DEW Line Passage Chapter Twelve:

Top of the World - Barrow, Alaska

 

With perfect wind, we sailed 40 miles in 9 hours and reached Barrow on the evening of Saturday, September 6. We were the coldest we had been yet and thus extra happy to get out of the boat.
The morning after arriving in Barrow, I opened the door of the cabin we are staying in and this bear was happily trotting right in front of it with a seal skin he had swiped off someone's drying rack.

He played in the water with it before continuing on his way.

He headed into town and by the time we came in later there was a veritable traffic jam of tourists and locals stopped to take pictures of him.

Possibly more exciting was the chance to check out a real ice cellar - big holes dug into the permafrost where the Inupiat keep their meat frozen.

Luckily, we had met Roy and Flossie Nageak and they were showing us their hometown. Here we are on a 4-wheeler trip out to Nuvuk or 'Point Barrow,'
which is about 7 miles north of town.

We got a free dinner at Barrow's famous mexican restaurant,
Pepe's Tacos, for talking about our trip at the Rotary meeting...

And took a 4-wheeler trip down the coast to visit, among other sites, the monument marking the place where Will Rogers and Wiley Post crashed and died in the mid-1930s.

As elsewhere, dumps full of barrels are being dug up and moved somewhere else.
Roy Nageak next to the Monument River outside Barrow.
A big polar bear (whose face is brown due to a walrus carcass he was enjoying) was camped out in this sod cabin. The cabin was actually built for a 1966 movie about a polar bear called "Paka: Queen of the Snow Bears," so the area is sometimes referred to as 'Hollywood.'
 

POW-Main is the large DEW Line site in Barrow, altough construction of the enormous Naval Arctic Research Laboratory (NARL) had preceded it in 1947. The existence of NARL greatly facilitated construction of the DEW Line in Alaska.

POW-Main is currently a North Warning System Long Range Radar and usually has about 6 people stationed there. More in-depth information on POW-Main is forthcoming.

POW-Main sign in the 1950s.
POW-Main hangar, outbuildings, and what was once a 4,800-foot long 'Marston mat' airstrip as seen from Barrow's beach road.
Roy Nageak is an umialik - a whaling captain. Here he is posing with his beautiful umiat.
 
Barrow's real name is Ukpeagvik, meaning place where we hunt snowy owls. We had seen one or two snowy owls on our trip, but driving around the roads that go inland from Barrow we were absolutely amazed: we saw around 40 snowy owls within an hour. Apparently there are a lot of lemmings this year.
We are staying at the Nageak's little cabin at the Shooting Station (Pignik), which is a very cool spot about 6 miles out of town with the lagoon on one side and the ocean on the other. There's no power and no one else is staying out at their cabins this time of year and we love it.
Visitors from Atqasuk pose under the Inupiaq palm trees (driftwood and baleen) at the Shooting Station.
The pignik cabin.

The best campsites have good views of DEW Line sites and this one is no exception. Here the site is beyond the masts of our canoe which is next to the cabin. We will probably end the sailing for the season here at Barrow, but we'll stay here for another month or so learning more about the legacies of the DEW Line from the Inupiat themselves and we'll pick up the journey next summer.

More updates about Barrow and POW-Main will be posted soon, thank you for your interest in this website!

 

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