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Adventure Magazine

Adventure Main | E-Mail the Editors | Adventure Customer Service | Subscribe November/December 2001

 
Writer/photographer James Balog
Writer/photographer James Balog

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Life on Assignment
The War Over Alaska' s Arctic Refuge
Never mind the oil—adventure could be the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge's greatest resource, as writer-photographer James Balog makes clear here in audio and images.

Writer-photographer James Balog has been "commuting" to Alaska from his home in Boulder, Colorado, since the 1980s, but it wasn't until June 2001 that he first entered the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). With two friends, he climbed the pristine peaks of the Brooks Range and paddled a 75-mile (120-kilometer) stretch of the Hulahula River to the Beaufort Sea.

Balog also realized, in the course of his two-week ramble, that one of the most exceptional landscapes on the planet is now in danger of being destroyed. The question that made headlines in the beginning of 2001—to drill or not to drill—has continued to fuel an ongoing debate among politicians, conservationists, and environmentalists.

Within ANWR is a slice of coastal plain the size of Ireland (1.5 million acres/607,030 hectares), called 1002 (ten-oh-two). It is believed—though not proven—that this area, like the neighboring Prudhoe Bay region, is rich in oil.

The oil yield could be as high as ten billion barrels, enough for 600 days of U.S. consumption, or as low as two billion barrels, enough for 100 days' worth—a relatively small amount, some would say, considering the impact drilling could have on the region's ecology and culture.

This is an area across which the 130,000-strong Porcupine Caribou Herd migrates, where 135 species of birds live, and where scientists can study the largest intact, naturally functioning, Arctic ecosystem.

Drilling's ripple effect would likely extend beyond ecological impact and into the cultural realm. The Gwich'in and Inupiat people here are dependent on caribou and native marine species for survival.

In the audio files at left, Balog discusses the issues surrounding ANWR and what he thinks are the biggest hazards, the most challenging hurdles, and the best potential solutions.

—Katie McDowell

For more—photos, video, a printable map, and a poll—visit National Geographic magazine's ANWR page >>

Photographs by James Balog; Balog portrait by Jay Koelzer

 

Audio

Three "Mountain Guys" (2:26)
"As climbers we thought the [ANWR] Coastal Plain would be some boring old flat place...we were...shocked..."
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First Nation Communities (5:05)
"People go out and hunt caribou.... It's at the center of their culture."
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Wildlife Impact (2:52)
"The big issue in terms of caribou is, will development disrupt [the] calving cycle?"
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ANWR Oil Reserve (4:17)
"There's a huge question about how much oil supply could be up there.... No one knows..."
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The Geologic Deck (2:31)
"Oil production in the United States maxed out a couple decades ago. We're already on a downward slope."
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Related Web Sites

National Geographic
Magazine on ANWR

Go behind a recent National Geographic article via photos, field notes, and more.

Official ANWR Site
Get the government line at this U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service site.

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*Trails Illustrated Map Catalog

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November/December 2001:
In the Magazine | Excerpts | 10 Ski Trips | ANWR | Dry Tortugas | Lost at Sea | Papua New Guinea | Forum | Junger | Camera Picks | GPS Tools | Mountain Hardware | Ghana Guide




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