November 3, 1998

Up early for North Star Tours to come to my house to pick me up for a tour of town.  Churchill is quite an interesting and diverse community.  The population seems to consist of First Nation people (native indians), the European-Canadian, and tourists of sorts.  The tour started at the Via Rail train station.  This is one of the two ways most people arrive.  The other is by air.  The train takes a couple of days from Winnipeg through boreal forests, then the tundra.  It doesn't go very fast either as the movement of the rails could damage the permafrost under the tracks.  From there, we headed past the Port of Churchill, where grain from the neighboring provinces is sent by rail.  The grain elevators load ships that arrive in the summer and early fall from Russia, Holland, and other foreign places.  Then to Cape Merry.  Very historic in the origins of Churchill and the Hudson Bay and the Hudson Bay Company.  This place is on a point of land across from the Prince of Wales Fort which was established for fur trade during past centuries.  The Churchill River runs past this area.  The river is freshwater, the bay is saltwater; and here you can see the two collide.  Ice is forming on the freshwater sections, but not on the water colliding from the salty bay.   While we were there, an arctic fox ran out from the gray wacky rocks that line the shore.  the rocks have lichen growing on them that could have been useful for the early explorers that did not ask the local native peoples  on survival techniques--the lichens are edible, and could have saved the lives of the early folk.  Samuel Hearne and his ship were here at one time as well.  We visited the St. Paul's Anglican Church which has services in two languages--English and Cree on Sundays.  The church is the first prefabricated building in Canada, and is over 100years old.  It has stained glass windows in it.  One of the windows is considered a national treasure as it was given by Lady Franklin in the 1800's to the Church in honor of the forty expeditions that searched for her missing husband while he was trying to find the northwest passage.  Then it was lunch time....at Gypsy's!  Had a hamburger, mmm.  During lunch, a couple of First Nation folk sat down with me at the table.  We had an interesting conversation.  One gentleman's brother was killed in 1983 by a polar bear, right here in town.  He has always had concern about people thinking that the bears are cute and cuddly.  This guy was 17 when this happened, and it happened right in front of him.  I knew that this wasn't a story, because while in the Parks Office on Monday, they showed me a report which had this all written up in it.  The situation took place late at night.  The man was carrying home some food, when suddenly the bear appeared and grabbed him by the neck and killed him.  The bear was destroyed (shot) a few minutes later still in town.  The man I was talking to said that it was late and there weren't the people about to be able to help immediately.  In this story, he wanted people to know what had happened and how dangerous these creatures really are.  We are planning to meet sometime next week for more information on the native population and to visit the cemetery.  Once the tour resumed, we went past the town dump--stories which you will find me recounting later in this diary.  Then to Miss Piggy.  This is an old cargo plane that crashed.  It happened because it had the rear wheel caught on an electric line.  The plane landed flat in the rocks by the bay.....no one injured.  This happened during the military presence that used to be here years ago. To add to the excitement of the day, we went to an area where there is a sled dog breeder.  As we approached, we noticed that the chains to the place were not unlocked.  Upon more careful observation, there were two polar bears sparing at a considerable distance away from us.  BUT TWO BEAR ALREADY!!  (see photos...they are a long way away).  Soon the tour was over.  Returned to Don's place for a bit of computer work (of which there seem to be some extreme mouse operation problems).  Headed off to the High School to try to establish contact as we were having some difficulty from home.  Met Bill VanRooy, a math, english, etc. teacher mostly of seventh grade.  We had a nice conversation and he invited me back for their in-service program they will have on Thursday.  Back at Don's, met some newcomers to the house for the night, then off with Ivo, a photographer/sound engineer, and has had his work published about polar bears in many european magazines.  We visited a couple of shops in town, then dinner at Gypsy's.