The Beauty and Silence of the Far North
Having traveled the world over as a photographer for the past 15 years, I have a special place in my heart for the Arctic. I compare it to the moon or some otherworldly place. The never-ending pure white; the startlingly beautiful light, soft contours; and the complete silence – broken only by the squeak of snow under your foot – make it truly amazing.
Daily life is completely rewritten as living becomes survival and respect for nature becomes essential. For me, this is part of the draw and connects me to the land in a way I have never felt.
The remoteness forces you to be smart, and the rewards are incredible with landscapes and views not seen anywhere else on earth. Mountains look like huge sand dunes as they light up with faint pinks and blues from the low angle of the sun. The cold temperatures make the snow hang effortlessly in the air – as if gravity were reduced. At night the show continues as the Aurora Borealis flickers green and red curtains of light across the dark sky. It can feel overwhelming and almost scary as this force of light penetrates into your bones.
Standing there in pure silence, you might hear a wolf howl in the distance or think you can hear the electric energy being dispersed above you. Whatever sensory stimulation you receive will be unlike anything you have ever felt.
The Dempster Highway is a 457-mile-long gravel haul road that cuts straight through the wild Canadian Arctic. It connects the Klondike Highway in the Yukon to the town of Inuvik, Northwest Territories, and primarily follows an old dog sled trail. In winter, the highway extends an additional 121 miles as the frozen Mackenzie River and Beaufort Sea become an ice road. The Dempster Highway ultimately ends in the native Inuvialuit hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk.
The construction of the Dempster Highway began in 1958 after oil was discovered in the Mackenzie River Delta. However, high costs forced the project to be abandoned, and it was not completed until 1979 – more than 20 years later.
Since the Dempster Highway is built over permafrost, the road is uniquely designed with an insulating gravel bed four to eight feet thick to protect the frozen ground. Without this gravel pad, the road would sink. Today the road is a life link for remote northern villages and supports the ever-expanding oil exploration and energy development in the Arctic.