The Arctic This Week 2013:27
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Reads of the Week
A thought-provoking article by Heather Exner-Pirot in Eye on the Arctic frames the political successes (what she calls “the exceptionality of Inuit diplomacy”) of Canada’s Inuit peoples relative to other aboriginal groups in Canada. Pointing out the many difficulties in the “all too-recent histories” of Aboriginal-Canadian relations, in which First Nations were seen as “warriors and savages” while Inuit were allotted “patronizing benevolence,” Ms. Exner-Pirot’s piece adds an additional dimension to recent debates about Ottawa’s relationship with indigenous Canadians.
In energy, there are two particularly good reads this week, both of which focus on the future of Shell’s endeavors in the Arctic. In the first, Margaret Kriz Hobson explores how industry is continuing to move forward with Arctic energy exploration in other regions while the various players in the US absorb the lessons of Shell’s problems and plot the way forward (E&E News). And in the second, Nick Butler takes the opportunity to congratulate Shell’s new CEO Ben van Beurden on his new position. Butler spells out the three greatest challenges the new CEO will face at Shell, the most pressing of which seem to be (1) straightening out its Alaska exploration program and (2) explaining to investors why exactly it is necessary for Shell to be there in the first place (FT).
In mining, see this short article by Kenn Harper that recalls the fascinating attempt, early in the 1970s in Nunavut, to find a proper name for a new mine. The vignette highlights the challenges of communicating across languages and cultures (NN).
And in sports, The World Eskimo-Indian Olympics were held in Fairbanks this week. See this article and video in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner on one of the more unusual events, the ear pull. Kudos to the competitors, that looks incredibly painful! Does anyone ever lose an ear doing this?
Mia Bennett’s latest post in Foreign Policy Blogs (“The Shard Protest: Six against Four Million”) addresses the media’s “binary depiction of Arctic drilling.” By juxtaposing (1) the great wave of international media attention generated by the scaling of a London skyscraper by six Greenpeace protestors demanding an end to Arctic drilling against (2) the minimal attention that last year’s protests against high food prices in Nunavut received, Bennett argues that Greenpeace’s “unilateral declarations” overlook “the difficult economic realities of life in the Arctic.”
As ice gradually recedes and thins, cruise tourism begins to seem more feasible in the Arctic. But a wonderful piece from C.B. Bernard in the Huffington Post reminds us that Arctic travel should not be taken any more lightly today than it was in 1916, when his ancestor Captain Peter Bernard died in the High North as a member of the Canadian Arctic Expedition. That expedition is the subject of another Read of the Week, this time from Dugald McConnell via CNN. McConnell also had a grandfather who took part in the Canadian Arctic Expedition, and chronicles the adventure and tragedy based on direct accounts of participants.
And I was surprised to discover an organization that is new to me, though it has existed for quite a while. The World Reindeer Herder’s Congress is coming up in China, and the organization itself is a fascinating confederation of reindeer-herding peoples from around the globe. Learn about it here, if it’s new to you.
The Political Scene
On July 15, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced a major cabinet shuffle (National Post). As part of the shuffle, Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq shifts portfolios, dropping health and taking on environment (CBC). She retained responsibility for the Arctic Council and the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (NN). While her absence on the Prime Minister’s priorities and planning committee and the cabinet committee on economic policy (which deals with the environment and sustainable development) may limit her sway in government (G&M), Ms. Aglukkaq comes to her new post at a critical juncture. Abroad, the Harper government hopes to persuade U.S. President Barack Obama to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, while domestically, Ms. Aglukkaq must work with environmental groups and aboriginal communities in order to advance development projects such as the Northern Gateway pipeline which could have adverse environmental impacts (G&M). Causing quite a bit of controversy, media outlets in Ottawa received word the day of the shuffle that the prime minister’s office had contacted ministerial aides earlier in the month to “develop lists of troublesome bureaucrats” to be distributed to the incoming ministers and their staffs (National Post). It is unclear just yet whether these “enemy lists” were in fact created and given to the new ministers following the shuffle.
July 15 also marked the opening of the 32nd session of the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental shelf (VOR). This marked a “critical new phase” for Canada, whose Arctic continental shelf submission has shifted from the hands of geoscientist Jacob Verhoef to international lawyers in the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (OC). Since Canada’s submission to the Commission is due this December (Vancouver Sun), initiating this legal phase brings Canada closer to claiming jurisdiction over territory (said to equal the size of the Prairies) beyond its 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (3Ds Blog).
The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) held its annual meeting this week (CBC). While over 200 chiefs gathered in Whitehorse for the meeting, chiefs from Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba remained at the National Treaty Gathering in Onion Lake, Saskatchewan. Last month, Grand Chief Derek Nepinak of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs proposed the creation of an alternative, rival association to the AFN to be called the National Treaty Alliance. National Chief for the Assembly of First Nations Shawn Atleo urged Canadian First Nations to stick together, maintaining that this friction was “part of that increased energy that’s occurring right across the country, recognizing that the current status quo doesn’t work” (CBC). The Idle No More movement (which began in December and whose title has now been filed with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office) and continued dissatisfaction over the Dehcho Process (CBC) are recent manifestations of this energy, which Chief Atleo described as a “perpetual state of crisis” for Canada’s First Nations.
A thought-provoking article by Heather Exner-Pirot in Eye on the Arctic frames the political successes (what she calls “the exceptionality of Inuit diplomacy”) of Canada’s Inuit peoples relative to other aboriginal groups in Canada, and First Nations in particular. She points to “all too-recent histories” of Aboriginal-Canadian relations, in which First Nations were described as “warriors and savages,” while Inuit were treated with “patronizing benevolence.” Yet Inuit are not without their political struggles. The government of Nunatsiavut, for example, is bringing a case against the provincial government of Newfoundland and Labrador before the Supreme Court for blocking a land-use plan for Inuit settlement areas in northern Labrador (EOTA). The Iron Strand region, designated for traditional uses under the plan, is an area of particular interest for the province, given Freeport Resources Inc.’s 2011 estimate that the region likely contains 1.25 million tons of high-quality garnet. Ottawa’s challenges when it comes to Indigenous-Canadian relations may be significant, including striking a balance between environmental protection and indigenous rights in the Species at Risk Act (NN) and engaging with northerners to ensure adequate housing, health services, and infrastructure during Harper’s annual summer visit to the North (CBC), but these challenges must be met with delicacy if Ottawa hopes to claim the kind of “political acumen” (as Ms. Exner-Pirot calls it) Canada’s Inuit have developed.
The report from “The Relationship Revisited,” a workshop held at the University of Calgary’s Center for Military and Strategic Studies in April on the topic of Russian-Canadian relations in the Arctic, was published this week and is available via the Walter & Gordon Duncan Foundation.
Speaking at the 5th Symposium on the Impacts of an Ice-Diminishing Arctic on Naval and Maritime Operations, Senator Mark Begich urged Washington to increase its efforts to support development in the Arctic (office of the Senator). Begich, who ended last quarter with USD 2 million available for his re-election campaign next year (ADN), will be challenged by Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell, who delivered the keynote address at the conference (BBT). Treadwell reported raising USD 170,000 in May and June. Begich’s Republican counterpart in the Senate, Lisa Murkowski, advanced Alaskan and Arctic priorities as part of her work on the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Committee (office of the Senator). Murkowski also delivered an address at the symposium, which is available online via the Senator’s press office.
On Sunday the 15th, the Alaska Redistributing Board unanimously approved its final redistricting plan (FDNM). If the plan is approved in court, the board’s work could end a lengthy process that included a legal battle over representation of part of the Fairbanks region. The new plan associates the communities of Ester and Goldstream with a Fairbanks district rather than a more rural one extending to the Bering Sea.
Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson visited Brussels for the first time since taking office in May. The euro-skeptic prime minister stated that the decision to proceed with or reject Iceland’s bid to enter the European Union could only be taken after a referendum (AIR, in Russian). While European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso maintained that the decision to open membership talks is “still valid,” he noted that “the clock is ticking” for Iceland (EU Observer).
Reykjavik’s mayor Jón Gnarr submitted a proposal to terminate relations between Reykjavik and Moscow following a new law signed last month by President Putin that bans “homosexual propaganda” (IceNews). To terminate relations or amend the existing agreement between the two cities, the proposal would have to be approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement this week applauding the “good neighborly relations and international cooperation” that it shares with its northern neighbors. Cross-border (namely Norwegian-Russian), Barents, and Arctic Council cooperation and educational exchange were highlighted in the release.
An article published by Dr. Lassi Heininen, Dr. Alexander Sergunin, and Gleb Yarovoy (all laureates of the Valdai Club Foundation Grant Program,) titled “New Russian Arctic Doctrine: From Idealism to Realism?” explores Russia’s recently updated strategy for its Arctic region. The article’s authors draw a comparison between the 2013 strategy and the Basic Principles of the State Policy of the Russian Federation in the Arctic up to 2020, finding the newer document more “realistic,” detailed, and environmentally focused than the 2008 principles. Their commentary concludes by dubbing the new strategy a “good starting point for further discussions” which must be furthered by introducing specified federal laws, regulations and programs pertaining to the Arctic region.
Mia Bennett’s latest post in Foreign Policy Blogs (“The Shard Protest: Six against Four Million”) addresses the media’s “binary depiction of Arctic drilling.” By juxtaposing (1) the wave of international media attention generated by the scaling of a London skyscraper by six Greenpeace protestors demanding an end to Arctic drilling and (2) similar attention generated by last year’s protests against high food prices in Nunavut (to wit: not much), Bennett argues that Greenpeace’s “unilateral declarations” overlook “the difficult economic realities of life in the Arctic.”
Shyam Saran, Chairman of India’s National Security Advisory Board and former Foreign Secretary, published an article in this week on “India’s date with the Arctic” (the Hindu). He urges India to steer clear of the Arctic “gold rush,” or else “India’s credentials as a responsible member of the international community and as a champion of the principle of equitable burden-sharing and inter-generational equity would become deeply suspect.” China’s interests in the Arctic, on the other hand, are discussed in the most recent issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s China Brief, and judged to be free from any pretense of leveraging diplomatic clout to promote environmental conservation. The article focuses on the significance of China’s recent admittance to the Arctic Council as an observer state. Given China’s interest in the Arctic, and in Greenland in particular, Damien Degeorges advises Greenland to seek to enhance ties to Europe and the United States in order to “balance influences and ensure a more secure development of Greenland on the long term” (EurActiv).
The European Union Institute for Strategic Studies published a new brief – The Wider North: Opportunities and Challenges, written by Costanza Caputi. The four-page brief looks at the players, strategies and governance in the Arctic, the tension between exploiting and preserving the region, and the emerging role of the EU as an Arctic actor.
The current Governor of Jämtland, Sweden, Britt Bohlin, will become Secretary General of the Nordic Council beginning in January of 2013 (Arctic Portal).
There’s no doubt that Shell’s disastrous drilling season in the Arctic threw cold water on the industry’s overall enthusiasm for Arctic exploration. But with new leases being offered and quickly snapped up in the Russian and Norwegian Arctic, Margaret Kriz Hobson explores how industry is continuing to move forward with Arctic energy exploration in other regions while the various players in the US absorb the lessons of Shell’s problems and plot the way forward (E&E News). The North American Marine Environment Protection Association (NAMEPA), for one, is still planning on oil exploration in Alaska’s Arctic. The Association will be hosting a roundtable on drilling preparedness in the Arctic in Anchorage on 8 August (MarineLink). While we have Shell on the mind, we should mention Nick Butler’s congratulatory post to new Shell CEO Ben van Beurden. Butler takes the opportunity to describe the three greatest challenges the new CEO will face at Shell, the most pressing of seem to be (1) straightening out its Alaska exploration program and (2) explaining to investors why exactly it is necessary for Shell to be there in the first place (FT).
Andrew Jensen seems rather exercised over Interior Secretary Sally Jewell’s response to Alaska Governor Sean Parnell’s proposal to use state dollars to finance an oil exploration campaign in section 1002 of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Wade through Jensen’s obvious displeasure, and you’ll see Jensen argue that the Obama administration is trying to hide behind some fairly flimsy interpretations of the law in its opposition to Parnell’s proposal (AJC).
There was another skirmish this week in the long battle between the owners of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) and a variety of Alaska municipalities over valuation and taxation of the 800-mile oil pipeline. TAPS owners, including BP, ConocoPhillips, and Exxon Mobil, are suing Alaskan municipalities that, they say, overvalued the pipeline by over 80% in 2011, leading to an inflated tax bill (AD).
The Department of Energy released a report this week on the impacts of climate change on the country’s energy supplies and infrastructure. A full copy of the report can be found here. If you don’t have time to dig into the full report, do check out this nice interactive map that highlights some the report’s significant findings.
A great article by Sean Doogan in Alaska Dispatch this week tells the sad saga of the Healy Clean Coal Project power plant in Healy, Alaska. A cutting-edge plant when it was built in the 1990s, the plant has sat idle since construction due to technical, regulatory and pricing issues. There is light at the end of the tunnel, though; if new emissions regulations can be met, the Golden Valley Electrical Association of Fairbanks will be purchasing the plant and putting it into operation.
The Alaska Energy Authority has made USD 900,000 in grant funding available for small communities across the state to implement energy efficiency and conservation projects to help lower energy costs (ABM).
The Governor of the Nenets Autonomous Okrug announced his hopes that the region will increase its oil production to over 15 million tons annually by 2017. The region produced 13.4 million tons in 2012 (AIR – Russian). In Yakutia, public discussions will focus on the potential environmental impacts of oil exploration work in the Bulun and Anabarsky regions of Yakutia and in the adjacent Laptev Sea (AIR – Russian). Offshore, Rosneft is leading an expedition with the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute in the Kara Sea this July and August. The expedition will include ten ships installing weather stations and ice-monitoring equipment in anticipation of the beginning of exploratory drilling in the region next year (Dvina Inform – Russian). Rosneft is fairly optimistic about its prospects in Russia’s Far East and Arctic regions. CEO Igor Sechin said this week that he believes the company’s work in these areas will ultimately deliver over 14 billion tons of oil reserves (AIR – Russian).
President Putin took some time off from observing Russian military drills in the Far East to promote the development of the Sakhalin region into a world-class energy center (RBTH).
The Murmansk region is perilously close to running out of natural gas for consumers due to some supply problems (AIR – Russian).
Gazprom was awarded access to a suite of Arctic oil and gas licenses in the Barents and Kara Seas through a government decree last week (Oil and Gas Eurasia). This and other recent successes will do little to improve Gazprom’s prospects, analysts say. Gazprom’s problem is not lack of access to gas, but the atrophying demand of its main customer, Europe (RBTH). Meanwhile, Arctic Info (Russian) is reporting Russian state-owned mineral exploration company Rosgeologiya is locked out of Arctic exploration unless it works as a contractor for a different company that is certified to hold Arctic exploration licenses.
Siemens announced it has contracted to sell 6 natural gas fired generation turbines for a plant that will power the Yamal LNG project. Russian company Rustec is building the plant itself, and South Korean firm Daewoo is building 16 LNG tankers to transport Yamal LNG to market (MT, AIR – Russian). Industry representatives met with government and indigenous groups to discuss ways of preserving traditional livelihoods on the Yamal Peninsula as development of the LNG complex advances (AIR – Russian). And don’t forget that the export of Yamal’s gas by Novatek will require modifications to Gazprom’s gas export monopoly. Putin has indicated he supports loosening the monopoly, and this week deputy chairman of the State Duma Committee on Energy Paul Zavalny said that the Duma will work on legislation this year to make that happen (AIR – Russian).
The Russian Arctic National Park, located on the northern portion of Novaya Zemlya, has installed wind and solar generators to power their satellite communications system (AIR – Russian).
Statoil has gotten the green light to drill an exploration well one of its Barents Sea licenses next month, and two new oil spill clean-up depots will be built in the Norwegian towns of Hasvik and Måsøy in Finnmark to service Eni’s work in the Goliat field (Offshore). Thirty kilometers south of Statoil’s license, Lundin has spudded an exploration well in its licenses on the Gohta prospect (Upstream, GCaptain).
Norway’s Minister of Petroleum and Energy Ola Borten Moe, who happened to be on vacation this week, declined to weigh in concerning rumors that Statoil may move some jobs overseas to lower-cost locations (AB).
Plans to conduct seismic exploration along the East Coast of Baffin Island in Nunavut are in danger of being shelved by the National Energy Board, which ruled that the project’s leaders failed to respond to the concerns of three nearby communities about impacts of the testing on marine wildlife (NN).
Iceland is nearing completion of its efforts to set up a state oil association, and the island nation is seeking to continue the search for oil in its own offshore (Iceland Review).
Science, Environment & Wildlife
Ice and snow
Recently-published research in Nature Geoscience enjoins observers of melting ice to be careful with their conclusions, as the data we have is not yet adequate to support a firm conclusion that ice melt in Greenland and Antarctica is accelerating in a long-term sense, nor – though it may seem obvious – that ongoing melting is definitively due to climate change specifically (or not) (Guardian). Other research in PNAS (the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) takes on the idea of a largely ice-free Arctic, concluding that it is likely to be seen for the first time at some point between 2054 and 2058 (catalogued here in NRK, in Norwegian). A thoughtful and reasonable article from Jane Lee in National Geographic goes through the various elements of uncertainty that make such predictions difficult, while research from Geophysical Research Letters attempts to get a better handle on some of those elements with a complete tally of “all components of the energy budget of melting first-year sea ice”.
Whatever the true nature of, and reasons for, the ongoing pattern of melting ice in the Arctic may be, the Greenland ice sheet has showed a recent acceleration in its surface melt (Arctic Portal), and sea ice was melting at an unusually high clip over the first two weeks of July (NSIDC). Cecilia Blitz, writing for Polar Bears International, tries to strike a balance between relief and caution. On the one hand, this year’s current ice conditions are not as bad as last year’s; on the other, it’s still a lot lower than it used to be. And on land, northern Finland got some snow this week – even in mid-July (YLE)!
The most dramatic evidence of thinning sea ice so far this year has been the evacuation of Russian floating research station North Pole-40. The final tally of the cost of that emergency evacuation appears to be approximately USD 2 million or RUB 65.6 million (RIAN). The researchers taken off the floating platform will continue their research on land in the Severnaya Zemlya archipelago (AIR, in Russian). All the staff and scientists involved received an award for their work and resourcefulness from RosHydromet, Russia’s Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring (AIR, in Russian).
Heat and fire
The city of Fairbanks, Alaska is shaking its head as it looks at all the various heat records it has matched or broken this summer (FDNM), and the Yamal region in Russia has also been struck with unusually hot weather, including temperatures up to and above 30 C (86 F) (AIR, in Russian). Fires meanwhile continue to rage in North America, including the massive Eastmain fire in Quebec, which had grown to cover more than 1,500,000 acres in recent days. Smoke from the fire has been identified in the atmosphere over Greenland and Scandinavia, and soot from it was found on the Greenland ice sheet (wunderground.com). NASA satellite imagery also identified three large fires burning merrily away in Yukon; the territory has 86 fires total burning as of 15 July (CBC). Even in Greenland, a small fire (200m x 200m) sent smoke billowing into a nearby town (KNR, in Danish).
Flora and fauna
The end of the Permian Period was marked by what is known as the “Great Dying”, a mass extinction of proportions unseen elsewhere in the fossil record. Recently-acquired evidence from Axel Heiberg Island and Ellesmere Island seems to indicate that the extinction was the result of a complex combination of factors, some the result of a massive series of eruptions in Siberian volcanoes – the eruptions that spawned the Siberian Traps (Vancouver Sun).Other research into the planet’s past indicates that musk oxen were still living in Siberia as recently as 6,000-7,000 years ago, much later than previously thought (AIR, in Russian). Also on the ancient-animal front, scientists are off to the northwestern reaches of Yakutia in search of further woolly mammoth remains (Siberian Times). And archaeologists working in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug have uncovered further medieval human relics at a site near Zeleni-Yar (AIR, in Russian).
Moving to the present-day, the population of Baffin Island caribou has dropped precipitously in the recent past, and officials are gathering to discuss potential mitigation plans (NN). They are apparently avoiding words like “quota” at this point.
In Barrow, Alaska, a “stink whale” came ashore of its own accord six days after being struck by local hunters. While the whale’s fragrance after six days underwater was apparently more than a little objectionable, the frigid Arctic Ocean kept the outer layers of meat and blubber quite edible, and the whale was accordingly butchered (EOTA). It’s an important “catch” for the region, as whale-hunting has not been that good this year. In the waters off Chukotka, about 10% of whales caught in recent years have had an unpleasant odor to their meat that has rendered them inedible. Hunters have been asked to collect and submit tissue samples of any such whales that they collect, as the phenomenon is a mystery and possibly the sign of some serious illness (AIR, in Russian).
On the avian front, the US Geological Survey has been doing research into “Western Alaska’s role as an international crossroads for migratory birds and how those birds transmit avian flu viruses between each other” (audio story from Alaska Public Media), while nearby in Yukon it appears that the population of kestrels is in steep decline (CBC). The birds’ position as apex predators means that their decline may indicate problems further down the food chain as well.
Now to things with claws and fangs: The town of Ny-Ålesund on Svalbard was surprised to receive its first visit ever from a polar bear cub (with mom) earlier this week (Norwegian Polar Institute, in Norwegian), and northern Finland has decided to permit the exceptional hunting of wolverines due to the perception that they are taking unacceptably large numbers of reindeer from local herds (LK, in Finnish).
Now to the least romantic creatures in the Arctic ecosystem. So-called “murder slugs” – considered a pest practically all over Europe – have apparently begun to invade Northern Sweden (EOTA). The vile-looking and threateningly-named snow scorpionfly discovered in Southeast Alaska by a graduate student is apparently a new species, and only the second known in its genus Caurinus. A little further Googling led to the news that it was identified as a new species quickly thanks in part to a community of fellow scientists who checked out the photos on Facebook (sci-news.com). The mosquitoes that dine on scientists in Alaska are just…horrifying. It’s like a horror movie. (Alaska Dispatch, scroll down for video). And frighteningly, it appears that Brazilian elodea, a rapidly-spreading invasive aquatic plant, has been appearing in Alaskan waters (CBC).
Expeditions & research blogs
It’s great to see this year’s Students On Ice program getting started. Check out the video from the crew’s arrival in Greenland, get a brief report on their route thus far (KNR, in Danish), and follow the expedition on their own website.
Students On Ice is just one of the many ongoing research missions that’s taking the trouble to share their activities with the public in semi-real-time. A birding expedition tracking Red Knots in the Canadian Arctic that I’ve been following with great pleasure drew to a close this week (Conserve Wildlife Blog), while the Page21 team continued its research on permafrost degradation in Siberia and on Herschel Island with one post on a beautiful hike, another on an expedition to Pleistocene Park, and a debrief on permafrost slumps on Herschel Island. Again, it’s great to read about the practical problem-solving that is part of such research. If this kind of thing is your bag, you’ll also want to read a quick recent post from the Arctic Research blog and a longer one on marine science in the waters around Svalbard.
In Russia, several expeditions are underway at the moment, including one collecting scrap metal from Arctic islands (AIR, in Russian), another doing environmental monitoring in the Barents (AIR, in Russian), a similar mission covering the White, Barents & Kara Seas (AIR, in Russian), and a fourth studying the continental shelf in Russia’s Eastern Arctic (AIR, in Russian). Scientists from San Diego State University are taking part in one of these expeditions, though I am not clear on which expedition it might be.
A special mention is due to an op-ed piece in Alaska Dispatch responding pointedly to Mia Bennett’s piece questioning the value of the upcoming Canadian Arctic Expedition. I thought Ms. Bennett’s piece was very good, but the response also has some interesting and well-made points in it. I’d suggest reading both one after the other to get a sense of both sides.
Lastly, check out a cool video taken during the 2012 RUSALCA expedition, showing what a marine census in the Chukchi Sea is like, including a little footage of what a marine invertebrate “party” in a plastic tub. Clams, worms, crabs and sea stars all wriggling all over each other. In Canada, astronaut Jeremy Hansen’s field geology work is catalogued in an interesting article from Universe Today,
The Arctic News blog offers a catalog of the current state of Arctic sea ice as well as a warning about high methane readings in the atmosphere above the Kara Sea. / Gina McCarthy was confirmed by the Senate to lead the US Environmental Protection Agency (The Hill). / Nominations for the 2013-2014 APECS Executive Committee are now open! / Canada’s recent cabinet shuffle, placing Leona Aglukkaq as the country’s new environment minister, led perhaps unsurprisingly to commentary both for and against the decision (StarPhoenix). / This week’s cache of research added to the ASTIS database doubtless has many treasures to explore. / NOAA has recently added a great wealth of historical data on Arctic bodies of water collected by Soviet scientists from 1933 to 1962. / The ArcticNet annual scientific meeting is coming up in December in Halifax, Nova Scotia. / Representatives of Dene communities in the Northwest Territories are calling for reinstatement of protections for various waterways that were “unprotected” with the passage of a recent bill in Canada (Northern Journal). / The Stockholm Environment Institute is hiring! / The new edition of the WWF’s “The Circle” is out. / Alaska’s Mount Redoubt is the subject of new computational work that turns its inner rumblings into sounds within the human hearing range, thus making the mountain “sing” (Frontier Scientists).
Military / Search-&-Rescue
Senator Murkowski pushed a wide variety of provisions and funding levels through the Senate Appropriations Committee this week, including more funding for Coast Guard operations and an icebreaker project as well as fisheries disaster relief and tsunami-cleanup funding (office of the Senator). Senator Mark Begich also advocated for the Coast Guard this week, inserting provisions for increased Coast Guard activity into a subcommittee version of the Department of Homeland Security’s appropriations bill for the 2014 fiscal year (Cordova Times). The Coast Guard, which will be opening a seasonal forward operating location in Kotzebue, Alaska this year (Arctic Sounder), put out a multimedia release this week containing photos of its Arctic Domain Awareness flight above the Arctic Circle. The Air Station Kodiak HC-130 Hercules crew, along with scientists from NOAA and the University of Washington, conducted air and water measurements and flew over the USCGC Polar Star.
In Fairbanks this week, the Air Force hosted a public hearing concerning the proposed relocation of Eielson Air Force Base’s F-16 Aggressor Squadron to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (FDNM). Among those concerned about the relocation was Governor Sean Parnell, who pointed to Eielson’s strategic value.
Russia celebrated its naval aviation – of which there is ever more in the Arctic skies (AIR, in Russian) – on July 17. The holiday commemorated the 97th anniversary of the first aerial combat over the Baltic Sea, where four Russian planes succeeded in shooting down two German planes (AIR, in Russian).
Russia’s strategic missile submarine Bryansk returned to Murmansk this week after a three-month voyage (AIR, in Russian), while the Severodvinsk conducted sea trials (AIR, in Russian). Russia’s Pacific fleet also deployed six naval task forces in the Sea of Okhotsk as part of a large-scale combat readiness check, the third of its kind since January, reported RIA Novosti. 130 aircraft were also included in this “massive show of strength” in Siberia, which the Scotsman reported (perhaps a shade too eagerly) might be aimed at China and Japan.
As part of the Prime Minister’s cabinet restructuring, Peter McKay and Rob Nicholson will swap roles. McKay’s legacy as defense minister, the “tough decisions” ahead of Nicholson, and Canada’s “Arctic imperative” are discussed in a CBC article by Kelly E. Williams, Senior Director of Strategy and Government Relations at General Dynamics Canada. Nicholson assumes his new position just prior to next month’s Operation Nanook, Canada’s annual Arctic emergency response and law enforcement exercise (NN). The operation, along with Harper’s annual summer visit to the Arctic, which is scheduled for next month, will shine light on what Simon Kent considers a “simple truth”: “Canada is talking but not acting” on its Arctic ambitions (Toronto Sun). Another limitation for Canada, highlighted this week in an article in Defense News, is the logistical challenge of Arctic operations, which can be five to seven times more expensive than analogous operations in southern Canada.
An unarmed Russian Tupolev TU-154M conducted observation flights over Canadian airspace this week as part of the Open Skies Treaty (National Defense and the Canadian Forces).
In Sweden, defense authorities have been selling off Cold War-era military facilities (EOTA). The cavern fortifications and storage units are no longer necessary given Sweden’s shift to “mission-based” defense since 2004.
Plans are underway in the United Kingdom to open the Russian Arctic Convoy Museum to be based at Loch Ewe, in Scotland’s North West Highlands. With the support of the Imperial War Museum, the National Museum of Scotland, the National Maritime Museum and the Bremerhaven Submarine Museum, the museum is collecting artifacts and testimony from participants in the Arctic Campaign during the Second World War, and hopes to raise the GBP 3 million required to set up the museum (AIR, in Russian).
Local and federal authorities have granted approval to Fortune Minerals’ proposed gold, cobalt, bismuth and copper project near Whati, NWT, allowing the company to begin procuring water and land use rights (CBC).
In Yukon, better-than-expected silver output may not be able to keep Alexco Resources Corp. from shuttering its Bellekeno mine this winter due to declining metals prices (CBC). Elsewhere in Yukon, the Yukon Mining Incentives Program, a government program that helps supply capital for mineral exploration in the territory, will supply 50% of the funding for exploration activities at two different sites (CMJ).
See this short article by Kenn Harper that recalls the fascinating attempt, early in the 1970s in Nunavut, to find a proper name for a new mine. The vignette highlights the challenges of communicating across languages and cultures (NN).
Nunatsiaq News published a public letter from the Baker Lake Hunters and Trappers Organization in which the group raised several objections to the process of public consultation regarding the proposed Kiggavik uranium project. According to the group, the Nunavut Impact Review Board’s community roundtables were held at inconvenient times for residents and Areva employees and experts were allowed to dominate discussion, leading to a skewed impression of the community’s opinions on the project. To rectify these problems, the letter suggested holding a public vote to accurately poll the community’s residents on Areva’s proposal.
Canadian company North American Nickel secured licensing to additional areas adjacent to its current holdings near Maniitsoq. The company’s nickel and copper project area now covers over 5,000 km2 (CMJ).
True North Gems’ application for a ruby and sapphire mining project in Greenland has been moved forward to public consultations where local communities will be able to learn about the project and provide input (KNR – Danish).
Russian Platinum looks like it will succeed in getting the license for the potentially lucrative southern section of the Norilsk-1 nickel, copper, cobalt and platinum deposit on the Taimyr Peninsula (AIR – Russian).
Fishing, Shipping & Other Business News
Lead off with the latest piece from the outstanding Rachael Petersen. This time it’s an interview with Ryan Oliver, founder of Pinnguaq, on “digital technology uptake and gaming among the Inuit, the importance and power of play in indigenous language, and the strategy of crowd-sourcing translations.”
The ongoing mackerel wars heated up this week, with the announcement by the EU that it was preparing to impose sanctions on the Faroe Islands and Iceland in order to “encourage” the two countries to work towards mackerel quotas more satisfactory to the EU (epn.dk, in Danish). The Faroese responded by saying that they would seek other markets into which to sell their fish (epn.dk, in Danish). Iceland’s Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson expressed the view that the EU was unlikely to actually impose the threatened sanctions. He also defended Iceland’s quotas, and said the country was nonetheless ready to negotiate (IceNews).
Iceland has also rubbed the EU the wrong way with shipments of whale meat; one such shipment was sent back to the country from Germany this week (news24.com). Whalers in Norway are profiled in a BBC article as well, which gives some insight into what the actual process can be like, and who the commercial whalers of the Nordics are.
In Alaska, fishermen are doubtless glad to hear that relief funds to compensate for last year’s atrociously bad King salmon run have made it out of committee as part of the US’s latest Senate Appropriations bill. The provisions have still got to make it through the House and the Senate (Alaska Public Media). Meanwhile the Kenai River in Alaska welcomed an incredibly dense run of sockeye salmon this week, with the highest single-day total ever recorded (EOTA). The run brought Alaskans running to the river, but if the “blood-caked salmon slaughter along the Kenai” isn’t your bag, you could always follow Alaska Dispatch’s recommendation and head to nearby Big Lake instead for dipnetting success.
In Russia, new rules permitting fishermen in the Barents and White Seas to process their catch on board and dispose of the offal are being welcomed (AIR, in Russian), while in Chukotka salmon netting in the Anadyr estuary is underway (AIR, in Russian) and a new fish-processing plant may be in the works for the Yamal region (AIR, in Russian).
Much of the shipping news these days comes out of Russia, where the Northern Sea Route is seeing yearly growth in traffic. This week’s most-tweeted article was certainly a piece from Alaska Dispatch looking at the growth in traffic through the Bering Strait, much of it heading into or out of Russian Arctic waters, with only a comparatively small percent coming to or going from the North American Arctic. Perhaps most interesting to me was the detail, buried halfway down, that Coast Guard representatives track some adventure sailors through the Northwest Passage NOT via location beacons or any such thing, but by following their blog updates as they stop in communities along the way.
More than 300,000 tons of assorted cargo has already made its way along the Northern Sea Route to various ports (AIR, in Russian), assisted by several of Russia’s many icebreakers. At the same time, the decommissioning of legacy nuclear icebreaker Rossiya is underway (AIR, in Russian), while the military’s Vice-Admiral Kulakov is preparing to be part of a transatlantic convoy, having already visited ports in Norway, the UK and Portugal on its way down from Severomorsk (AIR, in Russian). Along the way, it likely passed the unfortunate Rainbow, a Norwegian ship that was held at the port of Murmansk for two weeks for illegally fishing in Russian waters. The captain of the Rainbow has now been fined RUB 340,000 (AIR, in Russian).
Elsewhere in the Arctic, Greenland is working on a deal with a Polish shipyard for five new ships for the Royal Arctic Line, a government-owned freight shipping company. The deal had originally been given to a German shipyard that later went bankrupt (KNR, in Danish). In Canada, Fisheries & Oceans has released and is marketing its Arctic Voyage Planning Guide as a key tool for mariners preparing to sail the country’s Arctic waters, while anecdotal observations in those waters suggest that receding and thinning ice is extending the local shipping season by weeks both at the front and the back end (NNSO). Easier conditions for boats are not, however, lowering prices for residents of northern Labrador, for whom the cost of shipping goods aboard one of the regular vessels has just jumped markedly (CBC).
Other business and economic news
The Pacific NorthWest Economic Region (PNWER) conference in Alaska occasioned several thoughtful pieces on the economic status of the Arctic as a whole. I wasn’t there, but if Alaska Dispatch reports accurately on the content of the meeting, it seems that the “race for the Arctic” narrative was very much in evidence, with many expressing concern that the North American Arctic is losing ground to “competitors” like Russia or Norway. To this observer, however, it seems that the problems ascribed to the economic-development climate in North America are not so very different from those that characterize other Arctic countries. Premier McLeod (of the NWT) highlighted his territory’s subsoil riches as drivers of the global economy (speech text here from the GNWT), while Minister David Ramsay complemented that message with “supporting details” on recent political developments in the Canadian North (speech text here from the GNWT). Minister Ramsay also generously pointed out Alaska’s outsized presence on the American reality-television scene.
Staying briefly within North America, a piece from the Washington Post (I think it’s old, but it’s worth a look anyway) examines Alaska Native Corporations, looking in particular at how they serve their shareholders and how they get their contracts filled. And in Whitehorse, Yukon, the city and territorial governments have signed an agreement to work together to promote tourism in the city (YN).
Working our way eastward around the Circle, Statistics Greenland announced that the unemployment rate in the island’s population centers had remained constant from last year (KNR, in Danish). Across the Denmark Strait in Iceland, the country’s central bank has moved all of its banknotes to Reykjavik and has closed its last vault outside the capital (IceNews). The business climate for businesses that depend on imports appears to be extremely difficult in Iceland, too – even McDonald’s has decided that it is unable to hack it in the island nation (BBC). I can’t remember the last time I heard about McDonald’s pulling out of a country.
Next we look briefly to Finland, where the upcoming LuostoClassic Business Forum will bring companies from northern Finland together to discuss opportunities ahead in the northern Nordics (LK, in Finnish). Finns’ attention is not devoted solely to their own region, however; a Finnish cruise-tour company is preparing to offer Russian Arctic cruises as well (AIR, in Russian). Cruising in the Arctic, however, is not a day at the park, as we are reminded with sensitivity, style and a personal touch in an excellent piece from C. B. Bernard in the Huffington Post.
Now to Russia, where a competition for outstanding business ideas in the Yamal carries a prize of up to RUB 1 million (AIR, in Russian), while the government of the Nenets Autonomous Okrug has dumped RUB 2.5 million into six projects helping to develop the tourist industry in the region (AIR, in Russian). The governor of Chukotka is meanwhile pushing for better customs processing to make transiting the Northern Sea Route more appealing (AIR, in Russian).
Finally to China, where a massive get-together of the world’s reindeer-herding peoples will take place shortly in the city of Genhe. Did you know there was reindeer-herding in China? I did not. A little bit of snooping about on the organization’s website reindeerherding.org makes it look like this is a pretty cool thing.
Health, Education, Culture & Society
At its annual meeting in Whitehorse, the Assembly of First Nations unanimously passed an emergency resolution condemning nutritional experiments done on over 1,300 aboriginal people – most of them malnourished children at residential schools – in the 1940s and 50s (CBC). Recently published research by food historian Ian Mosby shed light on the experiments, which CBC news called “one of the least known but perhaps most disturbing aspects of government policy” following the Second World War. A statement released by Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt’s office also condemned the experiments, stating: “If this story is true, it is abhorrent and completely unacceptable.” Mosby’s report, which he called “the hardest thing I’ve ever written” (Maclean’s), in conjunction with a piece by Michael Johansen on Hebron houses in Labrador (the Telegram), paint an awfully sobering picture of life for Canada’s aboriginal peoples in the 1950s.
Record high waters and temperatures in the Athabasca River appear to have caused an algae bloom that, once the blooms died, released an oily sheen that was first was believed to be an oil spill (Alberta Venture). While an oil-free Athabasca is welcome news, the algae bloom has raised concerns over the effectiveness of Alberta’s water monitoring system and the seemingly unprecedented appearance of the algae.
Anchorage Daily News, looking at alcohol abuse across Alaska in the twenty-five years since its Pulitzer Prize-winning series “A People in Peril,” announced its plans to assign a reporter and a photographer to spend the next year examining and documenting the continuing consequences of alcohol abuse in the state. Given the Government of the Northwest Territories’ announcement that it will not renew the contract for its only addiction-treatment facility (AD), and the near-demise of the 23-year-old Kamatsiaqtut Help Line, which provides counseling to distressed persons in Northern Canada (NN), increasing awareness of the “societal costs” of alcohol, substance and other forms of abuse, in Alaska and elsewhere, may be one way of fostering effective solutions and encouraging new options for treatment and recovery in Northern communities.
Following the meeting of the Council for Ministers of Education in Iqaluit last month, Jackson Lafferty, Minister of Education, Culture and Employment for the Northwest Territories, will assume the lead role for improving aboriginal education in Canada (Gov’t of the Northwest Territories). Minister Lafferty, currently working to overhaul the education system in the Northwest Territories (CBC), hopes to create a work plan that will improve the educational successes of aboriginal peoples across Canada. Part of this effort, according to Mary Simon, president of the National Committee on Inuit Education, is getting parents interested and involved in their children’s education (KNR, in Danish).
In Greenland, meeting the educational needs of the population is also a concern. Nuuk, although innovative in its combination of skateboarding and school projects (KNR, in Danish), lacks housing for students, who often wait over a year before obtaining housing or are forced to take jobs that provide housing instead of going to school (KNR, in Danish).
The Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program (ANSEP) was awarded a five million dollar grant from the Rasmuson Foundation. The grant, the largest ANSEP has received to date, will help the program further its work “transforming the education and economic opportunities for Alaska Natives and other students across Alaska.”
Society & Culture
An Art21 Exclusive episode on sculptor Maya Lin’s series “Disappearing Bodies of Water” features her marble sculptures, which offer a spatial representation of the gradual changes in the environment, including one depicting the disappearance of Arctic sea ice. Toronto-native-turned-Iqaluit-resident Jonathan Wright is also using new technologies to further his art form. The illustrator used Photoshop to create illustrations for the Arctic fairy tale Ava and the Little Folk, published with the Iqaluit-based Inhabit Media (NN). From fairy tales to video games in Inuktitut (Rising Voices) to electronic music festivals in Yellowknife next weekend (NNSO), culture is certainly on display in Canada’s North, while in Alaska, endless sunlight gives Arctic gardening a short but sweet season, and Yupik-speaking Miss Arctic Circle Lydia Cagluaq Agnus hopes to keep Inupiaq culture alive in Kotzebue (Arctic Sounder). You can find Seth Kantner’s “Three life lessons for Arctic gardeners” via the Anchorage Daily News.
A District Council of Indigenous Peoples, which seeks to protect the interests of indigenous peoples in the region, will be established in Chukotka, with Chukotka Governor Roman Kopin serving as its head (AIR, in Russian). / Despite the trend of increasing Russian immigration to Finland, Finland’s Justice Minister Anna-Maja Henriksson maintained that there is no need to amend Finland’s legislation and grant Russian the status of an official language, as the country has done for Swedish (EOTA). / Rankin Inlet’s Kivalliq Arctic Foods recently purchased a 14,000-pound catch of Arctic char from the Baffin region, enabling it to supply Nunavut with premium fillets and traditionally-prepared pipsi, which have been in high demand (NN).
The most fantastical idea to emerge on the infrastructure front this week was a suggestion that a 7-km bridge connecting Sakhalin Island to the Russian mainland be constructed (RBTH). It would connect Russia’s rail network with Pacific ports on the eastern shore of Sakhalin. I’m a fan of construction projects like this, so let me share with you some related links from Wikipedia. The Sakhalin Tunnel, which would have served the same purpose as the proposed bridge, was begun back in the Soviet Era but abandoned long before completion. The suggestion of a bridge to complete the mainland-to-Sakhalin connection has been in the offing since 2009. Also proposed in 2009 was a tunnel or bridge link between Sakhalin’s southern tip and the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. I cannot imagine the economics of that working out at all; perhaps in the future.
Russia is also busily at work on a bridge over the Nadim River, intended in part to carry products from eastern oil & gas projects to the West (AIR, in Russian). Canada is meanwhile licking its wounds following the Lac-Mégantic disaster; its largest railway operators are revamping operating rules to prevent something like that from happening in the country again (Reuters). Elsewhere in Canada, forest fires are forcing partial closure of some important highways (CBC), while in Alaska the Northern Alaska Environmental Center has expressed concern about gravel extraction that it sees going on near to the Dalton Highway (EOTA).
When it comes to air travel, if you’re interested in the Iqaluit airport project, you might want to check out the original RFQ for the project (June 2012) as well as a note from the Nunavut Impact Review Board (May 2012) explaining that the project is exempt from screening by the NIRB. Also in Canada, Porter Airlines has struck an agreement with Icelandair to code-share routes between Canada and Europe (EOTA).
In Greenland, there’s clearly not enough money going around to invest in Air Greenland to deliver the kind of service that most would like to see. SAS has been trying to sell its stake in Air Greenland, but has found no buyers at the price it is willing to accept. This is a source of tension between the current Greenlandic government and SAS itself (KNR 1 and KNR 2, both in Danish). SAS seems to feel that there isn’t adequate assurance that it will be able to recoup the costs of investment in additional aircraft.
And in Russia, airmail will soon be delivered regularly even to the Arctic regions of Yakutia (AIR, in Russian). Anchorage-to-Kamchatka flights by Yakutia Airlines will be available this summer for humans, as well (AIR, in Russian).
Other infrastructure news
The rest of this week’s infrastructure news fits into no tidy pile, thus here it is as a simple collection.
The process by which information is transmitted from the far North of Canada to more hospitable latitudes is fascinating, as laid out in this article from Skies Magazine. / Iqaluit may (may) get 3G cell service this fall – let us see (CBC). / The city of Rjukan in Norway has installed heliostats – large mirrors – to bring sunlight to the town in winter, where it otherwise does not fall from September through March (!!) (AIR, in Russian). / Iqaluit is planning a new waste-disposal and composting facility, though the location of it is still a matter of some debate (NN). / Murmansk has started a cool project to set up scannable QR codes at significant locations around the city, helping residents and tourists to get to know the city’s history better (AIR, in Russian). / This week word of Russia’s proposed floating nuclear plants spread to Popular Mechanics, which reports appealingly on the idea. / Iqaluit continues to push itself as “the world’s premier cold weather testing centre” for aircraft (NN). / Representatives of law enforcement from Tyumen, Khanty-Mansiysk and the Yamal met to discuss counter-terrorism efforts (AIR, in Russian). / Time is running out already for the hard-hit Alaska town of Galena to rebuild after devastating flooding before winter returns (EOTA). / Dredging at the port of Sabetta is expected to begin later this month (AIR, in Russian).
The World Eskimo-Indian Olympics were held in Fairbanks this week. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner provides great coverage of the events, including the stick pull competition, the ear pull (man, that looks painful) the kneel jump, the toe kick, and drop the bomb. Greenland managed a third place in the splitting-the-fish competition (KNR, in Danish).
Stick pull competitions are popular in the Yakutia region of Russia, as well. There it’s called Mas-wrestling, and it’s considered the national sport of Yakutia. See this article in Russia Beyond the Headlines for some background on the game’s origins and its popularity in Yakutia.
Another plan has surfaced this week to save Whitehorse’s ailing Mt. Sima Ski Hill. Northern Vision Development, a company that owns hotels and commercial property in the city, has said it is willing to work with the community to come up with ideas on how to save the facility, including developing lands around the hill (CBC).
Prevailing northwesterlies have failed to materialize this summer, forcing the Vancouver-based Last First expedition to waste precious time paddling into the wind and fighting uncooperative tides. The expedition is trying to row the length of the Northwest Passage in a four-man rowboat (Vancouver Sun). And they’re not the only ones rowing the Northwest Passage this season. French Adventurer Charles Hedrich is attempting to row 4,400 miles solo from the Alaskan Bering Sea town of Wales through the Northwest Passage all the way to the Atlantic. Hedrich is 500 miles in at the moment, and optimistic he’ll make it through the passage before it freezes over (AD).
In other human-powered Arctic expedition news, 10 fellows are embarking on the “Polar Bears and Paddleboards Expedition” in Greenland (Cambridge Network). You can see the expedition’s Kickstarter page here. It’s complete with a video that includes both an endorsement from Bear Grylls and an operatic soundtrack, but which features precious little footage of paddleboarding. Beginning 30 July you can track the expedition’s progress here.
Greenland’s men’s and women’s football teams both brought home silver from the Island Games in Bermuda (KNR – Danish). There’s a gallery here at Sermitsiaq that highlights Greenland’s team at the Games’ Opening Ceremony. Greenlandic athletes are having success at other international sporting events as well. Greenlander Max Petersen is ranked 56th out of 145 participants at this year’s Paragliding World Cup in Bulgaria (KNR – Danish).
Not sure whether this goes under mining, sports, or both, but Tankavaara, Finland, held its annual gold panning championships this week (LK – Finnish). Also in Finland, paddlers enjoyed this year’s Midnight Sun Row, a 110-mile trip in Lapland that takes advantage of the long summer days (LK – Finnish)
An article in, of all places, the Choctaw Plain Dealer, describes a trip to Alaska to fish for Arctic Char. Top awards on the trip apparently went to a “lady-angler” for landing a 26-inch char.
Plans for a 10,000-km sled dog race across Russia’s Arctic from East to West have run into a unique problem: the course passes across eight autonomous border zones, meaning contestants will have to spend a fair bit of time getting their visas in order before this thing jumps off. Race organizers are circulating a petition to grant exemptions for the race (AIR – Russian). Dog sledding is gaining popularity in Russia. The Yamal region will soon have its own dog sledding association (AIR – Russian). In other off-season dog sledding news, proposed regulations for pet owners are raising the hackles of dog sledders in Iqaluit. The new regulations require that dogs be either fenced in or secured with a one-inch chain (CBC).
60 athletes from 18 countries are preparing for the first Intercontinental Polar Swim Relay across the Bering Strait to be held later this summer (AIR – Russian).
We’ll start this week with a few galleries worthy of your attention. Kellie Netherwood’s pictures of Arctic wildlife and of ice in its many varieties from a recent Arctic journey are well worth a look, as are two outstanding series of photographs from Yakutia’s Lena Pillars and from the Verkhoyansk mountains near Oymyakon, both from Ajar Varlamov via Yakutia Photo. Images of hunting cabins in Barrow, Alaska from Eirik Johnson are also well-conceived and executed, and Dave Levinthal’s collection of photos from around the Circle are beautiful, varied and simply-presented on a tumblr blog.
This week’s Instagram haul was not the usual deluge of goodness that one has come to expect. Nonetheless, we have some great photos from @yakutia of Yakutian mountains through the haze, the amazing landscape carved by the Lena River, the tundra near Tiksi, and the farm where wood bison are bred. We’ve also got great shots of: eider ducks and a seagull on the wing (@khumbu2015); ice offshore (@dawndelasol7); the Mackenzie River (@tysonwood11); and a row of houses on Svalbard (@ingesolheim).
To make up for the lighter-than-usual Instagram collection we have a surprisingly plentiful take from Twitter itself, including images of: the Akademik Vavilov amidst ice off Greenland (@MarkVogler); a researcher drilling a sea ice core off of Alaska (@LamontEarth); the US Coast Guard Cutter Healy moored in Kodiak, AK (@USCGAlaska); a bunch of little stone cairns at the Arctic Circle (@nsollum); an absolutely gorgeous shot of the Kronebreen glacier on Svalbard (@BolmanBas); a totally happy puffin and a beautiful sunset from Grimsey, Iceland (@WheresAndrew); the Yukon-Alaska border viewed from the air (@CurrieDixon); an awesome blanket-toss in Nalukataq and a sort of Caspar-David-Friedrich image of a boat offshore (@Brimshack); surreal patterns in the sea ice off of Devon Island (@SnowHydro); a red phalarope in Iceland (@iewilson); and Arctic char air-drying for later delectation (@PatonRichard). See as well an aerial shot of Svalbard buried in glaciers (@laurenfarmer).
For those who prefer Flickr, we’ve got images of: an old boat “skeleton” (Paul Aningat); gorgeous wildflowers in Rankin Inlet, NU (Steve Sayles); beautiful Fox Lake in Yukon (Keith Williams); and a dog very much in its element (Bruce McKay).
And I love this photo of a church in Dettah in the middle of winter (National Geographic).
The Grab Bag
Now to those pieces that fit nowhere else.
Two American tourists were stranded for two days on a snowed-in road in Iceland (Iceland Review). / A Yellowknife family has rescued a baby jackrabbit (CBC). So cute. / Whitehorse held its annual blessing of the animals at the Whitehorse United Church (CBC). / The Yukon Executive Council office has a call out for artwork to grace a calendar which will be distributed at the upcoming Arctic Council meeting in the Whitehorse in October (Yukon Gov’t). / A profile of Vardø, Norway is a great read (newsinenglish.no). / If you’re planning a trip to Svalbard, brief yourself on it with a quick overview of the available sights and activities from Quark Expeditions. / Nine-year-old Kadin Copland from Arviat, NU is bringing home the mounted heads of some African game that she shot herself in Zimbabwe (NNSO). / Norilsk is considering making itself a closed city (AIR, in Russian). / The Whitehorse City Council put together a hilarious, inappropriately “epic” trailer (one assumes it is tongue-in-cheek) to draw attention to its regular meetings (CBC). / The Youth Arctic Council, a brand-new organization, is beginning to get up on its legs. Check out their first email newsletter here. / Alaska’s High-Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) has been shuttered due to lack of funding, and its future is unclear (AD). / Check out a quick interview with kayak builder Kevin Floyd, via the CBC. / An illegal shooting range in Yukon has been “an eyesore and […] a concern for going on 10 years now” (CBC). / As a person who has done more flying than he expected to with a big dog in tow, it’s fun to look at how Canadian airline First Air deals with our furry friends. / A profile of the town of Quinhagak, Alaska is a great read (AD). / Getting ready for a two-week backpacking trip in the Arctic backcountry? Check out this packing list first (hikebiketravel.com). Or if you’re planning on a more “civilized” road-cruise around Iceland, prepare yourself with this briefing from Alaska Dispatch. / A narrative of the 1913 Canadian Arctic Expedition is outstanding, based as it is on interviews with participants in the expedition itself (CNN). / An ice cream truck in Yellowknife has resumed its summer rounds (pic from @AmandaMallon1). /
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Alaska Business Monthly (ABM)
Alaska Dispatch (AD)
Alaska Journal of Commerce (AJC)
Alaska Native News (ANN)
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Anchorage Daily News (ADN)
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Barents Observer (BO)
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Christian Science Monitor (CSM)
Eye on the Arctic (EOTA)
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Financial Times (FT)
Globe and Mail (G&M)
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New York Times (NYT)
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