John Denison (engineer) - Biography


After training in mechanics, Denison joined the Canadian Army during World War II. After the war, Denison joined the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and was then attached from 1946 to the RCMP in Yellowknife.

A year later, he was involved in a search for a missing fur trapper on the Barren Lands, and after freezing his fingers, feet and face decided the RCMP was not the career for him. A year later he resigned from the RCMP, and he and his fiancee Hannah left Yellowknife for Edmonton where they married.

In search of work, Denison returned to the north in 1947 and worked on the Cat Trains supplying the mining camps with equipment. He eventually became associated with Byers Transport Limited, with whom he engineered a network of winter ice roads throughout the Northwest Territories to service various mines (including Port Radium, Discovery Mine, and Tundra Mine). While Denison was not the first to attempt truck freighting on winter roads into Yellowknife (that honour goes to Al Hamilton of Grimshaw Trucking in the mid 1950s), he perfected the art of constructing ice roads and built them into some of the most isolated parts of the sub-arctic. His major interest was hauling around large buildings on ice roads between mining camps. Denison's road into the Tundra Mine was an engineering feat of the day, as not many people in the 1960s would have believed an ice road into the very hostile and cold climate of the Canadian Arctic, beyond the tree line, would be feasible. The exploits of John Denison were the topic of a book in the 1970s by Edith Iglauer entitled "Denison's Ice Road".

In 1998, John Denison was awarded the Order of Canada for his work on the ice roads in the 1950s-1970s Denison died at his home in Kelowna on January 6, 2001, leaving his widow and four children. at the age of 84.

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