In Canada, we can finally reach the Arctic ocean… by the road

Photo: Mélinda Trochu Agence France-Presse
The highway Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk has opened its doors on November 15, 2017. The road was desired for over 50 years and connects the town of Inuvik (3484 people) and the hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk (930 people).

In Tuktoyaktuk, the dream cherished in the soul there are a half-century finally came true this week with the commissioning of a extreme route linking the town of canadian, nestled on the shores of the Arctic ocean, the rest of the north american continent.


The feat was well worth a firework, even with a thermometer close to -30 degrees Celsius. The eyes twinkle, then, on the faces bundled up of local officials and residents.


After years of study and procrastination, the first shovel has finally been given in 2014, under the former conservative government, to build what was then called the ” road to resources “, or the link to go to exploit the natural resources still further to the North.


But a year ago, the liberals of the prime minister Justin Trudeau have agreed a five-year moratorium on drilling in the Arctic.


The 138 kilometres of gravel road from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk, north of the arctic Circle, however, have not been constructed in vain, because for the inhabitants among the most isolated in Canada, it is the promise of a life less expensive and money of tourists in search of adventure.


In Tuktoyaktuk, the rate of unemployment is over 30 %, and the difficult living conditions for the 930 inhabitants.


“You know, we don’t have a hotel, we have very few shops and few opportunities in the community,” says Tianna Gordon-Ruben, and hopes that food prices will go down and that more jobs will be created.

Photo: Mélinda Trochu Agence France-Presse
Tianna Gordon-Ruben, a resident of Tuktoyaktuk, is of the opinion that the route represents “a great opportunity” for his community.

With his hat and his jacket red, Ella Jean the Margin, 72 years old, has waited a long time for the road : “This day is really amazing, we are happy, everyone is excited “.


Four years of work were necessary to complete the route to the north of the american continent, wide about ten meters and that is in places an embankment four feet high placed on the permafrost, ground that is permanently frozen and isolated by a geotextile fabric.


Extreme temperatures


Site manager, Dean Ahmad explains the challenges and the outstanding construction cost of 300 million dollars (235 million euros) in a region dotted with a myriad of lakes and rivers.


The permafrost impassable during the spring thaw, the work had to be completed during seven or eight months of winter with a little over 600 workers. “It was a challenge because we worked in conditions of extreme temperatures, from -15 to -57 degrees, 24 hours on 24,” explained the construction superintendent.


“I want to thank the teams who have worked hard during long days and dark nights “, has pointed out on Wednesday, Bob McLeod, premier of the northwest Territories, at the inauguration of the road. Many federal ministers were present as well as Julie Payette, governor general and representative of queen Elizabeth II, head of State as Canada.

Photo: Mélinda Trochu Agence France-Presse
Dean Ahmad, head of the construction site

In a landscape of tundra and ice, the speed is limited to 70 km/h. the Eight bridges have been built for the continuity of the road, whose duration of life is estimated to be 75 years old, with permanently 30 to 40 employees for the maintenance.


With so many dignitaries present, Darrel Nasogaluak, the mayor of Tuktoyaktuk, is everywhere. Speeches, handshakes, a word to everyone, the mayor hopes to a better quality of life. Thanks to the road, ” we are going to have a better access to health care, better access to healthy food and fresh products “, says it all. To the grocery store in Tuktoyaktuk, the price of a gallon of milk is almost twice as high as in Vancouver, the metropolis of the pacific coast of canada 3800 km by road from the Arctic ocean.


With the beautiful days, in a few months, the tourists will come by the road ? Darrel Nasogaluak invites “the world” to come and visit Tuktoyaktuk : “Come to share our rich culture and our landscapes. Our doors are open “.


For the inauguration of the road, a community feast is ready, and waiting for food transported by road, the Inuvialuit still depend on hunting and fishing. The menu, traditional foods : caribou and the traditional muktuk, the skin and fat of whale.

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