Nathan Jones travels to Arctic Circle to assist with environmental issues


Switzerland County native Nathan Jones recently returned from a week in the northern-most town in the United States, as he traveled to the beginning of the Alaskan Pipeline as a part of his job.

Nathan Jones works for Noise Control Engineering in Boston, Massachusetts, as a mechanical engineer. The company specializes in acoustical expertise, working with companies on ways of creating a more quiet and environmentally-friendly work environment.

In that capacity, he traveled with other members of his company to Dead Horse, Alaska, a transit town near Prudoe Bay, Alaska — just above the Arctic Circle. He spent a week at “Northstar”, a man made island in the Arctic Sea that holds an oil refinery at the beginning of the Alaskan Pipeline.

“The BP Company allowed us to test there,” Nathan Jones said during a telephone conversation from his office in Boston. “We do a lot of testing for underwater radiating noises, We try and keep ships quiet so that don’t disturb things like fish populations.”

At Northstar, Nathan Jones said that the drill rig located on the island was tested and observed for ways of reducing noise and vibration. The island was created from 700,000 tons of gravel, and after the gravel froze in the bitter temperatures, the drill rig began exploring for oil.

“As the drill rig operates, it vibrates,” Nathan Jones explained. “We were looking for ways to reduce those vibrations. It’s actually a pretty quiet drill rig. It’s not marked as a problem, but they wanted to know how to improve things as they look at building other platforms in the future.”

The drill rig sits directly in the migratory path of the bowhead whale, so Nathan Jones said that BP was interested in how the drill rig’s vibrations affected that migration.

Nathan Jones was actually at the site working for Minerals Management — the federal government body that regulates all of the natural resources in the U.S.

Getting to the site was not an easy task.

Nathan Jones said that they flew into Anchorage, and from there it was a flight into Dead Horse, Alaska. He said that no one actually lives in Dead Horse, but the town exists merely to transition people in and out of the area for work.

From Dead Horse, Nathan Jones traveled to Northstar by hovercraft. He said that once the gravel freezes, it becomes part of the permafrost in the area. Even at the warmest times of the year, no more than the top three feet of earth and gravel thaw; everything deeper stays frozen.

“Once it’s frozen, crews build ice roads on the permafrost,” Nathan Jones said. “It’s a pretty cold place.”

He said that even in such a desolate place, there are quite a few oil camps along the northern coastline of Alaska. With Northstar sitting in the Arctic Ocean, he and the other workers stayed in the drilling facility while there. He left the area by helicopter after a week of testing.

Now back at his desk, Nathan Jones said that about 25-percent of his job involves travel, and said that he has been to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for a conference, as well as various places across the country.

He is the son of Lary and Elizabeth Jones of Vevay, and is a 1998 graduate of Switzerland County High School. He graduated from the University of Mississippi in 2002. He and his wife, Michelle, live near Boston with their two dogs and a cat.