Brief History of Churchill
Located on the edge of the Arctic, Churchill offers a ‘frontier town feel’ with the amenities of an international tourism destination. With its unique position as an accessible Arctic community, the town comes alive each time the train or plane arrives. Polar bears are everywhere – on murals, signs, souvenirs, sculptures and sometimes the live version wanders in as well. Snowmobiles roar through town in winter and ATVs cruise by in summer.
The town of Churchill grew from a remote outpost to a bustling seaport with the construction of the Hudson Bay Railroad and Port of Churchill in the late 1920s.
Through much of the 1950s and 1960s, the town was a thriving military community until the base was decommissioned in the mid-60s. Today, the community boasts a multimillion dollar fully modern Town Centre Complex whose interior walkways are lined with brightly coloured Inuit wall hangings and prints, and a big carved-wood polar bear invites children to slide through his benign mouth. The Pioneer Gallery exhibits striking black and white portraits of the people of Churchill.
As Canada’s only Arctic seaport, the Port of Churchill brought the world of ocean trade to the Churchill region. Preparation for the harbour began in 1927, with construction of the grain elevator beginning in 1930 and the first shipment of grain took place in 1931. In 1997, the Government of Canada sold the port to American company OmniTRAX. The current shipping season runs from mid-July until early November. While the port’s mainstay is shipping grain and other agricultural products from Canada and around the world, it is a key link in the trans-shipment of fuel, building materials and goods of all kinds for communities and businesses further north in Nunavut. The 140,000 metric tonne (5 million bushel) grain complex looms over the harbour. It can load grain at the rate of 1,680 metric tonnes (60,000 bushels) per hour.
Set amid rugged wilderness, life in Churchill for its 1,000 residents and thousands of visitors depends on the latest technology as well as traditional life skills. While cell phone coverage is not yet available, this remote but accessible northern community stays connected with the world through high speed and wireless Internet.
On a Personal Note
Our cabs picked us up at 8:00 on this 29 degree morning and took us to the airport. We departed Thompson at 9:30 on a chartered "CalmAir" flight to Churchill. Half of our group took the train last night around 7:00. We had a great flight of around 1 hour and 10 minutes. We had a birds eye view of the vast wilderness covered by many many lakes as we made our way north. One of the highlights of our flight was seeing a circular rainbow below us. It looked like a bulls-eye lying on top of the clouds. No one on the plane had ever seem anything like this before.
We made a safe landing in Churchill and were met by our bus driver Paul. He took us to the Tundra Inn where we will be staying for the next three nights. He will also take us out to the tundra buggy tomorrow and Tuesday for our visit with the polar bears. Mounted above his head in the bus is a .416 Ruger rifle just in case we encounter an out of control polar bear.
We had lunch at the Tundra Inn Restaurant. It was a simple soup & sandwich with cookies for dessert and was very good. At 3:00 we walked over to the Eskimo Museum. What an amazing museum this was. We spent almost two hours looking at the many carvings and representations of the native lifestyles here in the North.
Brief Museum History:
This museum had its origins in 1944 when Roman Catholic missionaries from the order of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate recogonized the value of preserving "carvings" representative of the culture of the people of the North.
The exhibit pays tribute to the living creativity of the Inuit.(First Nation People) Their creations constitute an invitation for us to deepen our vision of humanity and to enrich the community with the mysterious and irresistible destiny that creates peoples, cultures and civilizations.
The Eskimo Museum is dedicated to advancing knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of Northern culture and history with an emphasis on the Canadian Inuit. The exhibits include historic and contempory sculptures of stone, bone, and ivory, as well as archaeological and wildlife specimens.
We also visited several shops in Churchill and bought a few souveniors. The weather is not cooperating with us very well. We have around 32 degrees, light rain and 15-20 mph winds. We had dinner at 6:00 at the Tundra Inn. Tomorrow we head out to see the bears. Stay tuned.....