In the popular imagination, the phrase 'Arctic transport' most likely conjures up images from another century: sleds pulled by teams of dogs, or ships locked in ice. But shipping companies are looking to another retro-seeming vehicle to revolutionize the future of Arctic air transport: The zeppelin.
For miners and others doing remote operations, the airships can save time and money by transporting up to 50 tonnes of cargo across Canada's north -- eliminating the need for heavy trucks and roads. Plus, these ships are tough. The Vancouver Sun notes,
Airships today use a combination of lighter-than-air helium instead of hydrogen, a highly flammable gas, and they're built with tough "space-age" fibres, like spectra, up to 10 times stronger than steel of equivalent weight.
Beginning in 2002, the Polar Ring expedition project has worked towards their goal of exploration and research while testing cross-country vehicles to be used in the arctic area. Their site details the three completed legs of this journey, the most recent concluded in some frustration due to poor weather conditions - but the project is hardly a failure.
Their blog is well worth a read, they discuss daily life in the field, logistical planning, and problems they face and overcome. If you've ever wondered what participating in a polar expedition would be like, this is one way to get a glimpse.
The following video (with a very catchy soundtrack) was shot during stage three of the expedition, and shows some of the unique vehicles they're using.
Have you heard of a Grass Drag? I hadn't either until Graham emailed me about this snowmobile sport. These people have solved the age-old question of what to do with your vehicle during those pesky seasons lacking in snow. Store it in the garage? What a waste.
Pretty rocking soundtrack on this video! The New Hampshire Snowmobile Association website posts their rules for competitors, in case you aspire to be a grass drag racer.
Air boats in use in the high Arctic for transporting freight and search and rescue operations. The airboats can be used effectively during the breakup when ice is to unstable for snowmobiles and it is too early to use boats.
While we're particularly fond of using our airboat or a zodiac to traverse stretches of open water, other people have come up with some creative alternatives to traverse watery terrain.
Scope this video, filmed on Georgian Bay in Ontario, of snowmobiles crossing huge areas of water -
This second video gives whole new meaning to the term 'going offroad'.