Arctic Safari!

New Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge construction well underway

by Nolan Booth, Director of Lodge Operations, Churchill Wild

Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge. Timber-frame lounge/dining room construction well on its way!

Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge. Timber-frame lounge/dining room construction well on its way!

First we had to plan and organize all the building materials, which included lumber, timber frame, plumbing, electrical supplies, solar panels, inverters, a 45 kW generator and more. Then we had to find a way to haul it 110 nautical miles from Gillam to Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, along with two construction crews and even more helpers.

After that we could start building the brand new state-of-the-art 24 x 60 shop with a triple phase electrical system. Once the shop was complete we could start on the new Nanuk lounge and dining hall that will be attached to one of the existing buildings and completely renovated into a new kitchen.

Albert, Vinnie and myself were on the apron of the Gillam runway when the bright yellow Bassler BT67 from Cargo North coasted in and rolled to a stop. The modified DC-3 has been stretched approximately 10 feet and has had its power converted from an old radial engine to brand new turbine engines that can haul over 10,000 pounds. Everything from stacks of lumber to the Tundra Rhino were going to fit on this plane.

The Tundra Rhino was custom built by Stewart Reimer to travel the coastline and move up to eight guests at a time. It was 8-wheeler when we started loading and a 2-wheeler by the time we were done, but it fit! We also had less than an inch of space left when the loader put the generator through the door.

Tundra Rhino!

The Tundra Rhino has been tamed!

With a crew of three including myself in Gillam, a front-end loader; the pilot, co-pilot-worker, engineer-worker and another helper; Riley, Karli and four more helpers on the ground at Nanuk; the hauling began. Load after load after load for a total of 18.

Fourteen-hour days ensued and we managed to complete the task of hauling everything in over five days. The only downside to having a plane as large as the modified DC3 that did the hauling was the fact that our runway is only 3,000 feet long and 120 feet wide, which left nowhere for the plane to turn around. We came up with a fun solution for that. See video below.

We are now one month into the project. The shop is built, the power system overhaul is complete and includes 16 235 W solar panels that deliver 4000 W of charging power to the 48-volt battery bank. We also have an eco-friendly 45 kW diesel generator as backup, but the generator rarely runs due to the ample solar power.

The floor is built for the new lounge and the erection of the timber frame has begun. Stewart Reimer is in camp with his trusty helper Ryan and they are working on a list of mechanical repairs an Indy pit crew could not complete in the timeframe I’ve given them: Retro-fit the guest trailers; get the Tundra Rhino up and running; perform maintenance on all five quads; move a bunch of buildings; get the CAT running and clean up the runway.

And it’s all getting done!

We’ve had four-legged visitors almost every day. Seems all the animals on the coast and in the forest want to know what is going on. The workers have to be weary by now of the two polar bears at camp posing for pictures, and I counted at least six more polar bears within 10 km of us during our flight out to Gilliam.

There have been multiple black bears on site and Ivan recently got us all up from coffee to check out two 6-foot tall yearling moose twins standing beside a pile of lumber. Riel also managed to call a young black wolf right up to the fence.

There are never ending chirps to wake us at 4:30 a.m. so we are never late getting started. And the weasels and bunnies are a common site all through the evening as we sit outside enjoying the smell of the fresh salt air.

But enough chit-chat for now, there are things to do. We have an incredible combination of crew and family working on this project, doing what they love to do. By the end of August, when the first guests arrive at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, we will have a very special experience waiting for them.

Something that only Churchill Wild can provide.

Panoramic landscape at Nanuk. Click for larger image.

Panoramic landscape at Nanuk.

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.

Nolan Booth named new Director of Lodge Operations at Churchill Wild

Nolan Booth with Polar Bear at Dymond Lake Lodge

Nolan Booth with friend at Dymond Lake EcoLodge

Nolan Booth has been named Director of Lodge Operations at Churchill Wild. Congratulations Nolan!

Nolan has been with Churchill Wild for the past five years managing Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, home of Mothers & Cubs, and Dymond Lake Lodge, which hosts the Great Ice Bear Adventure, but has worked on and off for Churchill Wild and its associated lodges for over 25 years. Nolan’s wife Doreen is the Manager of Sales and Guest Relations at Churchill Wild.

Responsibilities in Nolan’s new position will include guest relations, staffing, day-to-day lodge operations, building and construction during the off season, and making sure the lodges run with all the comforts of home during the peak travel season, which includes maintaining the solar power system and the generators.

“We’re doing some renovations and major upgrades at Dymond Lake Lodge and Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge this year,” said Nolan, who is looking forward to the challenge. “During the summer when there is a good amount of sun, the lodges can run almost exclusively on solar power. The generators are there for backup though, and are used as necessary.”

Next week, Nolan, Riley Friesen and Mike Reimer will be jumping into the Bombardier to haul a new generator, batteries, equipment and new windows on a giant sleigh across Hudson Bay to Dymond Lake Lodge. The 22 km trip will take the adventurous trio across the Churchill River, through Seahorse Gully and across Button Bay on Hudson Bay. Equipment and building materials will also soon be on their way to Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, where a new “bigger and better” lodge is being built.

“At first the new lodge at Nanuk will be used as the main kitchen, dining room and lounge for the guests,” said Nolan. “Later we will be adding sleeping quarters to it.”

Born and raised in Churchill, Manitoba, Nolan also spent 10 years in the Yukon, and has been around either polar bears or grizzly bears all his life. The 40-year-old “bear” veteran started out in the lodge business over 25 years ago with Doug Webber at North Knife Lake Lodge, doing whatever it took to make the facilities run smoothly, and it has been a natural progression to the polar bear lodges of Churchill Wild.

“You deal with polar bears in Churchill and grizzlies in the Yukon,” said Nolan. “When you’re salmon fishing in the Yukon, the grizzlies are basically doing what you’re doing. You share the river with them and you have to be careful.”

Nolan has also fished for brook trout in the Mistikokan River near Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge. In that case it was the polar bears he had to watch out for.

“Bears are in my blood,” he said. “I’m looking forward to this. And the three different lodges each have something unique about them, so it’s always interesting. Dymond Lake Lodge is on the tree line and the lake; Seal River Heritage Lodge is right on the Hudson Bay coast; and Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge is located on the coast in the historically significant area of York Factory, surrounded by two of the largest and most powerful rivers in Canada, the Nelson and the Hayes.”

“We had our best season ever at Dymond Lake Lodge last year. There was good bear traffic and it’s always fun to be out walking with the guests when the polar bears are around. The feeling people get when they first see a polar bear up close in its home environment is almost indescribable. I’ve been around bears all my life and my heart still races when I see a polar bear.”

“Last year was also an excellent year at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge,” continued Nolan. “We saw both black bears and polar bears on a daily basis, and all kinds of other wildlife. The black bears and the polar bears never get too close to each other. The black bears run away when the polar bears move in. I’m really looking forward to getting back up there this season and hanging out with the bears.”

“It’s my dream job.”

Nolan Booth (Center) with Polar Bear Guides Steve Schellenberg (Left) and Terry Elliot (Right))

Nolan Booth (Center) with Polar Bear Guides Steve Schellenberg (Left) and Terry Elliot (Right))

Memories of the Great Ice Bear Adventure at Dymond Lake Lodge… and more to come!

by Nolan Booth

Terri, Steve, Rob and the girls and I really thought we had bit off more than we could chew last year at Dymond Lake Lodge when it came to upgrading, but in the end it all worked out beautifully!

The new lake shore cabin with four guest rooms, two staff rooms and an amazing lounge were just a shell eight days before our first guests of the season arrived for the Great Ice Bear Adventure, but everybody stepped up and the new cabin was ready before the first bed was needed. In hindsight, this just showed what a dynamite crew we have. Everybody pulled together and got the job done when it counted! The rooms are spacious and the décor is beautiful for a remote lodge in northern Canada.

Once again we had a great season! We were very happy to have a young polar bear around all season and we nicknamed him Scarbrow. He came and went as he pleased, but he spent a fair bit of time at the Lodge fence throughout the season, and on more days than not he would put on a show. There were days when he would he play in the snow on the edge of the lake, and others when he would follow us around the compound. And on numerous occasions he would follow the guests out to the Bay for some exercise.

It was amazing! I had really high expectations and the experience lived up to them. All of the staff were very friendly and the logistics were well coordinated – everything went very smoothly. The guides were extremely knowledgeable and really added to our experience. I’m so glad I opted for Churchill Wild rather than the typical polar buggy tour. Seeing a polar bear on foot was unforgettable!

~ Debra Hartsell & Michael James

We also had an amazing weasel experience for the second year in a row! Our little short-tailed weasel lived inside the compound for the entire season. He probably felt safer in the generator room than out in the open with that Gyrfalcon overhead. Two wolverines also stayed near the Lodge and were in focus on many occasions. And we had many foxes all around camp and up and down the coast. They were mostly cross foxes. The arctic foxes seemed to be scarcer last year, probably due to the presence of the wolverines.

Our polar bears were amazing, but we all agreed that their travel patterns were different than we ever remember seeing. I personally saw more bears in 2012 than I had in previous seasons, but many of these were a ways out from the shore and heading north. On most days we managed to get some nice face time with a polar bear in good light.

After 40 years, my heart still skips a beat, whether it be while I’m watching polar bears though my binoculars or walking step by step with them down the trail, but there is also nothing better than polar bear watching through the safety of the fence at the Lodge, with the sun high in the sky and crystals sparkling in the snow.

I’d like to thank everyone involved in helping to create my wonderful memories of Dymond Lake Lodge. Looking forward to more of the same this year!

Great Ice Bear Adventure - Polar bear mom with cubs at Dymond Lake Lodge

Polar bear mom with cubs at Dymond Lake Lodge