Friday, August 12, 2011

Ukpiaġvik aka Barrow

I've taken very few pictures of the village of Barrow over all the years I've been coming up here and some of the comments reflected some interest in what the village is like. It's pretty barren of greenery but overall, it's a pretty nice community. This is looking towards the center of town and showing the current hospital, the Presbyterian church, the ASRC (Arctic Slope Regional Corporation) headquarters and the bank (maybe I'll try and add labels onto the picture.) The water in the foreground is open to the ocean behind me.

I've used this whale bone arch for my header a couple of times. This is the view from the other direction looking towards Brower's Cafe and the surrounding homes.

The boat frames would be covered with skin of some sort.

This is on the road from the airport towards Browerville, a suburb of Barrow, showing a little bit of green grass below the above ground utilities. The lake to the right is where much of the town's drinking water comes from and is shown in the next shot.

The new hospital still under construction is on the far side of the lake. I believe the intent is to seal it from weather by the end of this summer then start working on the interior through the winter. I was told that it wouldn't be completed until 2013. The comment from some of the residents is nice new facility but the same old doctors. Many people are flown to Anchorage or Fairbanks for anything serious.

I've mentioned going to a very good Japanese restaurant here in Barrow called Osaka's. Here is the front of the building and the ocean is visible just behind the building. The owners mentioned that when they opened the place it was about a 50m walk to the water. Now it is practically at their back door.

Just down the road from Osaka's is this playground. Again, no grass and today no one using it. There have been many times I've gone by when it is really busy. Today, there is a 35mph wind so it's starting to feel like winter is just around the corner. The pile gravel and sand on the left is a berm to keep out the ocean during storms. During bad weather, equipment is running 24/7 rebuilding the berms to keep out the storm surge. This road and the road out to NARL has been washed out many times.

The football field is being prepared for the upcoming season. It's looking pretty good but I'm not sure when their first game is scheduled. At the far side of the lake is one of the DEWline stations (Defense Early Warning). There was also someone working on the electronic scoreboard.

Lastly is a shot of a tug pushing a small barge to the beach for unloading. I think they are waiting for the wind to die down as it would be a crosswind coming into the beach. The weather for much of the week has been pretty foggy and cold. I was waiting for a nice sunny day to go out and get some pictures but for now, these will have to do.

Monday Morning - The Barrow Whalers football team won their game against Delta Junction 78-3. I guess their doing pretty good.


  1. Richard, thanks for taking the time to document this. I had to google Barrow to get a feel from where you are blogging from, and wow, this is far out, and obviously no roads leading here. It must take special people to live in a place like this. Impressive, and a bit scary.

  2. Richard:

    yes, thank you for the photos. I always wondered what Barrow looked like. I don't suppose there is any reason for tourists to go there, or do they ?

    Riding the Wet Coast

  3. gNARLy. However if there are no snakes this place looks not too bad.
    the Kotzebue blogger once wrote about ordering supplies by barge in September for use during the winter when everything shuts down.I have always remembered that story and in an idle moment I wonder how you order (expensive)groceries to last all winter. It would be abugger to run out of toilet paper.

  4. Just like and Art Wolfe show but on a blog!

  5. Dear Richard:

    I have seen more than few pictures of Alaska, and it's as green as Ireland in most of the shots. What makes this place so barren?

    I called up the greater Barrow metropolitan area on Mapquest and was rewarded with an interesting overview of the streets and neighboring roads. It appears the southernmost road leads to Emaiksoun Lake. This appears to be about three miles outside of town. My guess is that it has yet to be developed as a resort area.

    I had some trouble placing the lake used for drinking water on the map. There are several bodies of water marked as salt lagoons, that do not have openings to the ocean, at least on this map. Now you mentioned that the sea wall is under constant repair in the winter to keep the ocean at bay. Is there a concern that a tidal surge, empowered by a raging winter storm, could see a break in the wall where the drinking water could be contaminated?

    Fondest regards,
    Twisted Roads

  6. Jack Riepe:
    When you get out into the unpopulated areas of the North Slope, you see tundra. Typically green to brown this time of year. In any case, there is no plant live more than a few inches tall except some grasses. The rich, green areas are all in the warmer areas much further south.

    71°17'37.46"N 156°44'38.06"W is the lake used for drinking water. I think it may be high enough for storm surges not to be a significant concern. The sea wall is just made from gravel and dirt and if there is a storm, it gets eroded from waves. The real concern should be rising sea level as much of the town has an elevation of about 6'. Another significant environmental concern should be the town settling pond as it is maybe 100' from the ocean and maybe a foot or two higher (at most).

  7. SonjaM:
    Yes, this place is kind of out there. Maybe not scary as much as different.

    Yes, a lot of tourists visit Barrow. On my last trip, I had difficulty getting a seat as the planes were full, mostly with tourists.

    There are several grocery stores so you can generally get what you need. Kind of expensive. Recently, the gas station ran out of gasoline and it had to be flown in. Pretty expensive...

    Wow, what a compliment!

  8. Wow. I thought I had seen some flat terrain before. I was wrong. I, too, was concerned to see reference to the berm wall under constant work and construction. Very instant, and real, threat will sea levels rising. Do you think they will go to stilts in the future?

    Thank you for taking the pictures. They are great to see.