February 20, 2013 § Leave a Comment
The state of North Dakota maintains one of the best, free GIS datasets in the nation. Not only is it available to surf, but most of the datasets can be downloaded and played with in the GIS program of your choice.
I recently downloaded the almsot exhaustive dataset of oil wells in the state and played with it in ArcGIS as I prepared an informal presentation on our recent research in the North Dakota Oil Patch. The resulting map is below.
The green dots represent wells from the most recent boom nad the various other color dots represent earlier booms. The black specs are wells that are still active. I was particularly interested in wells dating to before the first 1950 oil boom including some in the Red River Valley from the late 1940s. It might be useful to look for some of the earlier well sites just to get a sense for how these places might appear in the landscape.
Since I’m currently cruising at 30,000+ feet, it’s probably best to keep this short, but I’ll mess a bit more with these maps over the next few weeks.
February 17, 2013 § Leave a Comment
February 16, 2013 § Leave a Comment
It’s cool to have crazy friends whose antics I can observe at a distance.
This is their press release:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Adventure Scientists to Rock the Bakken on Earth Day
Transecting the North Dakota Badlands in Search of 100 Miles of Wild
Badlands, North Dakota – Earth Day, April 22, marks the start of 100 Miles of Wild, the first eco-expedition of Calgary-based Adventure Science set against the inhospitable backdrop of North Dakota’s Badlands. Over the course of 10 days, teams of ultra-endurance athletes and scientists will run, climb, and trek through one of the United States’ last unexplored and most rugged acres of wilderness, documenting the state of the vastly shrinking wide open spaces now under threat from expanding development from the Bakken oil fields.
“The first 100 Miles of Wild projects has a simple aim,” Adventure Science founder and PhD geologist Simon Donato said. “We will discover and report first-hand the condition of the wilderness that inspired President Theodore Roosevelt’s effort to preserve the rugged, wild spaces for all Americans and the world.”
Adventure Science is a neutral organization of volunteer experts and citizen-scientists. While members obviously appreciate wilderness, they also have diverse viewpoints about oil development and growth. What they share is a determination to collect information and make scientific observations ahead of the drill-bit. The goal of the project is not to tell communities what to do, but rather to help them gather the information they need to make informed decisions. The team will produce educational materials to teach students and the public about the natural and historical significance of the region, as well as to educate them about the relationships between oil development, natural, and cultural resources.
Andrew Reinhard, one of the team’s two archaeologists, noted, “[team member] Richard Rothaus and I had been planning a relatively casual Badlands journey for the past few years. As the Bakken Oil Boom exploded, we realized we needed to hit this idea hard.”
Expedition members are no strangers to wilderness travel, backcountry navigation, and extreme sports. Most of the science-athletes are ultra-marathoners, mountaineers, ice climbers, and solo explorers. One is an ex-Army Ranger. All are supported by a seasoned crew of search-and-rescue paramedics and safety personnel.
“In the Badlands,” archaeologist Rothaus explained, “anything can happen. The weather in April could bring anything from blizzards to tornadoes. There’s no drinkable water. We’re traveling over more than 20,000 feet of elevation change in a short amount of time. And the rattlesnakes might be waking up.”
Along the Badlands transect the team members will document the flora, fauna, historical sites, archaeology, and geology they encounter. Every hour they will stop, record photos and video panoramas, and make an audio recording to check for noise pollution, making notes on what they observe. The route and records will be carefully tracked with GPS units. The world can follow along on Twitter using @100MilesOfWild and the #ndbadlands hashtag, and by visiting adventurescience.ca.
Media queries can be submitted to Melissa Rae Stewart, email@example.com or by phone at 519-204-6926.
February 14, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Last weekend we stopped by a Type 2/Type 3 man camp. As I noted on Tuesday, it appears that some of the residents had recently moved on (or been moved on). In fact, one could see where the campers had been because there was a gap in relatively recent snow. As we look toward publishing this photos, I am trying to figure out how to produce some text that complements Kyle Cassidy’s photographs without bringing them down with a toxic dose of academic prose. So here’s my first effort:
Kyle Cassidy‘s arresting photograph of one part of Man Camp 6: all that remained from a camper was a gap in the snow, a pvc pipe, an air conditioner, and a set of barbells.
Awesome Kyle Cassidy Photograph
of Man Camp 6 in February 2013
In 2009, this site was an open field outside the small town of Tioga, ND (pop. 1,230 in 2010). By August 2012, the area featured several new apartment buildings under construction and a man camp of 27 units loosely arranged in 2 rows. At the south end, there were four “FEMA” type trailers probably brought north from Katrina Camps. The northern part of the camp featured a series of campers generally with water and electricity, but only the FEMA type units had sewage hook-ups. In the northwestern corner, tucked into the shelter belt stood a group of campers and tents without electricity or water. This was a Type 3 camp. Someone had put a port-o-potty in the camp. A local trucking company had set up the FEMA trailers to house their workers. Carpenters and other workers at local construction sites occupied some of the campers including the Type 3 camp in the northwest. Some of the residents of the Type 3 camp were still looking for work. Air photos taken in September of the same year, showed that at least a few of the campers with electrical and power hook-ups had pulled out.
September 2012 Aerial Photograph
Sketch Plan by Kostis Kourelis (August 2012)
The gap in the snow that Kyle photographed was at the north end of the western row, and we had photographed and described this very same unit in August 2012. The Augustus photographs show a “Yellowstone by Camino” camper with a small area under a camouflage awning set up with a makeshift tent post and rope on its west side. The area under the awning extended the space of the camper and protected a small outside area that featured buckets, a kennel for a dog, coolers, tools, a wheel barrow, propane tanks, gas cans, and extension cords. The contents under the awning would have been at home in a suburban garage. A full-sized, stainless-steel type, refrigerator also stood under the awning. A small plywood patio provided a step into the camper. A camp chair was the only hint at leisure at the site. A window unit air conditioner was stored in the shade unused. The resident of the unit complained about the noise from the Type 3 camp to his west in the shelter belt.
My photograph in August 2012
February 12, 2013 § 1 Comment
I just got back yesterday from an extraordinarily productive three days in the Bakken Oil patch in North Dakota. With a great team of collaborators, I continued to document the social and material conditions of “workforce housing” in the oil patch. We collected more interviews, did some photography, revisited some camps we saw last summer, and got basic data on the growing group of camps clustered around Watford City.
I can offer some immediate impressions that contribute in a general way to our observations from this summer. These impressions are straight from my field notes.
1. What folks leave behind…
One of the most interesting things about this trip is that we visited some camps from which residents had recently departed. There were three interesting examples of this.
The first camp was a Type 3 camp and there was clear evidence that the camp was broken up in haste. The tractor wheels in the newish snow maybe hint that the campers were pulled out by someone other than the residents. More evidence for this comes from the scatter of material left behind at the camp. The remains of the camp included coolers filled with canned food and beer, pots and pans, cooking equipment, grills, a tent, various trash, and the remains of the camp fire.
The next example came from a Type 2 camp. The majority of what was left behind was wood. The skirts built to keep the cold wind from passing under the RV remained stuck in the ice leaving an outline. Around the area are pallets used to to create a deck and plywood set up to protect the sewage and water pipes from the freezing North Dakota wind. Plastic cups, buckets, a tool box, extension cords, bits of foam insulation, and piece of aluminum also litter the area.
Another unit removed since the last major snow from a Type 2 camp in the area of Watford City (perhaps a week ago?) left behind less debris: a propane tank, a bucket covering the sewage pipe, and some wood. A smudge of scoria served as a slab for the resident’s vehicle, and little else.
2. How folks stay warm…
We observed a range of practices to keep warm in the brutal North Dakota winter. The most common practices at Type 2 camps involve sealing the underside of the camper with wood and insulation. In some cases, this involved installing wood “buttresses” to support the insulated word around the base of a camper so that it would not break free as the unit shifted in the North Dakota wind (in a few cases people used snow to reinforce or as an alternative to these buttresses). The cold and the shifting of the units in the wind could cause the foam insulation to shatter littering the area with debris. In a few cases residents used hay bales. Sewage and water pipes were insulated with heat tape, pvc piping, and foam. Windows are sealed on the inside or outside with insulated, reflective pads. We noted in some camps that residents even sealed the south facing windows.
The best way that we saw to stay warm was probably in indoor RV park near Watford City where each unit stood in a heated bay.
3. How towns respond to booms…
We continued our work to document small and nearly abandoned towns that have seen an influx of new residents as a result of the boom. I am particularly interested in how mobile homes, RVs, campers, and trailers infill vacant lots, parks, and marginal areas of these towns. In the photo below you can see a house, a trailer, and an camper sharing a lot. The house looks like a standard first-half of the 20th century North Dakota house.
4. The limits to the temporary…
The Target Logistics Williston Complex has beds for over 1000 people and was built in less than 100 days. The entire complex is modular and included units purpose built for this installation and units brought in from other installations (including the Vancouver Olympics) and Colorado. The entire facility can be removed to another location on semi trucks in weeks. On a smaller scale, individual campers can be removed abruptly from their location and relocated. The use of generators at both large facilities and around smaller units (that use electric heat!) indicates that the local utilities infrastructure cannot necessarily keep up with the increased and fluid population.
On the other hand, some folks have lived in their campers for years and see them as home. People have invested in their space and attempted to make it as functional and comfortable as possible. The idea that these spaces are just temporary seems to challenge our very idea of domesticity. The home is permanent, represents individuality, and is deeply embedded in our idea of private space. Life in the large institutional camps embraces the provisional character of their architecture and their residents (a one site, the manager told us that people don’t live in their camp, they stay there.) Elsewhere, however, there continues to be indication that people do live there.
5. The artist’s eye…
The most remarkable thing about our trip this time was getting to watch Kyle Cassidy work. He is a photographer from Philadelphia who lent us his creative vision. After a few days in the patch, it became clear that we needed to collaborate to document what is going on in the Bakken. His photos, which he’ll release on his blog capture the determination of so many of the people living and working the patch. Our interviews and efforts to document bits and pieces of people’s lives can only go so far to show how people think about themselves and their place in the world. Kyle’s photos can do this in a way that is neither patronizing nor cold. His images brought to life the experience of living and working in western North Dakota in way that our research can only allude.
Looking through my pictures and field notes has forced me to realize how important my experiences in this place have been. Ten years ago I defended my dissertation on the Early Christian architecture of Greece. I was living in Athens and thinking and talking about Greek history, architecture, and archaeology for days on end. Nothing has moved me like being in the field in February in western North Dakota, trying to get my head around what living and working in this landscape means to people.
January 26, 2013 § Leave a Comment
When I first started posting some of my photographs on my blog I worried people would regard them as self indulgent or get bored.
Then I decided not to care. This was the evening sky last night. It was pretty and made me feel happy to being living in North Dakota.
January 20, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Before the truly frigid weather descended upon the Red River Valley, I took a nice long walk in the cold.
January 1, 2013 § Leave a Comment
The first day of the year is one of those brilliant North Dakota winter days. The weather was mild and the sky was crystal blue.
There is an odd stretch of Belmont Avenue where the trees switch from the berm between the road and the sidewalk to inside the sidewalk. I have no idea why this is. The trees are mature and the same size as the trees on the berm; so it’s hard to imagine that they date to before or after the other trees on Belmont.