Top of the World

Location: Barrow, Alaska

03_barrow

It should not surprise our regular readers that we (read: Ryan) like to go to geographical extremes on our trips. Today was the day or our trip that reached a new distance goal. Our destination today was well above the Arctic Circle: Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost part of the United States.

Currently Barrow is experiencing 24 hr daylight. This served to really mess with our internal clocks and calendars. But it’s also a great deterrent for vampires.

Just like previous days, we woke up pretty early to catch a flight. We got to the airport, then took a plane north toward Prudhoe Bay. We hoped to be able to get some good pictures during the flight, but because of the clouds (and the fact that we were on the starboard side of the plane) we were unable to see Denali. We arrived at Prudhoe Bay, Alaska without incident. We had a short stop where some passengers deplaned and a few more got on board. We didn’t even have to change seats. After another 35 min flight we arrived at Barrow.

We arranged a tour with the Top of the World hotel. They picked us up at the airport, and then took us to the hotel to see local Inupiat dancers. After the show, we went for a tour of town.

We got to see many of the highlights of the town, the whale bone arches and any other whale bone artifacts, ice cellar (where whale meat is stored), the smurf turf high school football field (as seen on ESPN), and the northernmost bridge in the world.

Whale bone arch
Whale bone arch
Blue astroturf football field.
Blue astroturf football field.

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We even got to see the Barrow palm trees, made up of driftwood and baleen.

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The tour took us to northernmost point of the US road system. We got out here to touch the Arctic Ocean. With this stop we have now visited all five of the worlds oceans (North and South Atlantic, North and South Pacific, Indian, Southern, and Arctic). From here we could also see Point Barrow, the northernmost point in the US, a few miles off in the distance. Because of the constant threat of polar bears, and presently unfavorable terrain, we weren’t able to actually make it to the point. We made it as far as 71.357353 N, 156.538716 W,  close enough though.

Point Barrow
Point Barrow
Touching the Arctic Ocean
Touching the Arctic Ocean
Touching the Arctic Ocean
Touching the Arctic Ocean

Afterwards we went to see some whaling boats. The locals have a tightly regulated indigenous whaling culture. The whaling techniques are essentially unchanged for thousands of years, including the use of seal skin paddle driven longboats, and hand thrown harpoons.

Whaling boat
Whaling boat

All along the tour we were on the lookout for wildlife. We didn’t see any polar bears, but we did see some seals out on the ice. We were too far to get pictures good enough to post here. Near the end of hte tour we ventured out into the Tundra to look for snowy owls. The original name for the area, Utqiaġvik, actually translates to “place to hunt snow owls”. We found one, and Rachel got some pictures.

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We were also taken to the grocery store, just to show how expensive food is priced. $10+ for a gallon of milk, $18 for orange juice, $8 for a bag of chips. Everything has to be flown in, and foods with expiration dates can be very expensive.

The tour concluded with a stop at the Inupiat Heritage Center, where we learned more about the local culture, whaling, and Inupiat art. The Heritage Center is affiliated with the park service, and we got our National Parks passport book stamped.

Lastly we took a flight back to Anchorage. This time we were on a direct flight. Again we were on the wrong side of the plane (port) to see any mountains.

Tomorrow we visit Talkeetna and drive up to Denali.

Today’s weather: High 41, Low 29, Overcast

Sunrise: NA (3:00am May 10), Sunset: NA (1:52am August 2)

Total flights: 3

Total Oceans seen: 2 (Pacific, Arctic)

Northernmost point: 71.357353 N

Total Steps: 10,629

The Top Of The World
The Top Of The World
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