It sounds like the beginning of a really bad joke, but sometimes truth is indeed stranger than fiction. What happens when you quadruple the weight limit on an Arctic ice road in the midst of an unseasonably warm winter? The ‘punchline’ in this case is pretty much what you’d expect—a heavy tanker truck carrying fuel breaks through the ice and gets stuck.
The incident occurred on March 5 on an ice road near the city of Deline in Canada’s Northwest Territory. That road crosses into the Arctic circle, making its path particularly vulnerable to the unusual warm weather Canada has experienced this year. Until recently, a tanker that size would not have been legally permitted to drive along the route. But just prior to the incident, the Government of the Northwest Territory (GNWT) upped the weight limit on the Great Bear Ice Road, from 10 metric tons to 40 metric tons, and tweeted about it happily on March 2.
The fuel tankers’ front tires broke through the ice and the truck sank partially under the surface. A spokeswoman for GNWT Transportation said nobody was injured during the incident, and that the tanker didn’t leak any of its potentially hazardous cargo (heating fuel). Other officials said there are no evidence that the driver exceeded the speed limit or drove recklessly to contribute to the incident. The ice road was closed temporarily so authorities could drain the tanker, right the truck, and move it out of the way. After several days, one lane of the ice road was reopened for traffic, though it’s unclear whether the weight restrictions were altered. Reportedly, 11 other heavy tanker trucks successfully crossed this portion of the ice road prior to the fuel tanker breaking through the surface, but apparently 12 was just one too many for the warming ice to withstand.
GNWT Transportation said on Twitter that an investigation is underway to learn more about what happened.
Images via GNWT Environment and Natural Resources