Ice Roads of Canada – Page 2

NUNA LOGISTICS,
A WELL EXPERIENCED ROAD BUILDER IN THE FAR NORTH.

In the beginning of the season exploratory crews go out to mark the route, take ice thickness measurements, and depth soundings. The modern way of building these roads is to have extraordinary tools to work with, such as airplanes, helicopters, and the most up to date electronic sensing devices available.

Not all of the work is totally robotic. Men have to still get out and drill pilot holes in the ice for various reasons. There is one advancement, at least the auger is motorized now, saving the operator the hard labour of twisting the auger down into the ice by hand.
A fleet of trucks wait in anticipation for the final testing approval, before being allowed to proceed onto the ice.

SAFETY TAKES PRECEDENT OVER ANYTHING ELSE, AND NO ONE MOVES WITHOUT COMPANY APPROVAL, AND CONTROL.

 

Once the OK to proceed has been given, the convoy is spread out for ice loading safety.

The speed is strictly controlled at a slow pace by officers from SECURECHECK, who patrol the road and are  equipped with radar speed detectors as well as emergency equipment.
An unseen danger is that as a heavy truck moves, the ice under the weight of the truck bends, and creates an under water wave. We all know that water does not compress. The force of the wave may come to a weak spot in the ice (crack) and the pressure may cause a blow-out. (like an underwater mine explosion) Equipment has gone to the bottom before, and some operators have not been so lucky as to survive. Hence the strict SAFETY CODE.
 
  
 

Freight moves over the road 24 hours a day while the weather permits it. There is only a 2 month window to get a years supplies transported into the mines.

 

NOTE, — If a driver does not like, or can not control his speed over the ice at 25 km (15 mph) or the posted speed, for hours and hours at a time, this is no place for him to be. Safety is paramount, and it could mean a life and death situation. This is no place for the impatient turnpike hot-rodder. On the ice roads, speed really does KILL.

SNOW STORM, THEN PLOW. SNOW STORM, THEN PLOW AGAIN.

When conditions get a bit rough and the wind is determined to close the road, the road crew moves in and takes control. They are on call 24/7.

There are times where the ice is not quite thick enough or a break has been discovered. A hole is then drilled down to the water, and is then pumped up and onto the surface. The water freezes, sealing cracks and building up the thickness. I have seen where small

stripped trees and branches have been laid out on the ice, and water has been pumped over them and left to freeze. These when frozen in, act as a reinforcing bar. (rebar) Other times steel cable or steel mesh has been frozen into the ice to reinforce areas where water under the ice is constantly moving, such as in a narrows.


One of the most dangerous places for the truck to travel, is approaching a shoreline portage. With the wave under the ice moving ahead of the truck and approaching the shallows of the shoreline, the hydraulic effect of the wave can lift and blow-out the ice. The truck must approach this point at a very slow speed. The approach to and from the portage onto the ice is usually at an angle. # 1,– when coming on shore, the angle of the approach will redirect the wave off to and down the shoreline, safely dispersing the pressure. # 2, — the hard angle coming onto the ice makes the trucks slow right down for the curve, making sure that the transition to the lake ice is slow and easy. A MAJOR SAFETY FACTOR.


The modern day Ice Road is the winter turnpike of the Canadian far North Country. This particular destination is to supply the new DIAMOND MINES. There is a window of about 2 months to transport a years worth of supplies. It takes a special kind of trucker to operate in this environment, and Canada has some of the best in the world. 
These photos of the Ice Road would leave one to believe that you could drive over a hundred km an hour with no obstruction (including cops. WRONG,) Bad thought; 30 km is still maximum speed, or less as posted. You have to remember that you are on Ice and there are hundreds of feet (Metres) beneath the ice, and speed can mean life or death. Not by hitting something, but by aggravating the ice integrity, forcing it to break up and drop the vehicle into the cold wet grave below.

Can you imagine heavy loads such as these, being transported over Ice Roads ? The truck drivers must have nerves of steel (or none at all) to haul freight over lakes of hard water. Just think for a moment, would you do it, knowing that it is a long way down to the bottom of the lake?

(Possibly a one way trip with little or no warning.)


This job is not all hearts and flowers, and certainly not without it’s downtime or obstacles. Working on a truck at 30 below zero is like a brain surgeon operating on a patient wearing boxing gloves. Day or night, the drivers of the Canadian North make it work, and get the job done.

One mine site, summer and winter. The summer photo shows why the winter Ice Roads are so important. Summer access is non existent, other than the air strip, where the transportation cost would be prohibitive.

With the mines well stocked up with another year of supplies, the truckers and Ice Road builders can rest easy until next winter. Without the builders, and the truckers that work these roads, there would be no pot at the end of the rainbow. — Diesel Gypsy.

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