Really Remote

Got called back to work on Sunday, flew to Anchorage on Monday night, and on to the slope on Tuesday. It was about 30 degrees when I left Juneau, about zero in Anchorage, and -32 when I got off the plane in Umiat on a clear, sunny, windless day. We flew directly from Anchorage to Umiat on a twin prop, 30 seat plane. We had to stop about half way in Anchorage to refuel.

Umiat is located on the banks of the Colville River in the National Petroleum Reserve, or NPR-A. Can’t remember what the “A” stands for. Umiat is inland, and so much hillier terrain than up on the coast of the Arctic Ocean where I worked all my previous hitches.

The flight into Umiat was as it must look like flying over the Sahara. Wind-blown snow that covers everything in white. I saw the first sunrise here about 3 weeks ago, and already there are some 6 hours of daylight now. The sunset at 4 pmish today was again spectacular, and similar to desert or ocean sunsets.

Only half of us could fly on to our work site at a time, and so I was in the second group. By now, my feet were getting cold. We were told to go wait in “ the tower”, which is a plywood shack that handles air traffic logistics through Umiat. The shack had two Laser 56 model heaters on the lower floor where we were waiting. This model is exactly that of our house in Juneau. Each heater was set to heat to it’s max (85 degrees), but could only manage to get the room temperature to 37 degrees. Still, that’s 65 degrees colder than the outside temp., so not too bad. Still, my feet grew colder.

From Umiat, we flew in a smaller double prop plane (twin otter) to the WolfCreek #4 drilling site of Anadarko. They are drilling a test gas well here. We landed on the snow landing strip, then a 5 mile bus ride to the rig. By now, the toes of my right foot were getting numb. We arrived at our site, offloaded our gear, and it was a welcome condition to get into the warm living quarters.

I was to work the night shift on the rig. The “day man” looked all too relieved to see me, as he rarely slept all night as he would be awakened to do fuel transfers from tanker trucks to the onsite fuel tanks. These tanks fuel everything from the generators to heating the camp, and are filled daily. He gave me a tour of the place, and as he headed to bed for what may be his first good sleep in several weeks, I was left to figure out my first night of work. Staying awake will be the toughest part, since I came in and would need to stay up my first night and then hopefully get on a regular day sleep schedule tomorrow.

Unlike working near Prudhoe Bay and Deadhorse, first Umiat, then this site are in the wilderness, by themselves, with nothing but snow covered hills around. A welcome change and new adventure, and a sense of really being “out there” in the bush

Mark Stopha
Alaska Wild Salmon Company
4455 N. Douglas Hwy
Juneau, AK 99801

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