Summer is at its peak, synonymous with sun, beaches, hot days, swimming pools and holidays. So in such a key period, what do you thing about a journey to… the coldest place on Earth?
Oymyakon is a little town located in the Sakha Republic, about 7.000 kilometres from Moscow. The town of just 2.000 inhabitants is well-know of being the place which had suffered the lowest temperature ever in the history: 72,1 degrees below zero on 26th January 1926, a record that has never repeated in other inhabited place (only lower temperatures were registered at the scientific stations in Antarctica). Nowadays, going on holiday has a trick, as the peculiar climatological context within this town causes big contrasts such as reaching “conventional” temperatures, up to 30 degrees centigrade at these first few weeks of summer. In fact, this small settlement, which lands has permafrost throughout the year and where the school classes interrupts every time the mercury gets off -50 degrees (something regular within its 9 months of winter), turned to be an attractive destination especially for the lovers of the extreme tourism.
The visit to Oymyakon, where the warm clothes are indispensable, is indeed, a unique experience: being able to look on the ground how human being get things done within the most cold adverse weather in the planet. And for that, you have previously to meet the 8 hours of journey through the winding Kolymá motorway, also know with the sinister name of “Road of Bones”.
That road was built during the Stalinist regime and it is said that the corpses of many workers (gulag captives) who died during the construction process are buried under the track, hence the name. One thing is certain; this construction plugged Oymyakon in the world and provided it some prosperity, such as the extraction of precious metals in the mountains around. However, today, it is a settlement with limited economic resources, almost isolated from the world (partly due to the lack of means for moving about under such adverse conditions) and the fact that it has developed a self-sufficient system: they live from livestock, hunting and fishing, besides the little profits from the tourism.
The lifestyle of the town is a tourist attraction by itself. The houses are made from wood and the strong insulation is supported with a provision of thermic central working continuously to keep a constant comfortable temperature indoors, helped too with wood combustion equipment. They have an anteroom for the access from the street and to reduce the temperatures contrast, and they don’t have plumbing or piping installation because when the liquids froze, they will burst; this is why the toilet is always outdoors, few metres away and the running water of the houses is within the houses. The cars have double glazing to avoid the cold entering inside, and during winter they have to keep the engines on so the oil don’t froze. They get relaxed playing chess or ping pong, and they have their own culture and traditions.
Some who had been there say that the silence of Oymyakon during one of those icy nights is amazing. Some of them got fun throwing a glass of water up and looking how drops of water fell instead. A similar situation happens to the fishing, and it’s useful for a perfect preservation: the fishes, once taken out from the water (obtained through crushing a layer of ice), freeze in just 15 seconds. As a curiosity (a new one), this town competes with the “close” city of Verjoyank (located around 300 kilometres away) by the recognition of being “the Pole of Cold” in the world. In Oymyakon they preserve a commemorative monument for that important date in 1926 and they are proud of it, a shine of personality for a population that had known how to adapt themselves to the most extreme weather on the Earth and able to carry a normal life on.