Numerous oil seeps on the arctic coastal plain sparked early interest in the area's petroleum potential. The first drilling was done by the U.S. Navy between 1944 and 1953. From 1963 to 1967, nine wildcat wells were drilled by private companies, but no commercial quantities of hydrocarbons were found. In July 1965, Humble Oil and Richfield Oil each acquired state acreage by competitive bidding at three state lease sales. In 1966 Atlantic and Richfield oil companies merged into the Atlantic-Richfield Company (ARCo). Humble Oil later became part of British Petroleum (BP). In 1967, the massive Prudhoe Bay oil field was discovered. Application was made to the state and federal governments to construct a hot-oil pipeline to Valdez, and construction on the pipeline began in 1973. Deadhorse developed to house personnel, provide support for drilling operations, and to transport oil down the pipeline. Since completion of the pipeline in 1977 it has housed approximately 5,000 transient personnel, employees of oil companies and other support services.
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History and map graphic used with permission from the Alaska Department of Community and Economic Development