Archive for the ‘Arctic’ Tag

Alaska Trip (Part 6) — Flying to Arctic Village   1 comment

In my very first Alaska trip post I mentioned that our trip to Alaska was actually two separate learning tours with New Community Project.  The second part of our journey was to Arctic Village, a remote community about 300 miles north of Fairbanks and 120 miles above the Arctic Circle.  The descriptor remote only suggests the isolation of this village.  It has been referred to as the single most remote community in the western hemisphere.  The nearest road is 150 miles away.  Everything — people and goods — arrive via airplane.  The map below shows where it is in relation to the rest of the state of Alaska and the Arctic Ocean.

The native Gwich’in people of Arctic Village live in an extreme environment.  This past January (2012) the average daily low temperature was minus 32.8 degrees fahrenheit.  The lowest recorded temperature for the month was minus 54 degrees f.  The lowest recorded temperature that I could find was minus 67 degrees f in January 1993 (and matched in January 1989).  On the other hand, summer temperatures are commonly above 70 degrees fahrenheit and occasionally move into the 80s.  As you will see in the photos that I will post in the coming days, we often hiked in t-shirts.  Other times we wore multiple layers.  The word changeable doesn’t even begin to describe Arctic weather, and we were there in the comfortable month of August.

For this post, I’ll focus on the remoteness and terrain of the arctic and sub-arctic as we flew from Fairbanks to Arctic Village.  The aerial views were unlike anything I had ever seen before.  Some of these photos are from our flight in, and some are from our flight back out at the end of the week.  Nevertheless, the progression of photos below is from south to north (Fairbanks to Arctic Village).

Note:  Taking photos through the plane windows created a somewhat bluish color cast that I had trouble fully eliminating when processing them in the computer.

(Above)  We flew from Fairbanks to Arctic Village in an 8-seat Cessna Grand Caravan 208B.  Much of the interior space was dedicated to supplies being flown into the village.

(Above)  Our pilot — Mick — was a native Alaskan who has probably flown the 600 mile round trip hundreds of times.  At least that was what I was hoping!

(Above)  The view was “expansive” to say the least.  Thousands of square miles of uninhabited land.

(Above) in the flat flood plain areas north of Fairbanks the streams meander crazily.  Spruce trees grew around water sources — including streams and snow-melt lakes that sit on top of the permafrost.

(Above)  Not too far north of Fairbanks we glimpsed the Alaskan pipeline.  Note that part of it is above ground and part is below.

(Above)  The first mountains we came to were (I believe) part of the Yukon-Tanana Uplands area, including the White Mountains and Ray Mountains.  These are low mountain ranges by Alaskan standards.  When framed by high broken clouds however they make for wonderful photography.

(Above)  We crossed the Yukon river north of the mountain ranges.  The Yukon river is roughly the point where we crossed the Arctic Circle.

(Above)  Someone asked me if Arctic Village could be reached by river.  I guess maybe it could — if you want to turn a 300 mile trip into a 1,200 mile trip.  (Note:  The Yukon river basically runs east-west — not north-south — but you get the idea.  The rivers up here don’t run in a straight line.)

(Above)  As we traveled further into the arctic the Brooks Range came into the distant view.

(Above)  The tundra colors intensified as we flew further north.  Many of the lakes that sit on top of the permafrost have noticeably receded over time.  This is due to higher average temperatures in recent years that thaw the permafrost.  As the permafrost thaws, more water is absorbed into the ground.

(Above)  The pilot began a rather steep bank and suddenly Arctic Village appeared below us.

(Above)  Surprisingly colorful homes were an abrupt change after 300 aerial miles of wilderness.

(Above)  The Cessna banked even more steeply and I was only able to capture one reflection-marred photo of the gravel runway . . .

(Above) . . .and suddenly we were on the ground.  A collection of pickup trucks and ATVs — along with soon-to-be new friends — were waiting for us.

(Above)  And that’s where I’ll pick it up on my next post.


Posted September 2, 2012 by ~ Bruce in Landscapes, Travel Photography

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