This week we’ve taken you to the far-off unexplored corners of the world but today we’re delving into the most extreme places which humans have not only explored but now call home. From the hottest to the coldest, the highest to the driest, the remote to the boat - this is human civilisation at its limits.
Photo courtesy of John Bruckman
Located in the Mojave Desert in Eastern California, Death Valley holds the record for the highest reliable recorded temperature in the Western Hemisphere reaching a scorching 134oF (56.7oC). Death Valley received its name during the notorious Californian Gold Rush of the 1840s when people attempted to cross the valley to reach the gold fields– though only one death was ever recorded.
Prior to the Gold Rush, Death Valley was home to the Timbisha tribe of Native Americans who have inhabited the valley for at least the past 1000 years. At present a small community still lives in a village at Furnace Creek. Death Valley is now home to the Death Valley National Park and a small population - I guess its true - some really do like it hot!
Photo courtesy of Olga Oslina
Oymyakon is the coldest permanently inhabited place on Earth, sitting just a few hundred miles south of the Arctic Circle in the desolate landscape of Siberia, temperatures in the town have previously plummeted to a record low of -96.16 degrees. Previously only a seasonal stop-off for reindeer herders, this remote village in the Sakha Republic is now permanently home to between 500 and 800 people.
But life is not easy in Oymyakon and living in the coldest town on Earth certainly has its problems: pen ink freezes, batteries loose power quickly, metal sticks to skin, spit freezes before it hits the ground and lighting a bonfire beneath your fuel tank to prevent it from freezing is an everyday occurrence. If you’re thinking of visiting Oymyakon, be prepared for birds falling from the sky as they freeze mid flight and coffins rising up from the ground as the permafrost thaws and refreezes. The coldest town on Earth is certainly an extreme and fascinating place to call home.
Photo courtesy of alextorrenegra
The highest known permanent settlement is La Rinconada sitting 5,100m above sea level up in the Peruvian Andes with a population of about 30,000. Living in the highest settlement in the world comes with its own set of problems when it is located right next to a prolific gold mine and many inhabitants suffer from mercury poisoning as a result of the mining activity.
Oddly enough the miners do not receive a wage for their back-breaking work; instead they work for 30 days without payment and on the 31st day are then allowed to take as much ore from the mine as they can carry on their shoulders – unfortunately whether there is any gold in your ore is a matter of luck.
Photo courtesy of Miradas.com.br
Renowned as the driest place on Earth it is surprising that the Atacama Desert has in fact been home to people for centuries. Lying between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes mountains, the Atacama Desert spans 181,300 square kilometres and within its remote interiors there are areas which according to records have never seen rain.
The Atacama has a colourful history; the desert’s interior is home to the indigenous Atacameños tribe whose towns are known as pucarás. They are well known for their animal sacrifices and cultural ceremonies and to them the driest place on Earth is home sweet home.
Photo courtesy of Borneo Child Aid Society
ON THE WATER
Most of us are partial to the odd bout of sea sickness on a choppy channel crossing, but imagine spending ever hour of every day out on the open water; well that’s life for the Bajau Laut, South East Asia’s sea gypsy community.
These nomadic seafaring people chart the waters of the Sulu Sea off the southwestern coast of The Philippines with many going their whole lives without ever setting foot on dry land. In fact the community only ever sets foot on land to bury their dead or to construct new boats and oddly enough when they do the Bajau Laut claim to suffer from land sickness. Many of the Bajau Laut still retain spiritually based religious practices, many which predate modern religion.
Photo courtesy of Michael Clarke Stuff
MOST REMOTE ISLAND:
Tristan da Cunha is the only inhabited island of a remote archipelago in the South Atlantic hosting a population of around 270 people. The island, positioned 1,750 miles away from South Africa, is a fascinating place and is considered the most remote inhabited island in the world. First discovered in 1506 by the Portuguese, Tristan da Cunha did not become a permanent settlement until 1810 and has remained so ever since.
Tristan da Cunha’s people embrace its isolation and immigration is strictly prohibited, land is communally owned by the inhabitants and cannot be bought by outsiders. With each family owning their own livestock, Tristan da Cunha is predominantly a farming community with the only other forms of profit on the island being a lobster factory and selling their own postage stamps and coins to collectors. Living on the most remote island in the world means marrying your cousin is not so frowned upon. With only 80 families and 8 surnames there’s not a whole lot of choice!
By Hannah Jones