UGRA Travel – Churchill Adventurers

Didn’t we have a time!  The UGRA Churchill Adventure, August 2017

Twenty-four intrepid UGRA adventurers (and at least as many cameras) explored the Churchill area from August 22 to 29th on an expedition brilliantly planned by Peter Kevan and expedited by Vikki Tremblay’s travel planning.  We flew to Winnipeg and then took Calm Air to Rankin Inlet in Nunavut before continuing to Churchill and the Churchill Northern Science Centre (CNSC). It was actually a course on Environmental Studies on the Boreal-Arctic Transition, but it was also a “whale” of an UGRA trip. We needed bear guards when we were outside – and saw enough polar bears to realize the caution was warranted (12!). In their move to the coast in late summer in wait for seals once the sea-ice forms, some come into town and end up doing time in “bear jail”.  One morning our CNSC driver spotted a helicopter delivering a bear to the “hoosegow”, so we got a front row seat …from a safe distance.

There were hundreds of beluga whales in the Churchill Estuary, not to mention caribou, tundra swans, ptarmigans, bald eagles, Sandhill cranes, tiny wood frogs, snow geese, Canada geese and the Hudsonian godwit.  Plant life too – plumes of mountain avens and red fireweed, reindeer lichen, blueberries, brilliant orange rock lichen, and the characteristic coastal evergreens facing the wind with branches flying like flags.

Our days were packed. We explored the massive rocks on the coast, the taiga inland, got our boots wet in the peat fens and stayed up a night for the Aurora Borealis. There were visits to the old rocket range, to town and Itsanitaq (Inuit) Museum and to the old fortifications at Cape Merry and Fort Prince of Wales to hear the history of The Hudson’s Bay Company trading posts in the 1700s. We saw the Port of Churchill and went beluga watching (and listening) by ship, took dog cart rides and had a day out in a tundra buggy.  There were talks at night that helped us understand more about sea ice, polar bears and the disturbing story of the relocation of the Sayisi Dene people.  We were fortunate to be at the CNSC for its 40th anniversary gala and a talk by Sheila Watt-Cloutier, author of The Right to be Cold.

There was so much more – just ask us!  And when UGRA sets up another adventure, you will want to be there!

Roz Stevenson

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