Field Notes: The Polar Field Services Newsletter

A Caribou View

 “We stopped to take some pictures and this caribou crossed right in front of us,” reported Brad Stefano (CH2M HILL safety manager), who snapped these shots.

PFS' Jay Burnside exchanges glances with a large caribou. Pictures by Brad Stefano

Last week a group from the National Science Foundation and CPS visited Toolik Field Station (the University of Alaska’s research outpost on the north slope of the Brooks Range).  Because you can’t get there from here, we flew to Prudhoe Bay up on Alaska’s northern coast, borrowed CH2M HILL vehicles, and drove to and from Toolik on the Dalton Highway, which parallels the trans-Alaska oil pipeline.

Toolik is a bit over 100 miles south of Prudhoe Bay, but it’s a bumpy three-hour drive over the so-called Haul Road, which was built to carry oil workers up to the fields in Prudhoe Bay. But what the Haul Road lacks in comfort it makes up for in scenery, and last week was no exception. Our group was treated to a caribou feast—for the eyes, that is—as multitudes could be seen alongside the road on their seasonal migration.  

“We stopped to take some pictures and this caribou crossed right in front of us,” reported Brad Stefano (CH2M HILL safety manager).

“We must have seen hundreds of caribou,” he continued. “We were traveling in a convoy of three trucks, but they didn’t seem to care about us—they weren’t afraid at all. That seemed a little ironic because there were also a lot of bow hunters around.”

Dude, act like you don't see the truck. Or the hunters.

Dude, act like you don't see the truck. Or the hunters.

The group watched a dozen or so bow hunters dragging a felled caribou along the road.  As an aside, guns are illegal near the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, which runs about 800 miles from the southern coast of Alaska at Valdez to Prudhoe Bay where the oil fields are.