Most of the communities in the Chukchi Sea are on Russian ice land, but the dramatic photographs show how people live on it
In northern Siberia, ice coverage in the Chukchi Sea is usually more than 100 miles long. The journey from the landlocked coast to the isolated, mountainous communities of Ny-Ales and Irina Rodzianko, near the Arctic Circle, is a journey through snow and ice – but also over treacherous switchbacks on ice-encrusted cliffs.
Some buildings are barely a metre high – too tall for the risk of avalanches. On other islands, churches or preservatories tower over frost-covered peaks, reaching just above the height of a car. Ice roads travel across miles of tundra, wide as paved roads. Locals use cars only for short journeys of a few hundred yards. Some can only operate with ferries or a small boat.
The Chukchi Sea is also home to an estimated 15,000 indigenous people, indigenous Inuit from northern Canada and tiny communities of Turkomen, the Norwegian church cult.
The wild places the locals inhabit today are a far cry from the farming community that lived there 20-odd years ago. Many homes are made out of logs or cedar poles. Locals rely on subsistence hunting and fishing, and their traditions and customs run deep. There is no electricity or running water – the tradition of housekeeping appears to have vanished in the wilderness. Meat comes from frozen turkeys or herring caught off the coast, with the occasional fish caught in the Bering Sea in winter.
The fragility of the environment means that the future of the communities is dependent on the survival of the sea ice – although neither Russia nor the United States have plans to develop oil and gas there, despite pressure from the rich energy corporations operating in the region.
Photographs: Red Bull