The Coldest Town - Life in Siberia's Pole of Cold

By Alexander, Bryan | The World and I, February 2001 | Go to article overview

The Coldest Town - Life in Siberia's Pole of Cold


Alexander, Bryan, The World and I


It is midafternoon in late January in the small Siberian town of Verkhoyansk. Although the temperature is --70*F, the winter sun shines golden through the cloak of freezing fog that envelops the town. Figures dressed in bulky clothes walk purposefully along the wide main street, the hard-packed snow squeaking beneath their boots. At these extremely low temperatures, breath freezes instantly to hair, eyebrows, and beards. Most people venture out of their homes only to go to work or the shops; the rest of the time they stay indoors. Here the animal rights movement has yet to make its mark--practically everyone wears big fur hats and coats and thick, felt-soled reindeer-skin boots called unty, considered essential for keeping out Siberia's winter cold.

Verkhoyansk, situated on the bank of the Yana River in the Russian republic of Yakutia, has the distinction of being the coldest place in the Northern Hemisphere. If you work on the theory that the farther north you go from the equator the colder it gets, you would expect the North Pole to be the coldest place, but Verkhoyansk, which lies some 150 miles south, gets much colder. The town first made history on January 15, 1885, when the record-breaking temperature of --90.4*F was measured there, a record that still stands, though it has come close to being broken a few times. In 1996, for example, despite global warming, a temperature of --85*F was recorded. Though Verkhoyansk competes with another town in Yakutia, Oimyakon, for the dubious privilege of being the coldest town in the world, most climatologists agree that Verkhoyansk is the winner.

Coincidentally, the coldest place in the Southern Hemisphere (and the world) also happens to be in Russian territory. It is the top of a 12,000-foot-high ice dome near the Russian Antarctic station of Vostok, some six hundred miles north of the South Pole, where a temperature of --127*F was recorded, the lowest on earth.

The reason Verkhoyansk gets so much colder than the North Pole is that it lies in the middle of a very large landmass, which cools much more efficiently than does the Arctic Ocean. The Verkhoyansk region also experiences a temperature inversion, which makes low-lying areas considerably colder than the mountains. The air temperature at ground level can be almost ten degrees colder than the temperature at two meters. It also gets intensely hot in summer. In July 1998, a temperature of 104*F was recorded, giving Verkhoyansk a yearly temperature range of 194 degrees, the greatest in the world.

As a Russian four-wheel drive passes, its exhaust hangs almost motionlessly behind it in the cold air, dissipating extremely slowly because the cold air is so dense. It is amazing that cars actually work at all in this severe cold. They do, however, have to undergo some modification. Most vehicles have double-glazed windows. Engines are covered with a quilt to insulate them from the cold, and up to three additional heaters are required to keep the passengers comfortably warm inside. Even so, driving at this time of year in Yakutia is hazardous. Travel is often on rough, icy roads that cross frozen rivers and lakes, where breakdowns can have serious consequences. In March 1998 a Yakutsk family of four was stranded on a remote stretch of road. They had insufficient warm clothing with them; despite burning the vehicle's tires in an attempt to keep warm, they all froze to death within a few hours.

The culture of cold

A massive pair of concrete bull's horns marks the entrance to Verkhoyansk. (According to an old Yakut legend, bull's horns symbolize the cold of winter.) The town was founded in 1638 by a Cossack named Postnic Ivanov. Its isolation and severe climate made it a popular place for Russia's czars to banish their political opponents. A meteorological station was built there in 1883. One of these political exiles, Sergei Kovalic, measured the 1885 record-breaking temperature that led to the town's title, "Pole of Cold. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Coldest Town - Life in Siberia's Pole of Cold
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.