Monday, August 08, 2005

Reaching Barrow, Alaska's Northernmost Point

Written from Barrow, Alaska--

On the advice of a dear friend, I traveled here, to the northernmost point on the continent, and it was both a shock and a revelation. This town is predominantly an Eskimo community, and were it not for the annual $1,800 Alaska oil subsidy to each resident, and federal aid, it's difficult to see how they would make ends meet.

The town is absolutely treeless, except for a couple of fake palm trees, and there isn't any grass so far as I can see. Every street is dirt and muddy and everything looks totally ramshackle. In part, it is the permafrost lying just below the surface that causes the lack of pavement and general drab appearance.

I couldn't help but conclude that all these wonderful Arctic articles we run if anything understate these folks' problems. One of the most imposing buildings in town, however, is the federal research facility into global warning.

Nearby, was the fatal 1935 air crash site of Will Rogers and Wylie Post. Also, a cape of sorts leads toward the Arctic ocean. The North Pole is only 1,200 miles away, but it was mostly in the 40s yesterday, and at one moment, the temperature reached 51 degrees.

Alaska is 17% native born in its population, and it is quite a shock to see the contrast in Barrow with the rest of the state. Tijuana looks fancy compared to San Diego compared to Barrow to the rest of Alaska.

Yet the Eskimo dances and songs at the Heritage Center here were excellent and some of the art was terrific as well. I bought a polar bear necklace with a polar bear's claw for my daughter.

The flight here from Fairbanks, the tour and overnight in a hotel cost $565. It certainly is a different Alaska, pretty much reliant on a federal subsidy and the Alaskan oil revenue. This is the reason most of the indigenous population here favors more oil and gas exploitation of the Arctic.

There was no ice on the Arctic ocean and thus no polar bears at this time of year.

7 Comments:

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I have a feeling Barrow will be getting more attention now that "30 Days of Night" is out. I have to wonder how the all day/all night parts of the year affect the folks there.

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