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Barrow, Alaska

Barrow is a city in and the borough seat of the North Slope Borough of the state of Alaska, United States. Barrow is the northernmost settlement on the North American mainland and in the United States. Nearby Point Barrow is the northernmost point of the United States. The population was 3,982 in 2007 according to the United States Census Bureau.

Etymology

The first European explorer who created a colony where the modern city is situated was the French explorer Ernest Barreau hired by the Russian tsar (Semyon Dezhnev only went through during his expedition in 1648). Barreau successfully created a colony which became more and more wealthy after the Russian Empire had monopolized the whale oil trade around the coasts of Alaska and the Kuril Islands. But despite this, Barreau's population wasn't increasing until the time of the Alaska purchase by the US. After this action new settlers from the US and Canada had arrived in Barreau up to 1869. The new settlers soon became the majority, in the former Russian speaking colony, and the name Barreau was Anglicisated to Barrow, so it has nothing to do with barrow (castrated pigs).

However, there is a less widely acknowledged hypothesis which implies a connection between Barrow and barrows based on a story about the English speaking settlers which says that the new settlers brought pigs to their new home, but in a great blizzard, half of the pigs became infected by a flesh eating disease, so on the way to Burreau they had to castrate the pigs in order to save them from that bacteria and after they settled down they commemorated the pigs in the name of their colony.

Another theory states that Barrow takes its name from Point Barrow, which was named for Sir John Barrow of the British Admiralty in 1825.

Geography

Barrow is located at (71.300371, -156.735840).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of . of it is land and of it is water. The total area is 14% water. The predominant land type in Barrow is tundra, which sits on permafrost that is as much as in depth.

Climate

Owing to its location north of the Arctic Circle, Barrow's climate is cold and dry and is classified as a polar climate. Winter weather can be extremely dangerous because of the combination of cold and wind, while summers are cool even at their warmest. Weather observations are available for Barrow dating back into the late 1800s. Currently there is a National Weather Service (NWS) Office and a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Monitoring Lab in Barrow.

Barrow is the National Weather Service's most northerly First-Order station. Although it generally records the lowest mean average temperatures in Alaska during winter months, Barrow rarely experiences the extreme cold temperatures typical of the Alaska Interior, and virtually never sets record cold winter temperatures for the state.

Despite the extreme northern location, temperatures at Barrow are moderated by the surrounding topography. With the Arctic Ocean on three sides, and flat tundra stretching some to the south there are no wind barriers and there are no protected valleys where dense cold air can settle or form temperature inversions in the lower atmosphere in the way that commonly happens in the Interior between the Brooks Range and the Alaska Range.

However, Barrow experiences the lowest average temperatures in Alaska. While actual temperature extremes are rare, extremely low wind chill and "white out" conditions from blowing snow are very common.

Temperatures remain below freezing from early October through late May. The high daily temperature is above freezing on an average of only 109 days per year. There are freezing temperatures on an average of 324 days per year. Freezing temperatures, and snowfall, can occur during any month of the year.

Barrow is a desert, with an average of less than "equivalent rainfall" per year, which includes less than of snow. (Since one inch of rain is approximately equal to twelve inches of snow).

The first snow (defined as snow that will not melt until next spring) happens in the first week of October, when temperatures cease to rise above freezing during the day. October is usually the month with the heaviest snowfall, with at least a trace of snow virtually every day and an average total accumulation of about .

On November 18 or 19 the sun goes down, and remains below the horizon for about 65 days until it re-appears, normally on January 22 or January 23. During the first half of the polar night there is a decreasing amount of twilight each day, and on the winter solstice, December 21 or December 22, civil twilight in Barrow lasts for a mere 3 hours.

In addition to the low temperatures and months without sun, Barrow is also one of the cloudiest places on earth. Owing to the prevailing easterly winds off the Arctic Ocean, Barrow is completely overcast slightly more than 50% of the year and at least 70% overcast 62% of the time. Cloud types are mainly low stratus and fog, cumuli forms are rare. Peak cloudiness occurs in August and September when the ocean is open. Dense fog occurs an average of 65 days per year, mostly in the summer months. Ice fog is very common during the winter months, especially when the temperature drops below .

Serious cold weather usually begins in January, and February is generally the coldest month, averaging . By March 1 the sun is up for 9 hours, the average temperature is 2 or 3 degrees warmer, and the winds are usually higher. April brings less extreme temperatures, with an average of about , but on April 1 there are over 14 hours of sunlight. In May the temperatures are much warmer, averaging . Beginning on May 11-12, the phenomenon known as the midnight sun occurs and the sun does not set for 82-83 days, until July 31-August 1. In June the average temperature rises above freezing, to , and average daily temperatures remain above freezing until mid-September.

July is the warmest month of the year with an average high of and an average low temperature of . Beginning in late July the Arctic Ocean is relatively ice-free, and remains so until late October.

Variation of wind speed during the year is small, with the fall months being windiest. Extreme winds from have been recorded for all months. The average winds are , from the east.

Demographics

As of the census of 2000, there were 4,683 people, 1,399 households, and 976 families residing in the city. The population density was . There were 1,620 housing units at an average density of . The racial makeup of the city is 21.83% White, 1.00% Black or African American, 57.19% Native American, 9.41% Asian, 1.35% Pacific Islander, 0.70% from other races, and 8.51% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.34% of the population.

There were 1,399 households out of which 56.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.2% were married couples living together, 14.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.0% were non-families. 23.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 1.8% had someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.35 and the average family size was 4.80.

In the city the population was spread out with 27.7% under the age of 18, 13.3% from 18 to 24, 31.6% from 25 to 44, 19.4% from 45 to 64, and 3.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 29 years. For every 100 females there were 107.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 109.5 males.

The median household income in the city was $63,094.09, and the median income for a family was $68,223. Males had a median income of $51,959 versus $46,382 for females. The per capita income for the city was $22,902. 8.6% of the population and 7.7% of families were below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 7.2% of those under the age of 18 and 13.12% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.

Population of Barrow
Year Population
1940 400
1960 1,300
1970 2,100
1980 2,200
1990 3,500
2000 4,683

Economy

Barrow is the economic center of the North Slope Borough, the city's primary employer, and numerous businesses provide support services to oil field operations. State and federal agencies also provide employment. The midnight sun has attracted tourism and arts and crafts provide some cash income. Many residents rely upon subsistence food sources: whale, seal, polar bear, walrus, waterfowl, caribou and fish are harvested from the coast or nearby rivers and lakes.

Transportation

Barrow is served by passenger jet service at the Wiley Post-Will Rogers Memorial Airport from Anchorage and Fairbanks. Freight arrives by air cargo year round and by ocean-going marine barges during the annual summer sealift.

Barrow also serves as the regional transportation center for the North Slope Borough's Arctic Coastal villages. Multiple jet aircraft daily, with service from Deadhorse (Prudhoe Bay), Fairbanks and Anchorage provide mail, cargo, and passenger services, which connect with smaller single and twin engine general aviation aircraft that provide regular service to other villages, from Kaktovik in the east to Point Hope in the west. The town is also served by several radio taxi services, most utilizing small four-wheel drive vehicles such as the Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4.

History

In the Inupiaq language the location of Barrow is called Ukpeagvik, which means "the place where we hunt Snowy Owls".

Archaeological sites in the area indicate the Inupiat lived around Barrow as far back as AD 500. Some remains of 16 dwelling mounds from the Birnirk culture of about AD 800 are still in evidence today on the shore of the Arctic Ocean. Their position on a slight rise above the high water mark places them in danger of being lost to erosion within a short time.

Royal Navy officers were in the area to explore and map the Arctic coastline of North America. The United States Army established a meteorological and magnetic research station at Barrow in 1881, and the Cape Smythe Whaling and Trading Station was established in 1893.

In 1888 a Presbyterian church was built at Barrow, and in 1901 a United States Post Office was opened.

In 1935 the famous humorist Will Rogers and pilot Wiley Post made an unplanned stop at Walakpa Bay south of Barrow while enroute to Barrow. As they took off again their plane stalled and plunged into a river, killing them both. Now called the Rogers-Post Site, there are two monuments are at the site, another is located in Barrow and the airport is named after them.

Barrow was incorporated as a 1st Class City in 1958.

Residents of the North Slope cast the lone vote in opposition to passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, which passed in December 1971. In 1972, the North Slope Borough was established. The borough, with millions of dollars in new revenues, created sanitation, water and electrical utilities, roads, fire departments, and health and educational services in Barrow and the villages of the North Slope.

In 1986, the North Slope Borough created the North Slope Higher Education Center, which later became Ilisagvik College, which is now an accredited two-year college dedicated to providing an education based on the Inupiat culture and the needs of the North Slope Borough.

The Tuzzy Consortium Library is co-located in Barrow with the Inupiat Heritage Center.

Barrow, like many communities in Alaska, has enacted a "damp" law prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages, but allows for import, possession and consumption.

Media

KBRW (AM)/KBRW-FM radio station broadcasts in Barrow on 680 kHz AM and 91.9 MHz FM. KBRW is also broadcast via FM translators in all of the North Slope Borough villages, from Kaktovik to Point Hope.

The Arctic Sounder is a newspaper published weekly by Alaska Newspapers, Inc., covers news of interest to the North Slope Borough, which includes Barrow, and the Northwest Arctic Borough which includes Kotzebue, in northwestern Alaska.

Sports teams

On August 19, 2006 the Barrow Whalers of Barrow High School played the first official football game in the Arctic against Delta Junction High School. Barrow recorded its first win two weeks later; the coaches and players celebrated the historic win by jumping into the Arctic Ocean, just yards from the makeshift dirt field.

On August 17, 2007 the Whalers football team played their first game of the season on their new artificial turf field. The historic game, attended by former Chicago Bears player Dick Butkus, was the first live Internet broadcast of a sporting event in the United States from north of the Arctic Circle.

In 2007, the Long Beach Armada of the independent Golden Baseball League officially renamed themselves the "Long Beach Armada of Los Angeles of California of the United States of North America Including Barrow, Alaska", a take-off on the recently renamed Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The chances of the Armada playing any actual games in Barrow is unlikely -- there is in fact a baseball field in town, but the playing surface is all-dirt (due to a lack of grass in Barrow) and the dimensions are only Little League-sized.

Depictions in popular culture

Barrow is the setting for a series of horror comic books entitled 30 Days of Night. The stories center on vampires who take advantage of the more than a month of darkness that takes place annually in the town to engage in a killing spree. A film, named after and based upon the comic, was released on October 19, 2007.

Special events

  • Kivgiq, The Messenger Feast. In more recent times this has been held almost every year, but "officially" is held every two or three years in late January or early February, and is called at the discretion of the North Slope Borough Mayor. Kivgiq is an international event which attracts visitors from around the Arctic Circle.
  • Piuraagiaqta, The Spring Festival. Held in mid-April and includes many outdoor activities.
  • Nalukataq, The Blanket Toss Celebration. Held on multiple days beginning in the third week of June to celebrate each successful spring whale hunt.
  • July 4, Independence Day. In Barrow this is time for Eskimo games, such as the two-foot high kick and ear pull, with the winners going on to compete at the World Eskimo Indian Olympics.
  • Fall whaling. Generally happens during the second week of October.
  • Qitik, Eskimo Games. Also known as Christmas Games, are from December 26 through January 1.

See also

References

External links

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