In Seattle spring flowers are beginning their March bloom as we board our flight to Alaska. Our first stop is Anchorage where we are meeting up with the other members of our Arctic Dive Team, headed for the Beaufort Sea. It’s only moments before we board the next flight to Deadhorse.
The further north we fly the more the world becomes choked with Ice. The runway in Deadhorse is a mist with spindrift. The wind is blowing hard as the plane taxi’s to the terminal and comes to a stop. The stairway at the back of the plane drops down. In a matter of seconds the heat inside the plane disappears replaced by the freezing cold air of the north.
For those of us who had been there before we knew what to expect and had carried on our parkas. For the chechakos who expected a warm walkway to the terminal the sub zero temperatures were a shock. As you step down the stairs the full blast of cold hits you like a shockwave, the frigid air fills your lungs and it’s hard to breath. Everyone hurries to the terminal.
The baggage claim at the Prudhoe Bay Airport is like a freezer. The only improvement over outside is a lack of wind. There are no carousels here, the luggage is slid through a slit in the wall down a steel slide where travelers have to pull their bags quickly or they jamb up.
Our destination for tonight is the Prudhoe Bay Hotel. It’s only a short distance and we decide to walk. Our walk becomes more of a quick paced shuffle as we slide over the ice covered road. We are in a hurry as meals at the hotel come as part of the nightly fee and are served buffet style for only a limited amount of time each day. They are expecting us and as we enter the hotel the staff ushers us into the dining room so we don’t miss dinner before checking in. The room is packed with people. Deadhorse is a bustling town again in a way that it hasn’t been for years. The Alaska Pipeline need repair and the oil companies have flooded the town with pipeline workers. It’s exciting and insane all at the same time.
The food is massive and plentiful.
Tonight’s Roast Beef night and our dive team tell many sea stories as we devour dinner. Tomorrow at breakfast we will go over our dive plan then unpack all our dive gear. Check it for functionality, repack it and prepare to fly out the following day for our ice camp.