Film: 5248

Industry + Work | 1970 | Sound | Colour


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Oil Exploration in Alaska and the difficulties of the logistics in moving men and machines. 1970's

A map of Alaska, the 49th State of America. The two flags of the U.S.A. and Alaska are waving in the wind. A montage of the landscape of Alaska with its mountains, landscape and glaciers. Kotzebue, just inside the Arctic Circle, Pt. Barrow, on the northern most city, shipyard economy, and metropolian centres like Ketchikan, Fairbanks and Anchorage are introduced. Other pictures are showing a man fishing in a stream, alaskian brown bears and mountain sheeps.

These idyllic views end with the title "Arctic Challenge" and Arctic Marine Freighters present this film. Another side of Alaska: a flat and desert area with lots of small lakes. Then the place of the largest oil discovery of America. Big oil rigs, in the middle of a silence of snow and cold. Once thiswas a deserted place, now hundreds of oil workers living in house units and try to get the oil resources. We see special equipment and industrial buildings for getting oil. Excavators and lorries are clearing ground away. Helicopters interconnect the area with the outside world. They work and live in an isolation over 400 miles from the nearest city Fairbanks to the south.

The equipment, buildings and supplies get here by railroad from Seattle then to Alaska by ships from the Gulf to Alaska. Then by the Alaska Railroad, which carries the heavy loads and from Fairbanks by air. The busy seaway started at the port of Seattle where the "Pudget Sound Inc. & Barrage Company" formed a joint venture with the Arctic Marine Freighters. The first company gave the equipment and the second one had the arctic experiences. So they delivered thousands of petroleum barrels, heavy cranes, housing units, specialised piling machines for construction or diesel powered generators. For the pipelines, one barge after the other are loaded.At the beginning of the operation, advanced planning is required. Every detail of the cargo and unloading is planned with precision. An aircraft flies over valleys, past lakes and stark frozen and still unexplored waste land. A planning team get out of a plane to problem solve. The planning needs also a survey of the Artic ice conditions from the air.

Back to Seattle. Cargos of 97.500 tons were loading continuous. Men are loading barges with thousands of tons of wood, pipelines, other equipment. Finally the big barges starting the long voyage to the Arctic 3.269 northerly miles.
A coloured map shows the complete seaway from Seattle across the Gulf from Alaska into the Bering Strait, finally in the Arctic Ocean to Pt. Barrow. From Pt. Barrow, snow-covered and locked in ice floes. At Pt. Barrow the fleet is stopped They are waiting for favourable wind to move through ice pack. The weather conditions and the action of the ice floe is also watched by the Naval Arctic Research Laboratory. The Laboratory gives information and advice to the fleet.which reach Prudhoe Bay, 130 miles away, before the long weather freeze sets in.
Later the ice floes opens. At Prudhoe Bay, our destination, tons of cargo are unloaded, in bad weather conditions, and quickly before the freeze sets in . The channel is marked with buoys. In the meantime a causeway leading from the station area has been build out in the Prudhoe Bay. Before any freight can be discharged, cranes and big equipment must be unloaded. After that the base camp for hundred of oil workers, with the lliving quarters, kitchen and dining rooms and the radio communication centre, guiding the huge operation, is to complete. Then in many hours and freezing weather the other cargos are unloaded. The containers and pipes for the petroleum have to be handled differently. With pipelines the petroleum has to run direct in large rubber tanks.

Now the work of the men can begin.

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