ICE ROAD — Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk

        . . . Continued from page 2                                              < BACK

Long stretch of road near the Mackenzie River delta Long stretch of road near the Mackenzie River delta

The ice road on Beaufort Sea

A pingo rises from land on the Beaufort Sea delta.

The shoreline of Tuktoyaktuk on the horizonThe shoreline of Tuktoyaktuk on the horizon

The start of the ice road to Inuvik The start of the ice road to Inuvik

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The Ocean Coastline

Continued from page 2. . .

According to the Department of Transportation web site, the approximate length of the ice road between Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk is 185 kilometres. Throughout the trip the road surface was well maintained; no wildlife appeared , but there were plenty of tracks. The temperature that day bottomed out at minus 35 Celsius. Although ice is much less slippery at low temperature, it was still necessary to reduce speed to below 70 kilometres/hour, or risk smashing through the stout embankment of ploughed snow along the roadside. Research outposts (oil and gas) were passed along the way, but other than that, there was no indication of human settlement.

At the northern extremity of the North American continent, the Mackenzie River branches out to create a river delta that drains to the Beaufort Sea—a part of the Arctic Ocean shared by Canada and the United States. Approaching the Beaufort Sea coast, the banks of the river fade from view as the land flattens dramatically, barely rising above the level of the road; then the route turns eastward, spilling out on the Beaufort Sea.

In my case, upon reaching the mouth of the river, a dense coastal fog rolled in and the route was reduced to a snowy path barely marked with tire tracks. The fog continued to thicken as the land to the rear vanished; there were no landmarks in front.

After travelling 30 kilometres from the mouth of the Mackenzie River, the sun whisked the fog away, revealing clear blue skies and a featueless landscape of frozen Beaufort Sea. In the distance were gentle rises; known as pingos, these perfectly circular earth mounds are full of ice in winter and water in summer.

Past the pingoes a thin strip of land emerged on the horizon — the shores of Tuktoyatuk. Finally.

Continued. . .

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