Sunday, May 11, 2008

Getting Out

On the runway

A couple of posts ago, I mentioned making a quick trip to Fairbanks. People up here call it "getting out" when they leave the village or the Slope. It isn't something that I get to do very often, usually just once a year. So my excursion to Fairbanks was a real departure from the ordinary.

Barrow is our nearest Alaska Airlines hub. So if you want to fly anywhere off the Slope, you have to fly to Barrow first. While waiting to go through security and board the plane, I noticed this sign which struck me as really funny...probably an indication that I don't "get out" enough!

prohibited items

I was especially amused by the illustration of a bomb accompanied by the statement that if you are carrying one of these, you should discuss it with an airline representative or return it to your car! Yes, I know that's not what it really means, but it still got me tickled.

Unlike Atqasuk's airstrip which is dirt, the Barrow runway is actually paved with asphalt. However, as you can see, much of the tarmac is covered with packed ice and snow this time of year.

quick trip 1

The orange cones mark the path that passengers are expected to follow. Perhaps the cones are also there to encourage caution on the icy surface. I was a little surprised by the absence of gravel or salt (snow melt) on the ground. Maybe they figure that, if you've come this far, you should know how to keep from slipping.

quick trip 2

The airplane that I took to Fairbanks was different from those that I've taken to and from Barrow in the past in that it was solely dedicated to carrying passengers and their luggage. What a concept! There was even a first class section! Most of the time, only about half of the available space is reserved for people. The front half of the aircraft is usually loaded with freight and passengers have to board from the back of the plane by way of a narrow, very steep flight of stairs that feel a lot like climbing a rickety fire escape. As you see in this photo, the stairs for this flight were positioned at the front of the plane and were much more passenger-friendly.

quick trip 3

Freight is a really big deal on the North Slope. There is a summer barge that carries heavy equipment, vehicles, and other large-scale items to Barrow by way of the Arctic Ocean, but most of the things that people need on a daily basis are transported by air. And that is an expensive process that raises the price of a $3.00 gallon of milk to $10.00 or more.

Barrow 6

Sticker shock is just another fact of life in the Arctic.


Steve said...

Before I read your text, I started laughing at that crazy picture of the bomb! Who do they think their passengers are, anyway...Coyote and the Roadrunner?

Kimberlee said...

Beep, beep! Exactly! I love that Coyote/Roadrunner thought. I wouldn't be surprised to see the word ACME somewhere on the sign. :)

Anonymous said...

Love the picture of the bomb AND the handgun. Perhaps Dennis Farina missed this poster.

When I was still a member of the RCMP up here I had to go to the Air Freight office of First Air at the airport to pick up an envelope. I was in uniform and took a leatherman tool off my gun belt to cut open the tough plastic of the envelope. The First Air agent looked at it and said (very seriously), "You can't have a knife here, it's against Transport Canada regulations." I just shook my head, and pointed at my gun on my belt.

Kimberlee said...

I hadn't heard about the Dennis Farina incident and had to look it up. Amazing! It's hard to imagine that anyone could possibly "forget" about having a loaded gun in their luggage OR actually think that they could get it past security. As your hilarious First Air story illustrates, the line between security and paranoia is often strangely blurred. Heck, I even struggled with whether or not to pack toothpaste! LOL!