Barrow, the USA nothernmost city

June 1998 

Barrow, on the shores of the Arctic Ocean, is the Alaska and USA last frontier, the northernmost village of the country. Located several hundreds miles north of the Arctic Circle, visitors in Barrow can also experience culture and traditions of native people and feel the freezing temperature of the Arctic ocean.


Barrow is the Alaska'a and USA's northernmost community and is located north of parallel 71° on the shores of the Arctic Ocean. The polulation is of about 3000 inhabitants and part of them are Eskimo living thanks to the natural resources and to a limited tourism. In Barrow there are 3 hotels of good standard, an hospital, a mall, several restourants, recreational centers, school of any grade, a naval base and an airport equipped for any-weather operations which can be reached by 10 minutes walk from the town's center. Well 3 daily Alaska airlines' Boeing 737 jets connect Barrow to Fairbanks, Anchorage and Deadhorse (to Deadhorse the service is seasonally only), in addition, many smaller planes serve the nearby communities. All the roads are unpaved, the typical vehicles used for in-town tranposrtation are buses, cars, taxies, four trakcs and snowmobiles. As the underground is permanently frozen year-round (permafrost) all the buildings must be built like lake dwellings, in order to compensate the ice's assestment. Because of the northen latitude, Barrow enjoys the midnight sun from May 17th to August 4th and most of the spring and summer is any case featured by 24 hours no stop light. Instead from November 17th to February 4th, the Sun never comes up and the town receives just reflected light in the middle of the day. During the "polar night" and for the earlier spring, the temperature is permanently under freezing point, averaging from -15 to -35 °C with occasional peaks down to -40 and -50. Cold winds with very low windchill factors are also very frequent, in any season. On summertime the temperature is usually above freezing point in July and August, but snow and icy conditions are always possible year-round. The sea is normally frozen from December to April, but large drifting ice floes may be present on summertime also. The flora is represented by very low vegetation (tundra) composed of mosses and lichens. There aren't trees and the highest plant is no more than 25 centimetres tall. The wildlife is quite rich and includes seals, whales, polar bears, arctic foxes, caribou, and many species of birds. Walking around Barrow it isn't rare to see "Polard Bear" danger signs.

Barrow, Alaska Barrow, Alaska
Barrow, Alaska
Typical homes and streets of Barrow, a "touristic" sign showing the distance from the most important cities and the main entertainment center where I will soon assist to some Eskimo dance.
Arctic ocean, Barrow, Alaska Arctic ocean, Barrow, Alaska
A beach on the Arctic ocean.
Eskimo blanket toss, Barrow, Alaska Eskimo blanket toss, Barrow, Alaska
Eskimo dances, Barrow, Alaska Eskimo dances, Barrow, Alaska
Top pictures: the blanket toss. Bottom pictures: a dance. The main instrument consists in a drum made with caribou's skin and bones, and produces a nice and clean sound. Other instruments are also made with various animal's parts.
Eskimo clothes, Barrow, Alaska
Eskimo clothes, Barrow, Alaska

Typical clothes, normally made with animal skins and bones.
Top of the World hotel, Barrow, Alaska Top of the World hotel, Barrow, Alaska
Top of the World hotel, Barrow, Alaska
Arctic ocean, Barrow, Alaska
This is the Top of the World hotel. Although fom outside it isn't very actractive, the standard inside is very good and has all the normal facilities found elsewhere. Above and left: views from my room.
Ancient Eskimo underground house, Barrow, Alaska
During winter, the ancient Eskimo used to live underground. The door of the home was made using a whale's bone.
Whale bones, Barrow, Alaska Whale skulls, Barrow, Alaska
Whale skulls, Barrow, Alaska For the ancient Eskimo, when the means of transport wasn't develped like today, it was very difficult to find the construction materials (like wood, etc.) because for hundreds of kilometers there ins't a single tree around Barrow. So the most widely used replacement for wood was the bones and the skin of the animals. In the top-left picture, the bones from a whale's skeleton was used to build a dock and a boat.
Because of the extremely low temperature of winter and springtime, distributing the drinkable water is a big problem here (and it is very expensive). These are the pipes used to build the conducts of the water (which is aerial), featured by a massive heat insulation and a heater system to prevent water to freeze inside.
Browerville, Alaska
Private homes. As the ground is permanently frozen underground, the buildings must be constructed like a "lake dwelling" in order to compensate and tollerate the adjustments of the permafrost.
Barrow Alaska
The World's northenmost Totem pole.
Arctic Ocean, Barrow, Alaska
Arctic Ocean, Barrow, Alaska Arctic Ocean, Barrow, Alaska
Point Barrow is the northenmost point in the USA. The Arctic Ocean is still frozen in mid-June.
Barrow, Alaska
A view from above, after taking off from runway 06.
Arctic tundra, Alaska
Arctic tundra, Alaska

The landscape around Barrow is featured by a vast flat land which extends from the Arctic Ocean, up to the Brooks Range about 200 miles to the south. The tundra is spotted by hundreds of nameless lakes and crossed by a lot of rivers and streams. The snow is already melted, but most of the bigger lakes are still partially frozen.
Mt. McKinley, Alaska Mt. McKinley, Alaska
Flying the last leg from Fairbanks to Anchorage, the majestic Mt. McKinley is visible from the airplane.

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