• If You Are Having Trouble Logging In with Your Old Username and Password, Please use this Forgot Your Password link to get re-established.
  • Hey! Be sure to login or register!

How media and special interests can change facts


Mission, TX
Back in the good old days when a guy could fly his Cub the way he wanted to without having to worry about the book, along came a new peril. Special Interests for business and government.

Lets start this memory around 1965 when I first started working for Wien Air Alaska and assigned to our Umiat operation from Point Barrow. The Umiat airport and facility was built by the US Navy in the early 40s to explore for oil among other things. Naval Petroleum Reserve 4 came out of that operation. The main supply base for that entire operation by the Navy was at Point Barrow where a small Naval Base was built. Later, the Air Force became the operator and the entire site at Point Barrow was turned into a fantastic research facility named Naval Arctic Research Lab (NARL) which was under the direction of Dr. Max Brewer and Dr John Schlinder, both good friends of mine. I worked as assistant airport manager in 1964 and later airport manager before leaving.
Durring all of this construction, everything had to come in by ship, the most active supply mission used, as I recall, was 143 ships (could have been 148) all anchored a mile or so off shore. What a picture. A good runway was built out of good old PSP (WW II perforated steel planking)
OK, here I have to be very honest because the Navy and contractors made so many mistakes about taking care of the tundra and left junk everywhere. We are still paying to clean it up.

OK, so lets move on. Needless to say, the native Americans along the Arctic Coast lived a subsistence life style and food was very important and must be conserved of course. They took care of the wild life so there would always be something there to eat.

A point of interest here if I may. The gene makeup of those that most people consider Native Americans, the Indians in Continental US, are almost exactly the same as the Indians and Eskimos of Alaska and to go further, the same as those in eastern Russia clear down to China and Japan and Korea, thus the land bridge between Russia and Alaska. Maybe at a later date, I might go a little further into that along with the Redwood trees along the Arctic Coast, the Saber Tooth Tiger, Mastodons, etc., that lived in the tropics of the north slope. Human life in Alaska has been traced back to well over 10,000 years.
Off track again, sorry, well not really. Where was I anyway....

Oh yes, back to taking care of the land and wild life in the bush of Alaska.

Over a period of time, I ended up as station manager at our Galena operation at the Galena Air Force Base. At the time they had F-4s on strike alert and I will say when they pulled out of their hangers with max power with some very interesting looking missiles with funny looking tips and (I was assigned to an Nuke Honest John Rocket outfit in Korea and knew what those warnings were on the warheads since I had to take care of all the top secret manuals), it was going to get interesting. They would leave in pairs of course, usually two pairs if real and when they hit the runway at an angle they were probably hitting close to 100 mph and once lined up on a rolling departure, instant after burner. Than a person would start counting. If went beyond about 10 seconds before the after burners were shut down, we would know they were on a mission against a Russian aircraft inbound. The base commander showed me some rather interesting photos of Russian aircraft that were taken by our crews. Always upon turning around, the Russian pilots would always give a smart salute to our guys, with a return salute, with a big grin and return home to play another day. You won this time America but next time we will get further. Our pilots, and I am sure the Russian pilots felt the same way, always enjoyed the scrambles but who knew at the time, there I go again, off topic.

One spring at Galena and just before the ice was ready to break up in the Yukon River, the Air Force or maybe a contract company was ready to air drip coal dust on the center line of the river so it would melt faster and hopefully preclude an ice jam. Yep, guess what? The environmentalists came in, filed a court suit to stop the air drop and they won in court. Might kill some fish. OK, now here I am sitting right on the edge of the mighty Yukon when the ice broke up on it's own. There was an immediate ice jam on the river which ended up being over 18 miles long. Keep in mind, at that point, the Yukon is very narrow, flowing at 7 knots, maybe 50 foot deep under normal conditions. The water rose some 100 foot in a hurry. The Army wanted to come in and dynamite the ice jam in the right places so it would break up. Back came the enviros. Courts said no, might kill some fish. First of all, I lost everything I owned including all my early pictures of my family life and Wien photos just as everyone in the old town of Galena did. Congrats to the enviros, they won. The proposed dynamiting of the river didn't kill any fish and luckily, no lives were lost. The base commander told me later that he figured the water back up from that ice jam covered 90 million acres. That is really hard to believe but I trusted his word. Just think how many fish and animals were killed by that flood but the enviros got their way but they were no where to be seen later.
I will upload some photos of what all of this looked like later.

OK, lets get out of the Yukon River Valley and back to the oil patch on the North Slope in the early 70s.

Long before the construction of the oil pipeline out of Alaska, I was assigned to our Deadhorse Airport operation at Prudhoe Bay.

I got that station more or less on an even keel and than went next door to operate a hotel and set up the first tour program on the North Slope in conjunction with Wien in a way. Talk about long days.
First of all, I had to learn the entire oil drilling and crude oil transporting systems. How to drill diagonal drilling, permafrost and how it effects oil exploration, etc. I was so very fortunate that all oil companies and finally, the company that was formed to build the 800 mile 48" pipeline across Alaska, Alyeska, opened up their entire operations for me, no questions asked. I did lots of studying of course and always had someone to ask questions to.
My concern was to present a tour program to the public that they could believe with nothing hidden. Might sound strange in a way but at that time, there were no mistakes in protecting the fragile tundra and wild wife. I even had to learn to spot some 172 different species of birds and give their names. I even spotted one bird not listed in the North American Birding guide so had to go to the world wide edition that a guest had. Turned out to be a Russian Sea Gull. Lots of jokes on that tour about birds spying on us. That group really took home something to talk about.
As you might expect, on my tours were lots of environmentalists who I always loved to talk to. I always had an answer for every question. Durring all of my tours, I never used notes. I guess I have a good memory at times. My wife always said I didn't though.

I also had full access to the entire oil patch on the North slope and could drive my good old bus on any road I wanted to with no prior permission. I was allowed to take my tour groups into oil company facilities if I thought it would be a good idea. At one site, there was a producing oil well that was sending crude to a local refinery operated by ARCO. If I stopped there, everyone was able to get off the bus and walk in a small building and actually feel the pipe that was flowing crude oil. Temp and pressure gauges were visible to everyone. Crude was coming out of the ground at 140 degrees with surface pressure of 1686 PSI. Temps of the crude when it entered the producing pipe some 13,000 foot below the surface was over 180 degrees. Actually, the oil had to be cooled a little before it was entered into the 800 mile pipeline and from there, it gained some 40 degrees in temp from friction before it got to Valdez.
At one point early on in my tour program, British Petroleum apparently planted a mole on one of my tours to see just what I was doing and from that day on, BP would send their semi VIP groups over to me to take my tour. Talk about being honored. My greatest thanks came from the head of PR for BP when he thanked me for what I I was doing for the oil industry on the North slope and at the same time, ARCO gave me a special award which contained a vial of crude oil taken out of Alaska on the USS Manhattan Ice Breaker transporting the first barrel of crude oil from Alaska through the northeast passage.

So, now you get the picture I could do whatever I wanted to on the North Slope.

One day I had a rather small group of people, environmentalists. Come to think of it, I never ran the same tour twice and always catered my tours to the majority of the group. If it was engineering groups, I would get more into the actual function of the oil patch but if it was bird watchers, I would spend more time looking at birds but never forgetting the others.

Now back to one good example for the wild life groups. I started out my trip as usual, dressed in a short sleeve Hawaiian shirt and greeted everyone with a big Aloha over the PA system when I jumped on the bus. That was the ice breaker when I told everyone I didn't know anything but if they asked questions, I just might remember. From there, I tried to find out where everyone was from, work, etc. By the time I had driven one mile, I knew my entire route. On this one day, they were animal people. As I neared the private airstrip of ARCO, I noticed a C-130 shutting down and at the same time I saw 5 caribou grazing just off the departure end of the runway with several pipelines in the background. I pretty well knew the turnaround time for a C-130 so timed my tour on that end to be driving by those animals when the bird departed. Remember, most people said the aircraft were scarring all the animals away.
I got to the Arctic Ocean, had the people take one shoe off and stick their toe in the water just for a memory to take home and tell the kids, grand kids and great grand kids. Took them by the storage yard for the 48" pipeline shipped over from Japan.

OK, now I am on the way back watching for that C-130 to crank up. Boy was I driving slow so had to ask a lot of questions to cover the time. Finally, #1 lit up so I got closer to where the caribou were grazing. I watched back as he taxied out for a departure toward us. When he was about mid runway, I told everyone to watch the airplane take off and to keep their eyes on the caribou and watch what they might do. I will guess that the bird was 200 to 300 foot high when it went over the animals. Two of them didn't even stop eating, one lifted it's head and looked straight forward and one animal actually looked up to see, possibly, what kind of a misquotes that one was. Talk about some angry people because of what they had been told by their leaders.

Now comes the best one. This one the Aubudon Society.
Since my tours were mine, I had full authority on what I could do with full support of the oil companies and as I have said before, full access to the entire North Slope at the time.

OK, at this point, I was still managing the only commercial hotel in addition to setting up and operating the first tour program in the oil patch.
This tour started out the same as most others where I got everyone in a happy mood and feeling free to ask questions about anything (other than if I had a girlfriend that is). So off we go. I kept watching this rather attractive solo lady who never smiled or joked with the others. Oh boy, a problem guest. Just what I needed. At various stops, I tried to small talk with her but nothing worked. OK, back on the bus but she would never ask a question on the way back to the airport.
Finally, I got her aside and asked her if she had a good tour and if she had any final questions before she caught the Wien flight out. At that point, she really opened up telling me I had hidden all the bad places and what a hoax the tour was. WOW, caught off guard? You bet. Finally I got her calmed down and asked her what the problem was. She told me what I had shown about the oil patch was nothing like what the leader of the Aubudon Society told all the members it was like.

Did I mention I enjoy public relations?

With my relationship with Wien, I knew I could get her out on the first flight out the next morning so I offered a very special trip, just her and I in my company suburban anywhere on the entire slope at that time and take any road she wanted to go on without question. Oh, what a look on her beautiful face. OK, I get my other guests on the Wien flight and than she, lets call her Lee, and I went back to the hotel to get something to eat, my treat. As I recall, the cook came up with T-bone steaks, backed potato and salad. Boy was it great to sit across from a beautiful lady to have a meal at Prudhoe Bay. Anyway, off we go, more or less on the same pattern we had been on in the morning. She knew she could tell me to take off on any side road to anywhere. At one point, we were near the BP operations center so I asked her if she wanted coffee and a snack. Even a swim in their pool if she wanted to. My airline crew had standing invitations to come over and enjoy the pool at any time and if my suburban was not busy, they could use it to get there. The girls always had offers of a ride. Anyway, we were inside sitting in the lounge when the head of BP came in. Good old Charlie Wark...A very good friend and who had a lot to do with my being accepted on the slope as I was. Needless to say, I invited him over and introduced the lady and that she was with the Aubudon Society and was having a problem about not seeing any of the damage her leader had told her about. Good old Charlie.....
He said he was headed out on the patch to check on things and offered us a ride and he would explain anything she wanted to ask about. Off we go. You would have to know Charlie to understand how this trip went. First of all, oil people are known as rough and gruff but Charlie is the opposite. As we were driving along the spine road (major road) he kept telling her to pick any side road she wanted and he would drive down it to the end just as I had done earlier.
At one point and a place Charlie needed to go to anyway, the lady saw some red colored snow along a drainage ditch. Immediately she spouts up and says that is what her leader had told her was going on. Good old Charlie. He gets out of the crew cab, walks over, picks up a handful of red colored snow and ate it. I was watching the lady, mouth open, eyes wide open. When Charlie got back in, not a comment from either. The cake coloring dye was used to check drainage flow in case of an oil spill. OK, so Charlie ends his tour and back we go to my suburban and off we go to the ARCO facility for a snack on the way back to the airport. As we walked in past security, I asked them to tell the ARCO manager we were there having coffee and if he had time, it would be good to join us.
About 2 minutes later, he was there and the hour or so was just as with Charlie. Eye opener for her.

Now here comes what the interest groups can fake their members into believing.
The ARCO manager told my guest about the time the head of the Aubudon Society visited the north slope so he could tell all the members what the oil companies were doing to destroy wildlife. Now, thanks to Joe Friday on TV Dragnet, only the facts came out. It seems that one person spent a total of 2.5 hours on the oil patch of Prudhoe Bay after flying in on his private jet, spent 1.5 hours eating and joking and than a total of 1 hour seeing what was going on in the oil patch. I had spent some 10 hours with this lady showing her the truth.
Every story has an ending just as this one does.

This lady from San Diego, Calif was very quiet driving from ARCO back to my hotel. I had agreed I would put her up for the night at no charge and meals on me and made arrangements with Wien to get her on the first flight out the next day. After dinner, the lady and I spent a lot of time talking over what she had seen all day and how the leader of the Aubudon Society had lied to the membership about what was going on in the oil patch of Alaska.
Not only did I have the enjoyment of a beautiful lady for the day (sorry guys, not the night) and that I had shown a staunch member of the Aubudon Society that what the membership was being told was not the truth. I also have to thank BP, ARCO and of Course Alyeska as well as all the other support companies to make things like this happen on the spur of the moment and that they trusted me so much to make it work.
Some days it was really fun to live my life needless to say.
Hi Ernie,
Everytime you mention you were station manager in Galena in the 1960s or early '70s, I think again that you *must* have run across my dad. He paved the runway in Galena (worked his way up to supervisor of roads & grounds at Elmendorf [civil service], and was in charge of all the runways). The USAF sent him all over Alaska to supervise runway construction & maintenance for AF stations & bases.

Here's a picture of him, in the 1950s before he started in construction, when he was a trapper (he's the one on the left): http://www.christinayoung.com/pages/images/dad1.jpg
Christina Young said:
Hi Ernie,
Everytime you mention you were station manager in Galena in the 1960s or early '70s, I think again that you *must* have run across my dad. He paved the runway in Galena (worked his way up to supervisor of roads & grounds at Elmendorf [civil service], and was in charge of all the runways). The USAF sent him all over Alaska to supervise runway construction & maintenance for AF stations & bases.

Here's a picture of him, in the 1950s before he started in construction, when he was a trapper (he's the one on the left): http://www.christinayoung.com/pages/images/dad1.jpg

I sure can't remember him Christina. During the time I spent at Galena, I don't recall the runway having any paving done so he was probably there before I got there.
I tried to picture him doing some work on the runway at the Point Barrow Air Force Station when the runway was rebuilt due to a storm in 1963. Vinnell Corp was the base contractor to operate all facilities and they did most of that work. I spent a lot of time keeping track of runway surface conditions there to make sure they were safe to land on so should have run into him had he been there. I don't recall him there either.

It is interesting to note that not long before your Dad was working at Galena, good old Pan American Airways (Pan Am) was serving Galena out of Fairbanks on schheduled flights to Nome.