The Alaska Pipeline Sidetrip

(Paxton to Wasilla)

A leisurely trip from Paxton north to Delta Junction added a few key birds to our list (Harlan's Hawk, Hammond's Flycatcher, Red-breasted Merganser) but the prime purpose was to check out the Alaska pipeline. Being raised in a oil town by an oil executive (yes, this page is for you, Dad), I was always interested in the oil business, and in Alaska, the pipeline had to overcome some significant problems to bring the north sea oil down to Valdez.

This sign illustrates some of the major problems that had to be overcome
Half of the 850 mile pipeline was built above ground for three primary reasons - unstable tundra, temperature variations and earthquakes. The pipeline was built in a zig-zag so that there was room for expansion and contraction of the pipes as the annual temperature cycle moved from 75 degrees Farenheit in the summer, to 60+ degrees below zero in the winter. The tall vanes sticking above the pipeline trap the wind to cool the excess heat generated by the swiftly moving oil.
These pictures illustrate the sliding mechanism supporting the pipeline which allows each individual segment to move laterally and longitudinally, in case of earth tremors.
It was an interesting feat of engineering, but not as interesting as our birds....
Back to the Denali Highway