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Posts Tagged ‘Seal River’

3D Polar Bear Movie filmed at Seal River Lodge

by Andrew McPherson, Polar Bear Guide

Polar bear poses for the 3D movie crew

Polar bear poses for the 3D movie crew

Working with Adam Ravetch and his film crew for the last few weeks of the season at Seal River Lodge was a fabulous experience. Every day brought new amazing wildlife encounters and guiding demands. Adam had all kinds of great ideas and new directions he wanted to take the film in, and he imaged them into existence with the help of his two crew members Indy and Stewart and their 3D cameras.

We got off to a good start when we found three bears bedded down out on a small frozen lake beyond the runway. One bear was on a small esker watching our approach. The other two were laying a short distance apart on the edge of the lake.

The closest bear lifted its head, watching us as we watched him. This resulted in a game of red-light green-light. Every time he lifted his head we stopped…. until he put his head down and closed his eyes, then we started moving again, slowly approaching.

Polar bears gather to discuss movie on Hudson Bay

Polar bears gather to discuss movie

We moved like this until we found a suitable spot to set up Adam’s camera. Then the bear decided to move downwind to catch our scent and get a better idea of just who and what we were all about. Bears trust their noses far more then they trust their eyes.

Once this bear got our scent figured out and decided we weren’t a threat, he made himself comfy – laying down and stretching out on the ice, cooling himself off, rolling over on his back – generally making a ham of himself for our camera. Great comedic footage!

Setting up the 3D cameras with remote access

Remotely operating the 3D cameras on the ice

At the same time, Mike and Stewart showed up with the remote camera, to go after the always-elusive bear-sniffing-camera-lens-in-3D shot he’d been attempting to get for the last week – maybe this time. They set up their camera near the second bear sleeping in the bush just off the ice. The camera had a 25 foot cable attached to it so the operator could move around and still focus the camera on a moving subject as it approaches. It was mounted at a height approximating a polar bear’s point of view, or POV in tech talk.

The sleeping bear got up and approached the camera, but he was very hesitant. Clearly troubled by the unfamiliar device, he came closer, backed away, then approached again with head lowered – we had a very serious bear staring into the camera. He didn’t like it, but he gave us an amazing eye-level sequence of how two bears might approach each other.

Polar bear takes a bite out of the deck at sunset

Polar bear takes a bite out of the deck at sunrise Photo Credit: Nicole D. Boucher

The bear never did get right up to the camera, but when he lost interest in that he became more interested in us, slowly approaching and giving us a great 3D shot for the film. Imagine a polar bear’s head poking out of your TV screen, full frame, from the shoulders to the tip of its nose.

We had to let the bear know we didn’t want to play with some stern words and aggressive behavior, and after posing and giving us a good sniff, he moved off with his buddy, who had watched all the action from his semi-reclined position in the second row.

We followed the pair and a short while later found they had been joined by two more bears on the next lake over. By the time we spotted them, they had paired off and a donnybrook was already in session. I could have sat back and watched – it was a live WWE event – but we had an opportunity to shoot more amazing footage, so off we went.

Unfortunately, when the bears caught site of us, they decided to come in for a closer look. It’s a good thing we knew that they don’t cooperatively hunt, because having four polar bears calmly walk towards you would probably otherwise be conceived as an unnerving situation.

Polar bear movie crew at Seal River Lodge

Polar bear movie crew at Seal River Lodge

But two of the bears quickly lost interest and only the smallest (600 lbs) of the other pair seemed really interested in us. His approach was somewhat aggressive, coming in fast and curious, so we let him know he wasn’t that welcome. That was enough to turn him around and send him back to his buddies for some three-way sparring action.

The smaller bear was being picked on from each side by each of the larger bears and he playfully turned to engage whichever bear was nipping. The small bear eventually began to spar with only one of the bigger bears, and when they stood up we finally realized the substantial size difference. The smaller bear was at least three feet shorter, but still game, even when he was being knocked off his feet – more great footage!

Polar bear napping between takes

Polar bear napping between takes

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 awhile.

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. With the kind of talent that was behind (and in front of) the cameras, this is going to be a movie you don’t want to miss!

Spectacular polar bear viewing, fabulous guests and a beautiful new dining room make for wondrous summer on Hudson Bay Coast

Polar bears were everywhere in the Summer of 2010 at Churchill Wild's Seal River Heritage Lodge.

Polar bears everywhere!

Unbelievable, wow, incredible, spectacular, best ever, life changing, beyond expectations, and the list goes on – we can never quite identify the right superlative to describe this past season at Churchill Wild!

Once again the guest book is full of great comments and wondrous praises heaped upon our hard working staff and the awesome Churchill Wild polar bear experience they provide. Thank you to all our new found friends, who traveled from all corners of the globe this year, for making the time and financial commitment to join us on the Hudson Bay coast.

It’s difficult to look back over the crazy exciting busyness of this summer season and identify the highlights – there were so many! One of the most important accomplishments was the completion of the new dining room, with its huge viewing windows looking out over the Bay, a new roof, a new tower access, new decks, and new staff quarters.

I get tired just thinking about all the work that had to be done to see that beautiful building standing there. Yvan and

New dining room, polar bear obervatory at Seal River Lodge.

New Seal River Lodge dining room completed!

crew pulled off another miracle, from planning the project last season, to ordering and shipping materials by train to Churchill in January, then spending two weeks in March dragging freight over the frozen sea to the Lodge and finally back in June with the construction crew to build like madmen so we could be ready for first guests in July. Wow! And now we start the whole process all over again – Jeanne has “assured” all of us that she is getting her new kitchen next year.

Our summer Birds, Bears, and Belugas adventure might well have been called Bears, Bears, and Bears as we enjoyed some of the finest summer polar bear action on the planet. Seal River has always been a mecca for polar bears coming off the ice in July, but this year was nothing short of incredible.

One afternoon aerial tour spotted over 100 bears within 30 kilometers of Seal River, numbers which were certainly confirmed by the daily bear action at the Lodge. And the whales continue to enthrall intrepid snorkelers with their charming attention to the strange creatures invading their watery domain. Interactive singing opportunities brought out the creative in everyone. And although it was difficult to tell which whale “whisperer” had the best tune, it was fairly obvious that our whale friends enjoy listening to a well gurgled tune.

Mike Reimer on Hudson Bay. Churchill Wild. Summer 2010.

A beautiful summer day on Hudson Bay!

This past year Churchill Wild also completed the purchase and expansion of the Canada’s newest and most exciting polar bear destination, the Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge located near Cape Tatnum. Cape Tatnum is home to the greatest concentration of summer polar bears on earth and is also near the site of a recently discovered polar bear denning area, not to mention fantastic wolf viewing, countless moose, and a bird migration beyond number. This will undoubtedly become the finest wild polar bear adventure in our ever-expanding stable of great polar bear trips, on par with the great African wildlife safaris of years gone by. Please plan to join us!

Churchill Wild can now guarantee world class polar bear viewing and ground level polar bear photo opportunities at its remote ecolodges from July through to the end of the traditional November season – another world first.

A big heartfelt thanks to all our wonderful guests for making Seal River Lodge a fabulous place to be this summer!  We couldn’t have done it without you. Now it’s time for the Great Ice Bear Tour and the Polar Bear Photo Safari.

We hope you can join us again someday soon!

Mike & Jeanne Reimer & Family

Polar bears, sandhill cranes, moose, wolves and whales make first week of Birds, Bears and Belugas a hit

Polar bear swimming in front of zodiak boat on Hudson Bay

Polar bear leads the way on Hudson Bay

In our first week of Birds, Bears and Belugas we spotted not just polar bears but also sandhill cranes, lots of wolves (with cubs!) two moose and a large numbers of beluga whales.

Our first meal interruption occurred last week when a polar bear showed up just as everyone was coming into the dining room for breakfast. We’ve been getting the boats in the water on a regular basis morning and night, weather and tides permitting.

Guests had a fabulous trip by boat to Hubbard Point, 77 kilometres Northwest of Churchill on the Hudson Bay Coast. It was almost too foggy to see but we still saw seven polar bears at close range and had one of our best beluga whale swims ever!

Handed out the first certificates of the season on July 27 and everyone is leaving happy!

Spectacular new polar bear watching observatory/dining room on Hudson Bay Coast offers picture window polar bear viewing

Polar Bear Viewing Observatory Dining Room on Hudson Bay

New polar bear viewing observatory/dining room on Hudson Bay Coast near Seal River and Churchill

Churchill Wild has a spectacular new dining observatory at their Seal River Polar Bear Eco-Lodge on the Hudson Bay coast.

The new dining room has become so popular with guests viewing polar bears from its 12 huge picture windows that the staff has had to shoo them out just so they can have a moment to clean up after dinner! Polar bear watching from this gorgeous timber frame structure – the first of its kind in Arctic Canada – has had the kudos flying and the cameras snapbuzzing.

The dining observatory project was in the planning/discussing/daydreaming stage for a couple of years before material was finally ordered in the spring of 2009. The huge white pine beams were all cut from second-growth sustainable forest in Northern Ontario, the closest source we could find to minimize our transportation impact. The bulk of the materials were purchased from a local supplier in Churchill, continuing Churchill Wild’s commitment to supporting the northern communities in which we live and operate from.

In January 2010 the project materials, tools and supplies were collected and shipped via train to Churchill. In March a team of intrepid explorer types headed into Seal River to get the Cat Train going, which in itself is quite an undertaking in -30 to -40 degrees Celsius!

A Cat Train consists of a Caterpillar Bulldozer, in this case a 1962 D6, pulling one or more sleighs loaded with building materials over the sea ice of Hudson Bay. Books could be written about winter freighting in the Canadian Arctic, and certainly this year’s adventures would have been fodder for another chapter. Stuart and Yvan and crew hauled in nearly 60,000 kilos of lumber, windows, roofing, cement etc. in 2 trips averaging 30 hours of travel per run – one way. Good thing we take the guests in by air, 20 minutes!

Polar bear in grass outside new dining room at Seal River Lodge on Hudson Bay near Churchill, Manitoba

Polar bear supervising construction of dining room

June was “hit the ground running” time and the construction crew of Len, Yvan, Real, Riley, Ryan, Kyle, and George did so in a big way. Thank goodness Elaine was there working her magic in the kitchen to keep all the hard working guys fed.

Construction started on June 5 and by the end of the first day the boys had half the old dining room torn off the east end of the lodge. Many long days followed and exactly 30 days later the crew had completed the new dining room and kitchen area, put a beautiful new roof over the entire lodge, renovated a bedroom, installed new electrical and plumbing systems and replaced the bear proof fence!!

Owners Mike and Jeanne Reimer are still overwhelmed at what these guys put together in those 30 days.

Thank You Team Seal 2010!

Churchill Wild guest Claire Wilson makes semi-finals in Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition

On the Rocks - Photo Credit: Claire Wilson

by Claire Wilson

We visited Seal River Heritage Lodge on Churchill Wild’s Great Ice Bear polar bear tour at the end of October 2009. I have always had a huge fascination with polar bears and was extremely excited about visiting the Seal River area in search of polar bears.  I tried not to get my expectations too high however, telling myself that we might only get a distant glimpse of a bear.

How wrong I was!

As soon as our plane touched down at Seal River, we could see several bears around us. Within an hour, there were two bears play-fighting a few feet from the front door of the lodge – amazing! I felt like I had died and gone to wildlife heaven!

We were lucky to get a mixture of conditions – the weather was dry and bright when we first arrived, but we then had plenty of snow and at one point the temperature cooled down to -27 degrees.

Polar bears wrestling near Seal River Lodge on Hudson Bay. Claire Wilson photo.

High and Mighty - Photo Credit: Claire Wilson

Our whole three days at the lodge were jam-packed with photo opportunities. Terry and Andy, our friendly and knowledgeable guides, were ready to take us out for hikes at any opportunity, and we saw plenty of bears every time we ventured outside.  Everyone learned a great deal about these majestic animals and their environment, and every day we all came back with full memory cards on our cameras. My husband Pete and I took about 3000 photographs between us!

Upon returning home, I was so proud of some of my photographs that I decided to send a few into the Wildlife Photographer of The Year competition, now in its 46th year and organized by The Natural History Museum, London and BBC Wildlife Magazine. This is a huge competition which has tens of thousands of entries from all over the world every year. Last year there were over 43,000 entries, and apparently there were well in excess of this amount for 2010.

I was absolutely stunned when I recently received an e-mail advising me that three of my entries had made it into the semi finals!

One photograph entitled “High and Mighty” (Semi-Finalist in the Category Animal Behaviour: Mammals) was taken on our first full day at Seal River when we went for a long group hike. The two bears seemed to want to perform for the cameras!

Polar bear photo Clash of the Titans taken by Claire Wilson at Seal River near Churchill, Manitoba on Hudson Bay while on Churchill Wild's Great Ice Bear Tour.

Clash of the Titans - Photo Credit: Claire Wilson

I shot “On The Rocks” (Semi-Finalist for the Gerald Durrell Award for Endangered Wildlife) the next day, literally feet from the lodge. And the third photograph I submitted, “Clash of the Titans” (also a Semi-Finalist in the Category Animal Behaviour: Mammals) was taken on our last morning at Seal River Heritage Lodge just a few minutes before we had too, reluctantly, leave this wonderful location.

We had such a great time with Churchill Wild! I can’t wait to return for our next adventure!