DEW Line Passage

Big Oil, POW-C/Point McIntyre, Prudhoe Bay

From our camp at Bullen Point POW-3 we could see a large oil field camp. The folks at tiny Point Thompson had been so friendly we decided it would be allright to satiate our curiosity and try to check it out. The nice people at what turned out to be the Badami camp didn't have much of a choice because no one saw us sailing towards them, pulling up on shore, and walking right up into camp. This is in many ways the modern equivalent of a DEW Line site - an industrial outpost in the Arctic where the rare traveler can stop and receive help if needed. The cooks fed us, the manager let us use their wireless, and the housecleaner set us up with showers! Badami security took all our information and passed it along to the security folks further west at Endicott.

We pitched our quick and easy storm tent for the night and went back in the morning for coffee and breakfast. About 5 guys came down with us later to check out the boat and see us off. From Badami, which is at the bottom of Mikkelsen Bay, we paddled over to the beautiful Tigvariak Island. From there we were able to set sail to make the big crossing across Foggy Island Bay - it was indeed amazingly foggy.

 

 

That night we made it to Point Brower on Foggy Island, just east of Endicott. The scale of the industry shocked me - we were still more than 10 miles from Prudhoe Bay. Since we were in the oil fields we had excellent cell phone reception, so I called the Endicott security number that the Badami folks had given us. Endicott security was not quite so friendly - they told us we were trespassing but that we would be okay on Foggy Island. Foggy Island is an island formed by two branches of the Sagavanirktok River. Another channel goes directly to Deadhorse and the delta is huge, forming the entire land mass between Foggy Island Bay and Prudhoe Bay.

 

This is a picture of an old sod cabin on Point Brower with Endicott in the background. Most of this industry is not on the USGS maps we had, which makes it tough to plan a campsite. The roads, gravel pads, and buildings extend miles out from the actual coastline.

Foggy Island was given its current name by the Second Franklin Expedition and Lieutenant Back made this sketch of the "dismal" area. Image borrowed from CD Books, where there are other sketches from the expedition.

 

We observed coastal water seismic testing from our campsite but were later informed that the information about where the companies do the testing is classified and we could get in trouble if we disseminated it. A boat (not this one) slowly hauled a kind of raft behind it and every 6 seconds or so there was a palpable WHUMP from the raft and it lurched and sloshed around a bit.
This is not a great picture but it shows the lights of Endicott from Foggy Island at night.
The next day we paddled on and didn't try to land at any of this inhospitiable looking stretch of coastline.

I was trying to capture the scope of this facility - this is just the several mile long pipeline and road between the two sides of Endicott.

At least the oil industry has figured out how to prevent coastal erosion of their man-made coasts.

We paddled hard all day from Foggy Island and Endicott towards our planned camp site at Heald Point. A friend working at Pump 1 was going to try to meet up with us there since, as it is on the far eastern side of Prudhoe, there was supposed to be a road to it. There was much more than a road - the point had been expanded quite a ways and there were buildings on the new point. We were paddling into the wind and twice ran out of water and had to drag the boat, so we were within site of the point for hours and could see trucks parked there. When we finally got close enough, one of the trucks turned on cop lights and a security officer emerged and started gesticulating. We guessed we were being pulled over (lights, cop car) but when we came close the guard informed us that if we got out of the boat we would be arrested for trespassing "on the lease." "Just keep going - go west, go west," he repeated. We were a little confused - surely he didn't mean that we had to paddle all the way across Prudhoe Bay right now? It was foggy, 8:30 pm and would soon be getting dark, and the headwind we had been paddling into all day had not subsided. It was about 13 miles to the other side of Prudhoe Bay and West Dock, on the other side, is another man-made spit that extends far out into the ocean, which we would have to paddle around. We asked the officer if we did not have the right to be on any beach up to the high water mark. He denied that we did and then said "the person who told you that had no right to tell you that and he is being dealt with right now." We had to laugh, it was all too ridiculous and being forced to continue all the way across the bay would have certainly endangered our lives, not least because of all the big boat traffic. Luckily there was a small gravel island just past the point and so, disregarding his direct orders, we paddled over and stopped there. They could certainly see us from the point but at least there was water between us. We waited a while but eventually set up camp since we had very little choice. As soon as we had a little fire in our woodstove we saw what looked like a hover craft approaching from way over on the west side of the bay. It was hard to imagine they could really be coming to bother with us...
The harbor master of Prudhoe Bay, the hover craft pilot ('Rockie') and the young hover craft engineer who is required to be with the craft while it is operating were all extremely friendly. They admitted that BP was indeed spending beaucoup bucks to come get us late in the evening, pile all of our gear and our boat onto the hover craft, and ferry us almost 15 miles across Prudhoe Bay and around West Dock and its huge desalination plant. Ironically, they dropped up about one mile from the site of Point McIntyre DEW Line site POW-C. THANKS, guys!!

Here's our camp at Point McIntyre. On the right side the visible object is a conex with spill response equipment in it.

It was also a very foggy place.

We were still surrounded by oil industry but at a bit of a distance. This had some advantages - the two polar bears that repeatedly ventured near our camp site were driven off by what must have been a Fish and Wildlife helicopter. This photo is from our camp and in the direction of POW-C (and West Dock), of which nothing but an old airstrip remains.

We left POW-C and Prudhoe Bay, but we weren't out of oil country for a long time. Right in the middle of it are these very cool old cabins at Beechey Point (a Barrow resident's allotment).

Next: Oliktok Point (POW-2) and Kogru (POW-B)

Back: Flaxman Island and POW-3/Bullen Point

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