The Coldest Permanently Inhabited Place on Earth


The remote village of Oymyakon in eastern Siberia is closer to the Arctic Circle than it is to the nearest city. A monument in the town square commemorates the day in 1924 when the temperature fell to a record 96º below zero. It's the coldest permanently inhabited place on earth. In Oymyakon, pipes freeze, so most restrooms are outhouses with no plumbing. The ground freezes and few crops grow, so the local diet is mostly meat and fish, sometimes eaten frozen. Engines freeze so quickly that many cars are kept running all the time. Your eyelashes and saliva will freeze into painful little needles on your face as you walk down the street, and even vodka will freeze if a bottle is left outside. During the shortest days of the year, every night is 21 hours long in Oymyakon. This past January, the temperatures in Oymyakon hit 88º below zero, close to its 1924 cold record. But just two weeks later, the region was hit by a comparative warm spell, with thermometers spiking to a balmy 17º. That's a 105-degree temperature swing in just two weeks. Extreme temperature shifts in the Arctic may become common on a warming planet, though the residents of Oymyakon might relish the chance to thaw out their eyelashes for a few days every winter.