Prudhoe Bay, Alaska – Turning point: with the feet in the Arctic Ocean

The security officer is dogsbody: At eight o’clock sharp he is turning on the introducing video tape. He drives the bus we are riding on, and he is tour guide. At a time, 5,500 people work here, another 5,500 are off to replace them when having their off-time after a shift, usually two weeks on, and two weeks off. Caribou are walking around in the village. They seem to feel safe here since hunting season started. After the security gate 1400 drill heads are installed to produce oil and gas as well. The field was discovered in 1968, production started 1977 after finishing the pipeline to the ice-free port of Valdez in southern Alaska. During the pipe is well insulated to keep the petroleum warm and liquid, radiators for cooling were fixed on many pipeline carriers to not thaw the permafrost and sink into the ground. Weights partially hang on the pipes to minimize vibrations with strong winds. There isn’t too much precipitation in the “Arctic desert”, half of the one in Phoenix/Arizona in the yearly average. And it’s pretty dry there already. But the stormy winds can whirl up the little snow so that visibility tends to zero. During this time, Beaufort Sea is frozen and you can drive on ice. Now we are getting towels and can bathe our feet or more in the Arctic Ocean. It seems to be milder than expected, but our tour guide is explaining the water temperature to be 4°C. No wonder, the pack ice shall be just two miles off the coast, and the North Pole is only 1200 miles away. The whole excursion takes two and a half hours. The 45 $ for it are a worthy investment. There is a lot of information about oil production, but about nature and environment as well, you can visit an oil field what is very difficult otherwise, and you have access to the Arctic Ocean.

From now on we will go for a long, long time in the main direction south. On our way back we see again two musk-ox herds and are following one of them for a long time to take pictures. Unfortunately we aren’t prepared very well, and today is less wind than yesterday. Few enough to not matter mosquitoes. For the first time we really get to know Alaska bugs. They ARE big. But more worrying is their number. Dozens of them are immediately sitting down on our jackets; hundreds are buzzing around our heads and stinging into any exposed piece of skin: hands, face, scalp, and ears. Sometimes the girls (Only the female ones shall sting, isn’t it) seem to forget to inject their narcotic so that already the sting hurts like the one of a wasp. That’s not funny and most probably not the place to settle down.

I’d like to tell you a curiosity: Alaska is the most northern, western, and eastern US state. The first two attributes seem logic. But eastern? A part of the Aleuts belonging to Alaska crosses the date line and is therefore east of the rest of the United States.

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