Skip to content

Rocket Range

January 29, 2012

Scenes from Northern Summers (4)

Anywhere you stand in the Bird Cove area of the Hudson Bay coast, the  ruins of the Churchill Research Range dominate the horizon. This relic of the great push in Canada and the United States for government-funded scientific research in the 1950s was created as an outcome of the International Geophysical Year (IGY), as scientists sought to understand the atmosphere of the Arctic region.

Largely abandoned as a research facility since the 1980s, much of the range is slowly disintegrating thanks to the brutal winds and weather. The sole exception is the operations building, which has been taken over and re-tasked by the Churchill Northern Studies Centre.

I have seen the range decay considerably through the years I have travelled to Churchill since 1996; these images are from the latest visit in 2010. It should probably be saved for historic and tourism reasons, but how could this ever be accomplished in our modern era?

Wonderful derelicts are parked all over the Range.

The area teems with wildlife; the hare in the foreground was one of a family that lived beside the Study Centre.

Note (added 2014): Here is a link to some great historic photos provided courtesy of Steve Brandy.


© Graham Young, 2012

13 Comments leave one →
  1. David Greenwood permalink
    January 29, 2012 6:11 pm

    Hi Graham

    A sad reflection of how politicians now make decisions based on a narrow window of time, and not time horizons that span generations.

    In the mid 1980s I once visited the remnants of the British-Australia attempt to join the space race / nuclear testing from the 1950-1960s in the South Australian desert. They launched experimental rockets and low-orbit space probes … and exploded the occasional atomic bomb. Like you show here from northern MB, all that was left in South Australia’s desert was decaying abandoned buildings and rusting vehicles amidst a sparse wilderness. Thankfully no atomic bombs were exploded in the Canadian wilderness.


  2. Peter Lee permalink
    January 29, 2012 7:15 pm

    Very nice Graham! Must have been an exciting place in its day. PL

  3. February 9, 2012 12:59 pm

    That’s really fascinating. So much I don’t know about Canada.
    Those style of buildings really appeal to me, it would be nice to see them preserved.

    • Graham permalink*
      February 9, 2012 1:06 pm

      Thank you. You are quite right, but so many significant buildings in out-of-the way places are allowed to quietly crumble; I think that the government’s priorities are driven by money and tourism. On the positive side, the Churchill Northern Studies Centre is doing great work with the one large building they have saved; I will do a post about it at some point.

  4. February 9, 2012 1:08 pm

    Graham your blog is fantastic, so happy to have found it!

    • Graham permalink*
      February 9, 2012 1:14 pm

      Thank you, Karen, I felt the same way when I found yours. There are so many photographers doing blogs these days, but it is only rarely that I see one I consider outstanding.

  5. David Greenwood permalink
    February 11, 2012 3:53 pm

    Its the imagery that draws me in. Of course, I also share Graham’s love of fossils! But Karen’s images (on her site) are wonderful too.

    • February 12, 2012 11:25 am

      David, I confess to being a (layman) fossil lover also, and a lover rocks in general and Grahams images are beautiful. And thank you..

  6. Steve Brandy permalink
    April 17, 2014 1:01 pm

    There is great beauty in the orange lichens upon the glacially flattened basalt rocks in some of the photos. The rocket range was indeed a very active place from the late 50s and all through the 1960s. My father was in charge of it through the late 1960s. NRC has recently featured a great number of black and white photos from the 60s, showing various rockets being launched from these now progressively ruined buildings. These can be found at:

    Many many thanks to Graham Young for these beautiful photos!

    • Graham permalink*
      April 20, 2014 10:09 pm

      Steve, thank you for your kind comment!

      • Steve Brandy permalink
        April 22, 2014 1:10 pm

        Hi Graham! The orange lichen in the last photo caught my attention…. I missed the hare in summer colours however…. despite the caption. Their camouflage is indeed effective. The hare has found something to eat and I remember eating some of the things in the area. Blueberries and Gooseberries were both delicious and quite edible. Foxberries and Crowberries were not at all interesting (bitter and perhaps toxic) and us kids left them well alone. There were orchids in the shelter of some of the basalt as well as ground hugging willows and other flowering plants. I fear that the link I placed in my first response was ineffective. My e-mail address is: If you send me an e-mail I can paste the link to it.

        Much peace


      • Graham permalink*
        April 22, 2014 5:22 pm

        Thanks Steve, I am sending you a message. By the way, the hard bedrock at Churchill is actually a quartzite (technically a metagreywacke) rather than a basalt. It has a somewhat similar dark appearance, but quite a different genesis.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: