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What it’s like living in the coldest town on Earth (wired.com)
116 points by yla92 on Jan 12, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 91 comments

I went to University in Fairbanks, AK. It's a pretty unique place, probably one of the largest population centers where it routinely goes below -50F. Practical things I've learned:

1. Running outside is pretty comfortable with the proper equipment until about -20F, but is possible down to around -40s as long as you wrap something around your face and/or have clothing to "pre-warm" your air. At around -60F breathing deeply (and not into your coat) becomes painful and dangerous.

2. Metal "burns" and blisters your hands from -20F and below. The fast transfer of heat from your hands from things like snow can make them numb and inoperable in seconds.

3. The triple combination of battery blanket/oil pan heater/block heater is usually winning, but nothing beats a garage. The worst part about living off campus was walking a half mile from class AND THEN sitting in your car for 15 minutes waiting for it to become drivable.

4. It's amazing what humans can adapt to. If it was a 5 minute walk I would usually just have a big and avoid the time-consuming, but best way to stay warm (parka + layering). Also I'd usually wear jeans. When it would bump up to 20F people would be wearing shorts outside.

(From comments) - We have never had problems (I was only there six years, anecdotal) with weather interfering with internet/cell service. Some jack-ass clipped a fiber cable once, but that's all I can remember. (From comments) - A lot of our buildings go 2-3 floors underground. We still have tunnels linking buildings together, but they are no longer accessible by the students.

As far as work goes the pipeline runs through Fairbanks, but the main centers of employment I saw were the University and the Military Base.

I live in Whitehorse, Yukon. Last week it was -37C for a few days, I rode my bike/walked to work every day.

I've been out Caribou hunting in -48C snowshoeing around right near the Arctic Circle.

Snag is just down the road, where it was once -63.9C (-83F) - the coldest temp ever recorded in North America.[1]

I'm originally from Australia, so this kind of thing is Alien to me, and I think I do a decent job of explaining what it's like.

AMA if you're curious about anything. (clothes, cars, etc.)

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snag,_Yukon

Well for starters, what brought you there/ why do you live there? Mining/logging company?

I was on a grand road trip[1] and spent a couple of weeks in Whitehorse and met some really awesome people. We went White Water Canoeing, hiking, camping, etc. The wilderness and opportunities for adventure had me captivated, and I knew I'd have to come back. When I was in Argentina, I touched base with my friends up here and they helped me get a job with the local Telco, Northwestel.

It's extremely common to meet people here that say "I came for one summer...20 years ago" because it's so beautiful and the massive array of outdoor activities make it very hard to leave.

[1] Alaska->Argentina http://theroadhcoseme.com

I'm pretty sure I read a chunk of your blog a few years ago, was pretty interesting. This is a nice follow up :)

What do you use to cover your nose when biking? Do you also wear glasses to prevent dry/frozen eyes?

It's a tricky one. Mine was not covered enough last week and it hurt. Most people use some kind of face mask like for skiiing. https://www.google.ca/search?q=ski+face+mask

I don't wear glasses and don't have a problem with dry eyes, though sometimes my eyelashes start to freeze together - it kind of depends how hard you're breathing and how much condensation is building up on your face. Some people wear ski goggles when it gets really cold - but mine are dark and no good when the sun is not up :)

Do you have engine block heaters in cars in Yukon? In Scandinavia we have electric heaters installed to engine blocks for people who keep their cars outside. The heaters are typically in the 500 W range and keeping it on for an hour before starting up the car in the morning makes the starting a lot easier.

We also have cabin heaters for cars (typically in the 1000 W range) but they are more for the convenience (but also safety, car windows are clear when you drive off, and vapor from breath doesn't condense and freeze to the insides of the windows).

Every car here has 3 heaters actually.

Block Heater: Like you mention, in the 500W range and heats the coolant (basically a kettle element)

Oil Pan Heater: A stick-on heater that goes on the underside of the oil pan, usually in the 200-500W range. It heats the oil, because past about -35C oil has the consistency of butter, even synthetic will do that past about -40C. If you have a big vehicle, you stick more than one on.

Battery Blanket: Like an electric heating blanket for the battery. If the battery freezes, it's done for, so you don't want that. You'll also get a lot more current out of a warm battery, which is critical when you turn the key at -40C and have to spin all that cold oil.

Everyone also puts cardboard or whatever in front of their radiator for the winter so when you drive on the highway the vehicle can actually get up to running temperature.

Interesting. My dad has a "Webasto" system, which is essentially a tiny, diesel(or petrol,if your car uses petrol) powered heater, which heats up the coolant - when you turn it on(it has a remote) it also turns the fans on, warming up the engine and the interior. And it uses the fuel from your tank(it has its own fuel pump), so it doesn't deplete your battery to heat up the interior.

Yes we have many of those here as well. But they actually do deplete the battery somewhat, because the heater needs to run the fuel and water pumps and interior fans on battery.

Absolutely, but I imagine you can run a pump and a fan much longer off battery than you could a 1500W heating system. Or do they require plugging into mains?

Block heaters are always in the mains of course, a battery wouldn't do any good there.

I live in Alberta (south of Yukon) and it's the law here that all new vehicles be sold with a block heater. I imagine it's the same there. We don't see -60 usually, but -40 once or twice a year is normal.

Cool (sic). We don't have them mandatory in new cars - presumably because it would be a trade barrier within EU to require them only here, and we're too small to force the Mediterranians have them.

[edit] BTW there is a legend here that in Siberia people actually keep a fire under engines to warm it up. I even found a photograph of lorries to support this: http://www.marxists.org/history/ussr/art/photography/workers...

Not sure if I would do it with gasoline engines. With diesel engines it's quite understandable, particularly if you have summer-grade diesel fuel that starts to congeal in -15C.

If I had to guess, the reason why block heaters aren't mandatory is because they are rarely necessary, especially with petrol engines. Helpful perhaps, but not necessary. (Yet I do have a petrol-operated heater to help reduce harmful emissions and possibly engine stress -- if only I remembered to use it those rare occasions I store the car in the cold. I've yet to come across a situation where a car wouldn't start because of temperature here.)

These areas, in Siberia and northern NA are much colder at times, even when they aren't within the Arctic Circle, so their situation might be considerably different.

Yes, I think it has to do with most of the Scandinavian population being in areas that just don't get cold enough to need a block heater. Many people have one anyway, but a modern car doesn't really need a heater until it gets below about -20 C. And the biggest Scandinavian cities (Stockholm, Copenhagen, Gothenburg, Oslo, Aarhus, Bergen, Malmö) rarely get that cold. A typical winter day in those cities is gray, hovering within a few degrees of freezing, and covered in a light mist of rain or sleet.

Now if you live in Kiruna or Luleå or so, things are a bit different...

You're right. I was a bit sloppy, I'm from Finland which is not geographically Scandinavia, and it's somewhat colder here than in Scandinavian population centers which are south of 60°N. Though the Golf stream helps us too, it's much warmer here than in Alaska at same latitudes.

[edit] It is true that modern cars don't need a block heater to start up successfully, but heating the engine before starting reduces fuel consumption and emissions radically.

I'm pretty sure that's still sometimes done in the military.

How good is your Internet connection and cell phone coverage? Do you see weather-related interruptions of service frequently?

To add to what's been said, another problem is currently our only fibre link to southern Canada is via the Alaska highway, which gets accidentally cut about once a year or so by a construction company.[0] We have microwave that it will fall back to, but that's extremely limited bandwidth.







In Whitehorse we have cable internet and TV, and you can get 100Mbps Cable for $140/mo with a 300GB usage cap.

All the internet is capped, which is the worst part.

As soon as you're out of town, you can only get DSL, up to a maximum of 15Mbps, though most people top out at 5Mbps due to distance from exchange. Checkout the only provider for more prices http://www.nwtel.ca/personal/internet/packages (I work for them...)

Cell phones are good now - 3G in pretty much every town, though basically nothing between towns. It's normal to do a 6 hour drive and only have coverage for 30 mins of that.

In the bigger cities there are rarely weather related interruptions - as must stuff is on fiber, though once you start getting out things change. Of course, if you're in a town of 100 people in or very near the Arctic Circle you have to expect you're not getting 100Mbps internet with no interruptions.... it's all about expectations.

do you hate walking? or not mind it after proper preparation?

I love being outside, and walking (hiking) is actually one of my favorite activities. I actually have two cars right now, so I could drive to work if I wanted to, I prefer to walk. And it would kill my cars if I drove them every day as I have no place to plug them in at work (have to pay) and daily starting past -30C without plugin is going to drastically shorten the life of a vehicle.

One of the reasons I moved up here was to be outside in the environment, so it's enjoyable to throw on my jacket and gloves and get out there in it and watch the seasons/daylight/weather change day-to-day.

Remember too that in summer the days are ~20 hours long and I'm surrounded by beautiful mountains...

Recommend a brand of winter wear?

Marino wool against your skin is absolutely the most important. Throw out all your cotten - it's completely useless in the cold. Also a high quality wool toque (beanie).

I can walk around in -20C wearing a marino base layer and my "light" down jacket no problem, while people wearing 4 layers of cotton freeze their asses off.

This advice is very much appreciated. I'll help spread it. Thanks!

Where is the original story? Is it this http://www.boredpanda.com/coldest-village-oymyakon-amos-chap... or http://www.weather.com/travel/news/breathtaking-photos-colde...

Why there are two different authors on boredpanda and wired.com.

Did wired.com steal this article?

I'm confused..

The photographer sold his photos to multiple outlets.

I guess when you spend that much time and effort for pictures you want to recoup that as best as possible.

The author failed to answer the most important question: Why do those people live there?

Their ancestors had to live there (exiled). They spent generations adapting and really it probably isn't that bad to them. If you grow up having tigers outside your door you learn to to avoid the tigers.

The human mind is a funny thing. When you're born and grow up somewhere it feels very intuitive to live there. The same reason most people don't live BFE North Dakota for the small cost of bus ticket. It just feels like home and most people don't give it much of a thought.

> people here regularly consume frozen meat

Unless they eat it while it's still frozen, why is this noteworthy?


> Most people use outhouses, because indoor plumbing tends to freeze.

This is due to their poverty, not the cold. If it was just cold there, as opposed to cold and impoverished, they could either keep water constantly running through the pipes, or, if that won't work, insulate them better, possibly with heating coils.

"It's so cold, they make sure they have to go outside just to perform basic bodily functions" sounds a bit... insane? Idiotic? Poorly-written and probably badly-researched?

> Cars are kept in heated garages or, if left outside, left running all the time.

This isn't unusual. Block heaters also work, and might represent a fuel savings once the electricity infrastructure to plug in all of them is in place.

> Crops don’t grow in the frozen ground, so people have a largely carnivorous diet—reindeer meat, raw flesh shaved from frozen fish, and ice cubes of horse blood with macaroni are a few local delicacies.

This isn't so much due to the cold as it is due to poverty, and possibly local culture.

> Chapple found it difficult to speak with the people he encountered, as many people were rushing as fast as possible from one oasis of warmth to another.

Was he determined to do his interviews outside? I can understand him wanting to take pictures outside as much as possible, and his camera freezing wasn't something I thought modern cameras were especially prone to, but interviews don't need to be done out in the cold.

Unless you're the kind of person determined to climb a radio mast to get an overview shot of a town. Maybe if you're that person, everything needs to be done in the most... dramatic way possible.

Even without "poverty" keeping plumbing from freezing in temperatures like this is still a challenge. I frequent a northern Maine camp with the amenities of a regular house, and routinely have to deal with scenarios that extreme cold brings such as freezing pipes/septic lines, ice build up etc.

Also, tools like "block heaters" don't apply to the entire vehicle and all of it's inter-dependent parts. In that kind of cold, things like transmission fluid, and even door handles stop functioning normally.

> Unless they eat it while it's still frozen, why is this noteworthy?

I'm pretty sure that's what it's saying. I also don't think keeping water constantly running through pipes is necessarily enough to keep things from freezing at 40 degrees below zero.

>> Most people use outhouses, because indoor plumbing tends to freeze.

> This is due to their poverty, not the cold. If it was just cold there, as opposed to cold and impoverished, they could either keep water constantly running through the pipes, or, if that won't work, insulate them better, possibly with heating coils.

Outhouses are common in Alaska (outside of cities) as well, and it isn't exactly "poverty", but it is a significant cost to keep pipes from freezing.

Block heaters in cars are not effective in extremely cold temperatures. They keep the oil warm, but the battery still gets too cold to crank. In college, I used to remove my car battery from my car and store it on my kitchen floor at night so I could start the car in the morning.

Cameras will suffer similar issues. Lithium Ion batteries are only rated down to -20degC. Below that, the internal impedance of the battery rapidly increases as temperature decreases, and you get extremely shortened battery life. I once tested a product I designed, that normally works for 24 hours, and got only 2.5 hours from it at -40degC.

In my anecdotal experience, a standard compact camera battery, also Li Ion, works quite poorly on a ski slope at -5 to -10C. Battery life was less than a third of usual for several days running, despite a full charge each night.

as a side note, you can put the battery back in your pocket with a hand warmer, and it comes back to life. I tend to do this on cold days with my phone also, so that the batteries stay warm in case I need to use them.

>> people here regularly consume frozen meat

>Unless they eat it while it's still frozen, why is this noteworthy?

eating frozen meat is a lifestyle detail there. Note - it is high fat meat (or fatty fish) which doesn't become firm hard brick like lean meat would. Also there is no mentioning of vodka(diluted ethanol) which goes very well (and i'd suspect - just from my gut (i mean real gut :) feeling helps to digest) with those fat meat/fish slices.

Methinks you're severely overlooking the cost of maintaining temperate-lifestyle behavior in deeply frozen environments.

Thawing meat takes time & energy. It may very well be more convenient to just eat it frozen, especially if you're working outside and your lunch is frozen by ambient temperatures as the norm.

Keep water constantly running thru the pipes

That's a LOT of water - where do you get it from? where do you put it when it's too cool to use? Remember, this is an environment where most water is frozen; liquid water is an anomaly.

More importantly: you're overlooking where the septic drainage pipe is going. You don't "constantly run water thru" that pipe. It doesn't go to a community sewage system. It goes...somewhere out in the back yard. You can't keep the full length of that pipe, and where it's going, sufficiently warm.

insulate [pipes] better

Insulation delays thermal loss, but does not halt it. Where is the heat source? heating coils? that's more costly energy being pumped into a low-value pipe to fight extreme temperature differentials compounded by the thermal mass of water.

What you're imputing should be in place will cost a lot more than you expect. We're talking an environment where dirt itself is frozen deep down, all working at sinking any heat you pump in.

block heaters work

Ok, the block isn't frozen then. But your tires are - literally, the rubber on your tires is rock solid - and the flat side of the tire contacting the ground doesn't flex when rotating so you get an extremely bumpy ride just for starters. Speaking of starters, your starter is frozen. And the door handles. The door hinge may not give. The battery may not start. Your wiper fluid ("works to 40 below!" and temps hit -50 last night) is a block of ice. You'll have to heat the entire car just to make it function in a tolerable manner ... easier just to get on a bike (which you can easily keep warm inside) or walk.

[several imputations of blame on poverty]

Consider the _relative_ poverty. Just flushing the toilet or opening the car door just went from thoughtlessly free to significant/nontrivial cost. Crops are nearly nonexistent, almost any food not local meat has to be shipped thousands of miles to a low-demand location. Suddenly EVERYTHING costs much more just because it's so blasted cold out. Your (yes, you) normal expenses just went up 10x. Want to eat? cheapest way is go hunting out your back door. Want to, er, egest? outhouse.

The people there aren't necessarily "poor", it's that the cost of living - in a manner not consistent with certain realities of the environment - is very high.

his camera freezing wasn't something I thought modern cameras were especially prone to

Again, you underestimate how very cold it is outside there, and how pervasive that cold is. Modern cameras, generally speaking, are not built for use at seriously sub-zero temperatures.

interviews don't need to be done out in the cold

But talking to "the man in the street" does. He wanted to interview people he'd never met, people who were just walking by. If you're talking about serious outdoor cold, as regards to people rushing from one oasis of warmth to another, you're going to find yourself in the difficult position of trying to talk to people rushing from one oasis of warmth to another and who are uninterested in talking to strangers about how cold it is.

I'm curious, do you know what you're talking about? It doesn't really sound like it.

Septic tanks do have to be built differently, but they do work at extreme temperatures.

Yes, you do insulate pipes better, yes you do also use heat tape to prevent pipes from freezing. This is pretty standard practice. In general, if you're heating something in the ground, you're going to have it well insulated, and heat it to barely above freezing. The ground, though frozen does provide a great deal of insulation as well. When the air is really cold, the ground is going to be significantly warmer The big issue here is melting that permafrost and causing the ground to sink. This wrecks foundations and cracks pipes.

Yes, we do use block heaters, but you also have to start your car and let it warm up for quite a while before driving. Cars do behave differently at -40, but they are still usable. Once you start dropping below -50F, cars do start behaving really poorly. I wouldn't recommend biking in those temperatures unless you know what you're doing. My dad usually stops riding his bike to work at around -30F.

Yes, the cost of living (for many, but not all things) is higher in remote areas. No, the cost does not rise 10x.

Heating is a big expense, but can be mitigated by building well insulated homes. There is a high prevalance of dry cabins for lower incomes, since the lack of plumbing means you can afford to let a building freeze if you don't have tenants to pay for heat. That said, you can also heat or supplement the heat for your house the old fashioned way, with a wood burning stove.

Yes, many of the issues (and choice) above have a lot of do with poverty. Most of the ways you can reduce the costs of living in an extreme environment (high quality windows, good insulation, a heated garage for your car) require initial outlays of capital. Solutions like wood burning stoves and outhouses mitigate that to some extent.

The article seemed poorly written and researched to me. It's amusing to watch people speculate about things they don't understand.

As far as running water through a water system to keep it from freezing:

That's exactly what we do here. The town _requires_ all households to have a bleeder turned on from about Nov-April at a rate of 1 Litre/minute. This is a small hose which is routed directly from your supply line into your drain pipe. The system is continuously cycling water through the line. You're correct in that this isn't cheap, but it's much cheaper than the alternative (water mains freezing).

You can see the advisory on the town's page here: "ATTENTION RESIDENTS: PLEASE TURN ON WATER BLEEDERS

Winter is here! Please ensure all water bleeders are TURNED ON!! They should be turned on at the rate of one litre per minute. Don't let your pipes freeze up on you!!" [0] http://cityofdawson.ca/

>and his camera freezing wasn't something I thought modern cameras were especially prone to

They are. Try using your modern DSLR in even -10C for a day. You better bring some spare batteries with you.

If I were to go on a photo safari in such cold I'd bring a mechanical Leica range finder camera (possibly a model completely without any electronics) and film. At least as a backup.

I found that NiCd batteries worked much better in the cold than the stock Li-ion batteries of my DSLR (but they're heavier).

> > Most people use outhouses, because indoor plumbing tends to freeze.

> This is due to their poverty, not the cold.

I'm more worried about the physiologic consequences of exposing, um, private parts to minus a bajillion degrees. I'm pretty sure you have to finish in a couple minutes, max, or else all sorts of really bad things will happen.

I can't recall the expedition or details, but on one artic adventure documentary I watched a while back one of the participants took 'too long' for a number 2 (> 30s), and his 'free hand' (sans gloves) become frostbitten so badly that he had to quit. He was kicking himself over a 'noob' mistake.

A year ago, The Weather Channel published some photos: http://www.weather.com/travel/news/breathtaking-photos-colde...

Those are the same photos, down to the captions being out of sync by one.

We have a saying in Scandinavia: "There's no bad weather, only bad kleather (clothes)" :)

Visit us in summer in Australia, when in some of the cities the temperature during the day often exceeds human body temperature. There's only so many clothes you can remove :)

In Australia they have another saying. "It's never too hot, you're just too far away from the ocean" ;)

I've actually been in Sydney when it was like 46 degrees (record year or something). People just started walking into the Ocean

That's because tornadoes in Scandinavia are rare. :)

I find it fascinating how people adapt to extreme climates. Learning how to cope with such inhospitable areas may be useful when it comes to going to places outside of our cosy blue planet.

This place is actually colder than Mars.

Virtually everywhere on Earth gets colder than Mars at times. Parts of Mars reach 70 degrees F in summer at noon.

Actually curious, would 70F on Mars with it's low air pressure feel the same as 70F on Earth (let's assume you somehow have a space helmet but no suit)?

It'd "feel" like a vacuum, until you passed out. But it would mean that you wouldn't need to expend so much energy to heat your shelter, and that greenhouse-based farming is a lot easier.

The important thing to note is that there are actually places on Earth that are in some peculiar respects less habitable than Mars. Overall they're not, but in terms of specifics like temperature they are. Mars settlement is achievable, assuming we can physically get there for less than the insanely high costs NASA throws around.

The location of this town probably wouldn't be habitable (or barely so) without a lot of imported electric and fossil fuel energy.

It would feel warmer. Without [much] air there is little conduction to draw heat from the warmer skin.

You would lose heat by radiation, but that happens on earth too.

Conversely something at 50F would warm up slower (i.e. it would "feel" colder to it).

You could think of it as a giant vacuum thermos.

Evaporation would cause quite a lot of heat loss though from moist areas, such as eyes and mouth.

There's a site run by some well-travelled Russian photo-blogger that I once ended up on thanks to a link someone posted on HN. Good stuff. Takes a while to get used to the author's obsession with traffic signs and trash cans, but it's good.

Here's part one of his trip to this region:


The site's hard to navigate. You may have to hit "english" at the top right (assuming you don't want the Russian version) since it may not retain language state through links. The "veni, vidi" link on the top left will take you back to the master list, so you can find the other parts of the trip if you're interested. Photos with little squares on the top right are actually little galleries. Click the other squares to change the image.

Unrelated insights gained from the site:

* The smaller touristy Pacific islands are typically covered in garbage.

* Former British colonies are usually OK, former French colonies are usually awful.

* Ethiopia looks like a pretty cool place to visit.

-24F is -31C

-58F is -50C

-90F is -67C

My favourite one for 'getting my bearings' is:

28C is 82F

And -40 is -40.

The most important and useful as it makes C-to-F conversions much easier.

add 40--convert (9/5 or 5/9) -- subtract 40

or, as I tend to use,

add 40--convert (2 or 1/2) -- subtract 40.

How does that crude approximation make it any easier?

I am pretty fluent in conversion just by remembering that 10 Celsius degrees are equivalent to 18 Fahrenheit degrees, then practicing counting by 10s:

-4°F, 14°F, 32°F, 50°F, 68°F, 86°F, 104°F

Once you have those under your belt you can figure most earthly air temperatures pretty quickly and exactly.

Similarly, 16C is 61F.

I was in Regina SK, Canada this time last year, and for a South African who'd only ever experienced ~-10 degrees C, it was a humbling experience. The coldest day when I was there was below -50C, and on one day I missed my bus and walked to work on -42C. I did adapt after a while, but I don't think I'd be able to live in Oymyakon.

About 15 years ago I remember reading an article on a magazine about the coldest town on Earth, I was most fascinated by people having to walk backwards, and boiling water freezing mid-air, something I forgot to try while in Canada.

I tried this in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory on a cold winter day -- it doesn't freeze, it vaporizes.


I live in Saskatoon, a few hours north of Regina. We've had it pretty bad the last two winters. It's a pretty nice day today, only -16C (3F), but there's been a lot of days recently where we've been pretty high up on this list: http://www.wx-now.com/Weather/WxExtremes

I'm not sure if we're just unlucky, but there's usually a lot of places much further north than us that are warmer.

>ymyakon earned its title as the coldest place on Earth when the mercury plunged to -90.

Mercury doesn't plunge to -90 (C or F) because mercury has a melting point at -37.9 °F or -38.8 °C.

This is a fairly common fallacy from people who aren't thinking through. Thermometers used in cold places usually have coloured alcohol as liquid, not mercury.

I think most Western countries have actually got rid of mercury thermometers altogether, because it's poisonous and also because it's a too nice material to make bomb detonators.

While the factoid is appreciated, I don't think it's fair to call it a fallacy: 'the mercury' is a common metaphor for temperature these days, whether the element mercury is involved in the process or not.

Be right back, going to Xerox some papers.

Pass me the Kleenex?

Give the Tesla some gas, let's go man!

Someone's cell rang while I was watching the film.

Dalke, care to explain this one to us non-natives? Sounds funny, is it like "film", "cell" and "watching" should be replaced by "movie", "mobile" and "netflixing"?

You missed 'rang' as well - cellphones don't have bells, they have speakers or other things which are skeuomorphs.

Yes. And to finish off for aragot, few movie theaters use actual film these days.

Relax, it's just a figure of speech.

Of course. It's just a bit broken in an article that concentrates on the properties of extreme cold - it's like "xeroxing a floppy disk". Which someone has allegedly done.

It's just figure of speech.

Interesting video about this town... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BTcrIGFUq_c

Why they didn't build their houses underground or at least half underground? That will be much easier to keep warm.

They have to keep a bonfire running for days to bury a body. What do you think it takes to dig a hole for a house then?

You could build a home, live in it for a year, and eventually the heat from that home will act like the bonfire. You then remove the top soil (until you re-hit frozen), and then wait another year and rinse/repeat.

Year upon year you dig down, until eventually you have another floor's worth of space, then the original house becomes the top/second floor, and the new "basement" becomes a new area.

I would add that I wouldn't want soil to be literally the walls of the lower level, as frozen soil conducts away heat from the air extremely effectively. So what you'd likely want to do is set up an insulated layer between the soil and the living space.

It is also worth noting that heat rises, so you'll still lose a lot of heat if the new basement doesn't have a VERY well insulated roof. Then you could just pop out the front of the old house, add doors, and now you have a garage for the car.

It isn't that crazy of an idea. But it would take several years (minimum 3-4) and cost you a few thousand just for insolation (both new roof and new walls), and also for new structural supports if you want to do the house-to-garage thing (to hold the car's weight).

It isn't so easy. Oymyakon is on permafrost. The heat from the building melts the permafrost and destabilizes the building. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Permafrost#Construction_on_perm... for some pictures and info. Eg, "Modern buildings in permafrost zones may be built on piles to avoid permafrost-thaw foundation failure from the heat of the building." and shows the building above the ground.

That's what documents like http://www.uaf.edu/files/ces/publications-db/catalog/eeh/HCM... say:

> Make every attempt to keep the soil beneath the building frozen and the permafrost stable. The strategy for alleviating the engineering risks of building on permafrost sites is to build the structure on piles or an elevated foundation, taking special care to insulate the ground and prevent thawing.

I think you are underestimating just how cold the ground is. Simply building a house on top of it won't thaw it, unless the house is stupidly hot and totally uninsulated. Google permafrost.

And do you know what happens with the global warming?

Permafrost melts. Houses in a swamp. \o/ http://www.epa.gov/climatestudents/impacts/signs/permafrost....

The ground is frozen solid.


Sounds just like the 10.000 other cities near/over the polar circle. And seriously, you don't keep your cars running 24/7 there are block heaters although this sounds like a very undeveloped place. Are you sure they're not Eskimos and ride around with their sleds? Eat what they hunt(there for frozen)? I've lived in areas where there was -30-45c for months straight and sure plumbing froze unless u let the water drip. Cars hard to start unless you use the block heater. But the rest just sounds like plain bullshit.

Considering that they actually included pictures from yakutsk by the same photographer (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2548176/Feeling-cold...) It seems like they really took the time to cross all their i's and dot all their t's.

Also as someone who's grown up in winters that regularily hit -40 and -50, it can't have been that cold otherwise you wouldn't have pictures of people without a toque on, or a scarf/neckwarmer.

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