Friday, December 01, 2006

Barrow, Alaska

My friend Alaskan Mike (of the late blog Greetings From the Top of the World) sent me some photos of his new home, along with some words about what it's like up there. He's from Minnesota but he went up there for a teaching job at a college. Here's some of his descriptions of the northernmost settlement in America:
Barrow, Alaska is 340 miles into the Arctic Circle. It sits on the shore of the Arctic Ocean which is frozen for ten months out of the year. Barrow is as far north as anyone lives year round in the world. The population of Barrow is about 4500 souls. I remember seeing the nationalities breakdown and I seem to recall about 1500 people consider themselves to be Native. The rest are foreigners. Barrow is technically part of the United States, but when you come here you know that it really isn't.

There are no coffee houses in Barrow, nor are there any theaters. There are no bars in Barrow. Barrow is dry. You can get a permit to import alcohol if you have a clean record. I have been told that the residents of Barrow spend $350,000 a month on beer, wine, and liquor. Some of that is the cost of shipping. Still, lots of people spend many hours piss blind drunk in Barrow. There is much domestic violence here. The women have been abused for so long that they have learned to fight as well as the men in many cases. Usually, they will just beat the hell out of each other, and then neither reports it to the police -- who absolutely will put them in jail.
There are only 10 miles of unpaved roads in Barrow. Everything that comes in or leaves Barrow -- does so by air or sea. Only people leave Barrow, it is too expensive to ship out the broken down trucks, and snow machines or anything. It just sits lying around; sometimes it ends up in the dump. There is no recycling in Barrow.

Barrow is a subsistence hunting community. Everywhere that you look you will see animals hanging from peoples houses in varying states of being butchered. I remember how creepy I felt when I first saw some seal ribcages hanging from a porch, swinging in the wing. Barrow is spooky. Apparently, Barrow is named for the British Admiral who sent guys here to check it out. Barrow is haunted.

Looking at Alaskan Mike's photos of the tundra and the Arctic Ocean, you get the sense of how stripped down to its essences the Earth can be. There is little besides the sky and the subtle curve of the planet.

According to the Internet, Barrow, Alaska will have a high of 23 degrees -- that's three degrees warmer than Minneapolis today. Makes you wonder about global warming. It'll be back down to below zero by the middle of next week though. Barrow's highs and lows won't necessarily correspond directly to the night and day though. Sunrise in Barrow is at 1:52 PM. Sunset: same time. 1:52 PM.

I'll be posting more photos and dispatches from Alaskan Mike in the coming month.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, I heard that there is a show on TV about NY women going to Alaska to find some smelly unshaven manly Alaskan men - does this really happen?
Alaskan Mike

5:08 PM  

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