With temperatures hovering around -40°F in the winter months, life in Yakutsk, Siberia, is dictated by the cold.
With temperatures that hover around the -40° Fahrenheit mark for at least three months of the year, Yakutsk in eastern Siberia claims the title of coldest city in the world.
Sure, other places have recorded more frigid weather, such as the 500-person settlement of Oymyakon, 575 miles to the east, which recently suffered a -88° cold spell, or Antarctica, where the average temperature in winter is -76, but neither boast a fully functioning city like Yakutsk, home to over 280,000 people.
Since the soil is permanently frozen, most buildings are raised on stilts. Those that aren’t are slowly sinking because the heat generated inside the buildings is melting the permafrost.
Still, the region’s underground riches make up for the challenges posed by the weather. Local mines account for about a fifth of the world’s production of diamonds, while other sites hold natural gas, oil, gold, silver, and other sought-after minerals.
In 2013 Steeve Iuncker, who grew up in the Swiss Alps (averaging 25° Fahrenheit from December to the end of February) decided to witness firsthand how such glacial temperatures affect the body, the soul, and social life. Upon landing, he recalls, the daughter of his host, who came to pick him up from the airport, scanned him from head to toe. Hat? Check. Gloves? Check. Scarf? Check. Boots?
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