Wherever you are, I’m sure it’s more like spring there than it is here. But that said, it’s only been minus-single-digits for the last few days and things are starting to melt! The snow on the roads is slowly disappearing, which I’m happy about except the fact that it’s muddy and messy and we have a white truck.. D’oh!
A week or so ago a friend of mine posted an epic picture to her Facebook of her sitting on an ice road on top of a huge crack in the ice. Naturally I immediately wanted to go see this cracked ice road (safe, right?) so Chris and I headed out to Prosperous Lake where she got the photo.
It’s easy to tell when the diamond mine ice roads open because the Ingraham Trail is suddenly extremely busy with enormous trucks just flying in and out of Yellowknife. There are two ice roads off the Ingraham Trail, the Tibbitt to Contwoyto winter road (way out at the end of the Ingraham Trail) and the Gibbs Lake to Prosperous Lake secondary road. The Tibbitt-Contwoyto winter road has 65 land portages and 85% of the road is built over frozen lakes. And thanks to this winter being the coldest in 20 years, the ice road opened at 34 inches thick, 6 inches more than what was expected. So, apparently there was one upside to this winter being so ridiculously freezing cold.
This year, according to Diavik, the goal of these ice roads was to “transport approximately 3,500 loads of fuel, cement, and other operations’ supplies”, mainly diesel fuel. The winter roads need to be 41 inches thick for the mines to use it at full tilt, which they say is four trucks dispatched at 20-minute intervals with a speed limit of 25km/hr, to keep the space between the trucks adequate to prevent scary things like, you know, trucks going through the ice.
This photo came from an article on the risks of “hard water highways”, found here.
The greatest thing about these winter roads which I just learned is that they employ around 800 people a season, 500 of those being drivers alone. Obviously building and maintaining a 400-km ice road is no easy task but I had no idea that it was THIS huge.
So while we were out on the Prosperous ice road, we found the epic fractures with ease. In fact, the road was covered in enormous cracks as wide and as deep as your arm, or bigger. I guess you could say the fear of standing on frozen water has worn off when you’re staring down a huge chasm in the ice you’re standing on.
Once we got over the initial shock of the cracks, we kept driving and saw a water truck in the middle of the road pouring water into the huge openings to seal them shut. Again, this is something I never really thought about, the fact that the roads must be maintained in good condition to be driveable. So this guy literally just aims the valve in the general area of the crack and dumps tons of water inside it.
We watched him for a little while, and then once he passed us, we hopped out and I got a short little video of the ice popping and snapping. At one point the ice settled with a huge pop, which you’ll notice when you hear us yelping! The ice roads are so cool. Despite the novelty wearing off a little, when you’re driving over them and start to think about the fact that you’re driving on ice, you can’t help but feel a little humbled.
Also, a piece of the Prosperous ice road has made its way onto our patio. Makes for a great deck ornament! And now I can say I have lakefront property. :)