by Nolan Booth, Director of Lodge Operations, Churchill Wild
Saturday August 30, 2 p.m. Allison Reimer and I are doing our rounds, checking on guest quarters, cleaning and tweaking the common areas at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, when out of the blue we hear engines in the air.
A little white and teal plane circles the Lodge a few times, lines up with our strip, and comes in from the west, rolling to a stop just metres from the front gate. Keeping in mind we are 120 nautical miles from civilization and the closest inhabitants at this time of year may be at a lodge 50 miles to the east of us, seeing a plane on this remote piece of the Hudson Bay coast is not a very common occurrence.
Our new guest is the lone occupant and pilot of the Husky Aviat A1B, and goes by the name of Thorsten. Turns out he’s a pilot for a large German airline flying 747s at 30,000 feet, and this little Husky is his way of getting away from it all.
Thorsten is a lot like the rest of us out here when it comes to his love of wildlife and the urge to get away from it all. I invite him to join us for the night, but there are a few small matters to be taken care of before that can happen.
His plane needs to be protected from not only the winds, but also from the 800 pound polar bear that has decided to hang around on the runway eating berries and smiling for our guests’ clicking shutters.
Thorsten gets to tying down the plane I gather some bear boards, and we set up an electric fence perimeter. We have a great evening with the guests, and an after-dinner slide show from one of our leaders and an unbelievable Northern lights show later in the evening. The next morning, after everyone is filled up with coffee and a delectable breakfast, they head out east on the lookout for more of the big white bears.
Thorsten offers to take Chas up for a few aerial photos of the Lodge, more difficult than you might think though, in the little two-seater plane. After we get Chas belted in we pile in multiple cameras and a few more lenses for good measure. Up they go, windows and doors wide open and the breeze blasting through Chas’s hair. An hour and a half later they return and the photos are astounding.
They tracked down our Rhino’s full of guests and took some great shots with bears and guests. They also found a multitude of other wildlife spread over approximately 30 miles of coastline east of the Lodge. Churchill Wild now has great aerial shots of wolves, a lone Caribou, and numerous bears just doing their thing. The guys even managed to find some moose on the creek just west of the Lodge.
Thorsten also did numerous low level fly-bys of our property, and we now have a number of great shots of the new Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge and compound.
With most of the day gone and a weather front moving, we decided to keep Thorsten for one more night. He had started the day out at Reindeer Lake, stopped in Gillam, and was headed for Pickle Lake, Ontario, with his final destination being Vermont, USA, but after we burned all his fuel he decided to head to Gillam the next morning to refuel and take a more direct route to Pickle Lake.
Thank you Thorsten, for the stories you shared, and for photographs we will always cherish.