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Board Roads of Selawik by Ella Derbyshire

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About This Gigapan

Taken by
Ella Derbyshire Ella Derbyshire
Explore score
0.10 Gigapixels
Date added
Aug 29, 2008
Date taken
Aug 28, 2008

Nikon D80's


Here is a major intersection in the arctic village of Selawik Alaska.
Selawik, an Inupiat village with a population of about 1000 people, is located right on the Arctic Circle in Alaska's Northwest Arctic Borough. Young people attend pre-kindergarden to grade 12 at the Selawik School. School sports and school-sponsored events are well attended in the villages. Wrestling and basketball are especially popular.

Most of the people here are Inupiat, and many of them practice subsistence lifestyles. It is late summer and the long days of summer are ending as the tundra dons its fall colors. The blueberries are getting too soft to pick, and we will soon be harvesting the cranberries. People are putting up their meat staples: caribou and moose. There are nets for salmon across the rivers at the fishing camps. Windmills supply power to this village which is off any major power grid. Electricity is also generated by burning fossil fuels. With no roads or power lines connecting our villages, they must remain quite self-sufficient despite the harsh environment.

Among its many charms, perhaps the most fascinating is that Selawik is a village without paved roads. The only strip of gravel road that I know of is about two tenths of a mile long and runs between the clinic and the wind farm. The rest of the community is connected by board roads like these. In summer, if you step off of the boards, you will sink into the tundra, or in some places, you will find yourself shin deep in the swamp. Winter solves the problem nicely as frozen ground connects everything, and snow-mobiles can go just about anywhere. This intersection is a lot quieter because we don't use the bridges when the rivers are frozen.
This 4-way intersection is located just before the entrance to the Rainbow Bridge. The board road is used by pedestrians, and ATV's, and is showing serious signs of wear and tear. The patches and gaps in the road have become serious hazards.

On the right side of this panorama is a glimpse of the new board road, which is higher and wider than the old road. The boards of the new road are placed longitudinally, not across the road like the roads to this intersection. It will be interesting to see how the new design works.
Along side the board roads are the utility pipes, power poles and some of the buildings where the people of Selawik live and work. In the vegetation you will see some cast off items from years and maybe decades past. Have a look around to get a glimpse of life in a northern Alaskan village.

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