Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Ice Roads

Two years ago I had to explain to people what an ice road was, and they always remained a little incredulous that a thoroughfare constructed out of the frozen surface of a body of water was suitable for large transport trucks. Then there was a series on the Discovery channel about ice roads, and now I have to wonder if some southern Americans don't think that all roads in Canada are made on ice. The reality TV show about truckers driving on ice roads was very popular, but locals say that they didn't like the way the occupation was depicted as an extreme risk-taking activity, and might not consent to another season.

The ice road is wider than it strictly needs to be for the traffic it gets, but we speculated that clearing that width of insulating snow from the ice ensures a better base of deep ice to support the road. Of course no salt or sand is used on the road, and there are no painted lines. Vehicle handling was no different than good winter conditions on any road, with the benefit that there are no hills or sharp corners.

I like this sign because it graphically explains exactly what an ice road is. I'm still not sure you would really understand it if you didn't know, though. Try showing the picture to someone and see if they say it's a bridge or a ferry.

If you like northern scenery, and don't regularly read Dave's blog, you should have a look at his norther n lights pictures. He regularly bids Alaska night trips, and selects some beautful photos for us to see.

11 comments:

nec Timide said...

Ha, I'd recognize you anywhere. You haven't changed much since the California trip with the computer crew. The toque is very Great White North.

Doctor Pion said...

In northern Michigan, the same thing is often referred to as an "ice bridge" and, in a certain sense, it is a bridge.

By the way, the show was on the History Channel in the US in the heat of summer. They have expanded the genre to include loggers in the Pacific NW this spring.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if there are any equivalent "ice runways" that accommdate large aircraft?

MathFox said...

The Ice Runway is more south: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_Runway I don't think Aviatrix has been there.

I've used the canals (in Holland) to bike from school to home. The biggest problem with those "Ice bicycleroads" is breaking action: "miserable" gets close.
(Yes, the maximum load on an ice road is dependent on ice quality and thickness.)

Lord Hutton said...

Didnt there used to be an ice railway across Lake Baikal?

nec Timide said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
nec Timide said...

This time with correct spelling.
There are also ice runways in Alton Bay NH and Montebello PQ, though much smaller than mathfox's link. Worth looking into if landing on ice is an experience you're looking for. Sadly not till next winter now.

Matt said...

It's really fun to take an OnStar equipped vehicle onto an ice road and then call up OnStar and ask them for directions. Stumps them everytime.

Aviatrix said...

Yellowknife has ice runways too, but I think the largest aircraft using them are about 12,500 lbs. The main airport has nice paved, lit runways with a control tower, so only the airplanes of one company uses the ice runways.

A Squared said...

Ice Runways are not uncommon on the North Slope of Alaska. I've landed on them with 100,000 lb airplanes. Some are merely plowed strips on frozen lakes, others are built on dry land by pumping water out onto the tundra.

CYOW + CYVR said...

At the other end of the world, at least two of the three runways that serve McMurdo Station in Antarctica are built on floating sea ice. The Americans have landed C-5s (MTOW: 381,000kg) on one of the sea ice runways.

I don't know if C-5s go in at full weight or if there are field-specific restrictions on MLW.