Monday, July 11, 2016

Alaska - Fairbanks, Pump House, and Alyeska Pipeline

Fairbanks has a lot of museums; many other places are on the National Register of Historic Sites.

Their people have worked hard to preserve historic buildings. There seem to be plenty of museums that display history. As Fairbanks grew into a modern city, locals organized groups to save historic places, i.e. log cabins, churches, homes, historic planes, snowmobiles, even part of the sternwheeler that brought E.T.Barnette, founding father, to Fairbanks. Some cabins located in Pioneer Park have signs that name the original Gold Rush owners.

The Pump House is on the National Register of Historic Places. 

Friday evening, the night before we began the land portion of our tour, the five of us took a shuttle to 796 Chena Pump Road to the Pump House Restaurant and Saloon overlooking the Chena River in Fairbanks.

(Note: You can click on any photo to enlarge it, and simply click the x to close it.)

Pump House Restaurant and Saloon 

Saloon Entrance 

Pulling at your heart strings 

Park area across sidewalk from entrance 

Water cannon shooting water into Chena River
It is located in the shell of a 1933 pumping station, which was established by the Fairbanks Exploration Company, Alaska’s largest gold mining operator at the time. The pump house provided water to dredges operating on Cripple Creek in the Ester area. In 1958, the building was abandoned. In 1978, it was enlarged and converted into a restaurant. In 1982, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Entrance to inside dining room

A dredging scoop turned into a planter.
We opted to eat in the inside dining area since we figured temperatures on the outside deck would be a bit chilly by the time we finished our meal. Food and service were great. One of our group opted for their Alaskan King Crab, which was huge, and a couple of others had their Black Angus Beef, also very tasty! Everything on their dessert tray looked marvelous, but I passed. (There wasn't a thing that didn't look good, but I still passed! It was hard to pass on the desserts, but as I write this post, I could not tell you any specific item that was on that tray, so I know passing was a good choice.)

It was a little unusual to see a dog team and musher with a chef’s hat mounted upside down on the ceiling. As we were looking at the menu, my sister read that they were there in memory of their chef -- apparently, he was a musher who had not had a vacation in a while, and this time when he went on vacation, met with an accident that took his life.

In memory of Chef and his Dog Sled Team

In memory of Musher Chef and his Dog Sled Team 
In Fairbanks the sun may set after 3AM and rise before 5AM in summer. It all depends on the time of year.  There was never total darkness when we were there. I remember waking up in the wee hours of the morning and seeing light flowing in through the windows over and under the curtains in our room. Between sunset and sunrise, it was more like twilight, or dusk in the lower 48.

Alaska is the largest state in the country.

With a land area of 570,374 square miles, it is about one-fifth the size, or twenty percent, of the Lower 48 states. Its motto is North to the Future. It became the 49th state on January 3, 1959. When the United States purchased Alaska in 1867, we paid Russia $7.2 million, approximately $0.02 per acre.

Land Portion of our Tour Kicks Off 

Saturday (June 4), our day started with a tour of Fairbanks. We boarded our comfy coach named Prospector and headed north to a place where we got off to view a portion of the Alyeska Pipeline.

Alyeska Pipeline 

The Trans Alaska Pipeline System is 800 miles long. It begins in Prudhoe Bay (Alaska’s north slope), and stretches to Valdez, the northernmost ice-free port in North America, through rugged and beautiful terrain. It is one of the world’s largest pipeline systems. When constructed in the 1970s, it was an engineering icon that was the biggest privately funded construction project.

Alyeska Pipeline (first view entering from highway)

Alyeska Pipeline from opposite side

Alyeska Pipeline looking to North 

Pipeline runs N to S from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez 

James A Maple, P.E.
Arctic Pipeline Engineer 
From the plaque above: "Dr. Maple was a structural engineer and principal designer of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. He holds three patents for his development of innovative pipe supports that enabled the warm oil pipeline to safely transverse areas of permafrost. He pioneered the use of sophisticated structural analysis for pipelines, now used on arctic pipelines worldwide. A graduate of Purdue University, he was a major contributor not only during design and construction, but also continued to provide engineering expertise for the pipeline until his death in 2001.

"In recognition of his contribution to the engineering of arctic pipelines, Dr. Maple was awarded the prestigious Harold R. Peyton Award for Cold Regions Engineering by the American Society of Civil Engineers in 2001. The award was named for Dr. Peyton, another key pipeline designer, who unfortunately died just before the pipeline was commissioned in 1977.

"Dedicated August 1, 2002 in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the opening of the trans-Alaska pipeline."

American Welding Society outstanding development in welded fabrication award
From the above photo: "The American Welding Society outstanding development in welded fabrication award is honorably bestowed upon the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company in recognition of the advanced technology and high quality of welding used in the construction of the Trans-Alaska pipeline system, which, as a significant supplier of our nation's oil, remains one of the technological marvels of the modern world, and a testament to the quality of work undertaken by the welders and engineers who constructed it." November 2002

View of Pig in the Pipeline

Pigs in the Pipeline
From the above: "Devices called pigs improve the flow of oil through the trans-Alaska pipeline and monitor its condition. Pigs are launched and retrieved at pump stations and travel through the pipeline with the moving oil. The orange polyurethane sample in this pipe segment is a cleaning and flow improvement pig. Other more sophisticated pigs are magnetic fields and ultrasonic signals to detect small changes in the pipe's wall thickness and shape. Pigs are among the most important tools available for protecting the pipeline and detecting potential problems."

Retired Pig

Retired Pig used in the Pipeline
"From the above photo: "This pig scraped wax from the internal walls of the pipe when the pipeline first began operating. Once the system warmed up from the constant flow of hot North Slope oil, wax buildup ended. At that time the scraper pig was replaced by the lighter and softer polyurethane version in the display above this one. The polyurethane pig smooths the flow of oil by reducing turbulence, making it easier to pump. The oil is approximately 100 degrees F as it passes this location. The scraper pig weighs 2600 pounds, almost 1,000 pounds more than its replacement."

Fairbanks Gold Rush

The story has it that in 1901 E. T. Barnette, a trader, and his wife, Isabelle, were on the riverboat, the Lavelle Young. They wanted to set up a trading post at Tanacross on the Tanana River. Before they reached their destination, low water conditions existed, and Captain Charles Adams, co-owner of the boat turned into the Chena River, a tributary of the Tanana River. Due to shallow water, the Lavelle Young stopped, and Adams refused to go any farther, so Barnette had to unload everything there.

Meanwhile in July 1902, Felix Pedro discovered gold north of Fairbanks in Interior Alaska, told Barnette, so Barnette opened his trading post. In order for Barnette to create a market for his goods, he then dispatched a Japanese immigrant to go to Dawson City to tell them gold had been found. The miners who went to Fairbanks soon found themselves working for Barnette – prospecting for gold by panning and sluicing for gold in Fairbanks.

Next Stop: Fred Meyer

Before we headed to downtown Fairbanks, we stopped at Fred Meyer in Fairbanks. This seemed a little strange to us, at the time. I had never visited a Fred Meyer store before, and was not sure I saw a need to do it in Fairbanks, but, oh well. As it was explained to us, this would be one of the last places where we could stock up on anything we might need. We had thirty minutes to stock up. The reason given to stock up was the next day after getting off the Alaska Railway, we would board a tan tour bus for Denali National Park. Water would be available on the bus and we would get a box of snacks, but it might be 8PM by the time we got to our night lodging. Find out more about our purchases when you read the post about Denali National Park.

Downtown Fairbanks

After a bus tour of the downtown area, we had several hours to explore. I do not remember all of the choices, except that a good variety of food was available, including a fudge shop. We headed over to the River City Café where we could order from a variety of salad/sandwich/soup choices and have a choice of eating inside or outside.

River City Cafe and Expresso 
Down the street was Gold Rush Jewelry, Fountain & Diner, and a Co-op with 21 more shops, a restaurant and fountain and there were more streets with more eateries and shopping.

Gold Rush Jewelry, more eateries and shops

World's Largest Int'l Dog Mushing & Sled Museum was on the next street.
Golden Heart Park 

Golden Heart Plaza/Park is located in the middle of Fairbanks along the south banks of the Chena River. In the center of a fountain, which was not running the day I took this photo, is this bronze statue. Plaques were mounted on a raised platform around the fountain area. Patio or paver blocks cover the entire walking area to an outer perimeter where seating is available part of the way around.

"The First Unknown Family" statue in Golden Heart Plaza. 
After doing some  research on the web, I learned that the statue is named “The First Unknown Family” and is dedicated to the First Nation Intuit people of Alaska past, present and future, and to the indomitable spirit of the people of Alaska’s Interior. It was created by Malcolm Alexander and is 18 feet high. Plaques are located on the outer perimeter around the statue.

Annus Mirabilis 

The Latin translation for "ANNUS MIRABILIS" is "Wonderful Year".
From above center:
"It was not a year 
Just like other years; 
Somehow 'Eighty-Four was special, 
As if the hand of God 
Had briefly brushed the place 
And sparked a miracle."

Following are three close-up photos of the plaque in the photo above that explain that 1984 was a year to remember, a year of wonders, for the Alaskan people.

(Note: Click on the picture to see it in a larger version, and simply click on the x to close out of it.)

Putting it all in Perspective 

This was Day Four for us. We had already seen many things and were trying to absorb much more. It helps to understand that Fairbanks is the largest town in Interior Alaska. The population of Fairbanks is about 30,000 people, but closer to 100,000 people live in the greater Fairbanks area. Fairbanks serves as a hub for rural interior Alaska, river communities and villages.

When I looked at the Alaska map in the Rand McNally Road Atlas, I got a better understanding of Interior Alaska. Many residents do not have road access to their towns. Two rivers, the Tanana River and the Yukon River, flow into Interior Alaska. Travel for residents without road access is by boat and airplane. People who live along the rivers and the Northern Alaska coastline are predominantly Native American – Yup’ik, Inupiat, and Athabascan. When they come to town, they come to Fairbanks. They consider Anchorage Alaska’s largest village. Every year large conventions are held in Fairbanks and Anchorage, where village residents can celebrate culture and traditional lifestyles.

When the United States originally purchased Alaska, apparently not much was known about the interior of Alaska.

In the 1970’s, highways were built in stages, and until they were connected, they were like roads to nowhere. Today Rand McNally Road Atlas shows:

1) The Parks highway from Fairbanks south to Anchorage on the west,
2) The Richardson Highway from Fairbanks south on the east, and
3) The Glenn Highway connects the Parks and Richardson Highways and also extends on to the Alaskan Highway that many people drive, that also connects to the Richardson Highway at Delta Junction southeast of Fairbanks.

Learning about the modes of transportation available, and the highway system that connects everything, or not, is very important when creating a picture in my mind of the vastness that is Alaska.

Stay tuned – In the next post, my sister and I have a subzero experience and see why Riverboat Discovery was voted the best boat tour in North America!

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