Deadhorse, Alaska -- located at the end of the Dalton Highway and about ten miles from the Arctic Ocean -- is an unincorporated community in the North Slope Borough of Alaska. The town consists mainly of a general store, airport, and housing for the contract workers for the Prudhoe Bay oil fields. Oil field equipment and supplies, drilling rigs, heavy transportation equipment, and modular offices for oil field services companies are scattered across the nearby tundra (on gravel pads to prevent melting of the permafrost). The oil fields themselves are widely scattered over hundreds of miles of tundra.
You might not expect such an industrial area to offer much in the way of wildlife viewing, but wildlife – from caribou and brown bears to arctic ground squirrel and fox – is definitely to be seen. Though the area is semi-arid tundra, the underlying permafrost layer prevents surface water from penetrating, creating plentiful ponds and lakes -- desirable habitat for waterfowl and a variety of other birds.
My recent photo trip to Alaska started here in mid-June. Spring was late arriving. There was still snow on the ground and ice in the ponds and lakes. Overcast skies kept temperatures in the thirties during our stay. Low light and far-away subjects made for challenging photography, but it was exciting to see familiar species, such as Sandhill cranes and White-fronted geese, and also some new species – King and Spectacled Eider.
A low-lying landscape with scattered ponds among oil field equipment:
And a sampling of the birds found around the ponds:
For a few more photos from around Deadhorse, click here.