Failing ice cellars signal change in Alaska

Installation of a shelter covering the entrance to a new community ice cellar. This type of underground food cache was dug into the permafrost to provide natural refrigeration and used for generations in far-north communities. Naturally cooled underground ice cellars, used in Alaska Native communities for generations, are becoming increasingly unreliable as a warming climate and other factors touch multiple facets of life in the far north. (Submitted Photo)

By Rachel D’Oro THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ANCHORAGE, Alaska – For generations, people in Alaska’s far-north villages have relied on hand-built ice cellars dug deep into the permafrost to age their whale and walrus meat to perfection and keep it cold throughout the year. Scores of the naturally refrigerated food caches lie beneath these largely Inupiat communities, where many rely on hunting and fishing to feed their families. The ice cellars range from small arctic root cellars to spacious, wood-lined chambers, some topped with sheds. Now, a growing number of these underground cellars are being rendered unreliable as global warming and other modern factors force changes to an ancient way of life. Some whaling villages are working to adapt as more cellars, some stocked with tons of subsistence food, turn up…

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