Working on the North Slope, AK Pt. II
As I approach the exit of the parking lot, I scan the roads for oncoming traffic and wildlife. The roads are empty at midnight, so I pull slowly onto the loose gravel road. The speed limits are low throughout Deadhorse, and this road is no exception. I reach the max speed of 25mph as I drive by one of BP’s many drill sites. Signs warning of H2S gas always make me a bit nervous, remembering the NSTC training required for all North Slope workers. I push aside the thoughts of the deadly gas and focus on the approaching stop sign at the T-road intersection. Caribou graze ahead, along the Sag River. I sit for a few minutes watching them graze, undisturbed by my presence.
The life blood of Deadhorse is the oil industry. According to Wikipedia, oil seeps along the coast had been noticed, and the US Navy attempted to drill for oil in the mid 1940's to mid 1950's unsuccessfully. Production began around 1967 and was expected to only last a few years. Almost 50 years later, production is still going strong with continued interest in developing new fields.
New facilities are built on top of gravel pads specially constructed to create a barrier between humans and the tundra. The vast majority of construction occurs during the winter months when the tundra is completely frozen. During the summer, the tundra is saturated like a giant sponge, and there are numerous ponds and streams that form from the meltwater. Many types of water fowl migrate to the North Slope, including various species of geese, ducks, swans and gulls, settling around these bodies of water. The flowers blossom during the short summer months, covering the flat tundra.
To be continued…