The Churchill Northern Studies Centre (CNSC) is a facility dedicated to arctic research and education. The Centre serves as research station that provides accommodations, food, basic laboratory facilities, and other logistics. In addition to research, the Centre is host to Elderhostel and its own learning vacation programs.
The CNCS is housed in an abandon U.S. and Canadian aurora borealis research facility that was run by NASA. The research conducted used rocketry and the area is pockmarked by craters and debris from rockets falling to earth.
Located near the 58th parallel, the area is considered sub-arctic. However, researchers value this area because it is at the confluence of three major eco-systems: tundra and permafrost, boreal forest, and the marine environment of Hudson Bay.
During our time here, there will be up to 40 researchers conducting studies on a broad range of topics. At the same time, there are 40 students taking a university field course or participating in Earth Watch activities. Later, there will be a learning vacation group coming to see beluga whales.
We’re volunteering in support of the Centre by providing general labor in a variety of activities, primarily in the kitchen. In return for 36 hours/week of labor, we get free room and board and the opportunity to spend time in the field with the researchers (which is a real treat). In addition, the Centre has arranged a special tour for us to see beluga whales and Karen has been invited to join a tundra buggy tour on her next day off.
The area around the Centre is a mix of boreal forest and tundra. There are many ponds and flooded areas from all the rains. Summer is about three weeks late – many of the spring flowers are blooming now, many of the baby birds are just hatching, and the ice is still melting in Hudson Bay.
We highly recommend taking one of their learning vacations or volunteering for this worthwhile cause. Just know that Churchill is remote, the CNSC is 25 kilometers from town, there is limited to no transportation, and you just can’t go for a walk, run, or bike ride due to the polar bears. You’ll live in dorm rooms with bunk beds and eat in a common dining room. But if you want to experience the far north in a sub-arctic environment, experience life in a true research station, and chat with researchers from all over Canada and some from the U.S….. this is a great adventure.
And, yes, if you volunteer…… you do have to wash dishes…. lots of dishes!!!!!