Photographer Amos Chapple set out to discover exactly what it takes to live in Oymyakon, Russia, the coldest town on Earth, where the record low reached -96.16° F.
In the native language, Oymyakon means “unfrozen water,” which likely reference to the hot springs in town that reindeer herders used to visit.
Oymyakon is about as north as towns go.
The cold made it extremely difficult to operate the camera. Chapple had to hold his breath so the frozen cloud of air wouldn’t obscure the shot. Also, the frigid temperatures began to make focusing the camera a chore since they froze the mechanisms in the lens.
Chapple first had to stop off in the nearest city, Yaktusk, where he met a number of residents.
Yaktusk is the capital city of the Sakha region and is considered the coldest capital city in the world.
Surprisingly, the city’s population is around 300,000. The average temperature in the winter is -30° F (!)
Getting cold feet yet?
The only way to Oymyakon is the perilous “Road of Bones,” which is a barren two day trip (and also a Metallica album, probably).
The heating plant in Oymyakon is a key part of the life and economy of the town.
The attendants at this gas station work in 2 week shifts: 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off. If you turn off your engine here, it won’t be restarting – the cold is too intense.
Their diet mostly consists of frozen fish and meat soup, as no crops can grow in the region.
On the journey north, Chapple was stranded for two days in the Cafe Cuba (below) and lived off of reindeer soup and hot tea until another car showed up to take him the rest of the way to Oymyakon.
It takes a hardy bunch to survive under such conditions.
The ground is too cold for burials. When someone passes away, a fire must be lit before a grave can be dug, in order to heat the ground.
In Oymyakon, the record low temperature is documented with pride.
The people of Oymyakon take great pride in being locals. But even they shut things down when the thermometer drops below -58° F.
Cars must be kept in heated garages while not running, or risk permanent decommission.
Livestock is a vital part of life in Oymyakon.
Outhouses are the only means of relief as the ground is much too cold, making plumbing a non-option.
This general store is the only source of items for the entire town.