Ron Carlson Arctic Expeditions

Ron Carlson Arctic Expeditions
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Sunday, June 5, 2011

First Stop - Churchill, Manitoba

Landed here in Churchill Thursday, June 2nd, at 5pm.  With great tail winds, it was record time for me in the Beaver.  On other trips, with huge headwinds and this plane only pushing 100 knot air speeds, I have been known to sometimes fly backwards.  But I love this bird, it's such a tank.

Taxiing to ramp after landing at Lakeland Airport, northern Wiscconsin.
Initially left Chicago to spend Memorial weekend up in northern Wisconsin with the family. - and to make final tweaks and preparations.  Had an interview just before departing with NBC at Campbell Airport.

Also had just recovered from some tail wheel issues related to a bad shimmy, which had caused some structural pain.  But thanks to a lot of people rallying, we turned around a 30 day job in 4 days, round the clock.

NBC interview at Campbell Airport
So, departed at 9am this last Thursday morning, June 2nd, IFR from Lakeland Airport in Arbor Vitae Wisconsin, a few miles  away from where we have a lake home - "Kodiak Lodge", on Fence Lake, Lac du Flambeau chain.  After a quick 2 hour flight, cleared customs smoothly in Fort Frances, after averaging tailwinds of 30 knots, at 8,000 feet.

Had a very close call from the Fort en route to Red Lake, my second stop.  At about 100  miles into the flight, cruising at 4,500 VFR, I observed a very long black thin line stretching across almost my entire windscreen at 12 o'clock.  I determined that it was a formation of geese, actually the largest goose group I have ever seen from land or air.  No big deal as I began a slow descent.  However, not fast enough as  in no time, within 200 or 300 feet, a pod of maybe 30 or 40 geese of what was probably a good 200 to 250 in total formation number, panicked and scatted in all directions, with many of them diving down straight at me.  I had to yank power to idle and nose over spiral turning around 60 degrees down.  Two of these birds just missed me over the top of my right wing, and whizzed by.

There was probably a speed rate of convergence of at least 150 miles an hour, so a bird strike of this magnitude would have probably resulted in structural damage or the "bird through the windshield" thing.  Funny, I always scoffed at the movie "The Edge" when the geese took the Beaver down.  Like how could you hit them?  I am now a believer.  I have never had a bird strike in 2,000 hours of flight time.  Luckily my geese here were the traditional Canadian type.  You can see them very easily in a white cloud sky.  If I was farther north and it were snow geese, I probably would not have been as fortunate.

During landing at Red Lake had a tough go of it.  Massive 90 degree crosswind and lot's of wind shear coming in runway 08; it started as a perfect two wheel landing tail up....which is what I prefer at airport  landings 100%.  I was loaded heavy so I came in fast with less flaps -  then pretty bad turbulence/shear...and it wasn't a pretty set down.  Took a quick fuel turn and loaded all my tanks.  With this tailwind, I figured i could skip Gillam and fly direct to Churchill.  The tailwinds actually picked up and escalated, so I made Churchill in under 4 hours.  

Red Lake to Churchill.  June 2, 2011, Tundra = SWAMP

After the first hour north of Red Lake most of the trees were now gone and it was pure tundra.  The only discomfort was looking down the whole way and never seeing anywhere to land with my big tundra tires.  That's because of the very wet year, the melt - the tundra was  nothing but a deep SWAMP.  100 miles south of Churchill I angled towards the railroad tracks and stayed within 5 miles parallel, just in never know.

Welcome to the Arctic: Friday and Saturday the weather turned to normal Churchill -
Base to final - Runway 25, Churchill
Winds gusting 50 knots from the NW (the left).  Note the wing lifting.
20's and 30's F and 30 to 50 knot winds from the northwest, with blowing sleet and snow.  I was careful to secure the plane, but it was not good enough.  

Yesterday afternoon the winds really picked up  and started gusting from the northwest and it moved the tail several feet and was trying to flip the plane.

No tie downs here, just concrete tubs that slide around the wet pavement.  After securing more tubs, I went searching in the tundra and came up with some odd scrap  to use as additional wheel chocks.  Train rails, big metal sprockets and gears.  There is scrap metal chunks of every size and type laying everywhere in the tundra around here - it's like Mad Max.

Augmented my regular wheel chocks with scrap iron chunks.
When I get to Cambridge Bay, that ramp is gravel so I can use my hammer drill and generator; pounding in my home made three foot long 3/4" threaded tie down rods.  The plane won't move an inch there.

Will see what happens in the next week or two.  Supposed to hear yea or nae on the final permit to do this mission.  If I am turned down for some reason, have much to do here.   Investigating inaccessible abandoned Hudson's Bay Company trading posts sounds the one I found in year 2000 far out west of here.  Or maybe a flight up to Marble Island to see in the flesh the ruins of the doomed Knight expedition of 1700's fame.  Probably too many boulders there for a tundra tires landing, but I may just have a look see.  Weather is supposed to be clearing somewhat mid next week so planning to go into the bush for sure.  Will write more in the next day or two on present goings on - today was hiking  the  coast watching for polar bears.  It's still a little early here for that, but just might see an "early bird".  However, in 3 or 4 weeks, it will be swarming at Churchill with the white bear.  The pack ice is near to break.


  1. Stay safe, Ron!

    Thanks for keeping us all informed. I wish you all the best of luck with your search. If I can help you with anything from here in the UK, just let me know.


  2. Thanks for all of the detail in your updates. Keep us posted and good luck.


  3. Adventure every step of the way! Thanks so much for keeping us up to speed on your journey!