Life in the freezer: Inside the northernmost city on Earth whose residents endure - 55°C temperatures and two months of total darkness every year

Isolated, polluted and – above all – cold, it is a city built on misery and blood.

It is also a city of surprising wealth – the reason for its unlikely existence. Norilsk, squatting 250 miles north of the Arctic Circle, has the largest deposits of nickel, copper and palladium on earth and its hellish mines are thriving.

Gulag prisoners began expanding the Siberian settlement in 1935 and over the next 20 years, 500,000 slaves took part in its construction . Thousands lost their lives.

Today, Norilsk is the northernmost city on earth and still a place of extremes. The average temperature is -10C, reaching -55C in the endless winter.

There are two whole months of polar night, when people endure near total darkness, and Norilsk is encased in snow for eight to nine months a year.

Despite this, the city now has 170,000 residents. Russian photographer Elena Chernyshova spent several weeks there for her project: Days Of Night- Nights Of Day and her pictures show a normal life of sunbathing, picnics and parties existing alongside a desperate battle to keep warm during bitterly cold spells.

It is, for obvious reasons, an indoor place of sports and shopping centres and social gatherings in apartments.

Children are often forced to spend several months indoors so the city has large buildings where they can enjoy outdoor activities like cycling and running, even during the winter.

During cold spells, a convoy of 15 to 20 buses transport workers around. If one bus breaks down, the passengers can be evacuated to another bus. This column circulates three times a day.

Norilsk was first settled in the early 1900s after the discovery of rich mineral deposits, formed 250million years ago, at the foot of the Putorana Mountains

In 1935, the USSR started constructing a metallurgical complex to extract the materials and with this came the wretched columns of prisoners, condemned to a living death in the Arctic wasteland.

The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 but the city thrived and Norilsk Nickel is now the world leader in production of nickel and palladium. It brings in two per cent of the Russian GDP.

But working condition for miners are still bad. The compensation is long holidays – 90 days a year – and retirement at 45.

Norilsk is consistently in the top 10 of most polluted cities on Earth. Every year, more than 2 million tons of gas (mainly sulphur dioxide , but also nitrogen oxides, carbon and phenols) are expelled into the atmosphere.

Life expectancy is 10 years less than in other regions of Russia, the risk of cancer is two time higher and respiratory diseases are widespread.

Some studies show that the air quality is responsible for 37 per cent of deaths of child deaths and 21.6 per cent of adult deaths.

The polar days and nights cycle also has a strong influence on the human body, which struggles to adapt to such extreme conditions.

Darkness causes a reduction in the release of the hormone melatonin, which regulates many functions of the body.

This leads to sleep and nervous system problems, constant fatigue, psychological discomfort and depression. A lack of melatonin also aids premature aging of the body and promotes the development of cancer.

Post a Comment

To Top