Sunday, July 6, 2008

The (not so) Great North

So starting in Fairbanks and the Dalton Highway -- the only way to travel north to south -- and bumping along to its conclusion leads you to Deadhorse, Alaska.

Legends abound about how the oil field hamlet got its name. (A horse died there when it could find nothing to eat. A patriarch bankrolled a son's dead horse of a business there. Something to do with the cold.) The truth looks to be lost to time. Yet the name fits. It's a place fit for neither man nor beast of burden. Imagine the rustiest, flatest most industrial part of the most industrial outpost you've ever seen. Something almost apocalyptic.

Befitting the hard work of oil folk, the town is lacking in all things aesthetic. It's the last frontier without the charm.

It's also created a modern legend: Folks drive up the highway from the Midwest thinking they can take their Airstreams to the Arctic Ocean (why us hicks always get blamed for cluelessnes is beyond me). The truth is, however, that the haul road stops a few miles short of the ocean at the foot of oil company operations.

Want to dip a toe in the Arctic? Pluck down $38, sit through a video of petro-propaganda, pile into a van, listen to a cursory description of Deadhorse ("to the right you see the tire repair shop" "to the left is where they make the drilling mud" -- no kidding) and walk a quarter mile out on a rock beach. Great stuff. That's where tourists either dip toes (for the weak of heart) or splash full body into the Arctic Ocean. It's cold, but not as cold as you'd expect, and muddy.

Back into Deadhorse and a meal (not included in tour price) and a stop at the General Store for souvenirs.

For the tough folk that populate the outpost, living there mostly means coming in for a few weeks of 12 hours on, 12 hours off working the oil fields and the sundry operations that support drilling. In the winter, the sun disappears entirely for 54 days (!redruM !redruM! redruM). All of which prompted a colleague to suggest a T-shirt. "Deadhorse: It sucks even more in winter."


Kentucky Bob said...

Here's a t-shirt for the clueless cornhusker: "Deadhorse - its whats for supper."

Gimme the South Pacific any day.

TigerJon said...

Your erroneous statement heard on the evening segment of NBC Action News that John McCain is against oil exploration offshore and in ANWR is what makes my blood boil. President Bush has finally seen the light and Senator McCain, like any sensible American is now on board. It's our Congress with their record low approval rating that is standing in the way of more affordable energy for Americans. Leftists' hollow argument that the law of supply and demand won't affect oil prices (were more domestic oil be placed on the market) is just the half-wit response I expect from Nancy Pelosi and ilk of her kind. I have spoke with dems and moderates about this issue and it's nice to see that many are beginning to see through the fog of the global warming ruse. Liberal hacks like yourself are why I canceled my subscription to our local rag of a newspaper. I hope you continue on your spin on this issue so long as the word spreads that liberals, SPs, and greens are not in the best interest for ordinary American's pocketbooks. Good day to you.