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Barrow is truly the land of the midnight sun. From mid-May until August the sun doesn't set. (Conversely, the sun disappears during the dead of winter from November through January—this is called the polar winter.) Despite the season's unending daylight, summertime temperatures can be brisk—you should even be prepared for snow flurries. Nevertheless, midsummer temperatures can occasionally reach the 60s and low 70s. Despite the region's abundant wetlands, Barrow—and the North Slope in general—has a desert climate, with annual precipitation averaging less than 10 inches.
Archaeological evidence from more than a dozen nearby ancient "dwelling mounds" suggests that people have inhabited this area for at least the past 1,500 years. A highlight of those mounds is Mound 44, where the 500-year-old frozen body of an Eskimo was discovered. Scientists have been studying her remains to learn more about Eskimo life and culture before encounters with outsiders. Described as members of the Birnirk culture, these early residents depended heavily on marine mammals, a tradition that continues to this day. Combining modern technology with traditional knowledge, Barrow's whaling crews annually hunt for the bowhead whales that migrate through Arctic waters each spring and fall. If the whalers are successful in their springtime hunts, they share muktuk—whale meat (to the uninitiated, it tastes kind of like really greasy tuna mixed with steak)—with other members of the village and celebrate their good fortune with a festival called Nalukataq. Besides whales, residents depend on harvests of seals, walrus, caribou, waterfowl, grayling, and whitefish.