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April 12, 2010

Tuktoyatuk, NT



By Lydia


Hooray for the warm rays of the sun! The morning was a bit overcast, but by afternoon, the sun was shinning brightly in a beautiful blue sky. The sun warmed me as I jogged down to the shop to help Jim tilt the array. I felt so happy to be enjoying the sun’s rays.

We were able to get a full charge by late afternoon. We now plan to leave tomorrow morning. Jim was supposed to fly back tomorrow, but we have made arrangements for him to leave a day later. It will be very special to share with him the arrival back to Inuvik.

We wanted to stop by the school today with the solar car. Unfortunately, when I called the principal around noon, he informed me that the school was closing early at 1:30 for a funeral. In fact, all businesses would be closed for the afternoon. Tuktoyaktuk is such a small and tight nit community that everything closes for a funeral.

Marcelo spent some time working on the tires. We will now have several wheels and tires all prepared as spares in case we need to change flats tomorrow. Probability is high that we will have to change a few flats – how many is yet to be determined! Unfortunately, we will only have one spare for the rear tire.

Jim has been looking into the possibility that we can get skidoo skis to fit onto the solar car. We would attach one to each wheel. This would allow the car to power forward with the wheels. It would also keep the wheels out of the cracks and would greatly increase the safety of the ride.

Kevin in the shop has been helpful with fixing up the wiring on our trailer. When Marcelo and I crossed the Arctic Circle on the Dempster Highway, we noticed that the breaks on the trailer were not always engaging. In Inuvik, we noticed that the cable housings for the trailer breaks and lights were completely torn to shreds. Driving up to Tuk, we noticed that we no longer had trailer breaks or lights. In fact, partway along the ice road, we stopped to cut away wires that were trailing from the van. I am very excited to have breaks and lights working on the trailer again. Thank you Kevin!

This afternoon, Jim took the solar car out for a spin around the lot. It looked like he was having a great time trying the car out.

In the evening we did the first ever Snow-Ski-Solar. Jim put on the skis and grabbed a rope attached to the solar car. Marcelo drove down the ice and Jim was pulled behind. This is for sure the first time a solar car has ever been used to pull a skier in the Arctic! Hooray for Snow-Ski-Solar! A whole group of the guys from the camp followed the solar car and skier Jim out onto the ice road behind the camp. I rode on the back of a skidoo and filmed.

Since we had burned up some of our solar charge, we stayed out on the ice to catch a few last rays. I saw my first snow dog. This is when the sun appears double or triple on the horizon - a phenomenon only seen in the arctic.

To close the evening, Marcelo and I cleaned out the van. By the time we left the shop, it was about midnight and the horizon was still lightly illuminated by the last rays of the sun.




By Marcelo


The first part of the day didn't look very promising. We had a late start to get the solar car outside to charge its batteries. We readied the batteries by keeping them warm with little hotties and we installed a new visor. The overcast sky and diffuse light was only giving us about 150Watts of energy. At that rate, it was going to take us a couple of days to get the batteries fully charged.

Kevin from E.Groubens has helping out to fix all the trailer lighting and electric brakes. The freezing cold weather and the Dempster Highway had literally destroyed all the wiring underneath the trailer. The insulation was stripped down – the wires left bare and non-functional. There were four blown fuses. By early afternoon Kevin got it all under control. Thanks Kevin!

Just before lunch there was a break in the weather and a clear sky. Jim and Lydia got the array set up while I stay behind to send updates to the media on the project status. Time went by so fast, I missed lunch but Lydia brought me a plate that George, the cook, put together for me. Thanks George!

I went to the shop to see if I could help Kevin with the trailer wiring. He had everything under control. I took the opportunity to get the blown solar car tires replaced and to organize the tools. It was nice to work inside a warm place for a change. As the snow off the trailer and van melted away it left a puddle of mud on the ground.

Jim took a break and went kite skiing around "outpost mars.” Lydia was filming and doing interviews. All tires were inflated and ready except one very stubborn tire. Kevin took ownership of dealing with the tire the tomorrow morning.

The weather was warm with ice falling down from the roof. The ground was slippery and it was almost t-shirt like weather. Good news, the clear sky provided enough energy to fully charge the batteries, Yeah!!!!

7:00pm is dinnertime at "out post mars". By the way, Tuktoyaktuk is a dry town, no alcohol consumption is allowed. It didn't make any difference to any of us but I've never been in a dry community before. During dinner, we were all talking about the day, the solar car, the trailer and Jim skiing pulled by the kite. We joked about having Jim pulled on skis by the solar car -"why not" - next thing "out post mars" workers joined us on the ice road behind the compound to witness Jim and XOF1 do what no other skier and solar car have ever done before!.

Earl being very resourceful gave Jim another piece of rope to tie to ours and increase its length. It was perfect - get set and go! I start the dive slowly, I thought at first Jim wasn't behind the solar car as I didn't notice any extra effort put forth by the car. I saw Earl's truck pacing behind and Lydia with the video camera. I knew it was happening - Jim was actually being pulled on skis behind the solar car! I began to monitor the current, 12Ah, 15Ah, 18Ah, 13Ah, 15Ah, 18Ah, it was bizarre to see the current jump from 13Ah to 18Ah down to 13Ah and up again. Velocity was constant, the ice and snow on the road was pretty much constant. I couldn't understand my observances. It wasn't until watching the video footage later that I realized what caused the current fluctuation. Jim was skiing all over the place moving from one side to the other - mystery solved!

There were a few trucks and two snowmobiles on the ice road. Everyone was taking photos. We had so much fun! It was entertaining to say the least!

It was a very festive atmosphere; the stretch of the ice road we were in didn't have any noticeable cracks. I took the opportunity to do donuts. It was crazy fun - speeding up and skidding – turn - fast acceleration and donuts. All the fun on the ice road dropped our full charge to 85%. It about 9:30pm and sunny, so we set up the array but didn't get much charge. Tomorrow, we won't have enough energy on the batteries to make it to Inuvik. I hope the weather will cooperate. In any case, it was worth every watt.

Getting Jim behind the skis was incredible. It was so spontaneous how it all came together. For sure of the most memorable experience I had to date with the solar car. I went to bed with a grin from ear to ear!

Well-done Jim!





Sun and clouds behind Gruben’s shop

Little hotties are for keeping solar car batteries warm!

Sticking the visor back in with a thicker layer of tape

Jim and Marcelo tout the virtues of bigger tires on ice cracks

Proper freezer door handle for Gruben’s shop door – after all, it’s in the arctic – the biggest freezer of all


Dorm at Gruben’s
(out post mars)


Internet’s only in the hallway.  Time for some collegial group work

Jim takes his first ride in the solar car.  All smiles of course!




Pilot Jim outside the car



Kevin saves us by replacing the trailer light and brake cables


Marcelo and the guys posing for a trailer shot.  Hey Marcelo – are you down to your long johns while working on those solar car tires?


Jim muscling a rear tire.  We want to have adequate spares ready for the return trip to Inuvik

 Day spent up and back between dorm, and the two workshops

Marcelo en route to the dorm


Lydia enjoying the snow



Mmmm – cook, George, kept us well fed during our stay



Check it out – I’m skiing!



Yep, skiing behind a solar car!  New world record for sure 



The guys come out to watch Jim’s solar car skiing



Lydia follows on a skidoo to do some filming



Later, Jim tells us his motivation for staying up on the skis was directly correlated to his desire not to get run over by one of the trucks that were following



Sweet ride Jim!



Marcelo’s all smiles too – he doesn’t know exactly how the ski went until later when he sees the video




Exxon Mobil drilling caisson out on the frozen Arctic Ocean 




Sunny solar car




Ooops – used up some energy with all that skiing fun – desperately recharging before getting on the road tomorrow




Solar car on snow




Blue blue blue sky




Lydia going for an icy jog




Hey dad – look at me – I’m driving a big truck!