On the Ice Road!
When was the last time you drove on an icy surface? Was it a quick trip to work last winter - Ok, so it took an hour - that seemed like the trip from hell (frozen over of course).
Now imagine driving on that slippery ice surface for 720 kilometres. That's what driving the Northern ice roads is like...
That's right we drove 720 kilometres on very slippery ice. As you can see from the pictures the road is very carefully cleared of snow - not so that you have no driving control - but to help the ice get thicker.
A closer look at the ice road...
By clearing the snow off the ice, the road area can be twice as thick as the ice a few feet away under the snow. The ice ranges in thickness from six to 12 feet!
Most of the road is on the Mackenzie River, but about 100 kilometres are actually on the Arctic Ocean. When on the ocean section of the road one must watch out for pressure ridges and to a lesser extent cracks where the ocean ice is moving.
By the way, have I mentioned how slippery the road is...
One of only two
warning signs on
the whole road...
and no one is quite
sure what it means
or why it is there!
A pressure ridge starting to form on the Arctic ocean part of the road.
After sitting in a warm truck for an hour or more with your boots close to the heater what do you think happens when you step out of the truck and stand still on the ice for a minute or two?
Yup, your boots thaw the ice a little before they cool down and then freeze solid to the road. You quickly learn to keep shuffling your feet until the boots are cool or you will be standing in your stocking feet (which will also freeze to the ice, unless you stand on your gloves) trying to pull your boots off the ice.
The road is cleared over 100 hundred feet wide. This is to allow for blowing and drifting snow to cover part of it before the next plowing and so that two heavily laden trucks can pass. The trucks are carrying huge often overweight loads and their weight depresses the ice a substantial amount . If two were to pass to closely to each other the ice could crack and they could go through it. If you are standing on the ice and a loaded truck goes by you can actually feel the ice dipping.
As well as the overflows we experienced on the snowmobiles they can happen on the road. If to much water gets on the surface of the ice they must reroute the road into another channel or onto a different ice-flow area.
See a couple of very recent pictures of the overflows that Greg was having to deal with just before breakup by clicking here.
On the shore side of the ice road - tugs and supply ships frozen in for the winter.
Along the way we got to try Arctic Sky-diving. Not something
for the faint of heart or those fearful of the cold.