The village of Point Hope, Alaska, February 24, 2012, as seen from a nine-passenger Cessna Caravan.
Viewed from the air, a continuous sheet of ice and snow obscures the boundaries between land and sea in the Arctic north. We were happy to fly south to Anchorage for a few days, thereby escaping the steady string of days with temperatures hovering around negative 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Compared to Point Hope, the weather in Anchorage was downright balmy, with highs around 28 degrees. Intermittent snow showers filled the crisp air with big, soft snowflakes.
Six days later our plane touched down on the icy Point Hope runway. As we descended the ladder, a blast of icy wind crushed into our faces, momentarily taking our breath away. The previous week, the absence of wind made walking outside pleasant enough, but now the wind chill is frequently dipping to 50 or 60 below and even colder. Cases of frostbite are up, as are cases of frozen plumbing. Each day, we’re gaining eight minutes of daylight. Still cold. Still a lot of winter left.