Mark and Lisa in Alaska - Day 2
The plane taking us to Barrow was a palate plane. The front of the plane was loaded with palates, which was sectioned off from the passenger part of plane. Kind of a weird experience, but there was no one who was going to get to the pilots. There were 29 passengers on the plane, but when we stopped in Fairbanks, the plane became completely full. A tour group from Toby Tours got on the plane, and we were on our final leg to Barrow. As we approached Barrow, we could see quite a bit of ice; the ice seemed to go on forever. The airport in Barrow is pretty small, as one would expect.
We hopped on a school bus for a full day tour of Barrow. Our tour guide today was Mona, a Barrow native. Mona is a descendant of the first white man to come to Barrow. His last name was Brower. Mona was very informative and funny. Our first stop was at the Will Rogers & Wiley Post Memorial. Both gentlemen died in a plane crash not far from Barrow. There were also mileage post markers to far away places in the world.
Our first stop at the Arctic Ocean was at the ancient village of Ukpiagvik to see an old sod dwelling. Apparently, several bodies were found in the ruins. The remains date back to 1500 A.D. At the ocean's edge, were many dead jelly fish, which surprised me. I didn't realize they could be so far north, or maybe that's why they were dead. We also saw a lot of white flowers along the way. The white flowers are called tundra cotton. In ancient times, tundra cotton was used by the natives as insulation. FYI - the water is very cold.
We then stopped at a cemetery. The remains from the sod hut are buried here. I believe Mona said that there was an 11-year old girl found in the ice cellar, as well as one adult and two other children. The adult and two children were found else where in the dwelling. The 11-year old died from black lung disease, caused by breathing in the fumes from the whale oil lamp. Because of the permafrost, it is difficult to dig up the ground. They cut out squares and use ice picks to prepare the graves. Bodies are buried about 6 to 8 feet in the ground and are preserved. Cemetery workers were preparing a grave for a Barrow soldier who was killed in an accident in Mississippi. Around the cemetery were a lot of large satellites for TV, telephone, and other communications.
At the gym, Lisa bought a t-shirt for $10. Every place has t-shirts for sale.
For lunch, we choose Pepe's, a very famous Mexican restaurant in Barrow. The owner was on the Johnny Carson show many years ago. The food was pretty good, but a burrito costs $18. That shouldn't be too surprising, considering everything has to be flown into Barrow.
After lunch, we went to the Inupiat Heritage Center. It was well worth visiting. We watched the children do many native dances. While I was taking a break from the dances, a local gave me a personal tour of the center. He showed me how the whales were caught. Pretty cool. Lisa made a friend with a local two-year old. He was intrigued by the digital camera.
We walked over to the Value Center across the street. It's the local Wal-Mart. It had everything you would expect, from hair dryers and clothes to food and pop. It also had a few ATVs for sale. The prices were not unreasonable and were quite in line with what you'd pay in Oklahoma grocery stores.
Our last three stops were the famous Barrow Trees, a sign saying we were at the top of the world and the whale arch. A very nice tour.
Once we got back to the hotel, one of the guys said he was going to join the Polar Bear Club. His name is Jack Carlson, and he is from Mobile, Alabama. Good for him. LOL. Jack got in and out of the cold water pretty quickly.
Back at the hotel, we fell asleep again around 7 a.m. We will have to force ourselves to stay up later. We both woke up around 1 or 2 a.m. It looked like it was 6 in the evening. Definitely the land of the midnight sun. The horizon was just beautiful. There was an orange glow, sitting just above the great expanse of ice.
A comment about the Top of The World Hotel: I've read a few bad reviews about the hotel, which I think are unfounded. The room is a basic room, but clean. The heat was on when we arrived. We could not turn it down. So believe it or not, it was too hot in our room, causing us to leave the window open to cool the place down. We actually slept with the window open. We were on the second floor, room 224.
Barrow is a very remote, somewhat frontier location, and it's residents are very friendly. Barrow is a modern day frontier, with many of the amenities of home. The water temperature was 31 degrees; the outside temperature was about 50 degrees. Although the wind was a little crispy, the sun came out, and it was a great day to be in Barrow.