10 Facts about Utqiagvik (formerly Barrow), Alaska

Woman holding baby

Rosemary Ahtuangaruak, a community health practitioner and former mayor of Nuiqsut, Alaska, has spent her career dealing with the social and health problems that oil development and related pollution have caused in North Slope communities.

Photo: Tim Woody

Perched at the edge of the Arctic Ocean, at the point where the Beaufort and Chukchi seas meet, Utqiagvik, Alaska, is a community that depends on the ocean for its very survival.

Fish and marine mammals are important sources of food for the town’s residents. Like other communities on Alaska’s North Slope, Utqiagvik faces direct threats from the threat of oil spills, pollution from industrial development, and climate change.

Here are a few pieces of information about life at the northern edge of Alaska.

10 Facts about Utqiagvik

  1. Utqiagvik is the northernmost city in the United States and the ninth northernmost city in the world.

  2. It is 320 miles north of the Arctic Circle.

  3. When the sun sets here on Nov. 18 or 19, it doesn’t rise again for 65 days.

  4. Utqiagvik is not connected by road to the rest of Alaska, even though it is the economic center of the North Slope Borough.

  5. More than 4,000 people live here and survive largely by hunting whales, seals, polar bears, walrus, waterfowl, caribou, and catching fish from the Arctic Ocean or nearby rivers and lakes.

  6. Archaeological sites in the area indicate the Inupiat lived in this area as far back as 500 AD.

  7. Point Barrow, a headland nine miles from town, is where the Chukchi and Beaufort seas meet.

  8. Scientists say the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, and former North Slope Borough Mayor Edward Itta has called Utqiagvik “ground zero for climate-change science.”

  9. On average, Utqiagvik’s high temperature is above freezing only 120 days per year, while temperatures are at or below zero degrees 160 days per year.

  10. Utqiagvik was the setting for 2011's Hollywood movie “Big Miracle” about an effort to rescue three whales trapped in sea ice.