Oil in Alaska

Published: 1977
Play Audio Archive Story - UPI

Bob Futz: Underneath the frozen north slope of Alaska is one of the world's largest known reserves of crude oil. The 800-mile pipeline to bring that oil south was finally finished in 1977. Built under some of the most difficult working conditions ever known, it cuts across Alaska to the ice-free port of Valdez. There were years of court battles with those worried about the environment and the price tag just kept going on, finally reaching $9 billion. The first oil entered the pipe on June 20th. Over the next month, one accident after another stopped the flow.

On July 8th, one of the pump stations along the pipeline blew up, killing two men.

Frank Fosberg was in Pump Station Number 8 that day …

Frank Fosberg: "It started flooding the pump room. Just in a matter of seconds there was an explosion, and then it was just pandemonium. I don't really know how to describe it; it was just a … a big fireball."

Bob Futz: But the flow of oil resumed, and as the darkness of the Arctic winter returned to the north slope, an average of two tankers a day were steaming out of the Valdez Harbor loaded with oil.

This is Bob Futz for Recap '77.


Tom Wendell: June 26th, 1977, 42 people killed in a Tennessee jail fire. A recap after this.


Tom Wendell: In what was to become one of the worst jail disasters in American history, a fire broke out at the Maury County jail in Columbia, Tennessee in late June. Deputy William Duke helped with the rescue efforts …

Deputy William Duke: "I never did see any real flames, but the smoke just filled the entire building within seconds. We evacuated all the visitors that were there at the time, and it just filled up with smoke. We had to take turns getting back in there trying to get to the people and we explained to 'em to hit the floor and to stay down on the floor; if they had sheets, wet their sheets and cover their faces and we'd get 'em out as soon as possible."

Tom Wendell: But even the best efforts could not keep the casualty lists down as Tennessee Governor Ray Blanton explained …

Governor Ray Blanton: "The fact of the matter is, we know that we have lost 42 lives, and this has to be one of the greatest tragedies we've had in Tennessee."

Tom Wendell: Less than two weeks later, another prison fire in Danbury, Connecticut took 5 lives and left more than 70 others injured.

This is Tom Wendell for Recap '77.