Hard work and good times at Ikhil
Satellite TV and working in the wind for Inuvik's energy future

by Glenn Taylor
Northern News Services

INUVIK (Feb 27/97) - It may be hard work, but it's not exactly torture.

Men working the drilling rig at Ikhil put in 12-hour days every day in -30 C weather. But inside there's heaps of carrot cake and clubhouse sandwiches available 24 hours a day.

The Drum was taken on a tour of the camp earlier this week to find out what's it like to live and work at this newly constructed community.

An offramp leads you from the ice road to Tuk onto a rugged ice road that carves up a river channel and takes an abrupt turn up onto the tundra. After a Duke-boy-like drive up into the foothills, you come across Camp Ikhil.

It's amazing how technology can transform a lonely hill in the middle of nowhere into a place where endless movie channels and steaming coffee awaits.

The camp is composed of a string of portable trailers pulled in on skis and locked together into a seamless building nearly the size of a hotel. Inside, some workers retire to their rooms, putting in some much needed sleep before they have to once again venture outside to the rig at 7 p.m.

The workers outside now started their shift at 7 a.m., and come off just as the new crew goes outside.

Outside, the service rig stands like a monument, slowly grinding away into the hole where gas is said to be in abundance some 1,100 metres down. A worker tightens some components on the rig. Work has stopped for a moment, so there's not a whole lot of action on site.

Inside, you'll find people like Charlene Elias, Gloria Elias and Donna Firth of Tuk preparing food constantly for the crew.

The food is probably the best thing to be found inside, and workers live for it. Pizza, turkey, roast beef, black forest cake, butter tarts and beef dips have been part of the menu recently.

"Everybody I've talked to that works in the camps usually gains 20 pounds," said Laurie Tochor, an Inuvialuit beneficiary and civil engineering student. She's a junior engineer for the Inuvialuit Energy Inc. in Calgary, and a rig supervisor while on site here. "There's just food around constantly."

It's amazing how comfortable a bunch of trailers can be in the middle of nowhere. Besides running water, showers and other amenities you'd find in town, there's also a recreation room with a TV featuring dozens of movie channels. Here you'll find Lionel Dubuc of Edmonton taking a little break. His shift as a computer operator is "as needed" -- in other words, 24 hours a day. He takes time to relax when he can.

There's also a pool table inside, but it fell over on the way to the site and broke. Parts for the pool table were rushed to Tuk for repairs and Tochor said she's confident there'll be more than a few pool games here soon.

In all, there's 22 people here working as medics, rig operators, environmental monitors and radio technicians, people like Robert Holmgren of Powell River, B.C.

What you'll find about nearly everybody here is that they've worked years in the Arctic oil industry, and many are thankful to see a new project.

The facility runs on a 250-kilowatt generator, with another standing by as a backup. What also keeps business running is the two vanloads of food that arrived before the first day of work, Feb. 20.

The community also goes through 45,000 litres of water hauled in from a nearby lake each week.