Our Trip to Churchill - July 13-20, 2004

by Doris Ames

000 - Richard, Eugene, Doris, Huguette, Lorne, Gilles, Chris, Lawrence, Roberta, John - seven NOCI members, and seven MOS members, for a total of ten.

100a - Western spotted coralroot (Corallorhiza maculata var. occidentalis) - this variety of spotted coralroot can be distinquished from var. maculata by the forked floral bract and the fact that the lip at the point of dilation is more than 1.5 times wider than the pinched part.

100b - Long-bracted orchid (Coeloglossum viride).

101 - Showy lady-slipper (Cypripedium reginae) on Long Point Road.

106 - Large yellow lady-slipper (Cypripedium parviflorum var. pubescens) on Long Point Rd.

106b - Overlook from Long Point on Lake Winnipeg.

105 - Small-flowered columbine (Aquilegia brevistyla).

107 - Two immature Pelicans at Grand Rapids Dam site. The town of Grand Rapids is located on the northwestern shore of Lake Winnipeg at the mouth of the Saskatchewan River about 400km north of Winnipeg on Hwy#6. Major fur trading and exploration routes converged on Grand Rapids in the early days because the Saskatchewan River extends all the way from the Rocky Mountains to Cental Manitoba, a distance of some 1900km. The 5-7km of rapids just west of the town were very difficult to traverse and in 1877 the HBC built a horse-drawn tramway to get past the rapids on rails. This was actually the first piece of railway built in Western Canada and was used for about 20 years. In 1960-68 a massive dam and hydro electric generating station was built at the site flooding most of it.

201 - Sparrow-egg lady-slipper (Cypripedium passerinum) - double-flowered plant at Hargrave River.

202 - Sparrow-egg lady-slipper - closer view of that double-flowered plant.

203 - Small round-leaf orchid (Amerorchis rotundifolia) at Hargrave River site.

204 - Amerorchis rotundifolia - dark-form from Churchill - shown here for comparison.

205 - Amerorchis rotundifolia - light-form from Churchill - shown here for comparison.

206 - Pisew Falls on the Grass River near Thompson - it is Manitoba's largest accessible waterfall at 42.7 feet high and a really spectacular sight.

207 - Eugene above Pisew Falls - risking his life, by lighting up a cigarette:-)

208 - Via Station at Thompson - we did crossword puzzles while we waited - Churchill can be reached only by air or rail. At present the highway ends at Gillam. Many people take the train north and fly back. Calm Air arrives from Winnipeg and Thompson several times a week. The 1,600 kilometer trip (by rail from Winnipeg) allows you to see the countryside along the way. We did a less expensive variation of this;we drove to Thompson and took the train to Churchill and returned the same way. We explored many sites for orchids, in Jack Pine forests and by the rivers along Highway #6 and saw moose, fox and birds. The view of the tundra from the train was unforgettable. Even though it was the middle of the night there was still sufficient light to see the transistion from boreal forest to tundra. The tundra was all covered with Reindeer Moss (actually a kind of lichen) and growing on top was a blanket of flowers of every colour.

300 - Train-Station in Churchill - VIA-Rail makes three round-trips weekly from Winnipeg to Churchill with many stops along the way.

301 - Churchill - Kelsey Avenue aka "The Highway" and the town's main street.

302 - Churchill Northern Studies Centre - our group arriving - note their Birdfish logo on the doors.

303 - White mountain-avens (Dryas integrifolia) - rare plant.

304 - Northern twayblade (Listera borealis) - rare orchid.

305 - Northern twayblade (Listera borealis) flowers.

306 - Blunt-leaf rein-orchid (Platanthera obtusata) flower detail.

306a - Blunt-leaf rein-orchid (Platanthera obtusata) spike.

411b - Platanthera aquilonis closeup - the former P.hyperborea has recently been split into two species; there are a number of differences betweeen these two species, for instance in P.aquilonis the anther sacs are spread widely at the base but nearly touching at the apex, and in P.huronensis the anther sacs are almost parallel and separated at the apex.

306b - Hooded ladies'-tresses (Spiranthes romanzoffiana) - this is a peculiar little form that grows up north. This one was actually growing out of a rotting log something like a Calypso.

306c - Net-veined willow (Salix reticulata) - willow plants are very stunted in the Churchill area and you can only recognize them by their full-size catkins.

307 - Lapland rosebay (Rhododendron lapponicum) - a rare plant.

308 - Three-toothed saxifrage (Saxifraga tricuspidata) flower - the delicate Saxifrage plants live in cracks on the rocks and gradually break them up, living up to their name which means "rock-breaker" in Latin.

308a - Three-toothed saxifrage (Saxifraga tricuspidata) - growing in a crack in the rocks.

401 - Yellowlegs.

402 - Bonaparte's gull.

403 - Tundra near the Northern Studies Centre - there is great diversity among the plants and animals in the Churchill area. The reason is Churchill itself lies in the transistion zone between the tundra and the Boreal Forest and the entire area is at the junction of three distinctive ecosystems; the Tundra, the Northern Boreal Forest or Taiga, and the Marine.

404 - Early coralroot (Corallorhiza trifida).

405 - Alpine azalea (Loiseleuria procumbens).

405b - View from Twin Lakes Ridge - looking east from the top of the Twin Lakes Ridge. This area is part of the Taiga or Boreal Forest ecosystem at Churchill and well known for its bird and plant life.

406 - Photographers and Fairy-slipper orchid (Calypso bulbosa) - Eugene found this patch of blooming Calypso and a photographer's frenzy resulted. They had never been photographed in Churchill before although reports of them had been received.

407 - Calypso - a pair from within that clump.

408 - Calypso - a closeup of one from that clump.

409 - Snowball-fight in July - Huguette disciplines Doris by giving her a face-wash. This large drift of snow was left over from the previous winter.

410 - Dwarf Labrador-tea (Ledum decumbens) - uncommon in Churchill area.

411 - Velvet-bells (Bartsia alpina).

412 - Heart-leaved twayblade (Listera cordata) - the flowers of this species were very reddish in Churchill.

413 - Bog laurel (Kalmia polifolia) - uncommon in Churchill.

414 - "Captain Hans" - Captain Mike Macri and John Neufeld onboard the Seanorth II, going out to see the Beluga whales on the Churchill River.

415 - Beluga whales above water - note the spout of steam from one's blowhole.

416 - Whale below water.

417 - Grain-terminal from water - in 1997 Omnitrax bought the Port of Churchill and the railway and renamed it the Hudson's Bay Railway. They deal with grain at present but want to diversify, as grain alone will not indefinitely sustain the port. They want to put different commodities through the port and eventually trade with Iceland, Europe and Murmansk.

418 - Ft.Prince of Wales - built in the 1700's, the fort's outer walls were five meters high and its inner walls were three meters high with enough emplacements for forty cannon to protect it from every side. However this fort was never properly manned and in 1782 a French naval force of 3 ships appeared in the Bay. There were only 40 men at the fort and the governor of the day, Samuel Hearne, surrendered without a shot being fired. The French sacked the fort, blew up the cannons and part of the walls and took Hearne to France as their prisoner. The next year he returned and rebuilt the fort but it never served a real military purpose again.

419 - Jaeger chases Tern.

420 - Krummholz trees at sunset - these white spruce trees can barely survive in the cold wind, ice particles and salt spray coming off the Bay, so they remain stunted and only have branches on the side away from the water.

506b - Rocky coast - an example of Marine Habitat in the Churchill area. Note: the tide is out, exposing the rocks where we found seashells, seaweed and other marine life.

705b - Seaweed clinging to rocks.

501b - Churchill seashell collection: Spider crab, Mussels, Bent-nose clam, Lean dog whelk, and Brown seaweed.

501c - Churchill seashell collection: Lean dog whelk.

501 - Miss Piggy - the Lambair side - this Lambair C46 cargo plane crashed on the rocks along the Coast Road in 1979. It must have been a rough landing but everyone survived. It remains a much-photographed landmark now, referred to as "Miss Piggy" by the locals. One side is painted grey because it was used as part of a movie set.

502 - Large-flowered wintergreen (Pyrola grandiflora).

503 - Northern hedysarum (Hedysarum mackenzii) - these beautiful flowers were everywhere, lining the gravel roads in places, much like roses in a formal garden.

504 - Polarbears.

505 - PolarBear.

506 - Caribou look-alike - these sled dogs spend all summer camped on the tundra. The puppies are in a cage but each adult dog has its own house. They are fed and exercised regularly so they can compete in the sled dog races later in the year. We happened upon "dog city" on a cloudy afternoon and, seeing these large animals from a distance, certain members of our party, who shall remain nameless, got excited and thought they saw caribou:-)

507 - Cards at CNSC.

508 - Reading at CNSC - every evening after being out in the field we would compare notes, look things up in our field guides and do our journaling.

601 - Flame-tipped lousewort (Pedicularis flammea) - there are many different species of Lousewort in Churchill, and unlike the common ones down south these all have gorgeous flowers. They seem to serve the same function as the marsupials in Australia. It seemed as if every flower in North America was represented by either a lousewort or a willow.

704a - Golden plover.

501a - Seaside mertensia (Mertensia maritima).

705a - Moonwort fern (Botrychium lunaria).

405a - Lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea).

705c - Sandhill cranes doing a line dance - near Thompson, on July21.

602 - Rocket-range ruins - from the end of World War II through the 1960's the US-airforce conducted metereological and other research in Churchill. When the station closed the US-government left everything there and the Federal Government gave the barracks to the Northern Studies Centre for their research centre. The old rocket launching tower and tunnel remain but they are collapsing slowly. There are bits of old rockets and machinery everywhere.

701 - Photographers and Ptarmigan.

702 - Willow ptarmigan.

703 - Willow ptarmigan chick - these chicks ran over our shoes as we were taking pictures.

704 - Rocketman-Richard.

704b - Women and dream-catcher - we met this Dene woman and her Inuk daughter-in-law in Churchill. They sold dream-catchers that they made out of willow, hide and duck feathers.

705 - Sparrow-egg and Blunt-leaf clump - at a site to which we were directed by the eminent photographer from Germany, Norbert Rosing.

705d - Ithaca at Sunset - the "Ithaca" is an old British steamship that ran aground in September 1960 during a storm and became stranded on the rocks at Bird Cove. It must be the most photographed object in Churchill.

707 - Group at Cape Merry - Cape Merry was named for Captain James Merry, the Deputy Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company from 1712-18. A wooden trading post was initially constructed here by the HBC at that time followed by more substantial ones later. It was also the arrival point for Jens Munck a Dane, who was the first European to land and overwinter in the Churchill area in 1619. Henry Hudson was the first to sail into Hudson's Bay in 1610 and Sir Thomas Button was the first to explore the western coast of Hudson's Bay in 1612.

708 - Strict primrose (Primula stricta) - this species resembles the Greenland primrose (Primula eglikensia) except that it has a hairy calyx and toothed leaves whereas the calyx and the leaves of the Greenland primrose are smooth.

709 - Purple paintbrush (Castilleja raupii) clump.

705bb - Alpine arnica growing along the railway tracks leading to the metal dump.

799 - Sunset - in July the sun goes down about 11:30pm and gets up again around 3:30am.

For more information, see the travelogue:  North of 58.