August 5, 2010 BP = Be Prepared
Dima, Kelsey, Elliot, and I rendezvoused for an early morning with Ellen Hatleberg, a graduate student at George Washington University, who’s family now calls Anchorage home. Per her suggestion, we feasted at Gwennie’s Old Alaska Restaurant, a colorfully decorated tavern-turned-eatery, where meal portions put the phrase “Texas-Sized” to shame.
We arrived downtown at the Anchorage Museum for its opening. Having just undergone an elaborate expansion, the museum offers visitors a comprehensive take on art, history, and science through an Alaskan lens. One of our primary objectives in visiting was to check out the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center, an exhibit of rare Native Alaskan artifacts.
Before we reached the exhibit, we received word from Anna Klene – our lead researcher from the University of Montana – that Dima, Kelsey, Elliot, and I needed to head to the BP headquarters in town to complete some unexpected authorization protocols. Understandably, there are many steps one must go through in order to gain access to the land on and around the North Slope oil fields. In addition to receiving the NSTC course cards that yesterday, we were also required to obtain a BP Exploration Alaska Temporary ID for Greater Prudhoe Bay. This simply required viewing a few more training videos, emphasizing the importance of safety and environmental awareness on the field.
Once business was taken care of, Ellen led a journey out of town to the Independence Mine State Historical Park, highlighting the mine and town built to harvest gold that was found in the area in 1886. Located just outside of Palmer, Alaska, Independence miners searched for the precious mineral amongst the quartz of the Talkeetna Mountains. The mine began as two distinct operations, becoming a joint venture in 1938. The mine closed during World War II as gold mining was deemed “nonessential” to the war effort. While the ban was lifted in 1956, the Independence Mine closed for good in 1951, having produced about 6 million dollars of gold in its history.
On the road back to Anchorage, we visited Eklutna Historical Park. The park includes a Russian Orthodox Church and Native Alaskan cemetery, where customs from the Orthodox and Athabascan traditions combine for a unique celebration of life. Once back in Anchorage, the Hatleberg family hosted the travelers for a dinner of reindeer sausage. The fog seen throughout the day finally lifted for a lovely dusk in Anchorage.