Letters From Alaska
Saturday, Sep 1 2001
Barrow, AK

Dear Parents,

Today was going to be an exciting day. We were going to join the arctic club - meaning we were going to cross the arctic circle. We were up and running by 6:30 am. We had a self served breakfast in our hosts' kichen - cruissant, sugar coated donuts and some other lovely stuff. We met our tour guide at 7 am in the Fairbanks airport. Our flight to Barrow was on the dot at 8 am. Flying out of Fairbanks we saw that its a beautiful well planned city. They get close to 15 feet of snow a year but its beautiful.

And lo behold! Here is Barrow - where? Barrow is an interesting town. It is covered by fog most of the times. We could not see any of the town until the wheels of our plane were almost on the ground. Barrow is the nothernmost human settlement on the North American continent (about 360 miles north of the arctic circle). The people here are called Inupiat Eskimos. They have been staying in this town since hundreds of years. Interestingly, the famous Egloo (meaning 'house' in Eskimo language) is only a shelter built for protection from storms. They lead their normal lives in houses like ours, well, with some changes. For Barrow pics click here.

It was 40F (around 5 C) that day and windy. We met our guide and he anounced "Welcome to the summer in Barrow". There were about 30 folks on the tour that day. We all settled ourselves down in a school bus. Barrow has about 27 miles of roads - all are unpaved and hence you don't need to register your vehicle. However, there are taxis and public transportation in the town! All houses are built on pillars so that they don't sink into the ground. Some new buildings have a full refridgeration system below them. There are no trees in Barrow - all wood is either flown in or is drift wood coming up the rivers. Short brush like Tundra is the only vegetation around here. In winters it can go up to -40 F (-40 C). We toured the whole village on the school bus. Most houses have an icebox outside the house - meat and other stuff, left lying outside remains intact! We dipped our hands in the frigid arctic see, posed below whale jaw bones and all the regular stuff. It was a very interesting day.

Our day ended with a performance of the locals at the Barrow heritage center. They showed us their dances, the blanket toss, music and even how they prepare their clothing/shoes. It was an excellent day out in the town except that we did not do much townly stuff. The flight back to Fairbanks was uneventful. Our plan was to drive out of Fairbanks to Denali National Park. After a mesmerizing sunset on the way, we were cozy and warm in the Denali Bluffs hotel just outside the Denali NP. This was another excellent place with a great view for which we felt sad to be staying just the night. For Fairbanks pics click here.

That is all for today....

Yours affectionately,
Ajay n Deepa

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