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You Should Get A Bird's Eye View Of The Alaskan Pipeline

Jul 3, 2008
The Alaskan pipeline, which is also known as the "Trans Alaska Pipeline System," was developed to transport oil 800 miles from the North Slope of Alaska to the northernmost port in Valdez, Alaska. The Alaskan oil pipeline crosses three mountain ranges, more than 800 waterways, fault lines, boggy frost-riddled ground and caribou migration grounds.

Construction was exceedingly difficult, considering the unforgiving terrain, taking builders roughly two years to complete; moving the first oil through in 1977. The final price tag was $8 billion dollars, but the end result was well worth it, with 15 billion barrels of oil passing through.

"Suddenly people started coming into town," described JB Carnahan, former police officer in Fairbanks Alaska. "It happened kind of rapidly when it took off. Because I don't think anybody really believed this monstrous project was going to impact us. I mean, maybe the politicians did, but I think the average guy was just kind of going, 'Oh sure, we've heard this before,' because this has always been a boom or bust town.

And suddenly, there it was." When the Trans-Alaskan pipeline project began, a flood of people came to town with $3,000 - $5,000 cash burning holes in their pockets, beautiful women arrived from New York and Florida, welders and construction workers drove up from Oklahoma and Texas, South American and Irish immigrants came to collect a check and everyone from secretaries and teachers, to prostitutes and pimps came looking for their fortune.

Fairbanks hadn't seen such activity since the gold rush of the late 1800s! Within a year, the population had doubled in size to 40,000 strong, and the pipeline project had transformed this sleepy two-cop town into a bustling metropolis. Unfortunately, along with all of the business came higher rents, more drugs and more crime.

Building the Alaskan pipeline was an immense feat, taking three years, utilizing more than 70,000 people and costing over $8 billion. Engineer Bill Howitt said that organization was one of the biggest challenges. "Getting all that stuff and the materials and the ability to sustain 10,000 people working in a place where no one has worked before.

And there was no infrastructure -- that was the big deal." For the contractors, they worked hard but they partied hard too. Diane Benson commented, "We used to joke around that you could tell what union somebody belonged to by what drug of choice they had. I mean it seemed like operators were drunks or the Teamsters were the coke freaks and the laborers were the potheads."

Many tourists visiting the state of Alaska hope to catch a bird's eye view of the massive 800-mile Alaskan pipeline, which stretches over purple mountains and blue ice, lit by crimson sunsets or offset by brilliant blue skies, zig-zagging upwards through the yellowed grass or straight-lining across the frozen tundra. Visitors can photograph the pipeline from several marked viewpoints along the Richardson, Steese and Dalton Highways.

On the Richardson Highway, you can stop at Milepost V 64.7 (Pump Station 12), Milepost V 216 (Denali Fault), Milepost V 243.5, and the Tanana River Pipeline Crossing at Milepost V 275.4. At the Steese Highway viewing spot, visitors can walk right up to the pipeline or check out an information cabin at the "Trans-Alaska Pipeline Viewpoint," situated at Milepost F 8.4, just outside Fairbanks Alaska. Along the Dalton Highway, which parallels the pipeline, you can see the structure from the BLM Yukon River Crossing Visitor Contact Station at Milepost J 56, just over two hours from Fairbanks.
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Learn more about the alaskan pipeline at Mike Selvon portal. While you are there leave is a comment at our alaska travel blog, and receive your FREE gift.
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