July – September
Oil in Alaska has had a controversial 170 year struggle. Evidence of oil was originally found by Thomas Simpson, between 1836 and 1839, during an expedition to Point Barrow. The most commonly known oil location is the North Slope of Alaska, but oil was found in many other regions including Iniskin, Southern Alaska. Today most of the oil fields are surrounded by National Wildlife Refuges. Due to the predicament of the United States a hot topic of debate is the possibility of drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Environmental concerns were brought to the forefront of discussion after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in March of 1989 when over 10.8 million gallons of crude oil were spilled into Prince William Sound, after an oil tanker crashed onto a reef.
This was not the first spill but because of the highly publicized and tragic results of Exxon Valdez the amount of oil spills along the pipeline declined drastically when more precautionary measures were implemented. As for help from the government, President George Bush Sr. still saw “no connection” between the Exxon Valdez spill and the push for new Arctic oil development. With continued growth of our nation’s need for oil, the debate for drilling in ANWR and oil in Alaska may continue for another 170 controversial years.
The exhibit offered a mixture of re-created newspapers and articles Including:
— “Where the Oil Goes In” & “Where the Oil Goes Out”
The Trans-Alaska Pipeline stretches about 800 miles from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez. This is approximately the same distance from Seattle, WA to San Francisco, CA. The pipeline crosses three mountain ranges and over 800 rivers and streams, ending in Valdez, the northern most ice-free port in Alaska. The red dots on the map indicate pump stations. Twelve pump stations were planned and are shown on the map, but number eleven was never built. Most of the 48 inch diameter pipe is above ground, built in a zig-zag pattern so that the pipes are able to move slightly side to side and lengthwise with the shifting of the earth. At its peak the pipeline is capable of pumping out two million barrels of oil each day or 84 million gallons. More recently the pipeline has been running only 800,000 barrels each day or 33.6 million gallons. Once pumped to Valdez, the oil is loaded onto tankers and shipped to refineries.
LOCATION: 2nd floor galleries
Curator: Kristin M. Johnson