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I first noticed the wind because I realized I was turning my head to the side to walk into it. I’d peak around the hood of my parka to see what was in front of me every few feet. When someone walked past they too would walk with their head turned to the side. At thirty below zero a ten mile an hour breeze feels cold. Soon we were walking foreword but facing more backwards, the wind was picking up.

I glanced into the wind and saw the snow was being blown across the ground in long twisting swirls only a few inches above the surface. Hadn’t seen that before. I remarked on it to the young guy from Montana, I forget his name, he said, “we’re in for a blow and we should stop stomping jugs”. My eyes followed his glance a mile out in front of us where I could see Stevie and his helper headed back our way pulling the cable back into the Nodwell and picking up the jug sets they’d just put down.

Hang loose libs, and while looking below the fold think back to the days of color print film.

We walked towards them draging sets together as much as we could and then helping to reload when we met up with the Nodwell. The wind was now up to thirty miles an hour and the snow was blowing as high as our waists and more.

We stood by at the recorder, waiting for the other Nodwells, the vibe ops, and lastly back crew who had picked up as much cable as they could. We were all heading back to camp together, no one gets left. Typically a vehicle had enough diesel to idle for seventy hours or so, after that things would get cold. A bad place to break down.

The six miles back to camp took over 3 hours. We would lose site of the rear pointing flood lights of the vehicle twenty feet in front of us and then lurch to slow down as we almost drove up on them in the blizzard. Mostly we were just following a cut the cat skinner had made anyway.

The blow lasted most of three days. The first real break we’d had in almost two months.

Office with radio antena and Cat with lights on.

It was the end of the eighties, the price of oil was very low, but it looked as if there was a possibility of exploration in the refuge, and with the new 3D seismic, BP and Arco wanted to take a look down at what was right next to the refuge and try to predict what was on the other side of the line. We were working up and down beside the Canning River and the Western boundary of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

For most of the year the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or ANWR as it’s known, is frozen and cold. Around a thousand people visit annually, that number has held steady for quite a while. Most visitors are rich hunters and fishermen on guided trips, and most people go to the same area. ANWR is vast, a couple hundred miles north to south and about the area of South Carolina.

Though we weren’t technically on the refuge we were never more than ten miles away from the border and without a survey crew it would have been hard to tell. We walked back and forth up and down covering three to six miles or more a day for about four months.

Tracks out onto the shore ice, you can see Russia if you squint very hard.

We saw two species, arctic fox and ravens, oh, and towards spring Steve found a lemming. The fox were everywhere, underfoot almost. They’d hang around the camp so you’d stumble over them going to take a leak. Waiting for any kind of garbage or trash I’d guess, though we pretty much left none. The ravens you could spot from a couple miles out as they effortlessly rode the wind and followed the line looking for any bits of dropped food.

Often when we were far out beyond the sound of any engines we’d hear fox barking.

The bears were out on the pack ice where wind and bergs would open up the water once in a while and seals had breathing holes. The caribou were either in the forests of the Brooks Range or all the way on the other side of them.

There’s a village on the edge of the ocean, Kaktovic, but I’ve never been there or anywhere on the refuge as far as I know, we were only working on the edge. Kaktovic is Inuit people. I think the word Eskimo is a pejorative, everyone said Inuit. The people there are pretty much free to hunt as they please and they take an unknown number of polar bears per year. I guess that population of polar bears is stable or increasing anyway. I’d think that before too long the memory of a time of subsistence hunting and polar bears and maybe the entire village will live on in history books only.

If the Inuit there are anything like similar folks in Deadhorse then they are already firmly ensconced in the twenty first century. Kids watch the Simsons, people cruise the net, play video games and so on. If they can still go out and shoot a bear well so be it.

Indians on the other side of the Brooks take caribou also.

The Brooks Range dominated the horizon to the south, all else was flat. The snow underfoot not only crunches and squeaks but has a slightly hollow sound as if one were walking on cork board.

So what of the Wildlife Refuge? Worth it or not? Will oil mess it up?

I checked out the stats on the Refuge web site. They figure there’s enough total oil there to keep the US humming for around 200 days if I did my math right. Quite a bit of oil.

Will exploration and development wreck the place? especially the Porcupine Caribou herd, one of the last great migratory mammal herds? Probably not.

Is it worth maintaining a huge Wilderness and Reserve that virtually no one will ever see?

I think the answer to the last one is a resounding yes. Our US Fish and Wildlife do almost no maintenance, the cost of the Reserve is minimal. Those sorts of wild places are very worth preserving when the effort to do so is almost nothing. It’s worth knowing that such wild remote places exists. The indigenous peoples aren’t affected in their hunting and fishing, they can still do pretty much as they’ve always done.

The oil isn’t losing value by sitting there. There might come a day when instead of a few months, the oil under ground in the Refuge could supply us with the plastics for many decades, a time when we no longer burn carbon.


Anyone please feel free to add or change tags or repost to any group.
Thanks for reading.

Originally posted to ban nock at DKos on Sat Mar 19, 2011 at 07:20 AM PDT.

Also republished by J Town, National Parks and Wildlife Refuges, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I'm part of the problem (48+ / 0-)

    But this is what I’m trying to do.

    I try to drive less.

    I try fly less.

    I buy less “stuff”

    I try to eat less farm raised meat and less or no fish from the ocean.

    I buy one of something and fix it when it breaks and use it until it’s worn out.

    I try to go see nature by walking from my house. Finding coyotee scat on a bike trail is not so much different from seeing an arctic fox.

    "Don't fall or we both go." Derek Hersey 1957-1993

    by ban nock on Sat Mar 19, 2011 at 07:18:31 AM PDT

  •  lucky man (14+ / 0-)

    I imagine few than .0001% of all people ever get close to seeing that stuff in person. I saw the movie "The Fast Runner", and that is about the closest I'll ever get.

    Good point about plastics. Such hubris we have that we are still burning oil for fuel when the value of plastics is so underrated. The world needs them, and no other substance (like hemp) can produce the high-grade stuff like they use for the space shuttle, etc.

    Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

    by LaughingPlanet on Sat Mar 19, 2011 at 08:05:14 AM PDT

    •  Flying too - w/o liquid petro - no flight n/t (6+ / 0-)

      I have some questions...

      by ocular sinister on Sat Mar 19, 2011 at 08:21:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not really (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        OHdog, ladybug53, ban nock

        There's nothing magic about oil. It's just cheap and plentiful.

        If we stop pumping oil and find ourselves another source of cheap energy we can make biodiesel jet fuel or feedstock for plastics.  That's a big if mind you.

        There's no need to save oil for plastic. We need to stop using oil for other reasons, but that isn't one of them.

        The Empire never ended.

        by thejeff on Sat Mar 19, 2011 at 02:04:19 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  (Bio)Diesel is low octane, not suitable for flying (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ban nock
          There's nothing magic about oil. It's just cheap and plentiful.
          Where have you been?
          Oil has been far too costly (war, international ill will, and environmental destruction) and it is becoming far less plentiful already, pushing the cost even higher. I'm sure there are unique properties to petroleum that cannot be duplicated, not that I'm claiming expertise on the subject.
          There's nothing magic about human ingenuity that can overcome the laws of physics and it may be too late already, especially since we still have to deal with your "big if". The cheapest energy, after initial infrastructure requirements, is that which is all around and has no long term costs like pollution and resource depletion. Solar, wind, hydro, & geo-thermal (and the electricity produced by them) cannot handle the full energy demand, but humanity is toast if we don't move in that direction ASAFP.

          I have some questions...

          by ocular sinister on Sun Mar 20, 2011 at 08:01:03 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Sometimes people dream about and prepare for (13+ / 0-)

      and save for, a "big adventure", like a walk across the Brooks Range or canoeing the whatchamacallit river or something, and they do it. It's good to have places for those who come after us to dream for.

      "Don't fall or we both go." Derek Hersey 1957-1993

      by ban nock on Sat Mar 19, 2011 at 08:23:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  My trip to Alaska (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        greengemini, ybruti, ban nock, coolbreeze

        was during my quest to visit all 50 states.  My adopted son (a Mexican national) and I traveled down the Kenai peninsula, up to Fairbanks, down to Valdez and back to Anchorage.  Our next trip is already planned: fly into Fairbanks and go north.

        Every morning when I turn on my computer, I'm greeted by webcams from Fairbanks, Anchorage, Whittier and Barrow.

        I used to be Snow White...but I drifted.

        by john07801 on Sat Mar 19, 2011 at 01:54:26 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Backpacking in the Brooks Range (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ban nock

      is not all that inaccessible.  Fly into Fairbanks, and there's a shuttle van than runs up to Prudhoe Bay twice a week.  My brother and I got off at the continental divide (drains south to the Yukon vs. drains north to the Arctic ocean -- we had to stay near the divide, or the streams would have been uncrossable).  Hiked and camped for 10 days.  Early summer, which is to say mid-June, so 24 hour daylight, and the snow had mostly melted.

      I'm special. Everyone is.

      by lilnev on Sat Mar 19, 2011 at 07:04:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I bought an old car last winter from a retired (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        college prof who had done similar in the early 60s. They flew in but the price wasn't too bad. They were peak bagging and had problems with a bear that tore into their camp a few times on the glacier they'd been landed on. They shot the bear but didn't eat it and they ran short of food for a couple weeks, the bear had eaten most of it.

        Little old geeky professor.

        Good stuff to do.

        "Don't fall or we both go." Derek Hersey 1957-1993

        by ban nock on Sat Mar 19, 2011 at 08:08:05 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Love this diary. (12+ / 0-)

    We lived in Alaska and fell in love with it. Visited ANWR once while working for Girl Scouts. Took a group of girls to do volunteer work and will never forget the experience.

    We try as well but obviously use more than we should. As a military family who moves a lot - we use a lot of oil just in the process of moving our stuff. Crazy, really.

    But, for a little over a year we are living with a car. We are using the bus and the subway only and it is a different lifestyle all together.

    We try our best to buy local products and from as close to the source as we can possibly get. Argentina makes it fairly easy because so many things are made here in country. That's another plus. There is very little concept of organic, sustainable, renewable, recycled, etc. but they do have a vibrant 'buy local' culture.

    We try our best to buy used before we buy new. That's been harder here as well mainly because people don't get rid of things. They keep fixing until it's so broken, it has to get thrown away. Things are well made in the first place and repairable in the second. It's a good way to live.

  •  Kavik Camp! (12+ / 0-)

    We spent a night there on our way home from a trip on the Marsh Fork of the Canning. I've been lucky enough to do several river trips on and near the Arctic Refuge - the north slope is one of my favorite places on the planet. The refuge is among the last 5-10% of Alaska's north slope that is protected from development. It needs to stay that way as far as I'm concerned.

    PS - A few years ago, I wrote a diary about our time on the Refuge (at a very different time of the year than shown in your photos).

    ... no one can put the ocean in their pocket ... ~ Melissa Harris-Lacewell

    by tgypsy on Sat Mar 19, 2011 at 10:00:10 AM PDT

  •  If you look at leases off the western border (6+ / 0-)

    of ANWR, you'll notice that in the last 3 years or so there is a lot of activity. My guess is since 80% of the oil in ANWR is found in the western side of ANWR, and horizontal drilling can reach about 8 miles, and next gen of horizontal drilling is expected to be able to reach 12-14 miles.... that the oil in ANWR will be soon pumped out, without ever seeing a rig inside the ANWR border.

    Plus the NPRA has 40% more oil than ANWR (plus natural gas), and in 4 plays, instead of the 10 folded and fractured plays in ANWR. And of higher quality.

    FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

    by Roger Fox on Sat Mar 19, 2011 at 10:43:30 AM PDT

    •  I noticed in looking at the maps (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Roger Fox, ladybug53, coolbreeze

      That there was drilling in the area we were doing seismic after we left.

      I knew about directional drilling, but didn't realize they could do so onto ANWR.

      Not sure wether to be happy or bumbed. Happy that they are doing it without treading on that side of the line. Not as happy in that I'd rather we didn't even tap into those reserves. I'd rather pay higher prices or shift our energy use sooner.

      I had to google for NPRA. I have to admit to not following the issue at all. Better to get it from there than from other countries I suppose.

      I'm much more concerned with the CO2 than the extraction process.

      "Don't fall or we both go." Derek Hersey 1957-1993

      by ban nock on Sat Mar 19, 2011 at 01:17:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Over 35+ trillion cubic ft of Nat gas (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ladybug53, ban nock

        in the North Slope area, on shore. No way to get it to market though.

        NPRA, town of Umiat IIRC, 60 miles SW of Prudhoe Bay, 700million barells of good quality oil, as good as whats being pumped from Saudi Arabia and Iraq these days. And they can put down 20 wells in a 400ft by 500 ft pad, not like the old days.

        Problem is, oil companies are transnational, no guarantee what they pump stays in the US.

        Those leases I mentioned are south of Pt Thompson, right along the ANWR border, I dont know for a fact thats what they are doing. But If it was me, and I knew I could drill 8-12 miles into ANWR, and I had the seismic reports showing organic formations.....

        FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

        by Roger Fox on Sat Mar 19, 2011 at 03:17:23 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I think they're fairly confident of what's under (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          coolbreeze, Roger Fox

          ANWR. Congress mandated exploration in the early 80s (2D seismic) so that they would at least know what the potential was.

          The way I understood the selling of oil was that it's more profitable to send it to East Asia for sale than down to the western US where there is already enough. Japan is closer than our east coast.

          "Don't fall or we both go." Derek Hersey 1957-1993

          by ban nock on Sat Mar 19, 2011 at 06:45:55 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  IIRC I have the map of the paths used in the 2d (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ban nock

            and the geology is well known to be folded fractured rock. 80% of ANWR oil is to the west in ANWR. Yes, fairly confident that the area is not very conducive for easy extraction.

            FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

            by Roger Fox on Sun Mar 20, 2011 at 02:13:49 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Appreciate your stories and thoughts. (7+ / 0-)

    I have a some images of the midnight sun in the Jago foothills and some images along the Aichilik (part of the controversial 1002) area, all taken in late June, early July.

    The web page with these images is here:

    These comments of yours merit a second reading:

    I checked out the stats on the Refuge web site. They figure there’s enough total oil there to keep the US humming for around 200 days if I did my math right.

    Last year, I drove the haul road to Prudhoe.  A lot of infrastructure there in a fragile environment and everyone knew the oil wouldn't last forever.   Now the pipeline is only running 1/3 capacity.  

    It was great to see the muskox.

    •  Beautiful photos n/t (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ban nock, jcrit, ladybug53, coolbreeze
    •  I can only imagine the summer solstice (6+ / 0-)

      I missed the winter one by a week, but saw the first sunrise afterwards in early January. Little bright dot then it was gone.

      I wonder how much effort it takes to keep that pipeline going.

      I'd assume it would melt down fairly quickly once it is scrapped, with the cost of steel these days it would probably be sent to China as scrap.

      The one bit of pollution I really did notice was the ground fog from diesel motors in Prudoe Bay (if that's the name of the town, maybe it's called Deadhorse) The fog wasn't water so much as diesel fumes.

      Some days when the temps drop into the teens around here and I feel as if I'm freezing, I remember that it really isn't that cold.

      "Don't fall or we both go." Derek Hersey 1957-1993

      by ban nock on Sat Mar 19, 2011 at 01:34:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Working for BP in the 80s and on one working trip (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        coolbreeze, ban nock

        to Prudhoe Bay (minimum 2 weeks, 7 days a week, 12 hours a day) we took a co-worker to the airport in Deadhorse (yes, that is the name) and a couple of miles out we saw some of the ever present foxes running, chasing each other, and acting like puppies in the dark overcast rainy landscape like none of us had ever seen fox act before. A couple of hours later back at Prudhoe Bay we learned that the moment we saw the crazy foxes was when a solar eclipse was just starting over that area. I swear there was no change in luminance over that whole period because of the rain. How the foxes knew what was happening or if it was just a "coincidence" who knows.

        I don't dislike all conservatives... mainly just the ones that vote Republican.

        by OHdog on Sat Mar 19, 2011 at 06:23:18 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  GOD! What a searingly beautiful diary, ban nock! (5+ / 0-)

    Thank you.

  •  I squinted pretty hard at that photo (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ban nock, ladybug53, coolbreeze

    and I did see Sarah Palin from there.

  •  I remember tossing up a radiosonde balloon (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ban nock, ladybug53, coolbreeze

    in Alert at -35C with a 45 kph wind.   It bounced three times on take off and was a wonderful sounding with negative temperatures and over 100% humidity.

    I was inside so fast I didn't care.

  •  Republished in J Town (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ban nock

    You've been Republished in the J Town Babbling Brook

    burble burble

    Thank you

    Love is the lasting legacy of our lives

    by princesspat on Sat Mar 19, 2011 at 05:17:49 PM PDT

  •  Thanks Nock! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ban nock

    neat story.  My BIL worked as a cementer on rigs up in that area in the early '80's.  Nice gig for a Texas based guy til Haliburton told him to move to Alaska or find a new job.

  •  Cool diary. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ban nock

    Tipped, recc'd, and it was also cross-posted to NPAWR.

    More and Better Democrats

    by SJerseyIndy on Sun Mar 20, 2011 at 06:58:56 AM PDT

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