On Tuesday we had a flight from Anchorage up to the top of Alaska. Prudhoe Bay. The birthplace of the trans-Alaska pipeline. And Alaskan oil.
I honestly didn’t know what to expect.
But it was not anywhere close to what was there.
But first things first. We were rewarded with the sight of the peak of Mt. McKinley from the plane on our way over Denali National Park. Which was cool in and of itself.
Some people were complaining that the accommodations at the Arctic Caribou Inn where…less than stellar, but hell, I had my own room for the first time on the trip. And considering other accommodations I’ve stayed in (hostels, camping in the desert), I had no problem with the room.
It was interesting to hear how the drilling operations were set up. Since the oil in Alaska is under such tremendous pressure, they basically have to just drill down to it and open up the pipe. So no see-saw pumps, like I expected.
Everything is built with the smallest footprint possible, with the understanding that if oil production ever stops up there, everything that was brought in will be removed. No waste water goes into the ground. Everything is built on gravel pads, including the roads and the entire pipeline. It’s all designed to be rolled back into tundra someday.
Maybe it was the sky and clouds distracting me, but it just didn’t seem as ugly as I would have thought. Or maybe it was the photographer in me that loved the contrast between the sky, animals, tundra, and oil works. I don’t know. Is it crazy to call this my favorite place on the whole trip?
Anyway. Arctic Ocean. It was cold. I put my feet in. I swear I’ve been in water just as cold before, in some of the lakes on Fraser Island. If I had my swimsuit on, I would have dove in. Damn. Next time. And yeah, there will be a next time.
While we were meandering back to the bus after our “Arctic dip,” a wild caribou came romping up the shore. He didn’t seem too bothered by the oil buildings – in fact, he was more bothered by all the tourists sticking their feet where he wanted to swim. Poor guy. I think the mosquitoes were bugging him.