By Nicole Bonaccorso | weather.com
A woman walks over an ice-encrusted bridge in Yakutsk. Oymyakon lies a two day drive from the city of Yakutsk, the regional capital. (Amos Chapple)
Think we’re having a brutal winter? Winter temperatures in Oymyakon, Russia, average minus 50 C ( minus 58 F). The remote village is generally considered the coldest inhabited area on Earth. Oymyakon is a two-day drive from Yakutsk, the regional capital which has the lowest winter temperatures of any city in the world.
How do the locals deal with the cold? “Russki chai, literally Russian tea, which is their word for vodka,” photographer Amos Chapple told weather.com after his visit to the coldest city.
Oymyakon ironically means “unfrozen water.” This is due to the thermal spring located nearby. Originally the location was used by reindeer herders who would water their flock in the warm springs.
Oymyakon’s lowest recorded temperature was a frigid minus 71.2 C (minus 96.16 F) back in 1924. According to The Independent, wearing glasses outdoors can cause them to stick to the wearer’s face. This is just one of the more menial problems of the extremely cold weather.
Other adaptations locals have to make in their daily lives are more extreme than a short time of nearsightedness or farsightedness when stepping outside. The frozen ground makes it difficult for working indoor plumbing, so most toilets are outhouses. The bitter cold also makes it difficult to dig graves. The ground has to be warmed with a bonfire before a funeral. Locals use heated garages for their cars. Cars left outside need to be kept running, otherwise they will not restart. Planes cannot fly into the area in the winter. And of course the risk of frostbite is great after only a few minutes in the cold.
“I was wearing thin trousers when I first stepped outside into minus 47 C,” Chapple said. “I remember feeling like the cold was physically gripping my legs, the other surprise was that occasionally my saliva would freeze into needles that would prick my lips.”
Due to the frozen ground, crops cannot be grown in Oymyakon. The population survives on mostly meats. “Yakutians love the cold food, the frozen raw Arctic fish, white salmon, whitefish, frozen raw horse liver, but they are considered to be delicacy,” local Bolot Bochkarev told weather.com. “In daily life, we like eating the soup with meat. The meat is a must. It helps our health much.”
Chapple traveled through Oymyakon and Yaktusk on a journey for interesting pictures about life in the brutally cold environment. As a photojournalist, he searches for uplifting stories around the globe. He said that the cold posed some difficulties for his photography. He said that focusing the lens would sometimes be as challenging as opening a pickle jar.
Summers, however, in Oymyakon and Yakutsk, are relatively warm, and average around the mid-60s and 70s, and have reached as high as 94 degrees F, according to meteorologist Jon Erdman. But the winters are long and the summers, short, and according to Bochkarev, many locals actually complain about the warmer weather.