Saturday, March 15, 2008



This post should have been released in early January when I wrote It, I forgot I had it, It might be a little rough. I have released as I found it.

Its WInter, that is not news. But it is deep winter and that means it is road season. I was watering the snow flowers the other morning at some point during dawn. As I stood facing Winter lake, I spotted a flash out on the ice. And a thought crossed my mind. It is not a new thought its seasonal. The thought is that this place is more isolated during the summer then during the winter.

The last few days have seen some new visitors. Residents in fact. As part of a contract we host a portion of RTL's road construction crews. We host them and in return the return road passes by our camp. This gives us access to the outside world at a tiny fraction of the cost of having to order a ice road build specifically for this camp. So now we have some new faces and some old ones from last year.

To accompany the new faces is an small armada of heavy machinery. Wolverines, Hinderbrands, a few different style of snow cats, machines never seen south of 60.

Road building out here is very different form southern latitudes. Gone is the compacted gravel, the hot tar and graders. Instead there are snow, plows of various grades, fro braking trail or for establishing a usable road. Hot tar is replaced with water. Rather then binding loose bits of gravel with a nearly liquid heavy oil product, the road is strengthened and smoothed with ice.

Where the ice is less then the full thickness, but temperatures low, water is pumped from the lake on to the road surface. This flood ice is not as strong as natural ice but the addition of extra inches more then covers for the slight weakness of the flood ice.

(Science Geek Moment). The trouble with waiting for the ice to thicken naturally is that ice is an insulator. In order for the ice to thicken, the energy of the water, underneath it has to be released to the surface before the water can cool enough to freeze. But because ice can not convect, being solid, heat can only move all be it slowly through conduction or radiation. The result the thicker the ice the better the insulation and the colder it has to get for the ice to get any thicker. Add snow to the mix and insolation gets even better and the ice thinner for a given temperature.

By pumping the water to the surface, its heat can be dumped strait into the air. With out the insolation of the overlaying ice it freezes quickly. Off of the lakes water is also used to improve the ice roads.

On the portages, which with the exclusion of a few miles of road near Yellowknife the portages are not perminent lengths of road. Rather the portages are trails cut out of the bush, the route can change from year to year. Without permanence these trails are rough. Which is where the water trucks come in. Rough portages are flooded this solidifies the trail. The compacted snow and ice obscures many of the bumps.

After all this work and thermodymanics we are a couple hours from town. This lets us have visitors. Today we were visited by someone from the propane company, in a effort to keep our supply from liquifying and killing the heat and hot water at camp.

No comments: