Barrow, Alaska
Tribute by Jeffrey Sward

Barrow Alaska is one of most magical and mystical places on earth. Barrow is the northernmost permanent settlement in the Western Hemisphere. A few miles north of downtown Barrow is Point Barrow, which is the northernmost point of the United States.

Barrow is situated in the northern center of the Alaskan north slope, located directly on the Arctic Ocean. The north slope is 88,000 square miles of tundra. Tundra is a swamp which is frozen for ten months each year. Barrow's harbor is usually ice-free from mid-June to mid-October. Most of the year the Arctic Ocean is frozen solid, with pack ice forming during Spring and Fall. When frozen solid, the ocean is still fluid and incredible ice formations occur, often over ten feet high.

Being 350 miles north of the Arctic Circle, Barrow enjoys continuous darkness from November 18 through January 24 and continuous daylight from May 10 through August 2. Because the sun is always rising and setting slowly, often dusk and dawn each last two hours. During dusk and dawn the sky turns a deep purple.The aurora borealis is visible on most clear nights for the entire winter.

Barrow has a population of about 4600, of which 2600 are native Inupiat. The name "Inupiaq," meaning "real or genuine person," is often spelled "Iñupiaq," particularly in the northern dialects. It can refer to a person of this group and can also be used as an adjective. The plural form of the noun is "Inupiat," referring to the people collectively. Regardless of origin, there is a palpable feeling of mutual support among Barrow residents, perhaps because of the collective act of surviving extreme cold.

The Inupiat have adapted and flourished on the North Slope for over a thousand years. With the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971, the Inupiat retained mineral rights to the oil in the North Slope, including Prudhoe Bay. Thusly, there has been an influx of cubic oil dollars to the Inupiat. Much of these funds have been devoted to modernization of Barrow. Modernization has included full utilities, modern housing, and a modern high school whose facilities include an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Nearly all residences are now connected to the brand new below ground water and sewer system. Other projects include the Samuel Simmonds Memorial Hospital, a well-established search and rescue unit, a modern public safety department, an ultra-new U.S. Post Office, Ilisagvik College, the Inupiat Heritage Center, the Tuzzy Library, indoor ice skating, indoor roller skating, and a community recreational center.

Part of the magic of Barrow is summarized by the Inupiat names for the months:

January - siqinyasaq tatqiq -"moon of the returning sun"
February - izrasugruk tatqiq - "coldest moon"
March - paniqsiqsiivik tatqiq - "moon for bleaching skins"
April - agaviksiuvik tatqiq - "moon for beginning whaling"
May - suvluravik tatqiq - "moon when rivers flow"
June - irniivik tatqiq - "moon when animals give birth"
July - inyukuksaivik tatqiq - "moon when birds raise their young"
August - aqavirvik tatqiq - "moon when birds molt"
September - tingiivik tatqiq - "moon when birds fly south"
October - nuliavik tatqiq - "moon when caribou rut"
November - nippivik tatqiq - "moon of the setting sun."
December - siqinrilaq tatqiq - "moon with no sun"

What makes Barrow so magical? Native culture? Ice heaves? Frozen tundra? Midnight sun? Noon darkness? The Aurora? Purple two hour twilights? Camaraderie of residents? Incredibly clear nights? The frozen ocean? Ice packs? Yes. All of these and more.


All written content of this web site is solely the editorial opinion of Jeffrey Sward. All images, graphics, and written content of this web site, including the html files, are creative products covered by copyright law. All content copyright Jeffrey Sward 1975-2019. All rights reserved. No portion of this web site or its constituent elements may be reproduced in any form, by any means, without prior written permission. So there.