Working on the North Slope, AK Pt. I

A swarm of mosquitoes form as I step outside of the comfort of the accommodations. The unofficial Alaska state bird is the mosquito, and that isn’t an exaggeration even in regions as remote as the tundra. I hurry towards the van, starting it up before hopping out to complete the mandatory walk around. I check the lights, verifying that all lights are functioning at the front and rear. This is only the start of the daily vehicle inspection. I will complete the rest of the inspection once I arrive at the work site only about a mile away from the camp.

This is a small part of my daily routine. I work as a data processer for a major oil services company. My work requires 12 hours in front of a computer monitor. A typical rotation is 5 weeks at work with equal time off. My job description involves a vessel, so working out of Deadhorse, AK is quite different from my norm.

The experience has been exhausting. I have less than a week left for this rotation. Tourists have been trickling into Deadhorse, and other oil workers confuse me for one. I am far from the typical oil worker due to my gender. There’s a saying that behind every tree lurks a woman; however, the number of women working on the slope greatly outnumbers the non-existent trees. When I walk around the dusty gravel roads, I receive numerous offers for rides, which I never accept. I don’t trust the random oil workers around here, as many have served time in prison for various crimes. The jobs are difficult, the pay is low and the conditions are rough.

Deadhorse, AK is populated by temporary workers with few permanent residents. It is a spartan town with few luxuries. The hotels resemble college dormatories with shared bathrooms and cafeterias. There is a general store which sells hardware, basic goods and Alaska memorabilia. The safety culture is stressed throughout Deadhorse, enforced by the major oilfield players. The existence of Deadhorse depends on the oil industry.

To be continued…

Working on the North Slope, AK Pt. II

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