Oymyakon: the coldest permanently inhabited place on Earth
The Russian village of Oymyakon is one of the coldest inhabited places in the world, which has recorded the lowest temperature in any place inhabited by man and which sees every winter descend mercury to about -71 degrees C°.
The remote village, in eastern Siberia, is closer to the Arctic Circle than it is to the nearest city. A monument in the town square commemorates the day in 1924 when the temperature fell to a record 96 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. In any case, Oymyakon is the coldest permanently inhabited place on earth.
The concrete statue of a bull in the center of town marks the coldest temperature ever recorded in any inhabited place on earth.
Ironically, Oymyakon takes its name from the Russian for “water that doesn’t freeze” and the settlement was born in the 1920s when winter herders would water their reindeer at a thermal spring there.
But today, everything freezes in Oymyakon.
The ground freezes and few crops grow, so the local diet is mostly reindeer and horse meat and fish, sometimes eaten frozen, but (perhaps surprisingly) they never suffer from malnutrition.
In the village one must be careful not to let the pipes freeze, and for this reason the inhabitants keep the vehicles on all day long, due to the impossibility of restarting them once outside the garage. Digging the grave to bury a dead person can take up to three days because the soil must be thawed with hot coals. The average temperature in January is -50 C °, your eyelashes and saliva will freeze into painful little needles on your face as you walk down the street, and even vodka will freeze if a bottle is left outside.
There are few modern facilities in the village, and practically all buildings have external toilets due to the impossibility of draining water through the pipes inside the houses, which would freeze instantly.
The heat sources are mainly coal and wood, and when coal deliveries become irregular the local power plant starts burning wood. If the supply of wood ceases, the city shuts down in about five hours, the freezing of the pipes and the end of civil life begins.
During the shortest days of the year, every night is 21 hours long in Oymyakon. But at the end of every dark winter, the town hosts the “Cold Pole Festival,” hosted by Chyskhaan, the Yakutian “Lord of Frost.” This pagan sprite, who looks something like a cross between Gandalf and the ice queen from Frozen, invites the world into his frigid domain every March for reindeer races, dog sledding, ice fishing, and other funny events. However, Oymyakon is a two-day drive from Yakutsk, the nearest airport, which probably cuts down on tourism.
Despite the difficulties, the population is increasing in the country, passing from the 319 inhabitants in 2002 to 462 in 2010, a record for the settlement. It is also important to think about the extreme summer heat of the area: Siberia gets such a heat wave that ice even melts, and in summer temperature reaches a maximum of 34 degrees.
The difference between the minimum in January and the maximum in August is over 100 °C!
Also because of this thermal excursion Oymyakon is considered one of the most extreme inhabited places on the planet.
Images from web.