Oymyakon: Welcome to the coldest city on the planet

Winter is coming… with beautiful landscapes covered in snow like we all wish for Christmas. But what if winter was also really hard work? What if removing a bit of ice from your car in the morning was just the tip of the iceberg. What if going out could actually be lethal and cause you frostbite in seconds? Welcome to Oymyakon, the coldest city in the world.

Located just a few hundred miles from the Arctic Circle, Oymyakon is the world’s coldest permanently settled area, nestled deep in the Russian tundra. Here, the average January temperature is a bitter -76 degrees Farenheit (-60°c). In these conditions, daily life becomes a battle and things we take for granted elsewhere is not working.

Welcome to the coldest city on the planet

Daily routines out of function

The frozen ground makes it difficult for indoor plumbing to work, therefore most toilets are outhouses. Cars will have to be kept in heated garages and if left outside, the engine needs to be kept running otherwise you will not be able to start. Planes cannot fly into the area in the winter and in case of a funeral, the ground has to be heated with a bonfire before the grave can be digged out.

Oymyakon: Welcome to the coldest city on the planet
Daily routine when your gearbox- and differential fluids are frozen. Photographer: Amos Chapple
Oymyakon: Welcome to the coldest city on the planet
This shed is built only for keeping the farmers cows alive when temperature gets too low. Photographer: Amos Chapple

The risk of frostbite and hypothermia

Worst of all is the risk of frostbite which can occur after only a few minutes in the cold depending even with a random breeze. For example, a temperature of 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-17.7°c) and a wind speed of 15 mph creates a wind chill temperature of -19 degrees Fahrenheit (-28.3°c). Under these conditions frost bite can occur in just 30 minutes. With lower temperatures the time span is even shorter. This means, that residents of Oymyakon need to dress for the conditions and not the occasion!

Oymyakon’s lowest temperature ever recorded is minus 96.16 degrees Fahrenheit (71.2°c) from 1924.

Oymyakon: Welcome to the coldest city on the planet
Photographer: Amos Chapple

Extremely cold temperature can also cause hypothermia. This condition happens when the body’s temperature dips below 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35°c). First signs of hypothermia include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness, and obvious exhaustion. Something that most of us have probably only heard about in relation to Mount Everest expeditions.

Have you read?: The deadly dream of Mount Everest

Oymyakon: Welcome to the coldest city on the planet
Photographer: Amos Chapple

A day in winter wonderland

The New Zealand photographer Amos Chapple recently made an expedition to the Russian region to document the daily life of its inhabitants. Chapple found that the residents of Yakutsk, the nearest city in the region, were surprisingly wealthy due to the plentiful resources including oil, gas, and diamonds.

The beautiful pictures document the obstacles of life in such bitter conditions and are also a sentiment of the strength and determination of the people who live there. Maybe something we can all learn something from the next time we are upset about a bit of ice on the windshield?

Thanks to Amos Chapple