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Arctic Blast 2001

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Online Classroom Dogsled Expedition


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"The men" a few minutes before Eric and Thomas depart.
(from left Thomas, Paul and Eric) 

Take Off!..

Date: February 16, 2001
Position: 58o46 N 94o10W
Weather Conditions: 
Cloudy,  -24 F / -31 C, 30 to 50 km/h  gusty winds
Yes, we have had a take off..except it was not us with the sleds and dogs! Last night Eric and Thomas headed back out of Churchill, to return to Minnesota. It was quite weird seeing them roll away in the train.
As you probably know, Paul and I (Mille) were actually to take off with the dogs in the beginning of the week. But we wanted to complete some final testing with our equipment. The good news is, that it looks like we are all cleared and ready to go. We are ready -- and so are the dogs.
Tuesday Mille, Paul and Choko visited with grade 10,11 and 12 at the "Duke of Marlborough" School -- They are also participating in the program here online, so look for them in the Collaboration Zone... 

While we have been waiting here in Churchill, we have had a great time though! Meeting with many nice people, learning more about Churchill - and have had a couple of polar bear visits!

Tuesday Mille and Thomas ran into a Polar Bear while they were out visiting with a local friend - Brian Ladoon and his large kennel of Canadian Eskimo dogs. We got some great video footage of the bear. The next night a huge mother and her two cubs were spotted in the other end of town. It is a little early for them to be seen around -- but that is what Churchill is all about: Polar Bears...

Churchill is renowned as "the Polar Bear capital of the world". The area just South of here is considered the largest maternity denning area for Polar Bears in the world October through March. It was just recently made into a park, "Wapusk Park". Wapusk meaning "white bear" in the Cree language. Every Fall between 80 and 150 bears gathers in and around Churchill. The bears are waiting for ice to form so that they can venture out to where they can hunt seals. Ice forms first around "points of land" If you look on a map you can see how Churchill sits on a Peninsula. So, this is the natural gathering place for bears every fall. That means you literally walk into them on the streets. There is even a Polar Bear jail here in Churchill for bears that don't behave! Every year about 20.000 tourists travel through Churchill to watch the bears. This little town of about a 1000 is simply swamped with people from all around the globe. As one of the students who we visited with at the "Duke of Marlborough" School pointed out, for living somewhere this remote they meet a large number of different cultures. Such influence from the outside world makes Churchill very diverse.

Is the "Eskimo Museum" a good name? Mille doesn't think so..Why do you think that is?

With a Danish fellow by the name of "Jens Munk" being the first European in 1617 to winter camp with his ship in this harbor, A Hudson Bay Co. post erected as early as 1685 in form of a huge fort and 1920 kilometers of rail being established between Churchill and Winnipeg in 1930, "white man" has been here for a while. But as always - the native people of the north - has been around much longer..

Remains of Pre-Dorset, Dorset, Thule, Inuit, Chipewyan and Cree camp sites around the tundra reveal the areas occupation over the last 4000 years.

You still find many traces of the traditional culture. Another thing Churchill is known for is their museum. The museum was  started in 1947 and has an incredible amount of rare pieces giving us rare insight to the rich culture of this area. We have spent many hours in this museum. 

What is probably most fascinating is how the native people have been able to adapt to this harsh and very sparse environment. To see how they were able to make tools out of very little means. How they lived in harmony with the land as nomads surviving the cold conditions. As Peter Erneck puts it " Traditionally we have been subsistence hunters and gatherers, and have survived that way for thousand of years. We hunt to live and clothe ourselves, we gather vegetation, such as berries and seaweed, to supplement our diet during spring and summer." 

From that perspective it is pretty obvious why so many camps are found  in this area. This land is very rich. It is taiga country - half way between tundra and forest - providing some shelter as well as some wood. There are lots animals and other resources;



With wood being very sparse (if any!) most of these tools are made out bone from fish and mammals.

Traditional mukluks

More than 400 species of plants burst to life during the short intense growing season and some 200 species of birds migrate here in the spring. The fresh water of Churchill River not only provides fishery of fresh water fish, but every spring  break up migrating beluga whales arrive to feed in the river mouth (the estuary) and to birth their young. 

Today we head out on this magnificent land, much like the traditional nomads. It is our turn to put on the mukluks, lash the last bags, hitch the dogs and sled out onto the ice. It's the start of ARCTIC BLAST 2001 expedition!!!!!!!!

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