Author: Hannah

What if the pipeline broke open and spilled into the Arctic Ocean?

What if the pipeline broke open and spilled into the Arctic Ocean?

Oil sheen contained in Talbert Channel near site of last year’s major O.C. pipeline spill.

A few hundred feet from my campsite in a sandy marshland, a man stands with a machete in hand, slicing up the long stalks of sugar cane. He wears a faded, orange T-shirt and knee-high rubber boots. He is the only one at the spot I notice until a small black van passes by. He raises his arm. “This is where the pipeline will cross.” Then he turns and walks back toward his sugar cane.

The man wasn’t there last year, when I stood on the shores of a lake near Valdez, Alaska, as the pipeline spilled its load into the ocean in March, killing eleven people and sickening tens of thousands.

It is impossible to imagine anything more frightening to a wildlife enthusiast like me. Yet with the knowledge that, just a few months later, a pipeline company was granted a permit to lay one mile of the new oil pipeline that would carry a new load of oil through the coastal wilderness of Alaska, I couldn’t help but wonder: What if it happened here? What if some company took the time to do a little research before making the tragic decision to lay the pipeline through Talbert Channel, just north of Fairbanks? What if it found the site where the pipeline was supposed to cross a marshland?

On April 20, 2015, oil from the Keystone XL pipeline broke open and spilled into the pristine waters of the Arctic Ocean. A few hundred feet from my campsite, the first person to observe the spill was a young biologist from Woods Hole, John P. Marquet. I’ve visited Marquet’s camp since then dozens of times, and each time I have the same question: What if it happened here, instead of in Alaska? What if it was a few people in the wrong place instead of thousands?

I first ran across Talbert Channel in the summer of

Leave a Comment