Take Advantage of a Free Alaskan Exhibit and Photo Site
The Trans-Alaska Pipeline is a twentieth century engineering marvel. It is one of the most difficult engineering marvel of modern time. This is one of the largest pipelines in the world and this is the only way to get gas from Alaska’s Northern slopes to the tankers waiting in Valdez. When you visit Alaska especially Fairbanks, be sure to take pictures of this amazing pipeline.
While many Alaskan sites and tours can be pricey, one attraction is totally free, as well as captivating. When you visit the Fairbanks area of interior Alaska, be sure to stop off and admire the above ground Trans-Alaska Pipeline.
The Trans-Alaska Pipeline (also know as the Aleska Pipeline) connects northern Alaskan oil fields to a southern seaport where oil can be shipped to the lower 48 states for refining. Each year the Trans-Alaska Pipeline handles the flow for one-fifth of all U.S. oil production. It’s been described as one of the most innovating engineering achievements of modern times.
Also,one of the largest pipeline systems in the world, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline snakes it way through 800 miles of rugged Alaskan wilderness. It has a diameter of four feet and crosses three mountain ranges including Brooks Range, Alaska Range, and Chugach Range.
Tourists can stop off at the Fox Visitors Center to view the Trans-Alaska Pipeline to get a good look (as well as photos) of a small portion of the pipeline. It’s built far above the ground, out of harm’s way from bears and other wildlife.
History of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline
The Trans-Alaska Pipeline began construction in 1974 after oil was discovered at Prudehoe Bay in 1968. Building the pipeline presented special challenges, as workers had to deal with the rough terrain and frigid climate.
Construction continued for the next three years, linking Prudhoe Bay (on the Arctic Ocean) with the terminal Valdez, which is the most northern ice-free port in the Western Hemisphere. The construction of the pipeline provided jobs, boosting Alaska’s economy, especially residents of the Fairbanks and the interior area of the state. About 21,600 people helped build the pipeline. It cost around 8 billion U.S. dollars and was divided into six sections of construction. Since it first began operation in 1977, it has transported more than 15 million barrels of oil.
More than half of the 800-mile pipeline is above ground in areas of thraw-sensitive permafrost (such as the one open for public viewing at the Fox Visitor’s Center near Fairbanks.)
From early May through mid-September, the Aleska Pipeline Service Company (which both operates and maintains the pipeline) conducts free tours. Located about eight miles north of Fairbanks on the Steese Highway, the Fox Visitors Center also offers souvenirs, complete with factual details about the pipeline.
When you visit the Alaskan Pipeline there are many interesting facts to learn about its construction and history.
The highest elevation is at Atigun Pass at 4,739 feet. Other high elevations include Isabel Pass at 3,420 feet and Thompson Pass at 2,812 feet.
The pipeline survived a 7.9 magnitude earthquake on November 3, 2002. Centered along the Denali Fault in interior Alaska, the earthquake (the largest since 1912) took place only 50 miles west of the pipeline.
The four-foot diameter is composed of specially coated material, which is covered with zinc anodes, preventing corrosion.
Alaska’s Ship Escourt Response Vessel System has the mission of safely conducting tankers through Prince William Sound.
Significance of the Pipeline
Besides being free and a great photo site, tourists should stop by and admire this contemporary engineering marvel. By learning details of the pipeline’s history and the sacrifices made to construct it, you can better appreciate how Alaskan pioneers worked hard to transport oil to the rest of the United States.