This is part of our series on the Alberta oil sands.
After flying over the oil sands Saturday I tried to bring what I saw into perspective Sunday by driving up to as much of what I glimpsed from the air as I could.
It wasn’t easy. Security into the mines is fierce, checkpoints, cameras, and fleets of patrol vehicles surround all points into the job site.
Some reader advice prepared me for that, but what’s proven imponderable is how to explain the scale of everything I did manage to see.
The grand scale of this part of Alberta, home to the oil sands and the third largest deposit of oil in the world, is not limited to the mining sites.
Mines are vast distances from each other, at least they seem vast driving along a paved strip through the boreal forest with no GPS, visibility restricted to the treetops, and direction limited to the last road sign.
The following pictures were taken with a 400mm lens, which from my end seems like a modest telescope latched to the front of my camera.
To give an idea of the scale, the tires on this Caterpillar 797 are more than 13 feet tall and weigh nearly 12,000 pounds. The truck is about 24 feet from the dirt to the last unmarked piece of yellow paint on the top of the bed.
No clue how far it is from the mountain behind it, or how far away I am from either of them. Horizontal, vertical distance, and height are a mystery — to say it’s all very big seems just so inadequate.
So, if you’re reading this and happen to know how tall this Albian Sands mound actually is don’t hesitate to let us know.
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