Deadhorse & Prudhoe Bay

Here lies the end of the road.  Not much to look at, but the Deadhorse/Prudhoe Bay area is interesting nonetheless.  Totally an industrial camp, there are not much in the way of amenities for the traveler.  Form means little, function and practicality everything.  Making a place that drops to –80 degrees Fahrenheit comfortable is no small feat.

We stayed two days at the Arctic Caribou Inn.  While by no means a luxury hotel, it was a lot of fun to get a feel of what the work camps are like up here.  You live in the modular housing that the oil workers call home for the two to four week stretches that they spend on “the north slope.”  While the housing is by no means aesthetic, it is very comfortable and functional.  The water runs hot and cold, cable television works, electricity is plentiful, the rooms can be heated and cooled, cell phones work perfectly well and the food served at the Inn is quite good.  They gave us a lot of food and drink for free, too.

For those interested in learning about the industrial complex, drive through tours can be arranged at the Inn’s office.  Visitors are not allowed to see inside the facilities, but the tour operator shows a video with footage in some of the main buildings.  Visitors also get the opportunity to look at drill bits and other engineering marvels. 

Of course, who would drive all the way to the top of North America and fail to see the Arctic Ocean?  Since the only road to the ocean goes through the industrial complex, one must take the tour to make it all the way out to the beach.  Those not interested in the tour of the industrial complex and want to spend more time at the Arctic Ocean pay less, but not much.  The tour of the industrial complex and ocean was $50 per person.  Those who just did the ocean tour paid slightly less.

The week before we arrived Prudhoe Bay had a small snowfall (end of June).  Our second day the temperature hit 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27C).  So be prepared for any extreme.  I had brought my swim trunks under the expectation that I was going to be swimming no matter how cold.  (It’s a man thing.)  It did not seem like such and idiotic prospect given such warm weather.  Even though the water was only a degree or two above freezing it really was a fun, albeit short, swim.  The water is very shallow.  Our tour operator said that if it were not for hypothermia, we could walk for most of the way out to the ice pack before the water would be over our heads.

We also had a blast beachcombing.  I had my hip waders so I wandered around in the shallow water and pulled up all sorts of rusty metal objects that had fallen off of various pieces of equipment over the years.  I even kept an old rusty chain.  Claimjumper and Aliza found some sort of water critter that apparently lives in the Arctic Ocean.  None of us could identify what appeared to be a small crustacean.     

Given the extraordinary warmth the mosquitoes were out in full force.  Black clouds of the suckers followed us everywhere we walked around the town.  They stayed about a foot away given our repellant, but I always find swarms unnerving.


Last visited: July 2001


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