Ice Roads

The Northern Territories & Provinces of Canada have a unique winter trucking program that is unparalleled in the world. In the harsh environment of -30 to -70 degrees Fahrenheit below zero, (not counting any wind chill factor) men build highways of ice into the Arctic Tundra.

I must mention here in this day and age of metric, -40 below Zero is the same in Fahrenheit or Celsius (Centigrade). No matter how you look at it, it is damn cold and you can freeze your butt off in a flash.

The reason for this seasonal highway is to supply the isolated mining camps, (Precious metals, and the new Northern Diamond fields). With no roads possible in the other 3 seasons, the only other way to transport equipment and supplies into these camps is by air, at a horrendous cost.

During a short period of a few months in the winter, when the muskeg and lakes are frozen over, it is possible to build a frozen roadway to transport a years supply of equipment, food and the necessities of life, at a more practical, reasonable cost. Anyone with stock shares in these mining ventures, owe the ice men of the north for the extra profits gained.

We all owe this phenomena to an ex-Mountie, (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) named JOHN DENISON, who is also known as the father of the Northern Ice Roads.

John Denison and his crew waited for the coldest, darkest days of winter every year to set out to build a 520-kilometre road made of ice and snow, from Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories to a silver mine on Great Bear Lake, above the Arctic Circle. In savage blizzards, blinding whiteouts and 60-below zero temperatures, steel axles snap like twigs; brakes and steering wheels seize up; bare hands freeze when they touch metal. The lake ice cracks and sometimes gives way, so the roadbuilders drive with one hand on the door, ready to jump. That’s the way it was in the beginning.

After John retired, others began to replace him and carry on with the ice road project.

Since John Denison’s time pioneering the opening of the north to trucking, it has made a dramatic progression. Today, technology has taken over and made the ice road building a modern science. We must remember that without men like John Denison, we would not be where we are today.

Today there are a few companies that carry on with the winter road program, using modern technology and advanced equipment. Even with all of this great advancement, the dangers of the Northern weather conditions can still dictate life or death situations. Such as these photos show…………

Driving on thin ice.


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