by Nolan Booth, Director of Lodge Operations, Churchill Wild
First we had to plan and organize all the building materials, which included lumber, timber frame, plumbing, electrical supplies, solar panels, inverters, a 45 kW generator and more. Then we had to find a way to haul it 110 nautical miles from Gillam to Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, along with two construction crews and even more helpers.
After that we could start building the brand new state-of-the-art 24 x 60 shop with a triple phase electrical system. Once the shop was complete we could start on the new Nanuk lounge and dining hall that will be attached to one of the existing buildings and completely renovated into a new kitchen.
Albert, Vinnie and myself were on the apron of the Gillam runway when the bright yellow Bassler BT67 from Cargo North coasted in and rolled to a stop. The modified DC-3 has been stretched approximately 10 feet and has had its power converted from an old radial engine to brand new turbine engines that can haul over 10,000 pounds. Everything from stacks of lumber to the Tundra Rhino were going to fit on this plane.
The Tundra Rhino was custom built by Stewart Reimer to travel the coastline and move up to eight guests at a time. It was 8-wheeler when we started loading and a 2-wheeler by the time we were done, but it fit! We also had less than an inch of space left when the loader put the generator through the door.
With a crew of three including myself in Gillam, a front-end loader; the pilot, co-pilot-worker, engineer-worker and another helper; Riley, Karli and four more helpers on the ground at Nanuk; the hauling began. Load after load after load for a total of 18.
Fourteen-hour days ensued and we managed to complete the task of hauling everything in over five days. The only downside to having a plane as large as the modified DC3 that did the hauling was the fact that our runway is only 3,000 feet long and 120 feet wide, which left nowhere for the plane to turn around. We came up with a fun solution for that. See video below.
We are now one month into the project. The shop is built, the power system overhaul is complete and includes 16 235 W solar panels that deliver 4000 W of charging power to the 48-volt battery bank. We also have an eco-friendly 45 kW diesel generator as backup, but the generator rarely runs due to the ample solar power.
The floor is built for the new lounge and the erection of the timber frame has begun. Stewart Reimer is in camp with his trusty helper Ryan and they are working on a list of mechanical repairs an Indy pit crew could not complete in the timeframe I’ve given them: Retro-fit the guest trailers; get the Tundra Rhino up and running; perform maintenance on all five quads; move a bunch of buildings; get the CAT running and clean up the runway.
And it’s all getting done!
We’ve had four-legged visitors almost every day. Seems all the animals on the coast and in the forest want to know what is going on. The workers have to be weary by now of the two polar bears at camp posing for pictures, and I counted at least six more polar bears within 10 km of us during our flight out to Gilliam.
There have been multiple black bears on site and Ivan recently got us all up from coffee to check out two 6-foot tall yearling moose twins standing beside a pile of lumber. Riel also managed to call a young black wolf right up to the fence.
There are never ending chirps to wake us at 4:30 a.m. so we are never late getting started. And the weasels and bunnies are a common site all through the evening as we sit outside enjoying the smell of the fresh salt air.
But enough chit-chat for now, there are things to do. We have an incredible combination of crew and family working on this project, doing what they love to do. By the end of August, when the first guests arrive at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, we will have a very special experience waiting for them.
Something that only Churchill Wild can provide.