The Nesters, Bay Dips, Bonfires and Canada Day

Hi Everyone,

This last month has been pretty busy here in Churchill!  Lots of things going on.  I think the best way to show you what’s been going on is with photos and captions… so enjoy!


Junuary at York Factory

Hi all, I’m writing here from a snowy, blustery day in… June?  It’s been snowing since about 0600hrs and has not let up one bit since (1500hrs now).  Here are some photos of what’s it’s like outside right now.

Here’s a video I took this afternoon.

So far York Factory has been really cool.  Lots of stuff to do to open up the site for the season.  There’s the water system that needs to be started which is the main thing that I’m going to be working on this summer.  The whole loop is quite cool: theres a few in-line strainers connected to two parallel 1 micron filters which flows into a membrane filter which connects to two in series UV light purifiers.  Needless to say, we have high quality water here at YF.  All the other camps in the park have the same system so I’ll be familiar with the systems when I head out into the park to start up the other systems.

Here are a few more photos of what I’ve been up to.

We went on a hike out the back 40 to find some data loggers that are measuring surface and ground temperature.  We were walking in ankle to knee deep marsh the whole time.  Good fun.  The picture below is of higher ground, but picture that under 20cm of water… squishes like a sponge.

I forget what type of flower this is… but it was adorable.  I will get someone to identify it at a later date.

I will update this later with more photos from my fancy camera and I’m also having uploading issues with the satellite internet here.  So all for now… Check in again soon!

Tagg’s Visit to the Church’

So Tagg arrived almost on time (2 hours late…that’s pretty good actually.  I think it’s the record this summer) at 11am at the Churchill station.  I got the rest of the afternoon off and we packed a lunch and headed off to Cape Merry for a picnic.  We got to see some whales quite close to shore… that’s a sign that they are heading back north to their preferred waters.

Tagg and Mel at Cape Merry

After a couple hours there, walking back along by the port, Tagg having a real shower and a real sleep, we headed to the Tundra where we ran into a few guys that Tagg had met on the train… Alex and Josh.  They are both hitchikers traveling across Canada starting in Ontario (Tagg’s note: Alex is actually on an exchange from Holland, and decided to do the cross-country tour before the university term starts!). Cool.  It was wing night (nom) and we had a great night of pool and beer.  After the Tundra, there was a bonfire down at the beach behind the complex so we all headed down there and got to see an amazing display of the Aurora.  Absolutely amazing.  There was a huge band all the way across the sky, and also an really intense patch right above us.  I will never cease to be amazed by the lights.  All in all, quite the night.

Alex and Josh told us they were renting a car for the next day so Tagg and I thought it would be a good idea to bum a ride with them and go “out east” (Tagg’s note: there’s only one road out of town.  Your choices of where to go are rather limited) to see some of the cool stuff Churchill has to offer.

1.  Meet at the rental car and ice cream shop (…yes) 9am.  …After a late night/early morning?  Easier said than done.

2.  Stop by at a good bon fire beach and do some slinging and juggling.  The usual for hitch hikers apparently.

3.  Miss Piggy

Nope, not Kermit’s girlfriend, but a downed cargo plane from the 60s (I don’t really know).  It was pretty cool to walk around and see inside and scout the area for random little bits of plane.  We found the propeller and the massive engine thing. (Tagg’s note: Josh is compiling a list of photos of himself from his backpacking trip, with the rules that he must A. take the photo on timer, and B. must look bored in the photo.  This is what’s happening in the third photo of the plane).

4.  The Dump.

Yes, the dump, called L5, is a place to go.  There is always cool stuff to take and re-make or whatever you can think of.  This time, we all spotted the Tundra Buggy tires (taller than me) and we were all thinking the same thing:  Tire racing.

5.  Next, the Golf Balls.

I don’t have a long shot of the “golf balls”, I’ll get one soon.  Basically it’s an old GPS kind of building with two huge white geodesic domes that basically did less than a hand held gps thing does now.  Lots of little mechanical-y bits and metal things to look at and wonder what the hell it does.  The birds are Sandhill Cranes.  I’ve never seen them in that big of a group flying before!  Pretty cool!  (Tagg’s note: we made sure to follow all standard construction site safety procedures, including standing very close to the edge of 2 storey buildings, climbing without harnesses, sorting through scrap materials, etc.)

6. Sled dogs


Tagg writing this one!

We took a slight detour through Churchill’s version of a dog kennel: ~60 dogs on leads all around the little lakes that dot the landscape.  All the dogs were on lines long enough for them to get water, but not quite long enough that they could get into fights with each other.  They were all very excited to see humans (thinking perhaps we were coming to feed them?), and definitely liked having their ears rubbed.

There’s several kennels around town, and some are year-round style outfits with little dog houses that the dogs like to sleep on top of, a la Snoopy.  I met a musher on the train, and learned that simply feeding a team of dogs regular dog food can cost upwards of $150 per week.

7.  The Ithaca

According to the Town of Churchill website:


The wreck of the MV Ithaca sits just outside Bird Cove, 12 miles east of Churchill, high and dry when the tide is low and completely surrounded by water when the tide is in. According to Lloyds of London, (the company insuring the Ithaca) it was a British flag steamship, built in 1922 in Three Rivers, Quebec. It was bound for Rankin Inlet to deliver 30 tons of equipment, including 2 generators and plywood panels for the Department of Transport. Its right rudder broke in an eighty mile an hour gale and it floundered near Bird Cove on Sept 14, 1960.

A pretty full day, eh?

We went on another adventure yesterday… we borrowed one of my colleagues’ canoes, Jill took her kayak and a couple researchers from the CNSC also got a canoe and we paddled across the river to the quarry.  I was paddling in stern for the first time.  Much harder than I was anticipating.  We weaved around quite a bit, but we go there and all was good.  The main event at the quarry was berry picking and ration eating.  Tagg and I picked 2.5 yoghurt containers of wild blue berries.  We’re planning on blue berry grunt either tonight or tomorrow. Nom.

Jill, my roommate is in the Rangers, a branch of the military that basically takes care of the not-so-northern-wilderness-savvy army when they come up here for any kind of Arctic sovereignty issues.  Pretty cool job.  Anyways, they are given rations for their excursions, but they all bring their own food anyways so Jill has a huge box of rations stored away for novelty meals.  It was quite fun going through the packages… they seriously thought of EVERYTHING! (Tagg’s note: everything is heated by boiling it in waterproof bags… including bread!  It was also entertaining to drink coffee out of what can be best called sturdy ziplock bags.)

On the way home, the sunset was amazing…


Archaeology, Leadership Camp and the Goose People.

So after the paddle, I had a few days off.  Canada day was pretty fun… there were some activities for kids in the town square and probably the best part about it was the fire department.  They used their hoses and made a bubble gun… it was hilarious!  A huge pile of soap bubbles for kids to run around in!  They must have lost a few kids because at one point the mountain was taller than I was.  Oh well, all in the name of fun. We all went out on Canada day night and had a few brewskies at a local pub called The Tundra.  Pretty sweet little place… they sometimes have live music and there is also a pool table.  I have improved slightly I can safely say, but I still suck.

The next adventure was going to be heading out to broad river compound to film the set up of remote cameras to monitor bear/animal-human interaction.  I was pretty excited about seeing that, since, you know, I’m all about cameras, but unfortunately the cams got lost in Repulse bay.  So plans changed and I went out instead with the Parks Can archaeologists who are doing a survey of all the marked cultural resources in the park.  There was an inventory done about 10 years ago and these guys were here to check up on things and get more accurate gps coordinates especially the sites that would most likely be visited by the public.  They were usually looking on the beach ridges for these sites and I was pretty lucky to get a chance to see some of these sites… it was just so cool to look down at the ground and know that someone hundreds of years ago set up these rock for a tent or fire. I got to spend two full days with them, one before and one after the leadership camp.

So I get back from the archeas and have a day to get everything prepared for the leadership camp.  Basically, Parks funds this awesome program to get kids from around MB to come up to Churchill for 6 days and give them a chance to see the park.  We were at nester one camp… which is up near the beach ridges in the previous link.  I had the dual duty of facil and photographer… photography–fine.  Facilitator?  AHH.  I was worried, but it turned out OK.  I was pretty close in age to the kids compared to the others so it was pretty fun.  Great group… we had had an awesome time and I have to say my meal crew def had the best dinner.  Jus’ sayin’.  (I wanna cut the blonde one. << That was for you Maja and V)  HIghlights of that trip were the close encounter with a female bear… she was right by the fence and sniffing around, gnawing a bit on the fence just testing it out.  Pretty neat to see a bear like that up close and personal.  I got some interesting pictures, but it makes me kind of sad seeing the fence in between. We’re in *their* territory and we’ve set ourselves up in a reverse zoo.  All in the name of the science and research?  I’m glad to see parks being as sustainable as possible in these compounds however, with cool waste water treatment system and solar power.  Another highlight was our hike to the coast and back.  The trek was a lot less muddy and fenn-y than I thought it would be but I still had to use the first aid kit to duct tape my boots.  Poor things… already so beaten up.  They are now looking very bush like sporting a duct tape cast around one whole leg.

After we got back from the camp with everyone, we had a day in Churchill, but I left to go out with the archaes again.  When I got picked up from the helicopter place, the resource con manager asked if I was up to go out again the next day.  YES.  This time with the Goose People as I am calling them.  They are mostly Americans based out of Nestor 2 camp, closer to the edge of the park inland.  That camp has been there since *way* before the park was actually a park… since sometime in the 60s I believe.  The ongoing project is mapping the goose depredation.  Like I mentioned before in my blog, the snow geese are becoming a little bit of a problem? Well these are the guys that called it many many years ago.  I got the chance to go out and film them doing the remote sensing on the vegetation.  Basically they take really good satellite images and based on colour of the landscape, they can see the different vegetation areas.  Then they go out in the bush and check each area of differing veggies and the more and more they actually cover, the more accurate the map is. So the day was spent splooshing and scmlucking around in muddy peat and silt and willows… note: It’s not a good idea to drop electronics into this stuff.  Just a tip.  Not that that happened or anything.  It was really cool stuff… my inner nerd was pretty satisfied with the really accurate GPS unit one of the parks guy had and the veggie people know Latin names all an incredible number of plants.  The weather that day was so not Churchill-like though.  No wind. High 20s. ?! Therefore, there was a RIDICULOUS number of bugs ranging in size from gnats to dinosaur sized flies.  Ow.  Eventually it kinda rained and then went back to being hot, humid and buggy, but then it really rained… felt so nice and DIE BUGS DIEEEEE.  Fun helicopter ride out of the park in the rain storm though.  As we swerved to get out of a particularly nasty patch in the storm, our trusty pilot started singing some song.  I don’t know if this is a good thing or not, but w/e it’s always awesome to be up in the air and we made it down so all is good.  When I have real-people money or marry some rich guy, I think I’ll get my pilot’s license and some kind of air craft.  We’ll see how that goes.

So that was my last outing to the Park… I hope I get out again sometime in the summer, but nothing is set in stone yet.  Had quite a few days off the last week from the nearl 3- week straight stint in the bush and had some time to get out and doing things.  Today’s adventure was kayaking with Karyne, the program coordinator for the park, who had two awesome red and yellow kayaks.  We left about 2 hours before high tide and oh man was it ever cool.  I had been out on the water before but being right there on the water in the kayak was a whole other story.  They make a cute sqeaky sound and you can hear them breathing through the blow hole.  Here are some pictures.

Well all for now folks… more updates later!

Owl River!

After nearly a month, I finally have some energy to sit down and read a few hundred emails and get a blog posted.  It’s been absolutely crazy for the last few weeks… Here’s what I’ve been up to:

Canoe trip.  Pretty epic adventure I must say… We took the train to Herchmer and jumped off before the platform since it was closer to the river.  It’s good that everyone who works on the train either, A. is related to a parks staff member, B. has known parks staff for their whole lives, or C. doesn’t give a damn about protocol.  Works for me.  I got to lean out of a luggage compartment while the train was still moving and then jump out and have our gear all thrown out after us.  Those cars are a lot higher off the ground than they seem, let me tell ya.  After that we started putting the canoes together.  I forget what I wrote earlier, but the 3 canoes we had were pakboats which took about 30-45 mins to set up.  I ended up cutting my finger while setting the HMS Awesome up… and the weird thing is that apparently I’m a hemophilliac now.  The cut didn’t stop bleeding for a day.  I had to wrap an entire hankerchief around my hand the whole day just so that I didn’t get blood EVERYWHERE.  My pant leg was pretty much covered anyways since I get touching my hand to my leg while paddling.  Gross.

The rest of the trip went really well… 130 or so rapids and swifts that we went thought without any tipping or loss of gear.  Pretty smooth for half the crew being noobs.  I learned a tonne of strokes the first day:  there’s the draw, the pry, the right and left jam, j-stroke, and back paddle.  No big deal.  So the whole crew consisted of Me (media person), Heather (visitor experience documenter) and Brenden (bear monitor) for parks staff and Bob O’Hara (canoeing guru… basically has done almost every northern river in Canada for the last 40 summers) John and Jeff, both friends of Bob and super skilled canoeing enthusiasts and they all live in the twin cities in the states (St Paul/Minneapolis).  Bob has paddling and camping down to a science… he knows how to camp.  Next long camping trip I take, I’ll be taking more than a few pointers from him.

Highlights of the river:  Figuring out how to use the whole core to paddle and not just arms… they get pretty tired quickly.  Seeing a wolf.  Seeing a 1 yr old moose bull up close.  Being out seriously hundreds of kms away from any other people.  Got your knife dirty?  Meh, wipe it on your pants.  Got your pants dirty?  Meh… keep wearing them. Throwing a snowball at the other canoe on June 27.  Summer snow banks people… underrated source of amusement. Waking up at 6 and going to bed at 8:30 or 9.  Most excellent. Bald and Golden eagles a few times.

We got to the cabin after 5 days of paddling and we had that evening and the whole next day to explore the area.  We hiked to the coast and back (10 or 12 km) and saw the purple and white tundra… the drius integrifolia everywhere and the lapland rosebay.  So beautiful.  Heather knows a tonne about flowers and plants so she would walk around and tell me all the flowers and things growing.  The coast is gorgeous… the water is an incredible colour and I just need to post some pictures when I get them.  I haven’t had a chance yet… it’s been go go go since I got back.  More on the rest a bit later.