Voices from the slope

To mark the 40th anniversary of oil production at Prudhoe Bay, BP people who were there at the beginning talk about working in one of the harshest yet most beautiful environments in the world

Randy Burdick: 42 years on the Slope

“When I finished high school I went to trade school and then got a job with ARCO as a waste water operator on the Slope. There were no big facilities in place at that time and I watched as the first sea lifts came in and the camps were set up. From that point on, it just kept expanding and growing.”

Infrastructure of Team Lead Burdick said the energy companies and the people setting up shop on the North Slope had little experience at operating in such a cold climate.

“So it was all about living and learning. Quite a bit has changed since then, when I got here, we didn't have computers or cell phones, or e-mail. There was a lot of face-to-face communication and things worked out really well.” he said.

“There is no other place in the world like this. There are no trees but we do have a lot of animals, we have many birds in the summer and the caribou also migrate through here,” he said. “And, of course, we have polar bears and brown bears.”

Burdick has spent his entire adult life working on the Slope and plans to keep on working for a few more years. “I’m not 60 yet. We have a lot of new things and new technology here, and we are seeing the new generation of work force come in, and that's exciting. So I will stay a little longer.”
We take real pride in what we do up here. It is about producing energy safely and getting things done correctly.

Ann Cook: 39 years on the Slope

Ann works in the Operations Optimization department of production. Her career on the Slope  began in communications where alongside her day-to-work she carried out an unique task.

"We did not have any live TV; it was all on a tape delay basis. I was a communications operator and was in charge of showing the television programs including the sports.  My boss would tape the football games at home on Sundays, but sometimes I'd have to call and remind him: ‘Don't forget to tape the football game today. Everybody's expecting it!'"

Many employees on the Slope work in bi-monthly rotations: two weeks on and two weeks off. Working with the same people in a remote location for year after year created a strong sense of community.  

"You work with people such a long time that they become your Slope family. So we all have two families, the one on the Slope, and then your real family at home.

Ann said she witnessed a lot of changes and has worked with many great and skilled people as Prudhoe Bay grew to what it has become today. "Working for ARCO and BP on the slope as a Communications Operator, Flow Station 3 Operator and now EOC Specialist, has been a heck of a ride."
I am grateful and proud that at the beginning, I had the opportunity as a female, to be one of many that have played a significant role in the work at Prudhoe Bay

Shawn Croghan: 38 years on the Slope

"I went to the Slope as a contractor for a ten-day job, that turned into a 14-week stay, that became a 36-year career."

Maintenance execution manager Croghan said life in the early months on the Slope was basic, especially the sleeping accommodations. He and numerous other contractors were housed in a single dormitory equipped with bunk beds.

“We had eight people sharing the same room, no dividers, no privacy. It's basically this little camp building they dragged to the location and hooked up to a generator,” he said. “If one person snored, it kept everyone up. That was the life of a remote contractor.”

Despite the sub-zero temperatures and the cramped sleeping quarters, working on a new project in such an exotic location was exciting.

“I like a challenge and I like to make a difference on different things on my job,” Croghan said. “As far as the weather, it's just understanding the risk and managing it, so you always have to wear the right gear and be dressed correctly. If it is bad weather you have to make the right decisions about where you are going to be working, if it is safe to drive, that sort of thing.”
I still love my job. It’s the best in the world and I have been really fortunate. Like I said, I went up there on a 10-day job and turned it into a 35-plus year career with BP.

Shirl Shannon: 36 years on the Slope

“When I went to school in Chicago, we were still using vacuum tubes, and by the time I got to Alaska, they had integrated circuits and chips. I wanted to learn that technology. While I was in school, one of the professors told me, ‘You need to work on the Slope.’”

Shirl didn’t know what he meant by the “slope“ but she soon learned what he was talking about and she applied for a job.

Her first job was in instrumentation and she worked her way up from the beginner’s trainer program to being one of the highest ranked technicians. “Being a black female in maintenance and instrumentation, that was rare," she says "In those days, it was more common to be a cook, a nurse or a secretary,” she said. “So whenever the company was doing a commercial or there were article in magazines or newspapers, I was their go-to person because of my story.” 

Shirl’s role as a face and spokesperson for the company evolved into writing internal articles about diversity and inclusion and proper work place behaviour. She also travelled and did speaking engagements and made presentations. These days, Shirl is a Control of Work Advisor. 

“My mom was always telling me to make something of myself,” she said. “My professor told me to get into a man's field because of my high math scores ---- It was like I was being groomed to be where I am right now.”
They believed in me and saw something in me — and I believed in myself.

Chrissy May, BP Wildlife Compliance Officer talks about her work at BP Alaska and the various community programs the BP team are involved in

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