tv Doc Film - The Alaska Highway - Pioneer Path Through the Wilderness Deutsche Welle January 3, 2019 2:15am-3:00am CET
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wide river valleys and lists forests and deserted landscapes the alaska highway lives up to the legend even today. the wilderness starts at the roadside. the u.s. army built the highway in world war two and it's still the only land connection between alaska and the other u.s. states. the magnificent nature around it has been preserved and it still feels as remote and lonely up here as it always has.
in one thousand nine hundred forty two the small town of dawson creek in canada was made the starting point of the alaska highway. this is where the railroad ended and the us army wanted to create a link from there through northern canada to alaska to prepare for any attack by the japanese. the new wilderness road was to be completed within months and unbelievable fifteen hundred miles long about twenty four hundred kilometers in america its opening was celebrated in various propaganda films with canada and the united states war department decided to build a military highway from rio grande at dawson creek british columbia to care about alaska to link up and supply the their fields and provide emergency act after
a lot for open material. on march ninth one thousand nine hundred forty two the first soldiers arrived at dawson creek. thousands of men with bulldozers advanced into the frozen wilderness. it was to become the biggest u.s. construction project in world war two and the largest since the panama canal. there's little to remind today's tourists of the vast effort needed to create their original highway. it has long since been tarred and extended and the region around dawson creek thrives off agriculture and natural gas production. the development of the highway has brought prosperity.
bridge outside dawson creek was built entirely of wood in the winter of one thousand nine hundred forty two. to lay the road as quickly as possible all bridges were initially built only from wood or mounted on pontoons. the hastily erected provisional solutions were only later replaced by concrete and steel. bridges roads and new prosperity through natural gas for the locals the highway meant great change. motorbike enthusiastic and artistic gary ocurred is from the denny tribe he lives near fort st john and appreciates the modern amenities the highway has brought. but he also wants to preserve the traditions of his tribe and pass them on to his children.
his artworks use the traditional motifs of his people what i'm trying to do is to capture the spirit of our stories from long ago and put it into context so for example this this painting i'm working on is. a painting of sathan at a time used by the beaver people before the last guy we came i recall stories from my grandpa grandparents they all had horses they just travel with horses and when the first. the highway was been built the. the people have never seen the attack before like a caterpillar that make the road when they first saw their coming and they were and the they saw they all ran away because they thought it was a giant animals returning because it goes back to the time of the china animal
stories some ten thousand years ago when people or when there was dynamo star ruled the world and people were very afraid of them. in fact archaeological evidence found in a cave near the highway in fort st john has shown that people lived in the peace river valley at that time. the region around the peace river is not only rich in natural gas it's also the northernmost farmland in canada. the region is frost free just long enough to grow
oats lentils and rapeseed the alaska highway made it accessible. the fertile land attracted settlers that one would hardly expect here hutterites an old german religious community from the time of the reformation. there simple communal life seems old fashioned together the women pickle queue cumbers and the men work the fields. they believe in prayer and hard work. more than a hundred of them live in the colony at fort st john. the hutterites are farmers and strict pacifists. four hundred years ago they fled from to roll first to russia then to canada in one nine hundred eighteen. they have always been pioneers who've chosen to live on the edge of civilization. through hard work and the most
modern harvesting machines they make the most of the short season of the north. there used to be a lot more forest here. we've created many fields the land is good you could see that right away. two to three good weeks to harvest but when it starts raining and snowing again then they can turn into winter. on constant. every day at the same time a bell summons the members of the colony to meals. the family houses have no kitchens because cooking and eating is a communal activity traditionally carried out in silence with men and women sitting
separately. the highway north leads deeper into british columbia. the original winding road has been straightened out stretching from the foothills of the great plains of north america. after a few hours the rocky mountains heat into sight in the distance. but the well developed highway has also put paid to a lot of the road houses the service areas that were set up every fifty kilometers . they're no longer needed today.
our next stop is port nelson the last town for a long time. the museum there is mainly dedicated to the alaska highway. it was founded by moral brown a ninety year old mechanic who is himself part of the history of the. alaska highway. his pride and joy are his vintage vehicles most of which are still running. he started collecting them when he came to fort nelson in one thousand nine hundred fifty five. there were years on the building of a highway there were. like pushed up her career all through. heard of. her in law and. maybe maybe cut. a bank down or.
we all knew her you could run. in addition to the vehicles model also preserves other treasures he's even made a peep box for his old photos. the hard way. around eleven thousand soldiers and several thousand civilians worked on the highway accidents were frequent as many soldiers from the southern united states had never experienced snow or slippery mountain passes. it was a miracle that the construction crews advanced an average of two to three kilometers per day. things became difficult when they reached the mountains in the north of british columbia which hadn't been fully mapped. for the
most part the reach went through canada alaska was really only at its destination. during construction the road was still called alcan or alaska canada highway. the anam. ells of the wilderness have long become accustomed to the highway and they make the most of it they can lick minerals off the screen and the best grass grows here to. wildlife can often be spotted here especially in the munch a lake provincial park where the highway crosses the magnificent northern rocky mountains. but they have to keep your eyes peeled the mountain sheep with their brown fleece blend in with the
sandstone cliffs in the trout river valley. the rams massive horns weigh about fifteen kilograms. that may seem like a bit of a handicap but here in the rocks the sheep are safe from wolves and mountain lines . one of the old service areas has been preserved in the muncher lake provincial park and it's even open a classic road house. lol just gunness has been running the business and feeding the truckers for forty years and we have about one hundred fifty regular clients that come through at least once
a week so it keeps us keeps as busy keeps us alive because everything that used in the north everything. you've got to help each other you know small community. people here are permanent residents or i look up to the mayor for them and the postmaster. of the greyhound bus. the weather person we're doing here. this is my home. that i've lived all over canada this is the nicest boys have been good. but as beautiful as the rocky mountains are to the road builders they were completely inhospitable. they sometimes had to relay the tracks several times. parts of the original nine hundred forty two highway can still be seen although there overgrown . the legendary highway looks like
a forest road. it's not hard to imagine how difficult the journey must have been back then. some of the old bridges are still standing would only rot slowly in the cold climate of the north driving over them these days wouldn't be such a good idea but the engineering skill that went into building such sturdy bridges for heavy duty army transporters is still remarkable. the caribou at mantua lake park have become accustom to the modern highway. several hundred of these north american reindeer live in the nearly ninety thousand hectare conservation area. forest caribou don't roam as far as their relatives in the arctic tundra. no hunting is allowed in muncher
lake park so the animals can move without fear of humans. the twelve kilometer long lake is the centerpiece of the park of the same name. it's here that orse shield could. from switzerland has found his dream job he's a bush pilot. for more than thirty years worse has been bringing anglers and geologists canoeist and tourists from his lodge on muncher lake to the hinterland on sightseeing trips. seaplane such as it were says classic author were only built until nine hundred sixty seven but many are still flying today. they are incredibly robust and
literally indestructible and without them northern canada would have no extensive transportation system at all. sea planes are still the only way of reaching the distant mountain lakes of the northern rockies from the alaska highway. flying over the mountains is the best way to see the vast untouched wilderness on either side of the alaska highway. there is no other road no houses or pastures no cable cars to one of the nameless peaks. forestry doesn't pay and the harsh climate deters even the hardiest settlers.
winter temperatures often fall to below minus forty degrees celsius. in summer the mountain lakes are in anglers stream teeming with trout and pike that have never seen a louer before and no one around. or as has built a log cabin by one of the lakes it's quite comfortable there's even an outdoor shower. his guests can play robinson crusoe for a few days or even weeks before he picks them up again. but some travelers on the alaska highway stick to the road car fans and nostalgia tourists mainly americans who want to experience a pioneering adventure many of whom had a grandfather who worked on the highway back in forty two.
classic car drivers often go to great extremes jeep fans rob and his wife debbie from seattle for example spent a long time planning a trip along the old military highway to alaska with their club their motto alaska or rust. their driving legendary willie steeps the most famous u.s. army vehicle in world war two. but it takes passion and dedication to drive the whole distance in an old open topped car. i grew up in the back seat of my dad's willie's jeep my kids grew up in the back seat of this willie's jeep my oldest boy has a willie's jeep himself and he can't wait to have kids so that they can grow up in
the backseat of theirs it's it's just it's part of our family i have a one hundred forty six c.g. to a.g. slightly modified a bit and take it for long trips as long as trip i've ever been on so far today by today were about three thousand two hundred miles but the whole trip. everywhere we've gone we've encouraged people to sign the vehicle and we probably have fifty signatures in there the only problem. i have is i lost the fan belt trying to catch up everybody else after all off doing some photos and videos and we ended up changing the fan belt fifty yards away from a bison that was on it was over the road so we didn't get any pictures but we have fanned out changed in record time. bison. yes indeed dozens of the nearly extinct north american wild cattle graze along the highway. in one thousand nine hundred two forty nine byes and were reintroduced
into the valley of the li ard where for now over six hundred of them live by the road they're very photogenic but it's best not to get too close. that also applies to the other shaggy fellows who often appear in the lush grass by the highway black bears. when danger comes the mothers shove their little ones into the trees where they are safe especially from grizzlies which can't climb. black bears on the other hand are quite agile up there in the branches to the delight of the traveling public for whom wildlife and the region's pristine nature are the main reason for taking the long road trip. there are other tamer sites on the way north. smith falls for example
a relatively minor attraction along the way. anywhere else such a magnificent site would attract crowds of tourists but here there's an embarrassment of wild virgin nature. there's a fair bit of tourist activity. close by though at the yard hot springs where people bathe in the water is flowing down from the endless forests of the valley. the indigenous peoples knew about the springs and later the soldiers from the construction crews also enjoyed a soak in the forty two degrees hot water. today the ponds have been developed as a provincial park which is a popular stop for
a motorhome campers as well as highway truckers. leontes hot waters don't just spring from a single source but seep out of a broad rock face thus transforming the environment into a lush arctic oasis. where plants and insects that aren't otherwise found so far north live here. the wetlands don't freeze even in winter the canadians jokingly call it their tropical valley. further north that is watson lake milestone six hundred on the highway. this is
yukon territory almost halfway on the trip. watson lake started as a simple camp for the construction of a highway and a still little more than a long road. but the town has become famous as the side of a particularly bizarre attraction on the alaska highway. the sign post forest. legend has it that a homesick soldier brought the first sign for. his hometown in one nine hundred forty two others followed his example and with the growth in tourism the signpost forest became more and more international and bigger and bigger too there are currently more than eighty thousand signs here although nobody knows for certain because new ones are added every day and some are quite a few of them from europe. leaving
a sign here is a must for tourists including the montgomery's from oklahoma. watson lakes historically much more significant site is the old yukon air service hangar which is starting to collapse it bears silent witness to an immensely costly project whose effects were felt halfway around the world. historical photos in the small terminal next door to tell the story of a little known chapter of world war two. through the so-called lend lease program the americans help the red army with aircraft and war material from nine hundred forty two to nine hundred forty five.
about eight thousand fighter aircraft were flown from montana along the alaska highway to the north and then across the bering strait and siberia to the front in eastern europe. the americans flew them as far as fair banks then russian pilots took over the aircraft for the fight against nazi germany. the yukon river in miles canyon just outside white horse has witnessed a lot of the canadian north's turbulent history. of gold diggers on the way to the klondike once had to pass through this gorge on rafts. after that they continued along the river for weeks. today the trip is much faster see planes take off from the lake at the mouth of the
canyon. and another very different means of transport from the gold rush era is still used today albeit mainly for fun dogs lance. has got who emigrated from austria to the yukon has taken part in many races and one a lot of them. now his dogs are retired and he builds special sledges for dog racing. but he hasn't lost his love for his cocky four legged friends. he said the last. thing in the last can huskies are actually my. own and that goes back generations to the gold rush era when the sled dog race is all started. thirty years ago i watched
a race and got so excited about it that i immediately started to do it myself it does open guys the equivalent of on the boat the middle. quickly became a bit much so after two years i moved to canada they debated on not canada get into a bit of an addiction. it without his very own through. his addiction today still includes around fifty dogs which he also trains daily in the summer. the dogs know when he brings his bike that it's time to run and they're raring to go.
the highlight of the summer training is as always jumping into the yukon river the dogs love it. when guys. hanson his dogs enjoy a freedom here that wouldn't be possible in europe. the. white horse. the largest city on the highway and the capital of yukon with about twenty five thousand residents. in one thousand nine hundred forty two white horse was used as a construction base because it had had
a rail connection to the coast since the gold mining era so soldiers and material could be brought into the territory. jim rob still remembers. the early days and white horse. he came to the yukon territory as a road worker and began to paint motifs and people of the north he still has his first portrait. harry came up here harry flick also known a great one he came up to drive a truck on the alaska highway so the direct connection there and he became one of our most colorful characters he came from an ontario and in the forty's he came up here to drive a truck on their mascot. there when i came up to the yukon. in fifty five there was about forty five hundred five thousand people
a white horse we don't see many of our capital like this but anymore this is a most right here you don't see many projects like drought or are at the cashier here where they keep their food no surprise first on that and so this is how i. thought it would show all. the disappearing you're caught in the valley if you can . jim lives in one of white horses last of original log cabins. back on the road. white horses just past the alaska highways halfway mark. here the routes through the vast high valleys of the yukon get straighter and the road better and that her. this is where the construction crews found firm ground in the summer of one nine hundred forty two and could make good progress. the forests here are less dense and more nordic with ever slimmer furs and birches and low
poplars. compared to the early days on the highway traveling today has become easy. many visitors come with campers or tents build a romantic camp fire and sleep in the most beautiful places along the route. but there is also a luxury version of the wilderness holiday that fly in resorts like tin cup lozenge which is completely isolated on a lake in the hinterland. it's accessible only by a half hour flight. a swiss couple made the leap to canada several years ago they bought and lovingly
renovated the old laws where actor john wayne used to come fishing in the one nine hundred sixty s. they have three cabins for guests but their main aim is to enjoy life away from the hustle and bustle of europe for themselves. the mountains get even wilder and above all higher on the next leg of the route along the northern edge of the clooney national park. the first mountains here look dramatic and uninviting but behind them in the national park there is a lofty mountain world on a scale unknown in europe. twenty two thousand square kilometers of icy rocky wilderness the same to elias mountains separate canada's interior from the pacific. the mountains tower higher and
higher and an even more massive peak limbs above them. at just under six thousand meters mt logan is canada's highest mountain and the second highest in north america after denali. the one thousand meter thick ice sheet at its base is thought to be the largest outside the poles. the clooney national park is also famous for its glaziers gigantic ice tons sliding down from mt logan into the valley. the cast. flows north for about seventy kilometers. and the hubbard plaisir is even longer at one hundred twenty kilometers. because cowell's glazier has recently been generating some sad headlines in twenty sixteen
the ice had receded so much that the glaciers outflow changed direction. instead of north to the yukon river and the bering sea the meltwater now flows southwest into the. pacific ocean. the former outflow has become a barren sandy area and the glacier no longer feeds clo any lake itself. but here it still seems for since the river has almost dried up here the water level of lake lonnie has dropped by almost two to three metres the island it was completely surrounded by water in twenty fourteen so it was a real island and today you can hike out there the outer ends and all that. geologists are now using radar to explore the former river deltas a gigantic sand plain. all that's left is a bleak apocalyptic landscape that could be the backdrop for star wars movie.
the vantage point of a vast clue any lake is historically significant. there were things here where a soldier summit this is where the alaska highway officially opened on the twentieth of november one thousand nine hundred forty two if not for their homes they stand america on the shows or this is where american soldiers and the royal canadian mounted police came together to hold the ceremony and hear the ceremony felt here. the construction crews had only needed seven and a half months to lay down twenty four hundred kilometers of road. any lake
screen banks with the easiest part it was an incredible achievement. no eaten down johnson can relate to it up close he is on a trek through all the states of america alaska is his final destination for stars september thirteenth two thousand and thirteen of worn out seventeen perseverance. i think i'm at about thirty thousand kilometers about twenty four thousand miles give or take. forty eight states down i should get into hours go on saturday so. i'll be in my forty nine states. dan wants to get to uproot obey on the northern tip of alaska on his lonely march and into the guinness book of records.
the western part of yukon has an extreme continental climate rain clouds from the pacific only rarely pass over the coastal mountains. the low rainfall is the reason why the highway is often bumpy and wavy. underneath the surface the ground is permanently frozen. in the summer the permafrost only falls down to a depth of half a metre. and constantly shifts. even laying the road on a causeway does not help much. there was little snow in this region during the last glacial period so there were no glaciers to isolate the ground against the cold which resulted in a layer of permafrost several hundred meters deep. engineers are now trying to cool the underpass of the highway with a ventilation system so that the icy ground does not fall and the road does not sink every spring but there is no guarantee they'll succeed.
the forests also show the effects of permafrost frozen tree roots cannot provide enough nutrients and the soil is constantly shifting even a fifty year old tree is barely three metres high and swamps are everywhere in the summer because the water can't drain away on the underlying ice and the forests are often flooded. over the millennia it's created a unique ecosystem of grasses and mosses stretching hundreds of miles across the western part of the yukon territory and central alaska. milestone eleven eighty six the border with alaska the forty ninth us state.
the stone post marks the international border. in alaska the sky seems to expand the valleys become deeper and the rivers wider. and the highway get straighter stretching endlessly into the distance. the last two hundred miles to delta junction. this is where the alaska highway finally joins the alter richardson highway which leads from the coast to fairbanks. delta junction is considered the official end of
the twenty four hundred kilometer long highway. the last mile stone is a popular photo opportunity for the international tourists. are. the ultimate destination of the highway was and still is fair banks the largest city in the interior of alaska. downtown second avenue with its pubs small shops and rugged charm still looks a bit like it did when there were thousands of soldiers stationed in the city. during the second world war fair banks was the hub for american aid to the russians here russian pilots took over thousands of fighters and fighter bombers from their american counterparts and flew them on to siberia in all weathers and in all
seasons. in the pilots of that time would certainly feel comfortable in the bars of fairbanks today. the nightlife of the city is still wild and rock is perfectly in tune with alaska's roughneck image. the pioneering spirit lives on in pubs like the howling dog saloon where many of today's patrons can't stand the confines of civilization in the south the alaska highway has given them an escape route to the freedom of the north.
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