Sunday, August 24, 2008

Deadhorse-Prudhoe Bay-Arctic Ocean

The last 20 miles of road is very loose gravel, dusty and some areas are treated with calcium chloride to help prevent dust. This is slippery when wet and we did encounter some areas on the trip that were extremely slippery.

Annual precipitation is only about 5 inches but underlying permafrost seals the ground. Water remains on the surface in vast wetlands where sedges and huge populations of insects thrive. Ice creates strange features in Arctic landscapes. The pingo above looks like a small hill but has a core of ice covered with a layer of trees or tundra. Over time, as the ice expands it forces the ground upwards.

                 Grizzly bears are common here, often walking right among the buildings.

                                                      A Tundra Swan

                                                      Alaska Cotton

                      The Franklin Bluffs get their color from iron-rich mineral deposits.

                       Musk oxen are very protective of their young, usually keeping
                                      them in the center of the herd.

                                             The very slippery road into Deadhorse

                                                Our first view of the oil field.

                                    The general store and post office

                                    The Caribou Inn and Hotel

                                       The Arctic Oil Field Hotel

                                           Prudhoe Bay Hotel

                                      That slippery mud sure looks good on our rig.
                                We spend the night right here behind these trucks--

                                   --and next to these housing units for the oilfield workers.

Deadhorse is the industrial area where the workers live and does not resemble a town. Most buildings are modular, pre-fab sitting on tundra bog. It's a working person's world with few tourists or outsiders. There are no schools, public roads or public services.

Workers work 12 hour 7 day weeks for 2-3 weeks, then go home for 1-2 weeks. Their companies supply everything except personal items. Housing, food, clothes and air transport to home is at no expense. Salaries are very high.

There are many types of huge equipment, often with tundra tires or caterpillar tracks.

              Average summer temperature is 30-40 F. Winter is -20-40 F and colder.

                                                             A drilling bit

Public access ends about eight miles from the water. After having our passports checked 24 hours in advance, we were allowed to enter with a security guard for the trip to the Arctic Ocean.

                                                  This is Prudhoe Bay

                 The whole area is kept extremely clean due to environmental concerns.

These are oil wells.

Each one of these is a well. Notice how clean and neat everything is--not like the wells we see in the lower 48.

Ice-wedge polygons form when the ground freezes, contracts and cracks. Water seeps into the cracks and eventually forms thick wedges of ice that push the soil into geometric ridges.

                                             Off shore oil wells in the distance.

                                               Looking toward Beaufort Sea.

                                                          The Arctic Ocean

                                                      Judy on the beach.

                             Me getting some Arctic Ocean water for the folks back home.
                                  I'm using my new Wall-Mart bag waders.

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