On Friday, fuel finally arrived in ice-covered Alaska, making this Friday the 13th a lucky one for Alaskans. A Russian tanker arrived at the Nome port in Alaska, carrying 4.9 million liters of Arctic grade diesel and gasoline.
The mission to Nome was the first mid-winter marine delivery to Western Alaska - and it was not an easy one. The Russian ship, The Renda, sliced through sea ice as thick as 24 inches, making progress slow. Officials even doubted if the ship would make it all the way to the port.
As if the mission there was not hard enough, a tougher challenge awaits. The Nome port has frozen over, preventing the tanker from reaching shore. A mile long hose will be Alaska’s only hope to getting their much needed fuel supply.
The operation has been looked over several times by officials and the best plan is being put into action. The tanker needs to come as close to the dock as possible to decrease the chance of spilling the fuels. Joy Baker, the Nome Harbormaster says all the percautions have been addressed and every prepartion has been made.
Crews are currently preparing for the fuel transfer by removing ice boulders to create a flat surface for the hose. The Renda is also being very carefully positioned before the transfer can occur.The transfer can take as little as 36 hours or as long as five days. Officials are only allowing fuel transfer during daylight so the hose can be properly seen and monitored.
Nome and northwest Inupiat Eskimo villages of Noatak and Kobuk have been struggling most with the fuel shortages since these areas rely largely on sea and air deliveries. Noatak community has about 500 residents, so when temperatures dip as low as -60 °C, the fuel supply gets used very fast.
This winter has brought some big challenges to Alaska -extreme snowfall in Cordova, shovel shortages and now a risky fuel transfer. Alaskans just may be counting down the days till their summer season starts.