Winter is coming… with beautiful landscapes covered in snow as 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, Siberia.
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 Fahrenheit (-60°c). In these conditions, daily life becomes a battle and things we take for granted elsewhere are not working.
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 dug out.
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 frostbite 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.
Extremely cold temperatures can also cause hypothermia. This condition happens when the body’s temperature dips below 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35°c). The 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.
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?