11 July, 1998
TEA/Alaska - 98
Journal Entry 2 - July 11, 1998
Travel to Anchorage, AK
After a few hours of restful sleep, I woke up to drizzling rain. It was dull and chilly, 46 degrees. At about 9 am, we checked out of the hotel and headed to the Natural History museum where we planned to spend the morning. After having a light breakfast there, we toured the museum.
Our focus was the native Alaskans. Their sense of technology was phenomenal even though their life style was very primitive. I was amazed at their garment designs and their tailoring skills to make the water proof parkas. No modern day serger can compare to the seams that they produced by hand, and its ability to repel water. The grass material used as thread and the gut of the animals were capable of swelling in water and sealing the needle holes. The social structure of the different native and immigrant groups was also very interesting and unique. We were able to visit the exhibits of the newcomers to Alaska and their influence on the lifestyle of indigenous Alaskans - explorers, the fur traders, the gold rush opportunists, the Alaska railroad and pipeline workers. This was very enlightening.
From the museum, we went to the airport for departure to Valdez . There we saw a small exhibit on Arctic/Alaskan bears prior to boarding the small aircraft. The flight was short and sweet (35 minutes), and we were treated hospitably. From the airport we drove to the Westmark hotel. It overlooked the Valdez marina, the backdrop of which were beautiful ice-capped mountain ranges. After checking in, we went to lunch at a quaint "mom & pop" restaurant, had a lovely meal, and took Valdez for ourselves. We walked around, visited a number of gift shops, stores, air marked dinner possibilities, then visited the Valdez museum. This was small, but very interesting. It highlighted the history of Valdez, city legends, and of course the mighty Alaska pipeline.
Following the museum visit, we took a bus tour to the Alaska Pipeline. Historical facts as well as some very interesting "tales" of Valdez were shared with the us - tourists. As we traveled along the tour route, incidental information was also given on the old Valdez which was destroyed by the earthquake, and the relocation of the new Valdez. As we entered the high security area of the Pipeline, we were greeted by a huge billboard which displayed all of the related facts and quantitative data of operations since its inception. We visited each of the berths, from which barges are loaded, and detailed explanations were given of the day to day operations. Precautionary measures which were implemented since the Exxon Valdez spill, were emphatically explained, since Alaska does not want to ever experience such a disaster again. Spills are minimized to less than a table spoon of crude oil for every barge that is loaded Because it was a bus tour, and for security reasons, we could only disembark at specific locations to walk around. The only part of the operation we were actually able to witness was the cleaning of the tanks for the water treatment process, and the tanks where the oil eating bacteria are cultured for the cleansing process. The lay out the physical plant was explained - floating docks, insulation of the above ground pipelines and their relative heights, positions/locations of the specific buildings, holding tanks, security cameras, transmitting and communication stations, retaining walls, fire stations, and the like. The design of this plant is well thought out., and systems of operation very fascinating. The tour ended at the 799 mile mark(800) where the huge, well insulated, above-ground pipeline disappears underground.
On our return trip to the bus terminus where the tour originated, we noticed several people fishing, and some very successful fishermen proudly displaying their day's catch. At the terminus we watched a video on the Alaskan Pipeline, and viewed a few exhibits on the pipeline. This is done before or after the tour - tourist's choice. We went back to the hotel and then to dinner - a tasty meal of halibut . The biggest joke of the day was when our waiter was distracted and completely missed the glass and poured water on to the table. That was the last we saw of him that evening. Tomorrow will be a long, but much anticipated day. We will travel the scenic route to Seward via ferry to Whittier, on to Portage by train, and then drive to Seward. So join me for another wonderful day in the last frontier.
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