In the aftermath of the Arab oil embargo of 1973-74, during which Americans waited hours in line to buy rationed gasoline, the world’s largest construction companies rushed north to build the 900-mile, $8 billion trans-Alaska Pipeline. National security was at stake.
Many of the 70,000 men and women who worked on the pipeline saw it as a way to find a new life, or to escape an old one. The three-year boom was unlike any other, surpassing even the gold rush for social and economic upheaval that touched nearly every Alaskan in some way.
With an avalanche of oil money came trouble – drugs, prostitution, gambling, divorce, extortion, and violent crime. The cost of living soared. The real-estate and rental market went wild as tens of thousands cam seeking fat paychecks for “seven-12s” – working seven days a week, twelve hours a day.
Thirty-five years later, award-winning journalist Dermot Cole of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, recalls the pipeline years with humor, authenticity, and drama.