January 01, 2019


Yakuts work in the bitter Siberian cold to harvest ice from a lake near the Oy River. Maria Antonova

If you live on ice, where does your water come from?

The answer is easy, right? The people of Yakutia – a Russian region so huge it would be the eighth largest country if it were an independent state – have been harvesting and drinking ice for centuries. Even in an era when the entire republic (the Sakha Republic is another name for Yakutia) is connected on WhatsApp and has a thriving movie industry, “ice water” is still popular, even in the main city of Yakutsk, home to nearly 300,000.

Every November Yakut villagers team up to harvest ice for residents’ drinking water. One family may send an able-bodied young man to help, another might have a truck, the third provides some money for gas… The team will then head out to a designated lake and set to work.

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