We started our journey on Tuesday by searching for fitting rain boots and hoping for fewer bugs. After disembarking from the bus, one landmark that immediately grabbed our attention was an old shipwreck that had been long since emptied and left to the mercy of the elements. This ship, known as the Ithica, crashed onto the rocky shore over 50 years ago and had been stripped of anything useful. After taking plenty of photos from nearly every angle imaginable, we headed down the shore. Everyone soon realized that the small pebbles gradually transitioned into larger and larger stones. These stones, surrounded by arctic wintergreen and dreyfus, provided a firsthand example of “zonage.” These self-contained ecosystems become far more noticeable once we reached the tidal zone. The ground was populated by small ponds in nearly every direction that teemed with all sorts of life. One example of this diversity can be seen in the kelp. In these minuscule environments, two species of kelp had developed unique methods of self-preservation and feeding. Popweed, named for its distinctive sound when stepped on, contains air bubbles that help to keep it afloat and in an optimum position for sun absorption. Another called fucus used rocks to withstand the powerful tide. After taking all of this in, we made our way back and headed to the next destination.
Our next stop was an old battery located on the shore of the Churchill River. Following the standard polar bear warning signs, we made our way up a series of wooden stairs that led us to several flattened outcroppings of stone. These unique structures, according to the guide, were caused by a massive glacier that gradually weathered away at the stones until only a smooth surface remained. As we walked along the trail, several kinds of lichen were pointed out to us. Elegant starburst (orange), map (green), and rock tripe (black) all prominently displayed themselves on the surrounding boulders. After a brief hike, we reached a large cannon that was affixed to an old wall.This cannon, we were told, took five men to operate and could shoot a 24-pound cannonball across the river. Close to it, all that remained was the powder storing room. Making our way down the shore, we paused for a moment of silent contemplation before re-entering the bus.
For our final activity, we went on a walk to view the murals scattered around the town of Churchill. At each stop, the group was given a chance to interpret the artist’s message and statement. Some murals represented the ever-changing climate, and others portrayed the problems inherent to an isolated town like Churchill. The murals themselves were as diverse as their intended purposes. One that we visited was painted on the corner of an old worker’s apartment complex. Others were located on the sides of abandoned buildings and structures.
A mural that stood apart from the other works was painted on a crashed plane. The plane, affectionately called “Ms. Piggy,” was known for carrying oversized loads on the way into town. One Christmas Eve, the pilots had overloaded the plane and found themselves low on fuel. In an effort to land, the two headed for the power station but became hooked by a power line and fell straight down onto the rocks below. Miraculously, the two lived and made it to town that same day. The artist had painted skulls from both humans and animals all over the vehicle. These represented the stagnation and decay displayed in the plane and structures on the outskirts of town. With the analysis of the murals coming to a close, we returned to the bus and started the drive back to the station.