Sirius Rally Team

Getting 'Sirius' about Rallying

Day 6 – The Ice Road

On Friday morning we embarked on the portion of the trip that I had been dreaming of driving since 1998 – The Mackenzie Ice Road. I first heard about the Ice Road from a friend of mine named Chris Donald. In 1986 he and a team took donated Jeeps from Chrysler to Tuktoyaktuk and back to Vancouver for Expo 86. It was Chris’ stories that got me interested in the trek which then led me on to the Alcan 5000.

Leaving from Inuvik well before dawn, we drove down the boat launch of the Mackenzie River and turned right towards the Arctic Ocean. Shortly after leaving town we passed large tug boats, supply ships and barges frozen in the very river that we were driving on. Our visibility was unlimited and we could see the riverbanks until we left the river delta and veered northwest on the Beaufort Sea along the northern shores of the Northwest Territories.

The ice road seemed to get rougher as we changed from fresh water ice to sea water ice. The cracking in the ice was more prominent. Unfortunately the ice claimed one tire on car 19 and one tire on car 14 who also sustained injury to two struts.

Just as we had left Inuvik, we drove up the boat launch in Tuktoyaktuk. The sun was just rising as we arrived, filling the horizon with soft orange light. We explored the Hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk for about an hour, taking lots of photos and searching for a place to buy Tuktoyaktuk University t-shirts, or more commonly worded “Tuk U”. The only place that sold them in Tuktoyaktuk was the RCMP Detachment and apparently they weren’t open for a few more hours. Fortunately I was able to find some in Inuvik at the Inuvialuit Regional Office.

When we left Tuktoyaktuk, we were amazed to see how fast the weather conditions changed. The visibility changed from unlimited to less than 100 feet. Apparently Tuktoyaktuk was expecting blizzard conditions later that evening. By the time we got back on to the Mackenzie River, the visibility opened up all the way back to Inuvik. We got a short glimpse of just how arduous winter road travel can be and it gave us an appreciation of the people who live and work in these remote communities.

This 109 mile ice road is a vital link to Aklavik, Tuktoyaktuk and numerous oil and gas operations staging from Tuktoyaktuk. The ice road is open from mid December to late April on average with the record late opening on February 15 1988 and the record early closing on April 15, 1998. According to the Northwest Territories Transportation, the bearing capacity of the ice was posted as 64,000 kg which amounts to an ice thickness of 126 cm. By the same formula, our vehicle needed only 20 cm of ice thickness not including other factors such as ice types and cracking.

Our trip is now past the halfway point and we are southbound from here on in.



February 23, 2008 - Posted by | 2008 Winter Alcan 5000, Alcan Car 17 the rex

1 Comment »

  1. Hi
    We really enjoyed your account of the most northern part of
    the journey. What an amazing part of the world!
    Have a safe journey back south,Team Sirius.

    Comment by Marg Ryall | February 23, 2008 | Reply

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