Join me on a virtual ride to the oil fields on the beach of the Arctic Ocean. Read what I saw when I made the tour.
- Reaching the Arctic Ocean
- At the beach of the Beaufort Sea
- Clothes protect you with their insulation capacity
- When nature and technology meet
- Making the plunge
- Top of the World Style Linkup party No 223
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The van of the oil company leaves the container town. No houses, just container with windows connected with dirt streets. Even the hotels. There are no kids, no women, no men. The wind blows fresh around the corners. From far you hear the noise of a two engine propeller aircraft approaching. It sounds like in the WWII movies when the British attack the Germany cities. You can’t see the plane, but hear its descending.
The van makes its way over an unpaved road thru a landscape that is flat from one end of the horizon to the other. No trees, just shrubs, not even a foot high. The leaves are yellow or red. Some of the shrubs have already lost their leaves. It’s mid of August and the temperatures are barely above the freezing point. Muddy water can be seen here and there between the shrubs once in a while.
The Alaska pipeline on the oil fields of Prudhoe Bay
Along the small road follows the pipeline. Or vice versa? More than man’s high above the ground so the caribous can travel for grazing in June when the tundra is blooming. There is none of them in sight. They already stop traffic migrating on the Dalton Highway on their way south into the Brooks Range mountains where it’s warmer in winter than on the then snow covered frozen tundra with its snow blowing winds and ice roads that are built to transport heavy equipment without harming the sensitive tundra ecosystem.
On the pipeline there are big iron eggs of the size of a football hanging on iron chains. The container town is already out of sight and the Alaksa pipeline shimmers pinkish in the low Sun. In a little pond on the side of the road, you detect a tundra swan with her still grayish duckling. They look like they feel cold. The swans are always the last of the summer birds to leave.
Reaching the Arctic Ocean
The scrubs get fewer and fewer and make space to pebbles. They are gray and black. Anywhere in size of a cedar oil wood sphere to the size of an egg. The horizon in front of the van changes color to a muddy brownish gray. Suddenly the van descends onto a black beach that reaches from west to east. The van stops and you step out.
At the beach of the Beaufort Sea
You hear the wind blowing and whistling thru the pipeline that followed the road. You hear your own steps and the silent movement of waves running onto the beach. The air smells salty and is slightly chilly on your face. You put your hands in your down-coat’s pocket and pull the hood tight over your head for thermal comfort. Then you look down to the ground.
It’s not black sand like on some of the beaches of Lanzarote on the Canary Islands. Instead there are pebble stones. Thousands, hundred thousands, millions, billions, who knows? Uncountable. They are not flat looking like the stones on the beach in southern Crete that look like Lima beans. No they are round. The ocean and the ice have moved and rolled them over ages. They are anywhere between the size of a pea up to the size of a golf-ball. Even if you fell like you want to get and keep one, it’s forbidden.
Now you turn around and look up back towards the road. From down here what seemed to be less and less shrubs now looks like a colorful red, green brown, and yellow carpet full of vegetation. A strong contrast to the pebble stone beach. In the sky on the horizon, you see the two trompeter swans flying south.
You make a 180 degree turn. You see a long promontory perpendicular to the beach. It looks like a huge tongue extending into the water. It seems to get lighter in color with distance. Farther away you see some white foam on both sides of this stony gray and white promontory. There are breaking waves. When the wind comes from the direction, you can even hear their calm sound. You wonder whether the white is already snow or even frozen water, the start of the new sea-ice?
Clothes protect you with their insulation capacity
Now your body adjusted to being outside. You feel the thermal comfort of the down-coat and the hair of the hoodie trim on your face. You walk towards the water. It’s brownish gray like the Rhine River on a gray winter day when it rises to flooding stage. Whenever a small wave breaks on the beach a white stripe of water builds that divides the brownish gray of the ocean from the black beach. The area experiencing the forward and backward retreat of the water is very narrow, not even half a foot (15 cm) wide.
When nature and technology meet
You look out over the water, listening to the sound of the wind and waves. With a sudden you hear the noise of an approaching helicopter. Immediately, the scene of Apocalypse Now where helicopters clear the forest with Agent Orange along the beach with the perfect surf, pops up in your mind. You can even hear the the song “This is the end” which was among your favorites when you were in high school.
You pull yourself back into reality and follow the copter with your eyes until you can’t hear it anymore and it seems to hit the water on the horizon. You wonder whether it landed on an off-shore oil platform or on a container ship traveling the Northwest Passage.
Making the plunge
Now you look into the dark water in front of you. You discover that it isn’t deep. Then you kneel down to open your boots. You are about to pull them and your wool socks off. You hear your husband yelling “There’s a polar bear running towards us coming from the promontory.” You jump up and a yellow-red bruised apple falls out of your coats pocket. The guide from the oil company puts up his binoculars too. You run into the water and hear the guide commanding “back to the van.” Then you run back to the van feeling the water squeeze between your toes. The four wheeler gets back onto the road and passes the pond on its way heading towards the container town. The pond is empty. You reach the container town, walk to your camper where your cats had been waiting for you.
The four of you cuddle up in a camper in a parking lot in front of some container housing. The workers or food had reached the platform or ship. The swans are on their flight to their warm winter quarters. The container town falls asleep. The polar bear munches the yellow-red apple on the beach. The bear doesn’t mind the bruises. The nanook is happy to have the apple at all.
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Top of the World Style Linkup party No 223
Welcome to the 223rd Top of the World Style linkup party! Tanks for coming. Let’s first see who are the awardees from last week.
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Photos of me: G. Kramm
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