ALASKA: Dealing with a Northern Sheik

Scarcely two years ago, at the height of the excitement over the huge oil strike on Alaska's North Slope, as many as 2,000 men swarmed around two dozen drilling rigs, preparing to tap the largest known oil reservoir in North America. This week, as the sun drops out of the northern sky, not to rise again for almost two months, fewer than 200 men are left, and only two rigs are rumbling in the icy darkness.

At Prudhoe Bay alone, almost 165 miles of 48-in. pipe lay stacked in seemingly endless rows of...

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