Clouds roiled on the horizon, saturated and spitting as six of us waited in the sterile anteroom of the Northern Alaska Tour Company’s aviation office in Fairbanks. A giant map of the state hung on the wall, and my gaze returned to it repeatedly. There we were, landlocked in Alaska’s center. Further north, beyond the massive Yukon River valley, was Deadhorse, an oil town at the mouth of Prudhoe Bay. East of Deadhorse, cleaving to the landmass below it and perched on the blue Beaufort Sea, was our destination: Kaktovik, the only occupied village in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Here, polar bears converge every fall, waiting for sea ice to form so they can head out and live adrift throughout the winter.