Sighting. More about Oymyakon, the world’s coldest town

coldest city woman in black

Yakutian woman amidst the fog of city center – created by cars, people, and steam from factories, the fog is thick and heavy through the coldest weeks of winter | Amos Chapple

New England was engulfed recently for what many media called a “historic snowstorm.” The U.S. sports media complained that the NBA All-Star Game was being held in “a cold city” (Toronto, where the temperature that weekend was -23 C). Today it is snowing again, my door is blocked by a drift, the lane to the road – I call it “The Dr Zhivago Memorial Lane” – is impassable due to the drifting snow, cabin fever is setting in, and so I returned to learn more about that one city in particular that has it hands down, and just about every single day. I had posted an article and photos about it just a few days ago. Some people dream about being on  a deserted island; I look at those in seemingly more adverse conditions.

Map of Sakha (Yakutia)

Map of Sakha (Yakutia)

People in Oymyakon, Russia face frigid temperatures like no other place on Earth except Antarctica. Located just a few hundred miles from the Arctic Circle, Oymyakon is the world’s coldest permanently settled area, nestled in the northern part of the Saka Republic.

Thanks to Erin Kelly’s interesting blog, All That Is InterestingI found a stunning photo essay by New Zealand photographer Amos Chapple, who recently made an expedition to the region to document the daily life of its inhabitants. Chapple found that the residents of Yakutsk, the nearest city in the region, albeit a 3-day drive, were surprisingly well-off and described that city as cosmopolitan. The affluence comes from the plentiful resources around Yakutsk including oil, gas, and diamonds. It is a city with its own character.

Chapple’s amazing photos below document the obstacles of life in such bitter conditions (the average January temperature is a bitter -34 °Fahrenheit) as well as the strength and resolute determination of the people who live there and who overcome such obstacles.

Chapple seems to be a kindred spirit, a shunpiker. Visit his website Amos Chapple. The man takes a path less travelled.

–Tony Seed

coldest city gas station

Source: Amos Chapple

Working two weeks on and two weeks off, employees of isolated regional 24-hour gas stations are vital to ensure that the economy can keep running in spite of inclement conditions.

coldest city WWII statues

Source: Amos Chapple

Statues of soldiers stand frozen in a park dedicated to the fallen of World War II.

coldest city sleeping dogs

Source: Amos Chapple

It isn’t only people who have to deal with the dangerous conditions; a dog curls up to sleep and keep warm in the carpark outside of Café Cuba.

coldest city frozen road

Source: Amos Chapple

Constructed by prison workers and known as the “Road of Bones”, the Kolyma Highway is the only major land route into or out of Yakutsk.

coldest city bus stop

Source: Amos Chapple

A dog hesitantly makes its way onto the street near an icy bus stop in Yakutsk.

coldest city kraft bust

Source: Amos Chapple

One of the first governors of Yakutia, this bust of Ivan Kraft stands covered in ice for the majority of the year.

coldest city frosted shoes

Source: Amos Chapple

Someone’s summer shoes hanging inside a shed in the Yakutsk suburbs, waiting out the long and frigid winter.

coldest city steamy entrance

Source: Amos Chapple

A swirl of steam and freezing mist surrounds a woman as she enters Preobrazhensky Cathedral, the largest in Yakutsk.

coldest city crossing light

Source: Amos Chapple

On a day of -63 °F, a woman covers her face with her mitten to protect it from the dangerous cold. In the background a statue of Vladimir Lenin can be seen.

coldest city frozen house

Source: Amos Chapple

Ice-covered houses like the one shown here are common sights in the middle of Yakutsk.

coldest city fish market

Source: Amos Chapple

There is no need for refrigeration at the public market; the frigid air ensures that the fish as well as the rabbit stay frozen and fresh until they can be sold.

coldest city forest road

Source: Amos Chapple

On the way to Oymyakon, gasoline can freeze solid if the vehicle is not left running. Sometimes during long night drives the driver will stop in the middle of the road and sleep in the car with lights shining and the engine running.

coldest city oil can fire

Source: Amos Chapple

Shortly before the photo was taken, a young drunk man in Oymyakon warned Chapple, “In the nighttime these streets belong to me.”

coldest city driveshaft torch

Source: Amos Chapple

A man uses a torch to thaw the driveshaft of his frozen truck.

coldest city bathroom time

Source: Amos Chapple

Due to the difficulty of digging plumbing in the region, most bathrooms are pit latrines out on the street. Retired school teacher Alexander Platonov bundles up to make the dash to the toilet.

coldest city cow stable

Source: Amos Chapple

To keep his cows from freezing, farmer Nicholai Petrovich has a highly insulated stable that they sleep in at night.

coldest city supply shop

Source: Amos Chapple

Oymyakon has but one shop to provide supplies to the remote and isolated community.

coldest city coal tractor

Source: Amos Chapple

Early each day this tractor is used to supply new coal to the plant and remove the burnt cinder from the previous day.

coldest city record low

Source: Amos Chapple

A Soviet-era sign which reads “Oymyakon, The Pole of Cold” marks the record breaking low of -96.16 °F in 1924.

coldest city heating plant

Source: Amos Chapple

Oymyakon’s heating plant runs round the clock with an ever present plume of smoke rising into the winter sky.

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Filed under Eurasia, Sighting

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