Living in Oymyakon: The Coldest Populated Place on Earth

The lowest temperature ever recorded in Oymyakon was -67.7°C (-89.9°F) in 1933, though some sources claim a slightly lower temperature of -71.2°C (-96.2°F) in 1924

During the winter, many people feel like they’re living in the coldest place on earth. For the residents of Oymyakon, an eastern Siberian town, that’s the reality.

Also known as “The Pole of Cold,” Oymyakon is home to 500 full-time residents and is the world’s coldest populated location. It holds the Guinness World Record for the coldest temperature recorded in an inhabited place — -67.7 degrees Celsius or -90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Most of Oymyakon’s residents are part of an indigenous nation, the Yakuts or Sakha people. However, the area is also home to ethnic Russians and Ukrainians.

A New Zealand-based photographer, Amos Chapple, recently visited Oymyakon and shared his surprise at the town’s emptiness.

Chapple described the streets as empty and noted that residents are “very wary of the cold.” He initially assumed they would have grown used to it and found ways to deal with it, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

When you think about how cold Oymyakon is, it’s easier to understand why people choose to stay indoors as much as possible. On an average day in the town, it would take approximately one minute to freeze to death if you walked outside naked.

Oymyakon has just one store, a post office, a bank, a gas station, and a small airport, as well as a school (which stays open unless the weather dips below -60 degrees Fahrenheit).

All structures are built on underground stilts, which help to combat instability from the 13-foot-deep permafrost. A nearby thermal spring is one of the only places farmers can take their livestock to drink.

It’s difficult for most people to truly comprehend what it’s like to live in such an icy climate. That’s why Chapple took so many photos during his visit. They’re featured on the Smithsonian Magazine website.