The word ‘desert’ often befools many. On hearing desert comes the picture of a vast stretch of sand, shrubs, and cactus, and extreme temperature. This is true only to some extent as the Arctic Desert is an exception to all the features of desert thought of by a common man.
You must be wondering why it is called a desert then even when it has an entire ocean in the middle of it and doesn’t confer to any of the feature mentioned above. The answer is to be called as a desert it must satisfy certain criteria such as low rainfall, dry air, extreme temperatures, etc.
As the Arctic has an extremely low temperature, the ocean is frozen and due to this moisture cannot be held. Therefore the air that blows is quite dry. And due to dry air, there is very little rainfall about 250mm ( 10 inches), almost the same amount of precipitation as in Sahara Desert. Hence, the arctic is a cold desert.
The earth’s North Pole is the house of the arctic desert. Covering an area of 62300 square miles, located 75 degrees north latitude Arctic has many islands and also supports vegetation. Greenland, North Pole, and Melvin Island are a few feathers in the desert’s cap. Mountains, glaciers, and flat areas are the physical features of the area. Mountains are cold, dry and huge whereas glaciers are vast and solid masses of ice. To have a rough idea of what the desert looks like once must watch ‘game of thrones’.
Long winters and short summers represent the Arctic’s climate. The temperature varies from -50 degree Celsius (during coldest months) to +10 degree Celsius (during summers). The average temperature ranges from -20 to 0 degree Celsius.
The sunshine patterns are a unique feature of the Arctic desert. During summers the sun doesn’t set for roughly two months whereas during winters the sun doesn’t rise at all. It is strange to view sunny sight even in the summers midnight.
Flora And Fauna Of The Arctic Desert
Arctic supports vegetation but only up to 5%, and this includes mosses, algae, and lichens. Though many other shrubs grow like grasses liverworts and other flowers but only during the summer season. The height of such plants ranges from 5 to 100cms.
The fauna exists in the wide variety of mammals to fishes to birds and insects. Voles, foxes, polar bears, lemmings, squirrels, falcons, loons, sandpipers, ravens, snow birds, terns, snow huntings and different species of seagulls. Trout, salmon, flatfish and cod are a few fish type that can be found there. Insects include fireflies, blackflies, mosquitoes, grasshoppers and much more.
People And Culture Of Arctic Desert
Eskimos are the only inhabitants of the Arctic desert. Though uncommon their proper name is ‘inuits’. Eskimos live in igloos during winters as it can be made of the local resource of the area that is the snow and during summers tents made up of animal skin provides then shelter.
To protect their bodies from extreme cold, the Eskimos wear a thick coat called parka and to keep their feet warm they wear boots made up of animal skin and fur. As there is minimal vegetation and crops do not grow at all. Therefore Inuit depends on upon fishing, walruses whales for food. Eating flesh keeps their bodies warm.
Dog sleds are the usual mode of transportation for the Eskimos while riding on the snow. Huskies pull these heavy sleds which are made up of animal skin and bones. To cross any water surface Inuits use kayaks or Umiaqs. To transport lesser number of people, kayaks are used as they are small vessels whereas umiaqs are used when many need to be carried.
Inuits means ‘the people’ and the language of ‘the people’ is Inuktitut. This community is unique and consists of diverse people. It operates on a communal system. They are firm believers of mythology and therefore their value system is based on myths and lore. Apart from this dance, socialization marriages, and storytelling play a significant role.
This tribe is found not only in the Arctic desert but Greenland, Russia with the names like Inupiat or Yupik respectively but their language, culture, norms, ethics, and values remain the same.