Before my flight left for Anchorage yesterday, I got the good news that our equipment had arrived safely in Deadhorse. Additionally, although Will had one missed connection on the way up, the team appeared to be making good progress in their travels. I even saw a giant moose in the bog right next to one of Anchorage’s runways as we made our final approach. Things seemed to be in good shape.
My mood was changed quickly right after landing in Anchorage however. As usual, I turned on my phone, and it gave new meaning to the words “blew up”. Emails, text messages, missed phone calls — this can’t be good. Sure enough, many of those messages were to tell me that the one road between Deadhorse and Oliktok Point had been closed due to a partial collapse that occurred while the oil companies were moving heavy equipment. There’s never a dull moment when it comes to the North Slope of Alaska. Based on a variety of reports, this road block could take anywhere from 12-48 hours to repair. This news presented a somewhat serious dilemma — Deadhorse is not exactly a metropolis filled with lodging options, and when something goes wrong, those options narrow pretty quickly. The decision we were faced with was to either change our flight and stay in Anchorage until the road was reopened, or roll the dice, stick with our original itinerary and figure it out once we got there. The first option being safer, but substantially more expensive — lodging in Anchorage in the summer runs between $250-300 per night, per room, not to mention the airline change fees — and the second option being riskier, but having the potential to really pay off if we could somehow get past the roadblock and up to Oliktok on schedule.
After thinking things over at dinner with Nathan and Dale (Will was still on his way up), discussing things over the phone with Al Bendure from Sandia, who was already in Deadhorse and keeping a pulse on things up there, and calling around to a variety of lodging options, we decided to accept the risk of heading up to Deadhorse this morning. It sounds as though, if necessary, we’ll be able to at least get some people past the roadblock, so the lodging issue becomes less of a concern. Also, several of the places I called gave me as some hope, although admittedly statements such as “we should probably have a room or two but I can’t confirm until tomorrow” and “we almost always have at least some bunk space available” aren’t completely reassuring… My gut tells me that we’ll be able to get our team to Oliktok today, although it’s certainly been wrong before. As I type this on the flight up to Deadhorse, some doubts creep in, but ultimately I think we’ll be just fine. Stay tuned!