June 1, 2011 Flying into Barrow
After getting up this morning I repacked my bag, went for a run and got ready to go to the airport for my flight to Barrow. It only takes an hour and fifteen minutes to fly from Fairbanks so it doesn't seem like you're traveling that far. But by the time you get off the plane, you feel as if you have entered another world. From the plane you can begin to see the changes in the landscape as we move further north.
It was a pretty cloudy day most of the way. As the plane turned before the final approach we dropped below the clouds and I received my first view of the Arctic Ocean and the shoreline with the town of Barrow. The ice edge itself is about a half mile away from the edge of the land. There is a pretty thick ribbon of ice that is still hanging on to the shoreline. You can tell by the way the sea ice is torn up and tumbled on itself that the ice has been moving with the ocean currents and breaking up for some time. It would be very dangerous to go out on this ice, especially in a strong wind that could cause the ice to break up even more. When we arrived at the airport there was a man there to meet us and drive us to our hotel. The Top of the World Hotel is not too fancy looking but it was a nice friendly place for my first taste of Barrow.
The town of Barrow is the northernmost community in North America. It is actually on the Chukchi Sea, which is a small section of the Arctic Ocean. It is located at 71 degrees and 17 minutes north latitude. There are 4,429 residents who are mostly Inupiat Eskimo. These natives still hunt and fish for much of their food and whaling is still practiced. This area has been inhabited for 1,500 years. In the 1880's the U.S. Army established research stations in the area. But it wasn't until 1958 that Barrow became an official town. The sun made it's last setting on May 10, and won't set again until August 2nd. While I'm here it will be 24 hours of sunlight, so heavy curtains are needed to make the room dark for sleeping, which I am going to do a little of now so that I am ready for a long day tomorrow. We are going to tour the town and see the historic and scientific sites in the area. I may even get my chance to jump in the ocean!