My Day in Barrow, Alaska and the Prudhoe Bay Arctic Tour

As my last few weeks in Prudhoe Bay were coming to a close, I got the opportunity to do some pretty awesome stuff. When June started rolling around, there was an incredible amount of tours to the Arctic Ocean through the Prudhoe Bay oil fields and regularly scheduled plane flights to Barrow, Alaska. I’m fortunate enough to be able to work for a company that lets their employees do these tours for free, which is an added job incentive that I took full advantage of. 

The first tour was the Prudhoe Bay Arctic Tour. This consisted of a two hour bus ride through the town of Deadhorse, the oil fields near the ocean, and a stopping point at the beach of the Arctic Ocean. The tour guide I went with, named Branden, was an employee of one of the oil companies during the winter and a bus driver for tours through the fields during the summer. The only way the oil companies let people come through their roads is if they’re escorted by an employee with security clearance across the check points that have submitted every tourist’s license ID number 24 hours in advance. The security around Prudhoe Bay is incredibly strict, for whatever reason. You can’t even take a picture of the guard posts, or I probably would have to show everyone. Haha. I did get a picture of me standing on the Arctic Ocean (Shown Left)

I ended up going with a really nice family from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, along with Branden the tour guide. The family was traveling through Alaska for the summer in a truck/RV combo, though the Arctic winds almost blew it over while they were sleeping in it the night before. The bus we went on was a regular tour bus with wide windows and copious amounts of heaters under the seats. As Branden drove us around Deadhorse and the oil fields, he explained everything he could about all the different animals, birds, machinery, and buildings we were looking at. The most interesting thing I learned about the oil fields was about the processes of refining the oil, shipping it thousands of miles through steel pipes, and how many safety features they have in place for just about anything that could go wrong. It’s a pretty impressive operation and the facilities that the employees live at are much better than I ever imagined.

The other tour I went on was a flight to Barrow, Alaska. Being the most northern point in America, I definitely couldn’t pass that opportunity up. Barrow is a small Native Inupiat village way up north on the edge of the Arctic Ocean. It’s roughly and hour to an hour and a half’s flight time from Deadhorse, Alaska, the town at the very end of the Dalton Highway. There are no roads in or out of Barrow and their only mode of transportation to the outside world is a small airport that taxis people back and forth from various airports in Alaska. My company allowed me and Kendra, another coworker of mine, to tag along on a flight that wasn’t full. There was a tour van waiting for the tourists. Kendra and I didn’t want to pay the exorbitant amount of money in a town that we could easily just walk around in. The sign to the left shows how far popular cities and countries are from Barrow.

The first thing we decided to do was find some kind of city office that would have maps or instructions on how to get across town. On our way there, we came across the middle school and high school. They had an excellent bowhead whale skull in front of the high school. (Shown Left) Apparently the high school’s mascot is the whalers, which my partner-in-crime thought was pretty funny. (Shown Above Right)
As we walked further into town, we found their city hall. We walked in to inquire about some sort of map. Interesting enough, the first person we met was a nice Mexican lady that had just gotten there. The second person we met was a very chipper Indian man that described how to get around town. 

The city is split into two provinces that are only connected by a bridge. One half seemed like they had most of the industrial areas and homes in it and the other half had all the grocery stores, cultural centers, and any other business you could imagine. Another bowhead skull outside the visitors center was on display while we walked around town (Shown Left). On the far side of town by the post office, we found their grocery store. Apparently orange juice is a valuable commodity in this town haha. (Shown Above Right)
After walking around an actual grocery store for the first time in 5 months, Kendra and I tried going to the cultural center but they were closed for an hour. I guess even Barrow villagers have to eat lunch, too. We decided to walk to the ocean and see the famous Whale Bone Arch and whaling boats on display (Shown Left). There was a recent whale hunt and a flagged whaling boat on the ice still (Shown Right).
When we got done with our lunch on the beach while staring off into the icy ocean, we walked back to the cultural center. They had opened back up and were starting a tour for some school children. We wanted to see the displays around the whaling museum but admittance was $10. Luckily for us, you get free admittance if you work on the North Slope. While we walked around, I found an interesting chart of the division of meat among the villagers after every kill (Shown Left). Something else I found interesting was the small boat made completely out of baleen, the ridged teeth from a whale that filters water from their food (Shown Right).

A beautiful mural of the legendary man, Eben Hopson, caught my eye, too. Eben Hopson was the single most influential person in the government of Alaskan Natives in the north. He helped enact several bills through the US Senate that have preserved his native ancestry and traditions throughout the years.

 The museum even had a native bird exhibit. I was excited to see this since they had detailed descriptions of several birds. My 2 favorites, as usual, were the snowy owl (Shown Right) and a Rough-Legged Hawk (Shown Left).

When we left Barrow, I was in awe of it’s beauty as we flew over the village. My experience there was extremely fulfilling and I got to do almost everything on my To-Do list. With that over, the following week was a blur. It was filled with somberly packing up my room, or Arctic Cave as we came to call it, saying goodbye to my fellow coworkers and crew workers that filled the camp, and traveling 260 miles down the Dalton Highway on rough dirt roads and snow-capped mountains through the Brooks Range. As I sit here writing this, I’m encircled by about a dozen coworkers of Coldfoot Camp in a room that resembles a college dorm lounge. Magazine clippings and pictures cover the walls, incredibly intriguing books stack shelves high, and sport wagering charts are tacked to cork boards. With this complete sensory overload in the amount of people at this camp compared to the 7 coworkers in Deadhorse Camp, these next 4 months will come with it’s own challenges and unique experiences. But for now, my time in Prudhoe Bay has come to a close.

***I’m sorry I haven’t posted in a while, people. Limited internet access and working upwards of 80 hours a week have limited my time on being able to carve out time to sit in the coworker lounge. I’ve resorted to writing a journal during the week and copying my writings when I do have internet. I’ll have plenty more to come, as I’m already working on 3 more posts from my journal. Feel free to write me a letter, if you want. 🙂 The address is:
KC Loosemore
P.O. Box 9041
9000 Dalton HWY
Coldfoot, Alaska, 99709

Thanks to all for the continued support!

Onwards, onto my 6th month in the Arctic.

As I notice that it’s the very start of June, I come close to my 5th month mark, onto my 6th month. A lot has changed for me in the last 5 months. I’m starting to realize that my passion in life is traveling to see all these beautiful places that all my friends from all over the world tell me about. Cooking isn’t my only marketable skill that I have to take me places anymore. But I’m also starting to realize that this life could be lonely if I let it. Meeting new people and becoming their friend just to leave a short time later can be rather disheartening, especially faced with the fact that some of them I’ll never see again. I have consistent people in my life that I’ll never lose contact with but they don’t have the luxury of abandoning their lives and jobs to go on these incredible journeys with me.

I’ve also tried to document some of my travels after realizing that these experiences aren’t just for me. With all my friends back home getting married and starting their own lives and my family going about their own lives, I feel like these adventures can help them see the world while still doing what they want to do. This helps me justify going to all these different places and not feeling bad about it. If I can help my family and friends see beauty through my experiences, I’m willing to spend the time to document it. It’s also interesting to think about how much change my life has had in the last 10 years. I bet my mother never thought her 13 year old nerdy, couch potato son from 10 years ago would have set foot in the Arctic or aspired to see beautiful, inspiring sights like I do now. Or I bet my grandma never thought that this bratty kid that refused to eat his ice cream unless he got to feed himself close to 18 years ago would be trying to open the world up to others. I hope to one day be able to take my mother to the places she only dreamed of seeing with her own eyes, such as Italy, as a thank you for always supporting me. I can only keep going forward right now. 🙂

My favorite part about this trip is that I’ve had a little bit of down time to really reflect on my life and work on my health. I’ve never been able to do that because ever since I was 14 I worked as much as possible to try and get ahead in life. Even in high school I’d work as late as 2 AM during the week and still wake up for school (mostly, haha). With the hotel being unexpectedly slower than previously believed this winter, I’ve earned enough money to keep myself satisfied that I’m not wasting my time but it’s been slow enough that I can really study how my body reacts to different things without any adverse effects on my job. With that said, the camp I’m at right now IS pretty slow right now. I’m excited to be able to travel down the Dalton Highway on Friday to reach my camp for the summer (Pictured Left). The other camp I’ll be working at will be significantly busier, from what I’ve heard. I’ll also have some help in cooking all the food. It’ll definitely be more up my alley for cooking with so much people passing through the camp every day.

The company I’ve been working for is a really good company and the management has been good to me so far. I don’t make a lot of requests for anything but if I do want a day off to take care of something or want to go on a tour through the Arctic, they’ve been great to set it all up for me. I recently visited a friend that I worked with during the winter that got another job somewhere else in town. He’s doing great and the hotel he’s working for is above and beyond nice for what you’d expect for the slope. It’s a consistent job that you could make a sizable career out of, with options of working 4 weeks on at the camp coupled with 2 weeks off to do whatever you want. I’d consider applying at other camps like this one if I hadn’t already set up Antarctica and had other plans. Maybe in the near future I’ll find a job like this in a place I’ve loved but for now, planning too far ahead could be detrimental.

I leave Coldfoot Camp sometime near the end of September. I’ll have been up here for a total of 8 1/2 months minus the 7 days that I spent in Utah getting my physical qualifications done. I’ll be in Utah another 2 weeks before I leave for New Zealand and, eventually, Antarctica. I found out where I’ll be cooking in the southern-most continent, also. It’s a landing zone for planes maintained by the US Air National Guard called Williams Field Airport (Pictured Upper Left). It supports 2 landing strips for planes equipped with skis and a small community known as “Willy Town”. It’s mostly ski equipped trailers that have been stationed there for the maintenance and daily functions of the air strip. I’ll be in the only small restaurant on the field, feeding around 120 on any given day. I would live in McMurdo and take a shuttle every day to work (The bus that shuttles people, Pictured Upper Right). It should be a great experience that’ll boost my resume even more.

This past week has been fantastic. I went on a tour of the oil fields and to the Arctic Ocean at the start of the week. I went with a really nice family from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania that was traveling Alaska. The guide that drove us around was incredibly detailed in the descriptions of the oil field and ocean that we saw. I was surprised at how much I actually learned from the trip. Just a couple days ago, I got the opportunity to take a plane into Barrow, Alaska. There was an empty seat on one of the charter planes that was taking our guests into town for the day so I got asked if I wanted to go. Barrow, Alaska is the 2nd most populated city above the Arctic Circle and one of the northernmost cities in the world (Famous whale arches of Barrow, Pictured Left). I’ll probably do a separate blog post about these two adventures so keep an eye out. 🙂 As for now, I’ll start getting ready for my day and start packing for my next adventure into the unknown! Have a great day everyone!

The Great Bird Migration of Prudhoe Bay

A few years back, I got involved in bird watching in South East Alaska through some friends. One of them was a marine biologist. That’s a pretty credible background in birding as any I could think of. The other was her husband. Just as valid credibility I’d say. I’d go fishing with these two quite often and have heard the biologist banter about the sea birds and their different breeds on more than one occasion. Ever since I was little, the eagle has always been my favorite animal so to hear these two talk about the birds of Alaska was incredibly interesting to me. I then saw a movie about a year later about traveling the country in search of spectacular species of birds. It was titled The Big Year. It had Jack Black, Steve Martin, and Owen Wilson (among other prominent actors) and it had beautiful scenes of the Pacific North-West and Alaska in it (Pictured Left). What more could you ask for? Ever since then, my interest in the amazing species of birds where ever I’m at has been close to the forefront in my mind.

In Utah, I was always spoiled with an abundant amount of climates and regions that facilitate hundreds of species of birds. I also grew up going to the Tracy Aviary, an 8 acre bird sanctuary in the heart of Salt Lake City, Utah. Some of my fondest memories as a child was watching the Birds of Prey Show, which featured different hawks, eagles, and owls. This sparked my love for bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, different types of owls, and peregrine falcons, among other birds. There are hundreds of species of birds in Utah alone so when I found out Prudhoe Bay was a huge migratory stopping point in North America for sea birds and many other species, I was elated. I also found out that I wasn’t going to be spending my summer up here in Prudhoe Bay, making me worried I wouldn’t be able to see this spectacle. Having not seen literally any other living thing in the arctic besides an occasional flash of a tail from an arctic fox, I felt even more defeated at the prospect of seeing this migration.

As I just got back from my week long vacation in Utah, I expected the usual vast stretch of white, flat land with just freezing snow covering it. When I got off the plane to come back to the lodge, however, I noticed an amazing spectacle had happened all across the tundra while I was away. As I walked to the van that picked me up, I noticed the road was actual gravel. As I drove down the road, I noticed large, snowy caps of drift snow reduced to puddles along the flat expanses. The biggest differences I noticed was the fact that I actually saw water outside. To explain a little, the tundra is essentially a giant bowl of freezing cold wind that turns any sign of water into stoney ice in an instant, making most living things too vulnerable to live here. I walked outside once with a wet shirt from the washing machine needing to be dried and in the few seconds I was outside, it turned into a plank-ice shirt. I could have probably picked it up and smacked someone over the head with it. So for me to see the drastic transformation the tundra took on through the Sagavanirktok river and multiple lakes scattered around town in a week was shocking.

This also gave me hope. Hope that I would indeed see the great migration after all. My new found hope was sparked by the tundra’s drastic change. It was later ignited by an account of a single, beautiful snowy owl perched on top of our hotel sign and HUGE ravens scaring me half to death while I walked down our icy steps from our main facility. All this, coupled by the fact that the tundra has turned into a giant slush puddle of doom makes me pretty excited that I’ve been extended to the end of the month for my stay in Prudhoe Bay. The migration of caribou (reindeer, essentially), musk ox, copious amounts of birds, and bears all are coming within the next month, leaving me with hope that I’ll see at least some of this. I found a few pictures of some of the birds that are indigenous to this area during migration. Snowy owl (Pictured Left), King Eider (Bottom Right), and Spectacled Eider (Bottom Left) are just a few of the species that I’m hoping to see.

***An update on me, I just got back from a week long “vacation” at my home town in Utah. It was packed full of family, friends, medical testing I needed done for Antarctica, and fun! Haha. I saw The Amazing Spiderman 2 (which I loved, obviously), I went on a hike through the mountains close to my house with some friends, I saw most of the family I wanted to see while home (sorry Jake and Uncle Steve), and I got to spend half a day in Salt Lake City walking around with two of my favorite girls (besides my momma, haha), my sister and Kimmy. I only had enough time to see a few friends though, sadly. Unfortunately, most of my time was spent getting my medical evaluations done for Antarctica. When I come home in September, I’ll have a little more time to spend traveling around to all the people I really miss before I’m pushed off to Antarctica. I’d like to go up to Bear Lake some time in September and spend some time eating raspberries and relaxing on the lake.

My time in the arctic has been fantastic and I’ve loved every minute of it but I’m also excited to get back to an area that has mountains around it. The landscape here is as flat as can be for miles all around me and I’m not used to that. Also, I’m going to a camp that has no cell service and limited internet in about 3 weeks so I’ll try to keep up on writing in this. I may have to keep a digital journal of things I want to write about and post out of that every week. If you would like to write me letters while I’m there, I’ll gladly give you the address if you ask. It would be nice to hear from familiar people while I’m in the middle of nowhere. Here are a few pictures from my trip to Utah. They are pictures from my hike with my friends’ Kevin and Brooke and a picture of the cutest little girl on the planet, my niece Ava. Thank you to everyone that’s supported me through all of this and has helped me throughout my journey. Until next time!

Human Planet BBC Film Crew/Arctic Fox

A couple weeks back there was a film crew from BBC shooting a documentary about the seasons of Alaska. They were 3 of the nicest and most passionate people I’ve ever met. The two producers were Tuppence and Toby and they had help from their driver and equipment tech guy. They came to our hotel to film arctic foxes, which is unbelievably awesome to me. I love foxes and hope to own one as a pet some day. A lot of people think I’m crazy considering they’re nocturnal but I stay up considerably late anyway. They’re actually a relative of the dog family.

When the film crew first got to camp, they posted flyers all over the hotel detailing their stay at the lodge and if anyone knew any information about where they could find an arctic fox. The first couple days were uneventful as they scoured Deadhorse and the surrounding area for information. They were thoroughly impressed with our food, though. Every single meal they continuously raved about how good they thought our food was. It really helped everyone step up their game and provide the best customer service. The staff and I even ended up watching Human Planet, which the producers that were filming the fox were directly responsible for. They even won an Emmy for their role in it.

4 days after they got here and still no sign of a fox, the night dishwasher had an interesting encounter with one. While the BBC Crew was out searching, our dishwasher, Dave, went to take out the garbage. As he did so, an arctic fox wandered up to him and just sat right in front of the dumpster. The fox just sniffed the air and completely ignored Dave. As Dave moved closer to it so he could dump his garbage, the fox was completely unfazed. We both speculated that the foxes around here are probably used to human beings, most likely associating them with food or as no threat at all. Even though you shouldn’t try to pet them because of the high chance of rabies, it’s still nice to know that the arctic foxes around here aren’t threatened by humans.

The climate in the Arctic is so severe that the physiology of this particular fox has adapted so much that it’s body anatomy is one of the best suited for this climate. It can withstand -58 Fahrenheit in relative comfort without using any metabolic warmth. The feet are covered in fur and are stout. The ears are rounded and closer to the head than other foxes. The muzzle is relatively short as to lessen the amount of heat loss on the body. It’s tail is used for balance and is used for warmth, mostly like a blanket. The tail is actually about 35 percent of the foxes entire length, making it an extremely important part of the animal.

It’s a scavenger that feeds off the remains of polar bear and wolf kills, an avid hunter that kills hares and birds, and also eats vegetables when they can be found. It can even hide food in it’s den to store for winter. The fur on an arctic fox is a thick, oily white coat that beads off water and sheds to a variety of different colors during the warmer months. As for offspring, they have the largest litter recorded by a mammal. Averaging 11 baby foxes in one litter, the fox can give birth every spring around May through April. The mother and father both stay with the pups until fall, feeding them until they can be self-sufficient. Now, in Alaska you can’t own any type of fox as a pet. It’s completely illegal. But in my home state of Utah, you can own any variety of Vulpes Vulpes (Red Fox) which the arctic fox is a part of. You have to make sure they can stay cool, though. From all the research I’ve done on them, they are basically similar to a house cat in mannerisms but completely different from any animal mentalities. as long as you have a large enough pen for them, they have plenty of hiding places, and you make sure they have a lot of things to do, they’re great pets.

Now that you know about the fox, it’s a pretty monumental task that the BBC crew set out for considering the fox is always on the move and tends to hide a lot. Every single day someone would ask them if they found the elusive fox but the answer was always no. They got video of a red fox about a week and half in but every other day was wasted traveling up and down the highway looking for leads on sightings of the arctic fox. This went all the way to the very last day of their trip. They finally ended up with the footage they came for, going all the way to the very last hours of possible filming time to catch these beautiful animals on film. They were greeted by our staff with triumphant praise, which I felt that it showed how enthralled into their project we all were.

The amount of energy it took them to try and get hours of film for a supposed 3 to 4 minute clip in their documentary was astounding to me. It gave me an incredible respect for the people that do this. I grew up watching documentaries with my 2 brothers all the time on the History Channel or Discovery Channel. In fact, those kind of documentaries were the reason I decided to travel the world in search of these amazing places. You can imagine how engrossed the staff and I got when watching one of these films taking place. If you ever get a chance, watch the Human Planet documentary mini-series. Specifically, the desert and grasslands episode since those are the ones these incredible people I got the privilege to meet were involved with. You can thank me later for showing you an amazing film. 🙂

**An update on me, I come home in about 2 weeks. Even though it’s only for a week, I’m still excited 🙂 It’s official that I’ll be spending the 4 months of my summer near the Brooks Range in Alaska at the Coldfoot Camp. I’ve heard it’s beautiful and I’m hoping I can find some lakes or river to fly fish out of. I’m also going to have the opportunity to visit the other camp in the company I’m working with right now right on the Yukon river. It’ll be an amazing adventure since the Brooks Range along the Dalton Highway is one of the least inhabited places by humans on earth. The only thing I’m a little hesitant about is that I’ll be sleeping in a large canvased tin building (it’s a glorified tent, basically) but the pictures that I’ve seen of them show that they’re quite large so that’s good. I’ll be out of phone range which isn’t that big of a deal to me. They have wired phones I can call out on. I’ll also have access to internet so I can keep everyone updated on life in the arctic still. Mount Sukapak is a beautiful mountain just north of where I’ll be that I hope to visit while I’m there. That’s all for now 🙂 Leave a comment below if you have a question or suggestion on what I should write about next!

Week 10 in the Arctic

This is my 10th week up in Prudhoe Bay just outside of Deadhorse. It’s a thrilling, yet somber time as well. As I approach my 3 month mark, I know I’ll be back home for a week at the start of May. It seems I just got here. The night was pitch black with howling winds upwards of 30 miles an hour and temperatures below -70 at times. Piles of snow inside my door from fierce gusts blasting my door all night long. Meeting new people who I was to work with, then seeing those people leave the Arctic back to their lives elsewhere after just a few short weeks of getting to know them. Seeing new, starry-eyed people come to Alaska to work with me, one by one, until our winter team was fully assembled. Making friends with these new people and being amazed at how well we worked together.

I’ve also made friends with the work crews that come up. All of them have been nice and receptive of my food, which I appreciate. I’ve connected with them all and know most by their first name. If you know me at all, you’d know how great of a feat that is. I’m always sad to see some of them leave on their 3 week rotation but their permanent replacements end up showing their faces a few days later, which is nice. I’ve also become familiar with the area, making me excited for the summer. Even though my fate is uncertain if I’m staying at this particular camp or down in Cold Foot for the summer, it’s still nice to know my surroundings and the history of the area.

A light of uncertainty comes with me going home in a few weeks, too. As I miss my family very much, especially my mom and dad, I feel my time in Alaska has been too short to just reappear back into everybody’s lives. I don’t have a girlfriend that needs me and all my closest friends that I care about have girlfriends, wives, or kids that have always kept them busy. It’s strange to me that I can just show up for just a few days with just enough time for everyone I know to say hi and be on my way again. Albeit it’s rather important I go home for this small, diluted time for physical examinations or other tests they want to run on me for Antarctica, I’d just as much rather stay here where I can focus on making myself better, even healthier for my family back home.

With that said, it’ll be good to see my parents, siblings, and friends again. It’ll be nice to see my grandpa’s grave that passed away while I was up here. To see my grandma and give her my sympathies and apologies for not being able to make it back home for the funeral. Maybe I can convince some friends to take some time out of their busy lives to venture into the mountains or walk around Salt Lake City, reveling in humanity’s grasp on civilization in the valley around my home town one last time for the next 5 months that I’ll be in Alaska. We shall see.

For the last month of winter, my focus while I’m working up here will be squarely on making exceptional food while improving my techniques through repetition, intuitiveness, and studies. I’ll also be looking to lose some weight. I’m tired of being fatigued at the end of the night when I get off work with not much more energy for anything else. I’d like to be able to do physical labor without too much strain on my body and I can’t do that when I’m overweight. My goal is to lose 25 pounds by the time I go home, which is in about 5 weeks. 4 pounds a week is a reasonable goal considering I’ve lost 7 pounds since I started taking my health seriously. I think that’ll be attainable if I stay focused and keep changing my diet for the better. Wish me luck in that aspect 🙂

I’m hoping my new coworkers down in the middle of no-where at Coldfoot are as nice as the ones I’ve met so far up here. I also hope I’ll adjust to sleeping in a giant tent with a room mate in the middle of Alaska all summer long. I’ll be the lead dinner cook, from my understanding. Whatever that means. Cooking for 150 to 200 people is a far cry from what I’ve been doing in Prudhoe Bay so that’ll be nice. If there’s one thing I’ve learned the past 4 years working up north, there’s plenty of hours and money to be made in Alaska. You just have to look hard enough. If I do end up going down the Dalton Highway a few hundred miles, I won’t have phone service but I will have limited internet. I’m glad I’d at least have some way with connecting to the outside world.

But as for now, I sit in my chair in my room writing this blog and thinking about life. I’ve always been good at imagining where I want my life to take me, though it hardly ends up where I expected it to. As I stare into the night sky every night on my way to my room, I always wish those moments never pass. Even though they do, they’re always replaced by just as beautiful and memorable memories as before. Live life how you see it around you, not how the world sees you and you’ll always find yourself in the place you were always meant to be. Even if you didn’t necessarily know where it was going to lead. 🙂