If last year’s polar vortex had most people bundled-up and tested for their capacity to withstand intense cold, such temperatures are actually ordinary in some places. To be specific, somewhere in the Siberian tundra, the village of Oymyakon is believed to be the frostiest place on Earth inhabited by people.
The average Oymyakon winter temperature is a glacial −50 °C (−58 °F). To capture what that looks like, New Zealand-based photographer Amos Chapple went on a two-day trip that emanated from Yakutsk, the coldest major city in the globe, all the way to the village of Oymyakon so he could photograph images of an area so cold that people are at the risk of frostbite after only a few minutes of exposure outdoors.
Chapple’s images of Oymyakon and Yakutsk show some astonishing things about life in the intolerably cold place. For instance, diet is affected in this region as Oymyakon locals rely on primarily meat, since crops and fresh produce cannot survive the vicious temperatures. Meat and its attendant fat also tend to warm the body better.
Another remarkable lifestyle tweak here is since the frozen earth makes it difficult to sustain indoor plumbing, most toilets are outhouses. Brrrr!! Vehicles also must be kept idling while outside, and when garaged must be heated. People outdoors is a rare site since most rush indoors seeking the refuge of heat and light.
While temperatures luckily did not drop down to the record-setting low of −67.7 °C (−90 °F) that was recorded in February 1933, Chapple remembers how the intense cold overwhelmed him while he was in Oymyakon. “I was wearing thin trousers when I first stepped outside into −47 °C (−52 °F),” he recounted.
“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.” According to Chapple, it was so chilly that often his lens would freeze, making focusing a feat in itself.
See how the coldest place on earth looks like here.