Barrow (Inupiaq Utqiaġvik or Ukpiaġvik) is the largest city of the North Slope Borough in the U.S. state of Alaska and is located above the Arctic Circle. It is the 10th northernmost city in the world and is the northernmost city in the United States of America, with nearby Point Barrow being the nation's northernmost point.
Archaeological sites in the area indicate the Inupiat lived around Barrow as far back as AD 500. Some remains of 16 sod dwelling mounds from the Birnirk culture of about AD 800 are still in evidence today on the shore of the Arctic Ocean. Their position on a slight rise above the high-water mark places them in danger of being lost to erosion within a short time.
Dr. Bill Streever, who chairs the North Slope Science Initiative's Science Technical Advisory Panel, writes in his 2009 book Cold: Adventures in the World’s Frozen Places:
British Royal Navy officers came to the area to explore and map the Arctic coastline of North America. The United States Army established a meteorological and magnetic research station at Barrow in 1881. The Cape Smythe Whaling and Trading Station was established in 1893.
In 1935 the famous humorist Will Rogers and pilot Wiley Post made an unplanned stop at Walakpa Bay south of Barrow while en route to Barrow. As they took off again, their plane stalled and plunged into a river, killing them both. Two memorials have been erected at the location, now called the Rogers-Post Site. Another memorial is located in Barrow, where the airport has been renamed the Wiley Post–Will Rogers Memorial Airport.
Barrow was incorporated as a 1st Class City in 1958.
Residents of the North Slope cast the lone vote in opposition to passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, which passed in December 1971. The Ukpeaġvik Iñupiat Corporation (UIC), a for-profit village corporation, was set up by the Inupiat as a result of the act. It gives the Inupiat shares in development.
In 1972, the North Slope Borough was established. With millions of dollars in new revenues from the settlement and later oil revenues, the borough has created sanitation facilities, water and electrical utilities, roads, fire departments, and health and educational services in Barrow and the villages of the North Slope.
In 1986, the North Slope Borough created the North Slope Higher Education Center. Renamed Ilisagvik College, it has developed as an accredited two-year college dedicated to providing an education based on the Inupiat culture and the needs of the North Slope Borough.
The Tuzzy Consortium Library, in the Inupiat Heritage Center, serves the communities of the North Slope Borough and functions as the academic library for Ilisagvik College. The library was named after Evelyn Tuzroyluk Higbee, an important leader in the community.
In 1988, Barrow became the center of a worldwide media attention when three California Gray Whales became trapped in the ice offshore. After a two week rescue effort (Operation Breakthrough), two of the whales were ultimately freed by a Soviet icebreaker. Journalist Tom Rose details the rescue, and the media frenzy which accompanied it, in his 1989 book Freeing The Whales. The movie Big Miracle is based on the rescue and aired in February 2012.
The city derived its name from Point Barrow, which was named by Frederick William Beechey in 1825 after Sir John Barrow of the British Admiralty. The location has been home to Native Inupiat Eskimo people for over 15,000 years and is called Ukpeagvik, or "place where snowy owls are hunted", in Inupiaq.