It was so cold...

I well remember enduring -60 deg. C in Cassiar country, but I don't miss it. One winter, I think it was 1978, we had a really cold snap. I was then employed as a shovel oiler in the mine. Mine shifter Don Loverin assigned a driller helper (Ivan Savard I believe) and myself to place a cable mat across a haul road so we could lay in it a power cable for one of the electric shovels. The mat was 40 feet long, about 3 or 4 feet wide and flat on the bottom. It was perhaps 6 inches thick in the middle and the sides tapered to a thin edge. Running down the length of the centre was a groove wide and deep enough to lay in a power cable plus the depth to put in rubber insert over the cable and it would fit in, flush with the top of the mat. The protective rubber insert was about 3 inches wide, 1 inch thick and about 40 feet long - the length of the mat.

So with a rubber-tired dozer we maneouvered a mat in position across the haul road, put in the cable and then attempted to fit in the insert into the groove, over the cable. We were both experienced with this task and the normal routine was to bend the insert and tap it at the bend with a sledge hammer. Bending the insert slightly cause the rubber to deform somewhat, so it was narrower on the outside of the bend, thus making it easier to fit it into the groove. When straight it was a very tight fit. Normally we would work our way along the insert, bending and tapping its entire length into the mat. Then a truck or loader would dump some fine rock over it, a grader would smooth the rock and then the big trucks could cross the cable.

So on that very cold night one of us made the first tap to the insert with a sledge hammer. The rubber was so brittle it shattered like glass! We shook our heads in amazement. We tried again, tapping more gently. The rubber shattered again. No matter what we did we could not get the insert into the groove of the mat for it would shatter every time we tapped it. Short of warming it there was no other way to get the stubborn and very stiff piece of rubber into the groove in the mat. Not having ready access to any warm area big enough to accommodate the long insert (now a bit less than 40 feet long) we were stumped. We called Don on the two-way radio, and explained our predicament. Unconvinced of our explanation he drove over to our location to investigate. After he tried too, with equally dismal success, he decided we'd put fine sand over the cable and use it that way until the temperature warmed enough to make the rubber more pliable and the job would be done again.

I picked up one of the broken off pieces of rubber. The edge had concentric semi-circular patterns in it, a conchoidal fracture pattern, as you might find when you break glass. I stuck the now-useless piece of rubber in my pocket and saved it for many years, as a souvenir of that cold night. I believe I tossed it out during a cleanup, un-photographed, a few years before the Cassiar website was created. Pity.

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This page was last edited Monday, February 02, 2015

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