June 20, 2010

Sunnier days

Filed under: Uncategorized — jchatoff @ 12:09 am
Tags: , , , , ,

Today is an interesting anniversary – thirty-three years ago oil began to flow through the Trans-Alaska pipeline.

(Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Div., HAER)

It left Prudhoe Bay and traveled 800 miles to the Valdez Marine Terminal at the rate of about 200 thousand barrels a day.   Production peaked in the 1980s and is gradually declining.

Alyeska, which runs the pipeline, consists of several oil companies, but forty-six percent of Alyeska belongs to BP.  (The photo at left is BP’s facility at Prudhoe – except in Firefox, where it is sometimes invisible.)

It took five years to begin construction, mostly due to lawsuits filed by Alaska Natives and conservation groups.  Alyeska paid the Native claims and made several environmental upgrades and Richard Nixon finally approved it.  There have been a few leaks, but nothing major.  The worst damage to the pipeline has come from Alaskans shooting holes in it.  Twice, big spills were the result of target practice.

The pipeline proved to be less awful than we feared.  In fact, only one thing has ever compared to the disaster in the Gulf and that is the coal seam fire in Centralia, Pennsylvania – it has burned for nearly fifty years and is likely to burn for 250 years more.

When you do the math, it seems that all 19th century fuels cost much more than we can afford. Here’s to finding a better way.

* * *

Lizzie Borden did not take an ax and give her father forty whacks, or her mother forty-one. In the first place, it was only seventeen or eighteen, and second, the jury acquitted her on this day in 1893.  A big day for Ms. Borden.

They found her innocent mostly because of a lack of forensic evidence – no murder weapon and no blood-stained clothing. They might also have found it hard to believe a quiet spinster capable of such a crime.

Theories still abound as to who the killer might have been, but let’s face it – only two people were in the house and the idea that the maid took an ax to the couple because she was ordered to do the windows on a hot day – the first disgruntled employee theory – is kind of over the top.  Yes, a very lucky day for Lizzie.

Okay, enough murder and mayhem  – here’s a gift for today:  an absolutely fabulous photo we all own – it was taken by WPA photographer John Vachon.  Let’s call it ‘When Potatoes Were Four Cents a Pound.’

(Grocery store in Lincoln NB, John Vachon, 1942, courtesy Library of Congress, PPD)



  1. Terrific! wonderful pictures!
    Thank you, Galya


    Comment by GALYA TARMU — June 20, 2010 @ 4:31 pm | Reply

  2. keep ’em coming


    Comment by avery zia — June 24, 2010 @ 8:42 pm | Reply

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