When the first barrel of oil flowed down the the Trans-Alaska Pipeline in June 1977, Alaska changed forever. Oil would become Alaska’s biggest economic engine — and perhaps most important of all for the young state, a main source of funding for state government.

In its heyday, $2 Million barrels of oil flowed through the pipeline on a daily basis. About one fourth of that amount flows through the pipeline today.

This week on Frontiers, we pause at this 40-year milestone to look back. Here are some of the highlights on this week’s show:

  • Pipe Dreams. A tour of BP’s Prudhoe Bay field, where we meet North Slope workers who have witnessed how the oil industry has had to constantly reinvent itself in changing times and circumstances.Tom Marshall’s Hunch. After statehood, a geologist was ridiculed for his recommendation that the state select land at Prudhoe Bay for its share of federal land. But at 91, Tom Marshall has the laugh.
  • Women on the Pipeline. We hear a lot about the men who built the pipeline, but there were women too. KTVA’s Emily Carlson and photojournalist Beth Peak introduce you to Diane Benson, one of the trailblazers who had to be tougher than the guys,.
  • Featured Guest. Willie Hensley, shares his wide range of insights on the pipeline. He has worn many historical hats in Alaska — from a champion of the Native lands claim movement, to a state legislator, to an Alyeska lobbyist. Willie has some of the back stories on the pipeline that might surprise you.

Our show this week takes in a wide swath of pipeline history. We barely drilled down into the wealth of personal stories — and yet you get a sense of how rich this pool of memories is. It was great to tap some of this before it disappears.

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