A Bulldozer in a Miserable Place

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June 18th 2016
Published: July 11th 2016
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A Bulldozer in a Miserable Place…

It comes as no surprise that nobody has ever coined the phrase “as comfortable as lying as under a broken bulldozer”. Bulldozers are big, clumsy and heavy, and all components of the machine are cumbersome and awkward.

Bulldozers typically work in miserable environments! Working alongside their mechanical companions, they push rock and dirt to allow for a variety of construction projects, mining operations and the like – this bulldozer was used for constructing a runway…

But, like all machines, they can break. When this bulldozer broke it was at the end of a muddy and icy runway at the end of the world…

Ten months later, it remained, half buried in snow and looking rather sorry!

It was zero degrees Celsius with light, freezing drizzle and a north wind when we arrived at the lone bulldozer. However, the weather improved as the day progressed - by mid-afternoon it was one degree with rain, and the wind had swung to the south… It was dark and ominous…

These northern latitudes get exaggerated hours of daylight during the summer months, in fact, here on Somerset Island, the sun remains above the horizon from late April till late August and so it doesn’t get dark all summer long. The only known exceptions are the relatively rare, two minutes of darkness during total solar eclipses, and periods of time lying on your back underneath a dozer!

First we had to remove the belly-plate, a behemoth of a metal sheet that protects the dozer’s nether regions from being smashed by rocks… Of course, the plate was all dinted, twisted and bent and caked with clay and ice. All of the bolts that held the ¼ ton sheet of steel were tight, rusted, and dripping with a melting cocktail of mud, ice and hydraulic oil. Once the guard was removed, we dragged it out from underneath. We then crawled back to the underworld and picked and scrambled through a tangle of oil-drenched -hoses, pipes and fittings…

We eventually found the culprit – a severed low-pressure return pipe… Not a huge repair job, however… It’s as if this pipe was the first component needed when assembling the dozer in the factory. All other parts were assembled around the one part that needed to be removed – a seemingly impossible fitting situated in the mathematical centre of the dozer, which was entombed by a labyrinth of hydraulic hoses and furious pumps. It was heavy, cold and awkward, and every time I looked at it or touched it, I cursed.

Cursing! A curious phenomenon when working on heavy equipment!

The bulldozer had to be semi-dismantled from the underside – everything we removed had to be lowered and then dragged out of the way…

Tools required:

I. Very large hammers.

II. Very large wrenches and sockets.

III. A big crowbar.

IV. A length of pipe (for hitting and levering).

V. Chains & come-alongs (winches).

VI. Heat torch.

We had oil in our eyes, dirt up our noses and wounds on our hands, but hey, they were all beautiful components!

It was a mission to secure the bent plate back on the dozer’s underside – we ran out of patience. We couldn’t fasten the back of the plate on correctly, so we tied it on with cables…

Not pretty. But it is a bulldozer!

Needless to say, the bulldozer didn’t start either because of frozen moisture in the diesel lines and dead batteries. Oh my goodness, oh my goodness, oh my goodness, gosh golly gumdrops!

And when we got it going, it threw a track… Now a few track links lie on the ground… In the dirt…

And they are heavy…

The cold goes to your joints and the dampness chills you to the bones. The mammoth parts tear at your muscles and joints… It hurts…

I love this – I loathe this, I crave this – I despise this… I like the challenge of getting something going. The growl of diesel and the black plumes from the stack… Rattles and bangs.

The wind howls between the bulldozer’s metal tracks and sludge drips onto my face… I turn my cheek to the ground and look from underneath – this is spectacular!

Mountains, valleys, canyons, waterfalls…

The dozer was actually in a remarkable place on Somerset Island, with a view of Cunningham Inlet, the frozen Northwest Passage, and Cornwallis Island in the distance...

Stunning purple saxifrage, a flower of early spring, dotted the otherwise, barren landscape…

The Arctic is awesome!

Additional photos below
Photos: 9, Displayed: 9


11th July 2016

I. Very Large Hammers
Not only do I like the fact that it is your number one tool but you need more than one. The most important lesson my father ever taught me about motor mechanics is if you cannot fix it with your hammer you need to get yourself a bigger one. As always a great blog.
13th July 2016

Stick with your adventure cruising job...
this sounds really hard! But I'm pleased you saw the humor in the situation.
13th July 2016
Getting to the Dozer

Gosh golly gumdrops--yeah, right!
Not being the least mechanical and disliking greasy, gross things, I was a bit aghast at the image of dripping sludge and bruised and cut bodies amidst howling winds--yikes, you're earning your Stilton! However, your ability to accomplish such a daunting task, acknowledge all the love-hate aspects of the work and see all the beauty around you undoubtedly make you the perfect guide for working with sometimes-difficult tourists. Excellent!
13th July 2016

Keeping my atlas handy as I read your blog.... the good thing about dealing with a broken bulldozer in that part of the world is that you can work on it for a lot of hours and hours because the sun does not go down. So, relax and take your time. The plate was bent because people love to slap it around with that big hammer.
13th July 2016
Getting to the Dozer

Nice photo
Just another day way up north.
28th July 2016

A Bulldozer
A great motto to live by: Walk softly and carry a big hammer. Enjoyed your blog (A Canadian in a bit warmer of a place!)
29th July 2016

I like that Motto
Walk softly and carry a big hammer... I like it. Thanks for following my polar adventures
9th April 2017

Big Hammers
You need a bigger hammer to hit the big hammer with! Lol. Nice subject matter - not the typical travel blog.

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