|The Ice Road to Tuktoyaktuk
March 24, 2009
One of my dreams (not shared by Jackie) was to drive the Ice Road to Tuktoyaktuk.
Tuktoyaktuk, (Inuvialuktun: it looks like a caribou), is an Inuvialuit hamlet located on the shore of the Arctic Ocean
near the mouth of the Mackenzie River. According to legend, a woman looked on as some caribou, common at the site,
waded into the water and turned into stone. Today, reefs resembling petrified caribou are said to be visible at low tide
along the shore of the town. The settlement has been used by the native Inuvialuit for centuries as a place to harvest
caribou and beluga whales.
As of the 2006 census, Tuktoyaktuk has a population of 870, down 6.5% from the 2001 Census total of 930. There are
274 private dwellings.
Our drive up the Mackenzie River began
at 9:30 a.m.
The ice road is very wide. The snow is
plowed constantly for two reasons. First to
provide a good surface for motor vehicles.
Second, the ice stays colder when the
snow is removed from the surface.
Sometimes, when the road becomes too
rough or hazardous, a new route is plowed.
Since we were on a river, we thought we would try paddling, but we did not last long or get very far. As you can see, the
snow was blowing and the temperature was below minus 25 centigrade. Also, since we had to dress for the warmer cab
as well as the outside, we tended to be under dressed when we went outside.
Left, two eighteen wheelers come up the
road. They are required to stay a safe
distance apart and drive slowly as the truck
vibrations can create waves which crack the
ice. This is the road featured on the
television show Ice Truckers. Sadly, there is
little "reality" to this reality TV show.
Most ice truck drivers are quiet unassuming
people, nothing like the macho characters
who appear on the TV show.
We drove three hours and 110 miles to Tuktoyaktuk. The first 70 miles
were on the Mackenzie River, and the last 40 miles were on the Arctic
The hamlet is located right on the Arctic Ocean.
In Tuk, we met our local native guide, John, who took us to his
house for lunch. Left, John tells Christoph that we will be eating:
Moose Stew, Bannock, and trout.
After lunch, John took us on a tour of the hamlet including the
Ice House. Jackie had wanted very much to visit the Ice House.
But when she found out that it entailed entering a very small
building and climbing vertical down 60 feet on an icy ladder,
she decided that she did not want to go down into the cramped
quarters below. Perma Frost keeps the Ice House cold year
Virtually every house in Tuk has at
least one dog.
One amusing thing about the ice road is that we were driving down a channel of the Mackenzie River (the second
largest river in North America by volume). As a result, we saw numerous channel markers for the barges which go up
and down the river each summer. The captain of the tug must line up the two markers in order not to ground in shallow
The year 2009 has not been a good year to observe the Aurora as a result of low sun spot activity. In Whitehorse and
Dawson, seeing the Aurora was made more complicated by cloudy nights. However, in Inuvik, our luck changed and we
were dazzled our first night with spectacular auroras. Below you can see the outline of a corner of our cabin.