Kotzebue and other communities in the Arctic

June 1998 

Near the Bering Strait and just north of the Arctic Circle, many small communities still live on traditions, in a place far away from the civilization.


Kotzebue is a small town of about 2000 inhabitants, located on the shores of the Arctic Ocean, about 65 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle. The town has good structures, there are several hotels, one hospital, schools of any grade, one airport and a dock. The climate is arctic with long, cold winters featured by an average temperature of -15°C and cool (sometimes warm) summer days. The midnight sun shines for about 40 days yearly, while for the same days between December and January the sun never comes up. Usually the Ocean is frozen for part of the winter. Kiana is a small village of about 400 inhabitants, located aout 60 kilometers east of Kotzebue and just over the Arctic Circle. The population is composed by Eskimo and the primary means of life is hunting, manufacturing of handicrafts and services for the community itself. In Kiana there is an elementary school, a clinic with 4 beds for basic assistance, an airport with a gravel airstrip and a dock on the river. There aren't roads to the nearby communities and the transportation is made by air, water (river) or snowmobile on wintertime. About 50 kilometers east of Kiana there are the sand dunes, that extends for over 25 square miles and up to 100 meters tall. During the uninterrupted daylight on sumertime, they may capture so much heat, to bring the air temperature up to an amazing +40 degrees Celsius, although we are still several chilometers north of the Arctic circle.

Eskimo blanket toss, Alaska
Eskimo show, Alaska

The Blanket Toss and the typical dances. The main instrument consists in a drum made with caribou's skin and bones, and produces a nice and clean sound.
Inside the Kotzebue museum.
Midnight sun, Alaska
Midnight in Kotzebue.
Midnight sun, Alaska
Midnight sun, Alaska
Midnight sun, Alaska Midnight sun, Alaska
Same day, first at midnight and then at 3am, when the sun is approximately at the lowest elevation.
Ancient Eskimo house, Alaska
Bones and animal's parts are often used as decorations. On the right: an ancient house.
Arctic tundra, Alaska Arctic tundra, Alaska
Arctic tundra, Alaska

The tundra is incredibly soft, uniform, and composed by mosses, lichens, and miniature shurbs.
Kiana, Alaska
The following day I continue to Kiana. This is the town seen from the gravel airstrip.
Kiana, Alaska
Kiana, Alaska

Kiana is located on the Noatak river and surrounded by incontaminated nature.
Kiana, Alaska
I try the Four track, a widely used vehicle here.

The gravel airstrip at Kiana's airport and the small aircraft serving the town.
Kiana, Alaska
Kiana from the air after take off.
Arctic sand dunes, Alaska Arctic sand dunes, Alaska
Arctic sand dunes, Alaska
Soon, the airplane flies over the great sand dunes. It is like a small Sahara and, although they are above the Arctic Circle, the temperature may exceed +30 degrees celsius on summertime.
Flying over the Arctic circle.
Kotzebue, Alaska

I'm back in Kotzebue and the airplane is about to land on runway 26.

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