Talk on Alaska

Laurencekirk Rotary members were transported to Alaska in a fascinating talk by Phil Rorison, a well travelled geophysicist who is an exploration and subsurface manager with ConocoPhillips UK Ltd. in Aberdeen. His profession has taken him to many parts of the world but his three year posting to Alaska is by far the most memorable.

Although oil exploration and extraction is now a huge industry in Alaska, copper mining boomed, particularly in Ketchican, in the early part of the last century and the ore was the richest in the world at 98% pure. The deposits being mined in Chile today are of an infinitely lower quality.

The terrain and climate made Phil’s job fairly challenging but the extraordinary scenery, wildlife and the unique lifestyle more than compensated for this. However it can be a dangerous country with the harshness of the climate, the predatory wild animals and the earthquakes but despite these Phil and his wife Susan and young daughter Sarah have wonderful memories of the country and have produced three illustrated books of their stay there.

Unlike America where the natives have been marginalised, the native Inuit Indians have been granted huge tracts of land and been encouraged to retain their languages and traditions. The Rorison family were privileged to be invited to the Spring Whaling Festival when the natives give thanks after a whale hunt. A blanket toss takes place in which members of the community are bounced from a walrus skin trampoline and traditional dances and native musical instruments prevail.

The Alaskans are proud and very protective of their environment and the behaviour of the oil industry is closely scrutinised and the merest spillage even from vehicles, must be immediately cleaned up. Hunting licences are granted on a lottery system but every animal killed must be used in its entirety and hunting trophies are frowned upon.

In thanking Phil for his wonderful talk, Jerry Dawson commented on the huge uninhabited and unexplored Tundra and the dangers that are inherent in Alaska and the lifestyle so different from our own increasingly health and safety controlled country. He also congratulated Phil on selling Alaska so well and encouraging Rotarians to make it their next holiday destination.