Friday, February 26, 2010

Tuk, Yellowknife, Pingo's, The Mackenzie River, and Rapids

Tuktoyaktuk, NT. Early September and the tundra is turning it's b-e-a-uuuuutiful red. I started this post off with the 4th picture so now I have added a few because it helps to paint the picture a little better. Tuk has about 900 or so people and is located on the Arctic Ocean. In the 70's it had a booming gas operation and today a lot of those structures are mostly dormant waiting the next big surge in gas prices. When you land in Tuk and look at your cell coverage you will be shocked to realize you actually have 1X service and your Blackberry will be fully functional. Slow downloads but what else can you as for in a town of 900 people in the middle of nowhere. It is hard to see in this picture but right south of town in the bay there is an old drilling platform. There is just the foundation today and nothing active is going on but still neat to see.

Not to be confused with a Dingo, these are called Pingo's. There is actually a National Park located here and there are many of these bad boys around but as far as I know these are the two biggest I have seen. They are essentially giant frost heaves of permafrost sticking out of a Kansas like flatness. I have yet to walk to the top but I hopefully will this summer and post new pictures from a different perspective.

This picture isn't enhanced very much, only to get to get rid of glare and darkened up a little. This was taken the first week in September and this colour only lasts for a few days and then it goes straight to brown. I consider myself lucky for being able to get a trip up here at the perfect time to see this and the picture turned out amazing ! I had to borrow someone's camera from Tuk as I had not taken mine and luckily it all worked out. In the bottom of the frame is a small boat and if you look at the full res version you will see two people on top of the Pingo. They were in Tuk filming for a documentary but so far I haven't seen myself on TV yet.

On final to the runway in Wekwetti (ICAO: CFJ2) (former name: Snare River) NT. Runway is the average size for up here around 3000 feet ish and is in great condition. Compared to experiencing the fall in the mid latitudes with all the colours of the leaves changing, up here it is mostly just yellow on the Aspen that you see but also a bright red on the ground. The bright red comes from small plants on the ground which I don't know the name of but they usually have berries associated and the colour is amazing. This is mid September so the leaves are on their way out and the land of the evergreen lives on for the winter.

This is a scene from my back yard...well I can see it from my backyard if I walk about 200 feet out the back door and around some other houses :) This is Frame Lake which is a small lake essentially right in the middle of Yellowknife. It has a walking path which is paved following the South shore where town is, and a marked trail around the North Shore. To walk all the way around it takes about an hour and a quarter. It is a very nice trail to walk as it is fairly hilly and offers many view points of town. The only time it isn't so good to walk on is late spring, (spring is about 3 days here) when the snow is melting and I near impaled myself on the rocks. Before I moved here every person I met who had been or lived here had nothing bad to say about it (except the length and temperatures of Winter). So far this winter has been awesome hitting only -40's a few times each month. Last year not so much. Since Westjet has started coming here the cost of getting here from Edmonton is dirt cheap (didn't say it was sustainable). Yellowknife is about 590 NM north of Edmonton so about 1 hr 20 min jet ride. If you are looking at driving that would add up to about 15 hours non stop driving plus a little wait at the ferry crossing at Fort Providence. That would be the reason aviation is probably so big up here :)

Looking at downtown from the NW side of Frame Lake trail. The recently rehabilitated the waterfront by City Hall and they did a very good job. Lots of place to sit and enjoy the scenery and lots of grass to play around on. Grass is a commodity up here let me tell ya ! The big glass building on the left is the JTFN (Military geek squad for Joint Task Force North). The have the cheapest beer at any mess in I have heard. To the right of the that is the RCMP G Division HQ building and beside that is City Hall. For a town with 20,000 people it sure has a lot of high rise building but land is at a premium here because if you want to build something your gonna spend a lot of cash blasting the rock out of the way first.

45 minutes east of Yellowknife on the Ingram Trail, you will find Cameron Falls. It isn't no Niagara, but as you can see we are the only ones there to enjoy it ! It sounds bad but I love the fact there is hardly anyone up here and also with all these sights there is no gates or walk ways to stay within, you can walk right up and be with nature. The sound the falls make reverberate with your heart and you can really feel the energy as you get closer to it. The walk in from the road is about 15 minutes and it is also a gorgeous trail with rolling hills. My first visit was shared with a bunch of Japanese tourists which is actually a pretty large business around here. In the winter time they fly all the way to Yellowknife to experience the Northern Lights which of the past two years haven't been the greatest. In the next few years we are going to a solar peak so we should see a good show.

This is what I was talking about...being able to stand right beside it and feel the rumbling and getting water spray on your face.

Laying down on the rocks to get this picture, was trying the slow shutter speed but overexposed it a bit but I am new to this whole fancy shmancy stuff. This is just a side stream off the main falls and it quietly runs through the woods and it is very peaceful to walk beside.

Now we leave Yellowknife and are landing in Norman Wells, NT. Norman Wells is an oil town half way up the Mackenzie River and is one of the nicest spots in NWT as far as scenery and the actual town goes (Oil money helps a lot). If you have seen the series Ice Pilot's NWT then you would have seen Norman Wells a few times. This is one of the places the plane had an engine change and they were "stranded" here. Let me tell ya, this about 1 of three places I would want to be stranded in the NT. First they have hotel's and secondly they have a liqour store ! Also they have scheduled airline service that uses jets, there is only about 3 airports up here that have jet service so yeah Norman Wells is a good place to be "stuck in the boonies".

Here is Empress triple four, Canadian North's 737 Classic on it's daily flight up the valley from Edmonton, Yellowknife, Norman Wells and eventually on to Inuvik. Basically it shuttles oil workers into and out of Norman Wells and if I leave on time in the morning we usually don't conflict with each other. Up here there is no radar so ATC basically has to give one airplane at a time the approach clearance while the other holds if the timing is too close. When the weather is bad we have to hold but usually if you can get visual and the airport is calling VFR weather (at least 3 miles and 1000 feet) everyone uses the common courtesy of canceling the IFR. That is another nice thing about flying up here for the most part. Everyone just want's to get er done and flying is the only means for the most part so no weekend warriors out to throw a wrench into the plans. Nothing against weekend warriors as I plan on being one in retirement, it's just that I have had close calls with people saying they are on a downwind for one runway when it's actually the other etc...

This isn't the Beech 99 that ran out of fuel and landed on the Dempster Highway but the other one made it out to fly another day (not sure about the pilot). Here is sorta what happened...a Beech 99 operated by North-Wright Airways, was on a VFR flight from Fort Good Hope to Inuvik (YEV) and about 30 NM south of YEV when the pilot advised Inuvik FSS of a double engine failure. The pilot force-landed on the Dempster Highway with no reported damage to the aircraft. The pilot was the only occupant. TSB has been in contact with the company and the initial report indicates that the engines quit due to fuel exhaustion. North-Wright is based out of Norman Wells and serves the Sahtu (Mackenzie valley area around the Wells and the Delta).

Last but not least is the Mackenzie River. It is the longest river in Canada and the fact it takes about 2 hours in a jet to fly to the full distance demonstrates that. Alexander Mackenzie canoed it in 1789 (they had a lot of time on their hands back then) trying to reach the pacific ocean. Apparently he was disappointed when he didn't get there, because canoeing like 4000 km's is child's play.

There is a lot of history in this area and I will have to gather some more pictures and keep this up. I never thought I would be a billboard for the NWT but this place is gorgeous if you can deal with mosquitoes, black flies, and freezing cold temps in the winter.

1 comment:

toheroa jim said...

Liked your photos of pingos and wonder whether you might be able to provide a few more that I could use? For the last few years I have found myself trying to suggest that current explanations for the formation of pingos may not be as complete as they might be. You may be interested to see some discussion of this at

- but then again you may not!