Oil giant backs high-tech rescue for collapsing Arctic ice cellars in Alaska
Traditional permafrost cellars on Alaska's North Slope are failing. Money and technology from Exxon is helping keeping the tradition going.
KAKTOVIK, Alaska, Jan 29 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - When Inupiaq hunters wrestle a 100-ton bowhead whale back to land from the high seas, the next challenge is where to store all that meat.
For centuries, the Inupiaq, a Native Alaskan group that lives north of the Arctic Circle, have dug cellars into the permafrost as a form of natural refrigeration.
Now those “ice cellars” are under threat. Warming temperatures are melting permafrost, while coastal erosion is exposing the underground chambers.
Rising water, humidity and warmth create food-safety risks for these once-reliable alternatives to electric freezers.
Scientists and the Inupiaq are split on whether climate change or human factors, like shoddy construction, are to blame for the collapsing cellars, found in all eight villages scattered across Alaska’s North Slope, an area roughly the size of Britain and home to about 9,800 people.
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