Travel Route: Chitina – Valdez – Columbia Glacier

The Aftermath of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill: Environmental Recovery in Prince William Sound

I recall the news reports and images in 1989 when the Exxon Valdez tanker crashed into a reef in Alaska’s Prince William Sound and spilled millions of gallons of crude oil into the surrounding environment. At the time, I remember feeling deep sorrow for the wildlife and ecosystem of the Sound, and it made me eager to visit and see the area for myself. Today, more than three decades later, the Exxon Valdez oil spill is remembered as a historical event, but its effects have been significantly reduced by time and a concerted effort to clean up the environment. The wildlife that once populated the area is slowly returning in greater numbers, and many of the habitats that were damaged by the spill have been restored or are in the process of being recovered.

Where Has All the Oil Money Gone? Celebrating 40 Years of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System

The Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) has been in operation for 40 years, transporting crude oil from the Prudhoe Bay oil fields of Alaska to the Port of Valdez. As the pipeline celebrates its anniversary, many are wondering where all of Alaska’s oil money has gone. TAPS is considered an engineering marvel, spanning 800 miles across the state. It was originally built in 1977 to transport oil from the Prudhoe Bay oil fields of Alaska to Valdez, where the oil could be loaded onto tankers and transported to markets in the Lower 48 states. The pipeline crosses three mountain ranges and hundreds of rivers and streams, including the largest river in North America – the Yukon River. TAPS is one of the most technologically advanced pipelines in the world and is operated 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It was originally built in 1977, and its 40th anniversary this month has brought up the question of where all of Alaska’s oil money has gone. Over the years, Alaska collected $141 billion in petroleum taxes. And the short answer is: Look out your window. If it weren’t for the oil money, about half of what is currently around – buildings, roads, bridges, homes, even people – wouldn’t be here.

A Voyage to the Columbia Glacier in Alaska: The Impacts of Global Warming

Lu-Lu Belle, a sightseeing boat, carried twenty-five passengers and three crew members. Captain Fred piloted the vessel while his two helpers managed the passengers. As Lu-Lu Belle drew near the glacier, captain Fred launched into a global warming discussion, pointing out that when he started the tour company in 1979, the Colombia Glacier’s edge was 12.5 miles further into the ocean. The glacier’s height was 100 feet from the water’s surface in 1979; now, it’s only 30 feet. The engine sputtered to a stop, and the only sound was the chunks of ice crashing into the water. I love the colors; I can’t get enough of them. Though it’s the same scenery, each snapshot is a world on its own.

The Beauty and Science of the Blue Light in Glacial Ice

One of the most mysterious and beautiful sights to behold in nature is a glacier, its depths often appearing a transcendent deep blue. This phenomenon is caused by the refraction of light passing through the thick ice. Sunlight passes through the glaciers and is broken up into its many distinct hues and energy wavelengths. Red and yellow have little energy, so they are absorbed quickly by the ice. The blue light, however, has enough energy to escape absorption, leading to its strong presence in the glacier’s appearance.