Oymyakon, Siberia is the coldest village on Earth. It’s so cold there, that thermometers literally break. The freezing cold village reached a low of -62 degrees Celsius this year, but Oymyakon also holds the record for the coldest recorded temperature in history (outside of Antarctica): a bitterly chilling -67.7 degrees Celsius in 1933.
New Zealand based Photographer Amos Chapple traveled to Oymyakon, Siberia to photograph the everyday life of its roughly 500 inhabitants. He told weather.com: “I remember feeling like the cold was physically gripping my legs, the other surprise was that occasionally my saliva would freeze into needles that would prick my lips.”
Since Chapple traveled there, the temperatures have become even lower, and the citizens of the coldest village on Earth are still braving the elements. Though the broken thermometer showed the temperature at -62 degrees Celsius, locals say it was even colder, claiming the temperature to be as low as -68 degrees Celsius.
The temperatures in Oymyakon, Siberia are so low that it causes people’s eyelashes to freeze. This makes for stunning images but is probably quite uncomfortable.
The main sources of heat for the residents of Oymyakon are burning wood and coal. “people were very wary of the cold,” Amos Chapple told The Telegraph.
Chapple also said, “I’d expected that the locals would be accustomed to the winters and there would be everyday life happening in the streets.” However, they were usually empty.
The village itself is named after the Oymyakon River, which derives from the word “kheium,” meaning “unfrozen patch of water; place where fish spend the winter.”
People still need to drive in the freezing cold village, but their cars need to be stored in heated garages to prevent the engines from freezing. Outside, the cars must be left running.
While people still have to go to work, students in the coldest village on Earth are given a break, as classes are canceled when temperatures are lower than -52 degrees Celsius.
There is only one shop in Oymyakon, Siberia, but it can provide the 500 locals with anything they require, as long as they trek through the freezing cold.
Chapple told the Telegraph: “I remember watching a woman in the village store pick up a frozen sausage for a customer, then immediately warm her fingers against the palm of her hand.”
There is only one route that will take drivers to the freezing cold village. The barren and snowy road is affectionately known as “the Road of Bones.”
Upon entering the village of Oymyakon, visitors are greeted by this sign. It reads “Oymyakon, the Pole of Cold,” an apt description for the coldest village on Earth.
In Oymyakon, Siberia, most of the toilets need to be built outside. This is because the ground is frozen solid, which makes it unsuitable for indoor plumbing.
“The village felt abandoned…everything was happening indoors, and I wasn’t welcome there, so the only companions I had were the occasional street dog or one of the drunks,” Chapple told the Telegraph.
The brand new electronic thermometer installed at the village sign couldn’t handle the extreme freezing temperatures and broke down once they hit -62 degrees Celsius.
Amos Chapple began his journey in Yakutsk, the nearby major city. Temperatures there are also so low that merchants selling fish in the market don’t even need to refrigerate their wares.
The inhabitants of Oymyakon still manage to farm cattle, even in the extreme temperatures. They have to keep their cattle inside a heavily insulated barn during the night.
Amos Chapple told The Telegraph: “They were a tough people. I expected there to be human warmth there but I didn’t experience that at all.”
Oymyakon stands at roughly 750 meters above sea level. Being so far north means the days in the winter can be as short as three hours.
Chapple told the Telegraph: “I’m not sure why this is but after walking around outside for a couple of hours I would get home and feel as if I’d just taken a long-haul flight.”
“In other parts of Russia you can throw on a coat to go outdoors, here it takes ages to dress,” one of the locals, Martina Vadreyev, told the BBC.
There are springs located in the coldest village on Earth that never freeze. Recently, Chinese tourists were seen bathing in the spring, despite the -60 degrees Celsius air temperature.
Chapple told the Telegraph that just trying to take pictures in the freezing cold village became its own sort of unique challenge, as it was difficult to hit the shutter button wearing two pairs of gloves.
Chapple also had to carry his camera underneath his coat, as it would not work if it got too cold. The focus and zoom rings would also occasionally freeze into place.
Despite the bitter cold, the locals of Oymyakon find a way to appreciate the beauty of their village, with many of them posting pictures of the cold weather to Instagram.
Temperatures are so cold in the area, that many of its inhabitants will even eat their meat still frozen. This includes fish, horse meat, and reindeer meat.
Another local, Bolot Bochkarev, told weather.com “Yakutians love the cold food, the frozen raw Arctic fish, white salmon, whitefish, frozen raw horse liver, but they are considered to be a delicacy.”
Despite the record-breaking cold in the region, the summers can reach temperatures of 30 degrees Celsius. During the summer season, the days can last up to 21 hours.
The rising summer temperatures mean that all of the structures need to be built on concrete and steel stilts to prevent the buildings from moving during the summer thaw.
Some of the sights created by the extreme freezing temperatures are incredible. This mine tunnel covered in crystallized ice perfectly sums up the natural beauty that can only be found in Oymyakon, Siberia.