I. THE TOWN OF CHURCHILL, MANITOBA, CANADA

Is Churchill near the North Pole?  The weather conditions might seem like it at this time of year and during the winter, but, no it is south of the Arctic Circle, and just south of the Northwest Territories.  It is above the 58th parallel, which makes it in line with Edinburgh, Scotland.  The climate is made by the position on the earth, and the currents of Hudson Bay.  Churchill is the most southerly arctic place....it is "subarctic."

Did the Franklin Expedition that was in search of the Northwest Passage have Benjamin Franklin as its captain?  This expedition that has long been associated with the arctic was trying to find the "spice routes".  Instead they discovered the arctic areas.  The captain and his crew never returned to England.  His wife, Lady Franklin sent 40 other expedition search parties to look for them, but no luck.  One rescue party was lead by the British Captain William Penny aboard the ship called "The Lady Franklin."   Another rescue attempt was with the HMS Breadalbane.  The "Breadalbane" and her sister ship, the "Phoenix" had sailed into the Northwest Passage searching for famed, but missing arctic explorer, Sir John Franklin. The rescue mission came to an abrupt end when grinding blocks of ice sliced the ship's hull. The "Breadalbane" sank in just 15 minutes while her fortunate crew scrambled to safety. It wasn't until 130 years later that a Canadian scientific team discovered the "Breadalbane".  In memory of her missing husband and for all the rescue missions that had taken place, Lady Franklin donated a beautiful stained glass window to a church in York Factory (south of Churchill), which was moved to the Anglican Church here in Churchill.  This Franklin (John Franklin) was a big part of Canadian history.  The Ben.Franklin never took part or was associated with this and had his own part in American history.   And, did you know that even though Hudson Bay was named after the explorer Henry Hudson, he was not the first person to discover the Bay?  Another interesting expedition was that of Samuel Hearne who was looking for the Northwest Passage as well as Hudson and Franklin.   To learn more about John Franklin's, Henry Hudson's, William Penny's, Samuel Hearne's adventures, look at these:
Franklin Expedition 1 ,   Franklin Expedition 2  (Franklin Exp 2 is excellent!),  Franklin Expedition 3  Franklin Expedition 4 (biography of Sir John Franklin),    Franklin Expedition 5 (archeological evidence) , Henry HudsonSamuel Hearne 1 , Samuel Hearne 2 , Samuel Hearne 3 , William Penny 1 , William Penny 2The Wreck of HMS Breadalbane

What is the population of Churchill?  800 in the fall/winter (may drop a bit after the bear season), about 1100 in the summer. (This does not count the tourist population).

Is there a big sled dog race there?  No, not as such.  The locals do participate in the "Bay Dip" in July.   Check this link for more about dogsledding:   dogsledding 1 ,   Official Iditarod Dogsled Race Page (the famous dogsled race). (And see the TRANSPORTATION section below).

What kind of jobs are there in Churchill?  The #1 employer here is the Health Centre; #2 is the port; then civil service and tourism.

Besides seeing polar bears and bird watching do the people of Churchill do any fishing?  Is fishing (private or commercial) even allowed in the Arctic?  Yes, many of the residents do fish.  And there are many people that come to the arctic to fish when it is not quite so cold.  At the "Trader's Table" restaurant on a couple of ocassions, I had broiled and grilled Arctic Char (a fish local to the area and specific to the arctic).  In the northern regions popular fish seem to be char, salmon, and halibut.  There are many other species that are fished for as well.   Many people trophy fish (always looking for the "big one"), while others fish for food or to sell (commercial fishing).  The following websites might help explain more about fishing.  Some of these links are examples of hundreds of small fishing companies that you or I could "charter" (rent) for a few days or weeks to go fishing for fun!  Here are a few of the charter/trip sites: Fishing Trip 1Fishing Trip 2  ,  Fishing Trip 3 (from helicopters).    Here is some other information that might be beneficial to help understand the arctic fisheries: Fishing Information 1Fishing Information 2 (regulations from Alaska on Commercial Fisheries)  Commercial Fishing:  Fishing Trawlers (boats) in Scandanavia, Seals eating commercial Cod (a type of fish) situation, Jobs currently available in some Arctic Fishing Ports 1, Jobs in Arctic Ports 2

Are there any hospitals or health care services in Churchill, or in the subarctic and Arctic?   Yes, there are health services in the larger towns in the far north.  Churchill has the Health Centre in the Town Complex.  Also, Churchill maintains the Inuit Transient Centre.  This is used only by the Inuit, who are waiting for more serious medical treatments in Winnipeg.  They will be flown to Winnipeg when space becomes available, unless it is a medical emergency.  In that case, the Inuit (or anyone in the Churchill area) is flown down immediately.  Here are some interesting links about health care in the Arctic and also in Churchill:   Churchill Health Care Services ,   Aboriginal (Native) Health Care in CanadaEastern Arctic Health Services (this may not show up on some controlled computers as the address has "~"), so then try this: Canadian Medical Facilities & trip preparation

What is the main language there in Churchill, Manitoba?  English.  However, many signs are written in Cree syllabry (a native language).  But, there are also many signs in English and French.

When a person dies there in the cold arctic, is he buried? Or what?  The people are buried.  There is a cemetery just on the outskirts of town.  If it is freezing, heaters are used to soften the ground for the burial to take place.  It is thought that long ago, people may have estimated how many people were going to perish, and then plan accordingly--however, this is not accurately documented.

On those few miles of roads in Churchill, how do they maintain them?  Are there a lot of holes due to the freeze-thaw?  Yes!  Many of the roads were paved, then graveled over.  On the road to the study centre, many of the holes were filled with gravel.  From what I understand, a project of road repairs might take place this summer.  (Also see the TRANSPORTATION section below).

What is it like stepping of permafrost?  If lichen is not present, it seems very hard...in fact cold and frozen. With the lichens, the ground is incredibly spongy.
 
Is everyone employed (in Churchill, Manitoba)?  I have seen that the people I have come into contact with normally have two, three jobs.  Incredible.  I do feel that there is some unemployment, but there are certain situations that might warrant that.

 How are the houses built? If you look at the photo of one on Nov 5, you'll get an idea of how they are constructed.  Heat is not allowed to enter into the permafrost.  If it does, the ground softens and the house sinks in and becomes unlevel.

What do the people in Churchill eat?  Well, they eat pretty much the same as you and I.  No, there isn't a fast food place here as such, but places fix hamburgers, BLT's, cheese sandwiches, soup, salads, etc.  Many of the places also serve caribou (reindeer), muskox (kind of looks like a woolly mammoth without a trunk)-when available, and arctic char (river fish).  The Inuit might bring in their own muktuk, which is whale skin and blubber to eat.  (No, I did not try any....there wasn't any available). Here's something on muktuk:   Muktuk 1 (Also look in the NATIVE PEOPLE section below).

Is there a trading post that trappers can exchange their furs for goods or money?  Yes.  There are two here in Churchill.  One is the Arctic Trading Post.  The other is the Northern department store.  The Northern will send the furs out to be processed and then used.  The Trading Post might sell the furs outright to customers.  The Northern, here in Churchill, used to be "The Bay".  "The Bay" was actually the old Hudson Bay Company Store.  To learn more about the Hudson Bay Company and the fur trade, try these:   Hudson Bay Company (store & history) ,   Canadian Govt information on the Hudson Bay Company ArchivesYork Factory . Also see a related question about furs in the next section......MANY MORE LINKS!!

Does Prince Charles of England (the current Prince of Wales) use the Prince of Wales Fort there in Churchill?  No.  It was named after the Prince of Wales that existed in the early 1700's.  It should be noted though, that Prince Charles did come to Churchill a couple of years ago to be a part of the signing agreement to establish Wapusk National Park.  Part of Wapusk's function is to protect the denning area of the polar bear and also to protect York Factory, a national heritage building of Canada.  The official document was called the Federal Provincial Memorandum of Agreement.  Here are a couple of links that might help you understand the history of these places:   Prince of Wales Fort 1 (part of Samuel Hearne's Diary) , Prince of Wales Fort 2  and   Wapusk National Park 1,  Wapusk National Park 2 ,    Wapusk National Park 3 <that one good for Ft. Prince of Wales.

How are the houses heated?  Furnaces are normally used.  They are run with propane or electricity.

Do you use US or Imperial gallons for measuring gasoline or other fluids.  And, how much is it?  Here in Canada, the metric system is used for distance and liquid measure.  So, gas is measured in litres.  The price here in Churchill is $0.86/L (as of Nov. 1999), which roughly equal to $3.50 for a US gallon!!

What do people do in their free time?  Right now, at this time of year, there is a lot of sledding, snowmobiling (called Ski-Doo, which is actually a brand name), animal watching, carving, traveling.  Also, there are some organized sports such as swimming (in the pool in the complex), hockey, curling, basketball, volleyball.

How many "mounties" (RCMP--Royal Canadian Mounted Police) are stationed there?  4; Horses are ceremonial here. Here is the Official Page of the RCMP and also a history of the RCMP:   Official Page of the RCMPRCMP Homepage , The RCMP

Does Churchill have a computer network or any ability to be able to be "on-line"?  They sure do!  While I was in Churchill, I could not have received many of these emails and then in turn answer them.  I will still continue to answer questions long after my visit to Churchill, as well!  The Churchill Community Network was most gracious in allowing me to be able to use their services and "plug in" to their system when I needed to.  Here are two very important links, one is the Churchill Community Network where you can learn much, much more about Churchill, and the other is the Churchill Chambre of Commerce:   Churchill Community NetworkChurchill Chambre of Commerce

Is there someone in Churchill that I could contact about going there to see the bears, birds, or whales?  Sure!!  Use the sites mentioned in the question above or contact one of the tour companies listed in the TRANSPORTATION section of this page or in the Related Links page of this website.