Nobody lives in Deadhorse, Alaska. There are no permanent residents. This alone makes it a strange place. Deadhorse is an industrial camp on the North Slope. The Alaska Pipeline starts here. Most of the modular pre-fab buildings sit on gravel footings on top of the tundra. People come here to work in the Prudhoe Bay oilfields or to provide services for the 2.500 oil company employees. They are here 2 or 4 or 6 weeks, they work 10 to 12 hour shifts 7 days a week, then fly home for a few weeks, then return.
To many workers Deadhorse is a hellhole. The sun hardly ever shines here. Winters are long, very dark, and very cold. Most things look grey.
Regulations are tight. There is no alcohol in Deadhorse, the town is completely dry. There’s no entertainment and not even a mall or a foodstore. No campground. No bank, no ATM. There are two rather basic hotels, a US post office, and a general store.
Most tourists come here out of curiosity. They want to see the end of the Dalton Highway and the Arctic Ocean. Many are disappointed. There is no public access to the oilfields or the ocean. To get to the shore you have to catch a commercial shuttle with a security officer who’ll tell you he doesn’t understand what you came up here for in the first place. He’ll drive you to a spit where you can watch the sea, the fog and the oil installations for 20 minutes. Then he’ll drive you back. Another tour bus takes you around the oilfields. That’s about all you can do in Deadhorse.
Many stories exist about the origin of the name ‘Deadhorse’. One story mentions a company that did the gravel work to the first airstrip at Prudhoe Bay. This company was called ‘Deadhorse Haulers’. The name stuck, the story claims, and as time went on, the entire area came to be known as ‘Deadhorse’.