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Juliette Kayyem

Under melting ice, a jackpot

Northern Alaska is booming as oil companies gear up to tap a goldmine

BARROW, Alaska — AT MIDNIGHT, in the northernmost location in the United States, this town packed in ice seems unwelcoming. It is silent and cold. Frozen whale bones line the road. There is no connectivity to the outside world. In order to ward off polar bears, mace spray hangs from the door of the Distant Early Warning (DEW) facility.

The DEWline, a “man camp’’ because that is who is there, is primarily used to monitor the Russians, but also sleeps visitors looking for a place to stay. Nearly 300 miles above the Arctic Circle, there are no vacancies for the foreseeable future. It may be minus 35 degrees this Tuesday, but Barrow is hot.

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