To the Top of America
Since the first time I noticed it sitting way up there on top of the North American map, I've been fascinated with Barrow, Alaska. 350 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Surrounded on three sides by the Arctic Ocean and 200 miles of uninterrupted flat tundra on the fourth. With no barriers to discourage it, extreme wind chill is a serious factor in Barrow. I know this because my curiosity about the town often leads me to check out their weather. The sun sets in mid-November and doesn't show its face again for two months. Average temps from November till March hover below 0° F.
|WAY UP NORTH WHERE EVEN THE SUN HIBERNATES IN WINTER|
No roads lead to Barrow, so we turned to Alaska Air yet again and booked a flight for late Monday afternoon. We'd be spending only one night and day there, flying back to Anchorage the following evening. Still suffering from the sluggish stupor stirred by Sunday's rail ride, we focused our plans on our 7 p.m. departure from Anchorage, as we letterboxed our way around the city during the day.
After finding what we had decided would be the last box of the day near the Captain Cook monument downtown about 4:45, we set the GPS to return to the Homewood Suites, where we had stayed the night before, so we could leave our rental car and ride the hotel shuttle to and from the airport. At 4:55, my phone buzzed with a notification that our flight to Barrow was now boarding at Gate C4. Frantically we tried to figure out what was going on as we shot across two lanes of traffic to turn onto the road toward the airport, which we were coincidentally about to drive past.
Incredibly, the TSA security checkpoint was totally deserted except for the agents. Due to a glitch with the Alaska Air app, we had both our boarding passes only on my iPad. "No problem," the sympathetic TSA agent assured us. I passed through fine, but Ken's bag needed further inspection (due to a bottle of water deep inside that he had planned to remove before we departed later in the evening).
"Go on to the gate so they'll know we're coming," he urged, and I took off speed walking to gate C4. It seemed to take forever, though I was there within five minutes. As I approached the empty waiting area, panting and breathless, the gate agent calmly asked, "Are you Dianne?"
|737 COMBI CARGO-PASSENGER PLANE (photo from Wikipedia)|
|BARREN BARROW LANDSCAPE|
|ARRIVING IN BARROW|
|REMAINS OF ANCIENT MOUND HOME. (Note exposed end of a whale jawbone used for roof supports.)|
When we picked up our white Jeep Cherokee, the car rental agent informed us that a Barrow whaling crew had landed a bowhead that day and it had been brought to the butchering spot. When we stopped at the hotel to check in, we met Sherry, a tourist from Arkansas, who also told us about the whale and asked if we wanted to follow her to the location where the flensing was taking place.
|WHALES HARVESTED IN BARROW ARE SHARED WITH THE COMMUNITY.|
|PRICES ARE TWO, THREE, EVEN FOUR TIMES THOSE IN LOWER 48.|
Blueberries (half-pint) - $11.69
Bananas - $2.99/lb.
Apples - $10.69 for 3-lb. bag
Milk (half-gallon) - $9.49
Bread (loaf) - $7.97
Tomatoes - $5.79/lb.
Tylenol (generic 100-ct.) - $14.00
How fortunate for the Inuit that their historical diet supplies nutrients like vitamins A, D and E, which other societies obtain only from cultivated foods.
Though we have just tomorrow to spend in this distant outpost, we are eager to learn as much as we can about this very interesting American community.
MONDAY, 26 SEPTEMBER, 2016