The flight to Barrow - and the visit to Anaktuvuk Pass (an-ack-TOO-vick)


We commenced our flight in Fairbanks (lower circle), with a destination of Barrow (upper circle).
However, bad weather conditions caused us to turn back and land at Anaktuvuk Pass (center circle).
 

We flew in a chartered Piper Navajo Chieftain 8-passenger operated by AirArtic out of Fairbanks
 

A beautiful day for a flight (so far)
 

Passing over a pipe line pumping station (One of 12 Alyeska pump stations)
 

The mighty Yukon River stretches out below us
 

The typical tundra landscape.
With the frozen ground below (permafrost) the melt water settles into pools/lakes on the surface.
 

The Arctic Circle commences at about 66-33 N. Latitude
 

We crossed over the Arctic Circle @ 8:50 am, July 26th at an altitude of 4, 522 feet
(From the plane's GPS Unit)
 

It wasn't long before we began to see some visible signs of a change in the
weather as we continue north
 

Above & below - Alaska is HUGE - with a LOT of open spaces

 

As we come in for a fuel & potty stop in Coldfoot, we see some glimpses
of the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company oil transmission line (above & below)

 

We take a stretch break in Coldfoot 55-miles north of the Arctic Circle
 

Coldfoot was established as one of the base camps along
the original Haul Road for the pipeline. (Was, in it's earlier life, a gold mining town.)

Close up of the above sign, giving the history of Coldfoot.
 

A recorded low of -82 degrees. No wonder they had cold feet !
 

As we take off from the Coldfoot airport, we can see the pipeline
to the right of the runway, and below

 

We head north into the Brooks Range...
 

...and the weather begins to look a little ...  gnarly 

At 10:14 am @ 2,259 feet we slide through some passes as we work our way north

Found the right way to go. (Our pilot was the Chief Pilot for AirArctic)
Actually, another plane was lost in these mountains, spotted our plane, and our pilot said "Follow Me"
and we guided him to the Anaktuvuk Pass

The weather is behind (south of us) now.
 

In the clear now, we fly over the small native Nunamiut town of Anaktuvuk Pass within this high pass

Just north, outside of town, are the huts where the town's elders stay
when they meet for important discussions.
 

The Anaktuvuk Pass landfill & trash burning site.
Discards are a problem on the North Slope due to the Permafrost
layer just below the surface, which prevents an extensive burying of discards.
 

A rainbow greets us as we continue north
 

The North Slope of Alaska - miles upon miles of tundra - small lakes above the permafrost - and
according to our pilot, 16 zillion mosquitoes per yard.
 

At 11:13 am, we are 38 minutes out of Barrow, and a shade over 91 miles south of Barrow (PABR).
We can see the "blue" of the Arctic Ocean on the GPS map screen on the left.
 

However, at about 80.7 miles south of Barrow, at 11:17 am, and a little over 30 minutes
out, our pilot hears from Barrow Radio that the airspace is closed, 32 degrees temp,
dew point also at 32. Ice & fog. We find later that no planes, even
commercial, landed in Barrow this day - extremely low visibility - so as you can see
from the GPS receivers above, we turn toward the west, and then south to head back.
So close - but...
 

See the above "Turned Back Here --- +", for the approximant location of our "turn back."
Now; big discussion among the 7 passengers and our pilot. Do we return to Fairbanks,
with a substantial refund, or land in Anaktuvuk Pass, with some refund?
Four of us elected to land at the pass, three others, from Taiwan, were
hesitant - they wanted to go to Barrow, no matter what. That wasn't going to happen, so
to the pass it was. (We all did get a $100 per each refund, by the way.)

Jean & I would like, at some point, to make the trip to Barrow. We have been told
by the pilot, that the weather is much more stable before the "break-up" (when the arctic ice melts.)
So we are contemplating a trip back to this part of the world next late May, early June, of 2007. We will see...

 

Over the tundra, with the north edges of the Brooks Range in sight as we head south.
 

Thanks to Google Earth, you are able to see Anaktuvuk Pass (at an elevation of 2,257)
this air image from (about) 28, 517 feet
 

A successful landing on the Anaktuvuk Pass air strip
 

The post office is right here at the air strip (an-ack-TOO-vick)
 

Welcome !!    But don't drive...
 

No control tower
 

Not sure what these are, mounted near the other FAA equipment at the airport. They appeared
to be lights, (cameras?), sensors of some sort, pointed
exactly at each other. Perhaps a visibility sensor of some sort.
However, to visit their FAA WeatherCam (Click)
 

The view to the south into the Brooks Range
 

And being part of a telephone industry family, had to take this photo, right?
 

Our first visitor, was this gentleman, (Johnny Rulland), who arrived in his ARGO to pick up his mail.
 

These are 8-wheel drive ATV's
 

Powered by an 18-horsepower V-Twin engine
 

They can go almost anywhere in this land of the tundra & marshes.
Most every family seems to have one.
 

Two of the Nunamiut locals come out to great us... (L to R) Harriet Williams, and Violet Kakinya
 

And we ask if they can show us around a bit? (above & below)

 

Three of several Internet links for additional information about Anaktuvuk Pass


We pass by a historical, and their first, trading post (See below)

A historical photo of "Pat O'Connell, an Irish trapper and trader, stands before his summer residence
 and trading post at Anaktuvuk Pass in the summer of 1959."
 

The stick & clay & wire construction of the old trading post.
 

We enter the school...
 

Several signs were in evidence - Advice from the Elders.
This one suggesting the "Avoidance of Conflict"
 

One of the students, Taaqpan Weber - and one of our walk-about guides
 

We are between school years - starts after Labor Day, so some maintenance
work is being done in their multi-purpose room.
 

Their trophy case. They have about 100 students in the school.
 

Their school shop. The teachers all come from "outside" on a 1-year contract.
The school was built & funded by North Slope Oil Revenues.
 

The town fire truck - again, North Slope Oil Revenue funded.

The Fire Chief drives around occasionally in Engine # 2 (Don't know about # 1)
to make sure all is safe in this town of about 300 inhabitants.
 

We visit their interesting museum, and learn more about their historical background & culture.
 

If you look just above the roofs, you can see several satellite dishes.
All homes have access to Wi-Fi Internet service & cable TV.
We were shown into their native Co-Op general store (very limited in stockpiles.)
We asked one of our "guides" if she had any problem getting food. No, she orders
most everything via the Internet; food, hard & soft goods and has it shipped in.
Remember, there are NO ROADS into this community. EVERYTHING, including the Fire Truck, has to be flown in.
 

We bid our hostesses good bye, and thank them, as we prepare
to get airborne again on our trip back to Fairbanks.

They are: (L to R) Violet Kakinya, Taaqpaan Weber, Harriet Williams and Lois Yarde, along with Lois's daughters
 


Ready to go...
 

Again, the satellite equipment. as we view the cloud cover above town.
 

Caught the prop in mid-spin as we climb above the clouds...
 

At 11, 202 feet, about 54 minutes north of Fairbanks, still north of the Arctic Circle
 

Not much to see - but heavy clouds
 

Now at an altitude of 11, 219 feet, 34 minutes out. That's the Yukon River
shown (in blue) on the GPS map on the left.
 

 

And we run into some ice (on the windshield - above) and
along the leading edges of the wings (below)

 

But it doesn't last long. Now down to 2,772 feet, and a little over two minutes out, and we
can see on the (left) GPS map the blue ribbon on the Chena River as it runs through Fairbanks,
and as we look out the window - there it is right below us.

 

Coming into the Fairbanks airport. Note - between the commercial & small plane runways,
is this lake, for use by the Float & Ski planes - depending on the season.
 
 

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