DEW Line Passage

Oliktok Point (POW-2) & Kogru (POW-B)

We paddled around the oil facilities at Oliktok Point and made camp on the beach in front of POW-2, an Auxilliary DEW Line site and currently a North Warning System Long Range Radar. Two people man the site at all times: a radician, who is in charge not only of the radar and related operations but cooks and keeps everything clean and a mechanic, who is in charge of keeping everything else running. Like all updated sites, Oliktok is much smaller now than it was as a DEW Line site when it had some 50 men working there, more radars and an operational runway.

Oiliktok Point was the site of oil exploration camps well before the DEW Line site was constructed there. Today, Conoco Phillips owns the Oliktok Pipeline Company, which operates a 28-miles pipeline that delivers natural gas to the Kuparuk and Milne oil fields.


POW-2 with graves in foreground.

Oliktok Point/POW-2 has made the news several times. A 1993 polar bear attack at the site was so dramatic that it resulted in a magazine article with fantastic drawings representing the scene. The large bear returned several times to the window of the common room/bar and workers swatted towards it with a magazine to scare it away. The bear suddenly jumped up, came completely through the window and attacked a man. The man was seriously mauled and would probably have been killed if another employee hadn't run to his room, grabbed his gun, and returned to shoot the bear dead right there in the hallway. Large, barely patched bullet holes are still visible in the door and wall. Ironically, the shooter was fired for having a firearm in his room against regulations although he was later rehired.

The polar bear attack was dramatic, but so was the reason Oliktok made the news again. In 2004, U.S. Senator Ted Stevens defended his attempt to have the military purchase a 160-acre native allotment around Oliktok for $2.5 million on the grounds that the military had illegally used and contaminated the land. This would have set quite a precedent for many people around the state*. The Oliktok deal seemed fishy since the allotment was owned by Jacob Adams and his two siblings while Jacob Adams was head of the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, a close friend of Stevens, and a proponent of oil development on the North Slope. The Air Force ended up purchasing the land from the Adams family for $462,500 and cleaned up the contaminated dump on the site in 2007.

* Stevens fought payment for clean up of Canadian DEW Line sites to avoid setting a precedent and brokered a deal where the Canadian government received weapons in lieu of clean up money.

1. ADN: Stevens inserts $15,000-an-acre offer in military bill

2. ADN: Barrow woman defends value of land

Excerpt: "We all decided that having a dump there really took away the reason for keeping it," she said. "To me, it's been spoiled with that dumpsite being there, at the heart of our property. That creek where it is, that was the fishing area. We lived there, we played there."

Her father and his grandparents traveled the region but kept a camp at Oliktok Point, according to a family history published in 1989.

Carroll, who learned the history of the place from her father, said the original settlement was on the high ground, right where the Air Force put its station.

At age 14, Baxter Adams began working as a reindeer herder in the area. He moved to Barrow in 1944, when he was 29, Carroll said.

About a decade after he left, the Air Force came in to build its radar station.

The Air Force, she said, should not have viewed the land as vacant.

"They should have seen sod houses, or remnants of it," she said. "They would have recognized that."

At the time, she said, her parents weren't in a position to object to what the Air Force was doing.

"My parents didn't speak English very well," she said. "They didn't understand what was going on with land ownership."

Years later, she helped her father prove that he had used and occupied the land, dating back to 1928, to claim his allotment. With the DEW line station on the prime land, he had no choice but to claim the land right next to it.

3. Juneau Empire: Stevens facilitates land deal: Appraisals range from $604 to $11,875 an acre for North Slope property

"SEC. 8026. In addition to amounts provided elsewhere in this Act, $2,500,000 is hereby appropriated for `Operation and Maintenance, Air Force' for acquisition by the United States Air Force of Native Allotment F-14589: Provided, That in consideration of its unauthorized use and contamination of Native Allotment F-14589, consisting of 159.7 acres, at Oliktok Point, Alaska, the United States Air Force shall acquire Native Allotment F-14589 by payment of $2,500,000 to the current owners of the Native Allotment."

Although the land was not his family's allotment, Barrow resident and community leader Roy Nageak was born at Oliktok Point. His father was working at the site and his mother, who was about 5 months pregnant with Roy, mushed alone with her other children from Kaktovik to Oliktok to be with him. Roy laughs that he was probably born in the little cabin adjacent to the site, but he recalled the first time he visited the site as an adult: "My birthplace was covered with barrels."
Leaving Oliktok Point, we had to psyche ourselves up for the next big leg of our trip - getting around the Colville Delta. We made camp at the mouth of the Kulabik River to wait for the right weather, which luckily came the next day. The site at Kulabik was gorgeous and very interesting - it was surrounded on all 4 sides by oil industry facilities (one on a near-shore island), had beautiful driftwood, approximately 20 tundra daisies, 2 truck tires in great condition, and 5 small oil spill containment pads. One pad had "Alpine" written on it - so nice to have a signature.
We made it around the Colville Delta in one long day, camped on the south side of Harrison Bay and the next day made our way up to the Eskimo Islands and camped near Kogru/POW-B, an Intermediate DEW Line site closed in 1963. This ares lies just east of Teshekpuk Lake.

Curious caribou watched us as we hiked across the small peninsula, following coordinates loaded into the GPS for the site. Soon the trail of drums also told us we were getting close.

The dump at Kogru is extensive, especially when one considers how relatively small Intermediate sites were and that they were only in operation for 6 years (1957-1963). The I-sites were relay sites between the much larger Auxilliary and Main sites and only required one person stationed at them, although 5-man crews were usually assigned to them for social and other reasons.

The Army Corps of Engineers held a public meeting in Barrow to discuss the Kogru dump in early September (before we arrived) and details from that will be included here soon. Previously it appeared as though the dump did not qualify for a cleanup even though it contains batteries, drums, heavy metals, and has stained the river with an oily sheen.

There is a low priority for funding cleanup of sites that do not show severe contamination and the funding has declined in recent years.

Still life with Cold War garbage, including lots of very sturdy liquor bottles. Lots of Budweiser, lots of Coca-cola. Engine parts. Transformers. Resistors. Plumbing parts. Heavy equipment parts. Batteries. Toothpaste. Intact coffee cup (souvenir). Silverware. Salt and pepper shakers. Lumber. Miles and miles of cable. Rust.

The Free Dictionary:

gar·bol·o·gy (gär-bl-j)
The study of a society or culture by examining or analyzing its refuse.
[garb(age) + -logy.]
gar·bolo·gist n.


Wikipedia's 'Garbology' entry

Only parts of the foundations of Kogru's buildings remained and two large newer mounds indicated that much of the material had been buried on site.

Wind indicators extending from the runway. Adding this to our long and growing list of Alaskan uses for 55-gallon drums.

Dew collects on matted cotton grass.

Hauling water...

...and hauling firewood.

Next: Lonely/POW-1 and Cape Simpson/POW-A

(Romantic rendition of a DEW Line site from a Red Rose Tea box)

Back: Big Oil, Point McIntyre (POW-C) and Prudhoe Bay

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