The curious little village of Shoyna is located in northern Russia on the edge of the arctic circle. Despite its cold temperature, it’s considered a desert, with sand stretching 10 kilometers along the coast of the White Sea.
Just A Little Fishing Village
What started as a quiet little fishing village in the 1930s blossomed into an impressive settlement consisting of 1,500 residents and a collective of over 70 fishing vessels by the 1950s. The once flourishing aquatic life began diminishing due to excessive trawling until the industry finally collapsed, dwindling the population as well.
The Fish Moved Out And The Sand Moved In
People began to leave the coastal town in droves, taking their families on to the next thriving fishing port. Not long after, the remaining residents began experiencing a strange natural phenomenon—sand dunes began invading the town. Slowly at first, the marine ecosystem was completely unbalanced due to overfishing. The ocean’s floor began shifting. Previously submerged sand dunes were migrating up towards the shore, causing Shoyna to sink.
The Townsfolk Are Buried Alive On A Regular Basis
Throughout the 1980’s sand began to creep up to the houses. Then in the early 1990’s it engulfed the town. The people of Shoyna fell asleep one night, only to wake up and find they had been buried alive. They looked out their windows and were greeted by slivers of sunlight peeking over a wall of sand. They had been swallowed by the ocean’s floor.
They Bulldoze Their Way Out Of The Sand
After digging themselves out they’d hoped the nightmare was over, but it wasn’t. The sand continues to swoop in while they sleep, settling over the village, and burying its inhabitants.
Many Families Chose To Stay Behind
Today, Shoyna is home to 300 people surviving on pensions, unemployment benefits, geese hunting, and the full-time job of digging houses out from beneath the nightly sand deposits.
The Town Had Yet Another Mass Exodus
The already small population suffered another exodus, leaving a graveyard of ships and crumbling houses in this partial ghost-town. Over half of the village remains covered by sand dunes.
A Simple Existence
Sadly there isn’t much of a job market or tourist industry to keep the town financially afloat. They haven’t even bothered to build any hotels or restaurants, and the town only has a couple of shops. The people of Shoyna wake up, dig themselves out of the dirt when necessary, and simply exist in their remote little corner of the world.
Daily Living With Sand Storms
The western winds carry the dunes along the coast so quickly, it can literally cover buildings in a single night. Residents have learned tricks around being barricaded indoors. At night they leave their door open, welcoming the sand inside, so at least they’ll be able to get out. This way of life renders most household chores pretty pointless. No need for extensive dusting or sweeping in the town of Shoyna.
The Only Way Out Is By Air Or Sea
The village has no need for paved roads or railroads. Any travel out of Shoyna is achieved by ship or plane from a modest airport with a 650-meter dirt runway. Not that the locals are looking to leave. Despite the difficult circumstances, the people of Shoyna are self-sufficient and proud of their off-grid lifestyle. These are families who have grown accustomed to the quirks of living here, with children that don’t know a different way of life. Conditions that seem unbearable to some, are simply the norm to others.
Restructuring The Town To Accommodate The Sand
Since the people of Shoyna aren’t going anywhere, many outsiders have stepped up to attempt to lighten the load for them. In recent years, an architect by the name of Jan Gunnar Skjeldsøy has been compiling the best architecture solutions for housing that could withstand the wind and sand in this region. Scientists and researchers have been trying to figure out how to stop this phenomenon completely, but have yet to succeed.