Journey to the Edge: A Day in Town

The Churchill Northern Studies Center is about 19 km from the actual town of Churchill. The town is right on the Hudson Bay and on the eastern shore of the Churchill River which flows into the bay.

It is a place full of history, culture, industry, and wildlife.

Today…we spent the day in town.

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Exploring, adventuring, learning and connecting.

There are no roads that lead to Churchill. You can only get there by plane, boat or train. In the town itself there are roads…but it is isolated in many ways from the rest of Manitoba, Canada…and the world.

The population is about 900 year round residents…many descendants of the Cree, Dene, and Inuits. Their history dates backs over 3000 years.

Throughout this area as well as other arctic areas of the world you will find Inukshuks. Rock people. These were made by the Inuit to mark or indicate the direction to a good hunting or fishing or camping spot. They also often were used to mark sacred places in the landscape. In Churchill, you will find them scattered throughout the town.

Everything is either shipped in or brought by train. It is a life of simplicity…

And struggle.

A strong tourist industry helps boost the local economy. But life here on the edge isn’t easy. You can see it in the faces of the residents.

Yet there is a pride…and a deep love of this land and her creatures. A respect of the harsh and extreme elements…and a spiritual reverence for the wildlife that coexists here in the lowlands of the Hudson Bay.

Our first adventure was a boat ride across the river at the mouth, where salt water meets fresh, to see the Beluga whales. This time of year they descend upon Churchill for calving season. There were dozens of whales. Many with their babies riding on their backs as they glide through the water. It was truly breath taking. These majestic creatures…swimming all around us…showing no fear, only curiosity. Talkative and playful as we listened in on their conversation over the hydrophone.

It is a sight and an experience I will never forget.

As we rounded one of the coves…there on the beach sat a huge male polar bear. The first I had ever seen in my life. They come ashore in the summer where they live near the water in and around the rocks. It is during the summer that they fast…waiting patiently for the ice to come again so they can feed. This male had been in that spot for about 3 weeks. Injured we learned, and so he was left alone.

I wasn’t able to get a clear picture…he blended so well with the beach. But his mighty image is etched in my mind and heart forever.

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This intense and up close interaction with nature…gives a new perspective on the interconnectedness of all life on this planet. Every species has a role and is an important piece of the puzzle we call life.

Here on the edge…

I am feeling my heart expand. Opening and understanding more and more about this fragile place we live.

Inspired to do all I can…to make a difference.

Journey to the Edge: In the Field

 Besides enjoying the splendor of this incredible place…I am here to work as well. There are 11 other teachers here with me. A wonderful group, that have come from all over. including Jamaica.

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We are here to assist some of the leading scientists with their study of climate change and it’s impact on the arctic environment. This work, is not only important for the entire world, but is gathering and analyzing data that will be used for years to come. We are conducting real investigations and engaging in real scientific processes.

We are being scientists in every sense of the word. This opportunity is something that I’ve only imagined. And now…here I am. As a scientist…out in the field…doing science

The tundra ponds and their diverse populations are one means to measure the impact that global warming is having and has implications for habitats everywhere. This unique place…the edge of the arctic circle…is an indicator, a predictor, of what’s happening and what will happen if warming trends continue.

To be a part of this work is humbling. To work along side some amazing scientists, is inspiring. To be here, in the forefront of learning and research is a dream come true.

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Journey to the Edge: CNSC

My home for 10 days.

CNSC

The Churchill Northern Studies Centre

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It’s located on the outskirts of the town of Churchill, Manitoba in northern Canada which is on the Hudson Bay. Once a former rocket research base, it’s been the place for research and education of the Arctic environment since 1976.

In 2011 the new, greener, state of the art CNSC was completed.

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It is considered to be on the very edge of the Arctic Circle. It is home to many scientists and researchers studying different aspects of this special place. It also opens its doors to many groups whether tourists or volunteers or teachers…like me!

Come on in and I’ll show you around!

When you first enter, you will be amazed at the structure and design, the natural light that streams through the many large windows, and of course the view.

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Each space has a purpose. Every corner utilized.

From the welcome area to the cafeteria…

It is a place for living, working, and playing.

My favorite rooms are…

The Collections room.

Filled with fascinating polar bear, beluga whale, and other animal artifacts.

And the Aurora Dome room.

Not only is it unique, but it holds the promise that perhaps one of these nights, we will get to see a summer show of northern lights.

And as you head out the door…

A gentle reminder.

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This is polar bear country.

After all…we are at the edge.

Journey to the Edge: The Tundra

This area, which includes Churchill, is what’s known as a pristine tundra biome.

It is pristine. Unspoiled and magnificent.

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A perfect place to study. A perfect place to learn.

A perfect place to explore.  A perfect place to grow.

A perfect place to walk on the edge…

The summer is short.

The sunshine and warmth a cherished gift to those that live here year round.

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The sky is huge.

It’s as if there is nothing but heaven and earth out here…

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In the tundra.

Journey to the Edge: Arrival

Slowly the of city of Winnipeg disappears and the prairie comes into view.

Miles and miles of farms and fields. The roads line the boundaries.

Straight and angular.

And then those too disappear. There is only open land and bodies of water now.

I feel a sense of adventure. Like a pioneer embarking out on the frontier of newness. Leaving the routine of my life behind as I travel to this vast, unknown and different land.

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There is a wildness to this experience. Not knowing what to expect except that I want to embrace it with all my heart, mind, body and soul.

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I also feel a sense of hope and promise. This journey leading me to myself…as well the far north.

My eyes brim…tears of joy and healing.

An ending.

And a beginning.

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A time of letting go and letting in.

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I’m standing on the edge of my life.

And it feels incredible.

Journey to the Edge: Getting There

It will take 3 flights and 2 days to get there. Flights to Churchill, Manitoba are limited.

A night in Winnipeg and an early morning departure on Calm Air will take me to my final destination…the edge of the Arctic Circle.

The journey there…

I immerse myself in all of it.

Savoring each new sight…

Winnipeg is a beautiful city.

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I walked on the edge of an unfamiliar place. I felt so many things…

Wonder at the history of how this place came to be.

Awe as I looked up.

And happiness because I am here…on this journey.