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Livin’ in luxury
We all slept in. Though there was no shower available, the sink and flush toilet was a luxury! The security officer took us to the coin laundry. They also happened to have a coin shower—Praise the Lord! It was one of the best showers I had in my life (right up there with the shower I had after eight days in the California desert). I thought I had gotten a good suntan, but it was gone after my shower.
While at the laundry, we met Jimmy again (he was the one who towed us in last night). He agreed to take us in his boat out into the Arctic Ocean tomorrow. Our adventure would continue! [This happens to be the only laundromat on the North Slope of Alaska. People fly here all the way from Barrow and Prudoe Bay just to do laundry! We were told some people bring five or six large garbage bags full of dirty laundry with them—I’d hate to be on that plane ride!]
After doing our laundry, and taking that long awaited shower, we went back to the police station for lunch. Dan fired up his methanol stove in the middle of the garage and we ate. It was wonderful to be able to eat in a relatively mosquito free environment without mosquito head nets. Following dinner, we hauled our muddy rafts to the gravel landing strip for O.J. A friendly local offered to put the other two rafts in the back of his truck for the quarter-mile trip. We obliged.
The town of Nuiqsut was founded in 1975. (In 1993, there were 418 residents in Nuiqsut and a labor force of about 193. Almost 91% of residents are Inupiaq Eskimos. The economy is based mainly on subsistence hunting and fishing.) The town was founded by outcasts from Barrow and other Eskimo towns on the North Slope. According to the policemen, this town has more crimes per capita than any other on the Slope. Supposedly the town is full of axe murders, rapists, thieves, and other criminals. We were surprised because we had encountered nothing but friendly people here. We wondered if this was the reason the policemen offered us the jail for lodging. The officers get about ten calls a day. Usually nothing serious. Sometimes they have to break up a domestic quarrel or shoot a rabid dog or fox. We learned that most of the foxes up here have rabies and are extremely dangerous. This surprised me, and gave me one more reason to Praise the Lord that we didn’t have an incident with the red fox three days ago on the tundra. As we sat and talked with the officers that evening, it seemed as though they were lonely and enjoyed talking with us. It isn’t often they get to “civilization.” One of the officers was an avid outdoors man and told us many stories of his hunting trips. One story was about a guy who got stuck in quick sand up to his waist and couldn’t get out. A grizzly bear came along and killed him by picking him apart piece by piece.
The townspeople seem quite bored. There is not much to do here and many of them just drive around the square mile town in their vehicles. Occasionally someone may be pulling their new boat to show off to the town. I was surprised to see so many cars and trucks because there are no roads leading to Nuiqsut. They even have a town bus that makes fifteen minute circuits on the gravel roads. I found out they transport most of their large belongings in the winter. The Colville River freezes solid and becomes a road on which vehicles as large as semi trucks can travel.
NEXT PAGE—caribou hunt & conclusion