Traveling to Barrow?
Located at the edge of the Arctic Ocean, at the point where the Beaufort and Chukchi seas meet, Barrow is one of the largest Iñupiat Eskimo settlements in Alaska. It’s also the farthest-north community in the United States. Barrow’s extreme location means it receives 24-hour daylight between sunrise on May 10 and sunset on August 2. Barrow is the oldest inhabited town sites in the United States. Archaeological evidence of human habitation in the area goes back to 800 AD. In the Iñupiaq language, Barrow is called Ukpeaġvik, “ook” – “pea” – “ahg” – “vick” which means“ the place where we hunt snowy owls,” one of the species that local people have hunted for thousands of years. Hunting and gathering is a big part of life in Arctic Alaska, and seasonal hunts for bowhead whales, seals, walrus, caribou and ducks for both economic and traditional reasons. Currently, Barrow is the larger of surrounding villages, with its population of 4,373 residents makes it one of the larger villages in the state.
The Inupiat Heritage Center provides visitors the opportunity learn more about the history and culture of Barrow ad to purchase native arts and crafts including scrimshawed baleen, carved ivory, masks, parkas and fur items. During the spring and early summer, visitors can may see a whale hunt and harvesting. Whaling captains direct their crews in small boats and umiaqs (a large seal-skin open canoe) to search and take a bowhead whale. Alaska natives have been hunting bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus) for thousands of years. This traditional subsistence hunt is legal and protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Go to http://www.north-slope.org/departments/wildlife-management/studies-and-research-projects/bowhead-whales/bowhead-whale-subsistence-harvest-research. If the whalers are successful, they celebrate with a festival called Nalukataq in late June and share whale meat and sections of skin and blubber called maktak with the community. http://www.lonelyplanet.com/usa/alaska/barrow/events/local-festivals-culture/nalukataq-festival
Located in the northernmost point of Alaska, Iḷisaġvik College is a two-year tribal college offering quality post-secondary academic, vocational and technical education aimed at matching workforce needs. We are dedicated to perpetuating and strengthening Iñupiat (Eskimo) culture, language, values and traditions. http://www.ilisagvik.edu/
We are very proud of our local high school and their sports teams. The Whalers football and the boys and girls basketball teams have consistently won many championships in the state. The Barrow High School “Whalers” football field borders the Arctic Ocean making for one of the harshest locations for football games in America. Occasionally the spectators may include polar bears! http://www.maxpreps.com/news/article.aspx?articleid=57569e5d-d515-4f0d-b24f-0eacbd591bd2&page=3
Both Iḷisaġvik College and Barrow high school utilize a heated (82 F), indoor swimming pool, the furthest northern pool in the country, open year-round. http://swim.isport.com/swimming-pools/us/alaska/barrow/barrow-high-school-pool-356
Things to do:
• In the summer visitors can go on tours of the area that include the viewing of polar bears and other wildlife.
• Besides lots of photo/video opportunities visitors may learn about the North Slope’s traditional culture and history.
• Visit historic places like Cape Smythe Whaling and Trading Station in Browerville built in 1893 and the oldest frame building in the Arctic.
• Also the Birnirk archaeological site represented by a group of 16 dwelling mounds approximately two miles north of the Barrow airfield. The Birnirk existed about 500-900 AD and are considered a key link between the prehistoric cultures of Alaska and Canada.
• The Will Rogers and Wiley Post Monument near the Barrow airport commemorates American humorist and the famous pilot who crashed their airplane in 1935 fifteen miles southwest of Barrow on their way to Siberia. Another monument stands at the crash site.
• In the winter months, people from all over the world come to Barrow to watch the Northern Lights also known as the Aurora Borealis. Check online for Aurora watching tours.
More information about the Aurora Borealis can be found here: http://www.gi.alaska.edu/AuroraForecast
Links to more information: