What lies beyond the northernmost city on Earth? A beautiful, complicated land.

Photographer Greta Rybus wanted to see what life north of the north looked like.

The Norwegian city of Hammerfest calls itself the northernmost town in the world, but seeded beyond it are a handful of other small communities. One of these is Akkarfjord, on the island of Sørøya.

It’s a place few people know about — that even other Norwegians rarely visit.

All photos by Greta Rybus, used with permission.


Only about 80 people live there, their houses huddled around the Akkarfjord harbor.

There’s also a local school, post office, and grocery store. Plus a pub, tucked away and only opened on special occasions and birthdays.

The harbor is both the town’s anchor and its connection to the outside world.

If you’re not working on a boat, you’re probably at the local fish factory, which sits on the east side of the harbor and exports its catch to the rest of the world.

As you might guess, the winter cold can make socializing a bit of a challenge.

People aren’t too keen on stopping in the middle of the street for a chat, and if it’s not the cold, it’s the wind. Rybus says that the wind bowled her over more than once.

"I physically got blown over a few times, like a cartoon character, feet flying above my head," she says.

But if it’s cold on the coast, it’s even colder inland where reindeer herders watch their animals.

The herders are mostly Sami, an ethnic group indigenous to the area. They still follow many of their traditional practices, like reindeer herding, although mixed with modern practicalities. Snowmobiles make it much easier to keep up with the herd.

Two Sami women in traditional clothing.

The other inhabitants of this remote land? Oil rigs.

The rest of the world has caught up to Akkarfjord. Just 50 kilometers offshore are massive oil rigs, soaking up oil from the Barents Sea floor.

Norway is actually one of the great oil and gas nations of the world. Most of that profit has been pumped back into the nation itself, funding health care, public service projects, and education — including the Akkarfjord school.

Though oil’s brought a lot of wealth to Norway, unrestricted worldwide use of fossil fuel has also caused our global climate to change.

Snow used to arrive in Akkarfjord in the late fall, rising as high as a second story window. Nowadays, town residents say they might not see any until January. The weather is getting unpredictable.

Fishers like Knut Olsen told Rybus that the ocean around Akkarfjord is also warmer than it used to be, which could affect the harbor. On land, hunting has gotten harder.

Inland, changes to the freeze-thaw cycle have affected the reindeer's ability to forage during the winter. Buying extra feed or food pellets has become more and more common.

Life beyond the northernmost city is stark, beautiful, and locked in a remarkably complicated relationship with the outside world.

Fossil fuels, and the wealth that comes with them, have improved the quality of life in Akkarfjord — and the rest of Norway — but climate change is also affecting the animals, plants, and seasons they, and the rest of us, still depend on.

The story of climate change is not just an environmental story. It’s a story about people. Both those of us who live beyond the ends of the Earth and those much closer to home.

If you want to see the rest of Rybus’ amazing pictures and read more interviews about life in Akkarfjord, check out her website.

Heroes
Courtesy of Houseplant.

In America, one dumb mistake can hang over your head forever.

Nearly 30% of the American adult population — about 70 million people — have at least one criminal conviction that can prevent them from being treated equally when it comes to everything from job and housing opportunities to child custody.

Twenty million of these Americans have felony convictions that can destroy their chances of making a comfortable living and prevents them from voting out the lawmakers who imprisoned them.

Many of these convictions are drug-related and stem from the War on Drugs that began in the U.S. '80s. This war has unfairly targeted the minority community, especially African-Americans.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture

Climate change is happening because the earth is warming at an accelerated rate, a significant portion of that acceleration is due to human activity, and not taking measures to mitigate it will have disastrous consequences for life as we know it.

In other words: Earth is heating up, it's kinda our fault, and if we don't fix it, we're screwed.

This is the consensus of the vast majority of the world's scientists who study such things for a living. Case closed. End of story.

How do we know this to be true? Because pretty much every reputable scientific organization on the planet has examined and endorsed these conclusions. Thousands of climate studies have been done, and multiple peer-reviewed studies have been done on those studies, showing that somewhere between 84 and 97 percent of active climate science experts support these conclusions. In fact, the majority of those studies put the consensus well above 90%.

Keep Reading Show less
Nature
via James Anderson

Two years ago, a tweet featuring the invoice for a fixed boiler went viral because the customer, a 91-year-old woman with leukemia, received the services for free.

"No charge for this lady under any circumstances," the invoice read. "We will be available 24 hours to help her and keep her as comfortable as possible."

The repair was done by James Anderson, 52, a father-of-five from Burnley, England. "James is an absolute star, it was overwhelming to see that it cost nothing," the woman's daughter told CNN.

Keep Reading Show less
Heroes

I live in a family with various food intolerances. Thankfully, none of them are super serious, but we are familiar with the challenges of finding alternatives to certain foods, constantly checking labels, and asking restaurants about their ingredients.

In our family, if someone accidentally eats something they shouldn't, it's mainly a bit of inconvenient discomfort. For those with truly life-threatening food allergies, the stakes are much higher.

I can't imagine the ongoing stress of deadly allergy, especially for parents trying to keep their little ones safe.

Keep Reading Show less
popular