This project is located right on the Arctic Ocean; one can’t go any further north within the Northwest Territories. Because of this, some key factors colour in the Midwest team's daily life that wouldn’t otherwise if we were operating in milder conditions:
A significant factor in new construction on arctic tundra is the ever-present permafrost.
Permafrost is classified by sustained ground temperatures of at least 0°C (or lower) for a minimum period of two consecutive years. This makes drilling into the ground difficult at times, but is necessary to ensure stable enough walls that can withstand the coarse Arctic winds.
Along with the permafrost are the more practical, day-to-day realities of working and living in the Arctic. Temperatures can be cruel, with lows reaching -40°C before the windchill factor. Indeed, the windchill can almost double the feel of the cold, which can make outdoor working conditions hazardous and, in a word, uncomfortable.
In the cold months, the roads are hard on tires, which need to be changed much more frequently. The wind from the ocean can be cutting and made it challenging to install the 30ft walls for the gymnasium. In fact, at one point, the winds were so severe that we could not operate our crane for nearly three days!
The safety of our team members remains top of mind during these projects. If it’s too cold, we shut down operations for the day and dress appropriately.
The isolated nature of Tuk means that transporting materials to the hamlet requires keen logistical thinking. All goods coming into the community must pass through two separate river crossings on the Dempster Highway.
A ferry operates during the summer months, and during the winter months the ice hardens so deeply that large vehicles may safely pass over the rivers. However, during thaw periods neither transportation option is viable, so goods must be arranged for delivery either before or after the thaw.