by Nolan Booth, Director of Lodge Operations, Churchill Wild
Every spring we haul thousands of pounds of supplies, equipment and materials across the sea ice to our remote polar bear lodges on the Hudson Bay coast. Depending on the year, we could be shipping anything from material for new bedrooms and dining rooms to full-fledged kitchen upgrades and eco-friendly power systems. The primary goal is always the same — to achieve a level of comfort for our guests — that is unmatched in the Arctic.
Hauling materials and supplies across the ice is much more economical than flying them in, but it does take more time. This year’s Cat Train took a total of 10 days and we finished up on April 3. The weather was about as good as we could have expected, but it does change often when navigating the coast of Hudson Bay at this time of year.
Daytime temperatures fluctuated from -37 to -15 degrees Celsius, and weather conditions ranged from crisp, clear, cold and sunny to blowing snow and zero visibility. The nights were filled with bright stars and reflections of aurora borealis on the ice, with temperatures ranging from -47 to -30 degrees Celsius depending on the wind.
The point of all this grueling work comes down to guest comfort at of our polar bear lodges. This spring we’ll be building a new bedroom wing at Seal River Lodge, so we were hauling in everything from floor joists and roof tin to full shower stalls and new bedroom furniture. We also hauled in a 34,000-pound excavator and a dump truck to work on the runway and improve the quality and safety of our northernmost air strip.
The Cat Train is always an adventure we look forward to. It’s a challenging man versus the elements experience and it usually features something new and different. This year’s trip included work with a film crew and a dip into a little Reality TV! (Watch for us on a popular television series later this year!) We also needed some specialized equipment that was not used on this haul in the past. We broke a few things, strained many a muscle and lost some sleep that will not be returned, but all things considered the trip was a complete success.
We are now poised and ready to take Seal River Lodge up yet another notch in guest comfort, to a level not offered anywhere else in the north, while at the same time maintaining our exclusive small-group experiences of only 16 guests at a time — because you like it that way.
As do the polar bears.