The Sun Has Set in Barrow, Alaska, and Will Not be Seen Until Next Year

Riley McDonald | | BrainsBrains
snow and boats in Barrow, AK
Beautiful scenery in Barrow, picture: Deborah Schildt

Imagine sitting on your porch at midnight in midsummer, drinking a glass of beer, with the sun shining in the sky and lighting up the land. What an incredible daydream. Well, for Barrow, Alaska, this is not much of a dream but an annual reality.

However, on the flip side, they experience two months of ominous darkness every winter. This year, the sun set on November 18th and won’t rise again until next year in late January. 

The northernmost city in North America, Utqiagvik (Barrow), is a place only the toughest can endure. Additional to the two months of darkness, there are an average of 160 days per year below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. This bone-chilling environment consists of a permafrost layer that can plummet 1,300 feet deep. The tundra has no natural trees and no access by road. 

These statistics will leave you thinking that Utqiagvik is a barren wasteland. On the contrary, there are on average 4,500 residents year-round that have a rich cultural and family life. These residents will join together in activities like boat racing, playing sports, or working in their predominant industry of gas or oil.

dancer in Barrow, AK
Cultural dancer in Utqiagvik, picture: Zeke Tucker

Additional to the residents, wildlife seen in Utqiagvik consists mostly of marine life. The most seen wildlife are whales, walruses, seals, and polar bears. You will even see several whale skulls on display around the city.

Utqiagvik residents treasure their slower, more simple, way of life. With their unimaginable isolation, their survival looks much different than anything the average American would find familiar. With the cost of shipping, hunting and fishing in the ocean and rivers are necessary for survival. 

Would you dare live there? Are you tough enough to endure the cold, isolation, and months of darkness?

Skull on the beach in Barrow
Skull found on the beach in Utqiagvik, picture: Dan Palen

 


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