18 August, 1998


Safety Training****Betty Pingo

We started early today...6:30 AM for safety training at the BP Oil Fields. We got there by 7 AM and were greeted by Judy Ann, our teacher for the day. She, thankfully, led us to coffee (TOY) and then got down to business. We learned about oil field safety and general rules and regulations to follow while on the field. I also met Shannon McDade who works for BP and is sending me some great educational materials to use in my classroom. I thought we were all treated grandly and would love the opportunity to come back again someday to thank everyone that was so nice to us. I tell you what, they know how to cook for their workers.

After training concluded at 3:30 we stopped back by SA-10 and got our gear to take advantage of the daylight and get some work done. This time we went to a site on the oil field named Betty Pingo. A pingo is a mound of soil with an ice core that can reach several hundred meters in elevation in certain areas. Betty Pingo is about 100 meters tall. Pingos are formed when saturated soil (usually under dry lake beds) begins freezing from the bottom, sides, and the top. The pressure from the freezing water forces the soil in the middle of the core to be pushed upward. They look prominent on the coastal plains because everything else is so flat.

Wow, I thought I needed my rubber boots around Toolik lake. I really needed them here on the coast. I was ankle to shin deep in water all evening. There was one good thing about this though, NO tussocks. It sure makes the moving about a lot easier. Anyway, Anna and I downloaded the data loggers and Fritz and Javier did some active layer depth measuring. We got done about 9:00 and went back to the hotel. The hot shower and the bed were divine.

The coastal plain is altogether different from the tundra in the foothills of the Brooks Range. It is flat for as far as the eye can see, except for buildings and pingos, and has a lot more grass as vegetation. There are a lot more lakes here as well and a larger variety of bird-life. Seagulls even live this far north. I was surprised, I thought that sky-rats would find it too cold here. The scenery here is different but also surreal in a way. It is so quiet even with all the oil being pumped around. It reminds me of a Twilight Zone episode where the world ends and no one bothered to tell us.


We woke up this morning to a fresh breakfast that was hot and delicious; though fresh hot breakfasts aren't rare at Toolik Lake, it certainly is something else to have showers and a sink and food all in the same building.

After breakfast, we went through a very informative course in safety taught by a kind BP representative in a building that was raised on stilts. This building was raised so that it wouldn't affect the permafrost underneath the gravel and effectively melt it, thus collapsing the building. Inside was like a labyrinth of meeting rooms and atriums where food was served. They had a snack bar, a real food cafe, and an exercise room. When we started the class, the instructor didn't recognize where we were staying (S.A. 10: Service Area 10). She had been working with BP at this site for well over 10 years. She finally knew where we were staying when someone told her it must be by the dump. Although this is by no means a fair description of the facilities at S.A. 10, it does have some validity when compared with this behemoth of a building. The lecture itself was on oil-field safety; it ran a tad lengthy, but we were able to get in some field work at Betty Pingo 1 and Betty Pingo 2. We basically completed the smaller flux plots and Betty Pingo 1 and 2, and downloaded the data from the data loggers there.

After this relaxing excursion, we decided to see if we could catch a hot dinner at this huge mansion on stilts, but were too late and I had to settle for a "veggie" burger. I ate half of it and followed Dr. Nelson by eating a good, wholesome, American hotdog.

Javier sports high fashion PPE (personal protective equipment) required to travel through the Prudhoe Bay Oilfields (photo courtesy of Javier Lopez).

A female muskox and calf resting along the side of the Dalton Highway and Sagavanirktok River (photo by Javier Lopez).

Contact the TEA in the field at .
If you cannot connect through your browser, copy the TEA's e-mail address in the "To:" line of your favorite e-mail package.