Alaska (/əˈlæskə/; Russian: Аляска "Alyaska") is an exclave and a state of the United States of America located west of Canada in the extreme northwest portion of North America. A state of superlatives, it has the largest area, the highest mountain and greatest difference in elevation, the most extensive wilderness, and the most lakes, shoreline, and wetlands of any state. Conversely, it has the lowest population density.
The Secretary of the Interior purchased from the Czar of Russia its interest in the area that became Alaska on October 18, 1867, for $7,200,000 in gold bullion. The land went through several administrative changes before becoming an organized territory in 1912. Alaska became the 49th state of the United States on January 3, 1959.
Graffiti written on a pipeline vertical support member indicates when a nearby weld was X-rayed by quality control inspectors.
The construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System was a massive undertaking involving tens of thousands of people often in extreme temperatures and conditions. Specialized construction techniques were pioneered to build the pipeline, most of which rests in or on the permafrost that underlies the majority of the U.S. state of Alaska. A new road, the Dalton Highway, also had to be built before construction could start, and tens of thousands of workers had to be hired.
The first section of pipe was laid in 1975 after more than five years of legal and political arguments. In the two years that followed, the pipeline faced intense scrutiny from local and national observers after allegations of faulty welds were raised by watchdog groups. A culture grew around the unique working conditions involved in constructing the pipeline, and each union that worked on the project had a different function and stereotype.
More than 800 miles of pipe were laid, 11 pump stations were built, and an entire port was constructed to serve oil tankers that transport oil from the pipeline's end. The main construction effort lasted until 1977, and the first barrel of oil was delivered from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Valdez, Alaska on July 28, 1977. Several pump stations were not completed until 1980 and were built as oil flow increased. The pipeline cost more than $8 billion to build, and 32 Alyeska Pipeline Service Company employees or contract workers were killed during the project.
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