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23 Sep

After-Action Report: The Robert Bourassa Heavy Performance Expedition

Welcome to a new entry of the After-Action Report, where we hit the open road to see if our equipment can handle a true endurance test in the furthest reaches of the northern road network.

Every journey needs a destination and ours was the Robert Bourassa hydroelectric dam outside the northern Quebec town of Radisson, nearly 1,500 km from our starting location in Ontario. The road to Radisson was a thoroughly intense one, a voyage comprised of stunning environments, gorgeous landscapes and occasionally harsher roads. Thankfully, our setup was up to the task yet again. For this voyage, we chose a Ford E-350 XLT Super Duty Van. Attached to the van was a tandem-axle travel trailer providing us with all of the survival necessities.

Our journey began late on a Thursday afternoon. It was our intention to traverse the open highways all throughout the night, an experience that the drivers found both daunting and enjoyable. Our van-rig performed excellent on the open highway and we used 3rd and 4th gear mostly. Initially we left the van's transmission overdrive on but when the roads became hilly and rural we disabled overdrive. Our average speed was 95 KM/H or roughly 60 MP/H.

The Van on the Dam

 The first hurdle of our journey complete, we set up camp just outside Radisson and spent the next day taking in the sights. The northern reaches of Canada contain some of the most scenic territory we’ve ever seen. The day’s light showed us a vast collection of surrounding forests and pristine lakes while the moonlight revealed a night sky free of any traces of civilization. We were kilometers from any sources of major light pollution and as a result, the stars were able to shine with all their uninterrupted splendor. The whole of the Milky Way felt within our grasp. Past midnight and after a relaxing drink by the fire, we set forth to find a good spot to stargaze and we soon beheld the glorious green display of the aurora borealis streaking across the sky. We were all stargazers in our youths, looking up at the black of night and wondering what was out there. To see such lights in so remote a place was nothing short of inspiring.

Our final day in Radisson was spent pursuing the namesake of this trip, a visit to the Robert Bourassa dam. In order to do this, we left our base of operations and partook in Hydro Quebec’s local tour of their vast network of hydroelectric dams. We observed the interior workings of a hydroelectric station, observed turbines up close and explored the dam’s network. The tour was an insightful one and it culminated in our ultimate destination: the Robert Bourassa dam, the crown jewel of the James Bay Project. This dam is Canada’s largest hydroelectric power station and the eighth largest station in the world; standing 162m (531 ft) tall and 2,835m (9,301 ft) wide. The dam is capable of generating over 5,600 megawatts of clean energy and together with the other dams; approximately 16,000 megawatts are produced, making up 75% of Hydro Quebec’s total power output. However, the most impressive aspect is the dam’s main spillway, aptly nicknamed the “Staircase of the Giants”. Each of the Staircase’s ten “steps” is roughly the size of two football fields combined, providing a true sense of scale when you see it. We observed the Staircase both up close from the dam and from an adjacent observation deck, taking in the sheer size of this man-made marvel cut into the Canadian Shield. It was a truly epic way to end our time in the town of Radisson, as we then returned to our trailer and departed, commencing the second phase of our journey: the trip to James Bay. We traveled west along the road to Chisasibi and beyond, traversing the harsh washboard roads towards Fort George and ultimately on to the barren coast of James Bay.

The Staircase of Giants

 All in all, we considered our second journey – The Heavy Performance Expedition to be a rousing success. Our van and trailer endured the lengthy journey there and back and our equipment tests were successful. This trip yielded good subjective analysis testing results for future comparison with other configurations. 

Heavy Performance Expedition - Subjective Results

The sights of The North were astounding to behold and we learned much about a prominent alternative energy source: Hydroelectricity. We hoped you enjoyed our recount of the journey and as part of our media release; we’ll be releasing a series of high-definition photos & videos on our Imgur & YouTube accounts, giving you a small taste of the northern roads.

Keep an eye on the Blog and Twitter for future updates; we’ll have more for you soon!


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