Alaska’s rugged terrain and infrastructure changed forever after oil was first discovered in Prudhoe Bay in 1968. Construction began on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System in 1974, an ambitious project to move oil 800 miles from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez — engineering one of the largest pipeline systems in the world. At $8 billion, it was the largest privately funded construction project at the time, employing approximately 70,000 people during the course of its completion.
For three years contractors worked through challenging conditions including extreme freezing temperatures (-80° F), isolation and permafrost. Workers lived in camps, often working 70 and 80 hour weeks.
The finishing touches came on May 31, 1977, and less than one month later, June 20, the first oil flowed through the pipeline marking a historical moment for Alaska and its residents. Today, close to 17 billion barrels of oil have moved through the pipeline. The Trans-Alaska Pipeline remains an iconic marvel of engineering and part and parcel of the history of Alaska.