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Population: 210 (85 percent Inupiaq Eskimo).
Travel Attractions: Arctic coast, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, polar bears, native culture, subsistence whalers.
Getting There: Charter air from Deadhorse, Barrow, Fairbanks, and others; coastal access via boat; winter access via snowmachine.
Information: City of Kaktovik, P.O. Box 27, Kaktovik, AK 99747, 640-6313.
Few people ever visit the only permanent settlement on the North Slope portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Until the late nineteenth century, Kaktovik (the Eskimo word for "Barter Island") was a trade center for natives from Alaska and Canada. During the Cold War, the U.S. military maintained a listening and communications station here, the remnant structures of which are still in place.
The Arctic Slope Regional Corporation receives an allotment of permits for subsistence whaling in the Arctic Ocean and one or two whales are usually killed by Kaktovik hunters in September. A collection of bleached whale bones decorates the beach near the airstrip. Polar bears occasionally come ashore from the pack ice, attracted by the scents of whale, fish, caribou, and other edibles.
As in some other remote villages, non-native visitors are received awkwardly, though rarely with hostility. It is best to be respectful with regards to touring and photographing. Kaktovik is an interesting place to visit when flying in and around ANWR.
Where to Stay and Eat in Kaktovik
Waldo Arms, 640-6513. This is the only place in town and is most often home to construction workers and other intrepid types. Great company, solid food, classic atmosphere! $150, meals included, laundry available. Call for flight/stay packages.