There are no trees in the Arctic, but someone in Barrow has a sense of humor. These three "palm trees" stand near the northernmost house seen in the last tip. The trunks are made of driftwood, the leaves are the long fringed bonelike strips which hang from the upper jaw of baleen whales, and the coconuts are real. Laying on the ground are whale bones. The folks in Barrow refer to this, tongue in cheek, as "Barrow National Forest."
By the way, much of the driftwood found in this part of the Arctic Ocean comes from the interior of Canada via the Mackenzie River. The whale baleen comes from the ocean, and I don't know where they got the coconuts.
Just beyond the satellite dishes on the southwest end of Barrow you will see Imaiqsaun Cemetary, where remains of ancestors excavated at the many archaeological sites around Barrow have been respectfully reburied. Here is the final resting place of the famous "Frozen Family" excavated from Mound 44 in the early 1980's. Also at rest here is a prehistoric girl excavated from an eroding bluff above the sea in 1994. She is in the plot surounded by the picket fence in this picture.
We were told that burials are easier in winter when the ground is frozen solid. In summer only a foot or two thaws, leaving a very wet muddy surface. For this reason extra graves are dug into the permafrost each winter to await those who may need them the following summer.
About five miles north of Barrow, on the road to Point Barrow, is a cluster of rustic cabins which comprise the Pigniq "Shooting Station." These small homes are used during summer as a hunting camp for the natives of Barrow who come here to hunt ducks, seals, walrus, and even polar bears.
One of the nicest of these cabins (pictured) is the one furthest north, before reaching Point Barrow. I couldn't resist taking a picture of the northernmost home in America - and a summer vacation home at that. Sorry, it's not an igloo. Igloos are not permanent homes but are only used in winter sometimes as an emergency shelter.
Visitors who head southwest from Barrow will soon pass Fresh Water Lake, one of the original sources of drinking water for the village. Just beyond the lake you will see numerous satellite dishes, only a few of which are pictured here. These are tilted almost parallel to the ground because we are so far north. The dishes bring cable TV to Barrow and make possible advanced communications like two-way audio and video conferencing.
A standard joke here in the far north is that you can tell an Alaskan because he has no indoor plumbing and receives 150 cable channels. Actually most people in Barrow now do have indoor plumbing.
Being in Barrow reminds me of being on the moon sometimes. Cold, bleak, deserted, flat, isolated, lonely, dark, yet one can make a killing here jobwise. What you make in the Lower 48(what they call the United States), you can make triple here. So the key is to stay and work 6 months then fly somewhere warm like Boca Raton, Florida and buy a mansion.
Barrow is the northernmost settlement in the United States,also located on the edge of the Polar Ice Cap more than 300 miles above the Arctic Circle. Vast seas of ice extend from Point Barrow another 1200 miles to the North Pole. From May to August, darkness never falls on Barrow as the golden glow of the midinght sun fills the sky, so staying here long term does affect the equilibrium!
According to the local tour operators, the very best time to see polar bears is after the fall whaling season. Although it is possible to see them up here at the Point anytime of the year, October and November allow for the most likely viewing opportunities. In late May and early October, the Eskimo natives go Bowhead whaling. During whaling season there is an opportunity to photograph a whale being brought in on the beach and butchered. Whaling season tends to encourage the polar bears to feast on the remains that are left at Point Barrow.
Fondest memory: Seeing 50 polar bears while on a tour out to the point.
Keep a look out for polar bears, whales, seals and many other wildlife that are found in this region. A ride out to Barrow Point is a must, with a good chance of sighting polar bears at the whale bone pile. The museum in town gives a great intro to the history of the people and town, and Pepe's is Barrow's most happening restaurant. Walk the beach and enjoy the view of the ice packs, as they change minute to minute in extravagent contortions and blue and turquoise displays. Try not to trample the fragile tundra, which is irreparably damaged just by a single footstep.
Fondest memory: The wildlife, the scenery, the isolation, the harshness, the only place I've ever been where I could experience pieces of untouched wilderness, it is all that encompasses the arctic.
Fondest memory: It deserves a trip to Barrow just to tell people that 'I have been to the Artic' :) Also, standing on the Artic Ocean, walking on tundra and permafrost are all unusual and memorable experiences in life.
EVERYONE IN BARROW OWN A GUN AND THEY HAVE PLENTY OF TIME..................AND AMMO SO WHAT DO THEY DO...............???????????
YOU SIGNS FOR TARGET PRACTICE.
Favorite thing: Barrow is 340 miles north of the Arctic Circle, where the Bearing Sea meets the Chukchi Sea at Point Barrow, the farthest north on the North American Continent.