Permafrost springs upwards about an inch per millennia chronicling old shorelines and leaving nearby evidence of aboriginal settlements up to 3000 years old. In European exploration, Churchill is one of the oldest places in Canada. HBC’s – said to stand for ‘Here Before Christ’ – first outpost was built here in 1717. It was a stop in attempts to find the fabled Northwest Passage by explorers such as Samuel Hearne and Lord Churchill, former HBC governor and the town’s namesake.
Churchill’s strategic location was conducive to a military presence from 18th-century forts to Cold War listening bases and evacuation rendezvous. When the railway arrived in 1929 port access to Europe was closer than Montréal. Once the largest grain-handling port in the world, Churchill is Canada’s only prairie seaport, now under operation by Denver-based Omni-Trax.