31 March 2007

Another good travel day for SnowSTAR. Working south up the mighty frozen Mackenzie River they made a total of 150 km today and arrived in the community of Fort Good Hope in the late afternoon. For a little history about Ft. Good Hope click on the "Track our Trip" map and then click on the Ft. Good Hope dot. KIDS--The expedition crossed the Arctic Circle today for the second time. How many more times will they cross the Arctic Circle on the rest of their journey? The crew sent the following dispatch, photos, and soundclip describing today's travel and trail conditions:

Click Here for a Soundclip From Matthew about River Ice


Shelf Ice

Dispatch, March 31, 2007:  Fort Good Hope, Northwest Territories

150 km covered today

Weather: Sunny, +14ºF (-10ºC); overnight low -6ºF (-21ºF), light snow in the morning

Camp 16 Location: 66 15'N 128 38'W

We spent another day traveling up the big, big, big Mackenzie River (see yesterday’s dispatch!). Fortunately, we had old snowmachine tracks to follow, which helped tell us when it was time to cross from one side of the river to the other.

On a big river like the Mackenzie, and even on small rivers and creeks, you can sometimes see shelf ice. Shelf ice is created when the water level in the river drops after the river has begun to freeze. The ice near the shore, which was floating on the water, suddenly has nothing but air underneath. Right next to shore, the ice may be resting on the gravel, sand, or rocks of the bank. While some ice may stay in the air like a shelf, some of it will collapse (shelf ice photo).

Both can be dangerous. If the ice stays in place, but has nothing to support it, it may collapse when you walk or drive a snowmachine over it. If the ice falls, it leaves a slanted, icy slope that can be slippery. It is also likely to leave a crack at the top, which you could step into or have a snowmachine ski fall into. In that case, you would be lucky not to break something!

Fortunately, we avoided any big problems. But we did have to get used to driving with the machines at an angle, first on one bank and then on the other (machines on shelf ice photo). And we had to be careful to avoid letting a ski fall into the cracks that showed up often, right in the trail.

On the plus side, the ice can be beautiful, showing many layers and patterns that would otherwise be hidden under the snow (shelf ice close-up photo). There is a lot to see on the Mackenzie!

Tonight, we are in Fort Good Hope, or Radili Ko, which means “place by the rapids.” We have had another wonderful reception here, from Chief Lucy Jackson, Alfred Tobac, Gordon Sutton at the school, Sister Joan and Sister Pauline at the historic church here, and the many other people we have met.

Trivia:  Last night we camped at a place marked on the map called Little Chicago.  We wondered how the place had come by that name, and what it had to do with the city of Chicago.  Well, turns out that the word is actually a corruption of a Sahtu word, now possibly forgotten, that is associated with “where the geese nest”.



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