Imagine the coldest temperature you've ever experienced. Unless you're from Oymyakon, that's child's play.
As someone who has lived most of her life in a country where the weather is relatively warm, thinking about temperatures below 0º C sounds absolutely extreme. I know what you might be thinking, “that’s nothing compared to where I live,” and that might be true. For me, -1ºC made me feel like I was one degree away from hypothermia, so I was very surprised when a Ukrainian roommate I used to have would go out in the winter (it wasn't even -2ºC) with just a light jacket. I was even more surprised to notice that she would put a lot emphasis on the word “plus” whenever we were above 0º. She made fun of me all the time, saying that she would love to see me somewhere like Siberia, where some towns have the coldest temperatures in the world.
As it turns out, I can’t even picture myself being there, especially in towns like Oymyakon, where the coldest temperature registered was -71.2ºC. Can you imagine?! This town, located in Eastern Siberia, is known as the coldest permanently inhabited place on Earth (that’s right, people actually live there), and its average temperature is around -58 degrees, which can get lower in the winter. To put it in perspective, it’s estimated that the average temperature in Mars is -60ºC. But forget about other planets, the question here is how do people actually manage to live under these extreme conditions?
Oymyakon actually means “unfrozen river,” and you might think that that makes no sense, since it’s literally the coldest place on Earth, but actually, they do have an unfrozen river. This is an amazing phenomenon that happens because the ground is permanently frozen (with a depth of 5,000 ft.). With the heat of the earth, water manages to emerge to the surface. Still, for the inhabitants of Oymyakon, life can be really challenging. For instance, there’s no easy way to move around the village, since most cars don’t even start in those temperatures.
As if that wasn’t enough, most houses don’t have indoor plumbing because there’s no way to make it work without it freezing. For that reason, most people have little outdoor sheds that serve as bathrooms. But the bathroom situation is actually the least of their problems. If you think about it, it's a remote town, so food sources are pretty limited. Their diet is mostly frozen fish, horse meat, and dairy products. The only type of fruit they have are wild berries that have to be carefully chosen to avoid poisonous substances. In the same way, as you can imagine, it’s very hard to rely on imported products, making the residents of Oymyakon very self-sufficient.
One of the aspects of the town that seems to impress people the most is the way they bury their dead. Since the ground is completely frozen, digging a hole seems like a titanic effort. To do so, they must start a fire and pile coals to warm the ground. In a couple of hours, a small bit of the ground becomes more malleable, and that's when they start digging. As they progress, they place some of the burning coals around the hole and others inside to make it easier to expand. This process can take up to three days.
Besides all this, which might seem really hard to picture, there’s no doubt that Oymyakon is one of those spots that look out of this world. Leaving aside the extreme weather, these photos taken by photographer Amos Chapple, show a breathtaking frozen landscape and reality unknown by many. So, would you challenge yourself to spend some days in the coldest town on Earth?
If you want to see more of this photographer's amazing photos, take a look at his Instagram and official website:
These photos will take your breath away: