The Arctic This Week: 15 September - 21 September 2012

By Tom Fries The Arctic This Week – 15 September to 21 September 2012

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Thanks for joining us this week! We take the time to find the most interesting stories, the best writing and the threads that tie it all together. If you like what you read, please share it with others. Your feedback and comments are always welcome; feel free to contact the author directly. All opinions and any mistakes are the author’s own.


If you’ve only got a few minutes, the following eight pieces are the best value for your time. 

First, if you haven’t already seen this, your Arctic geography will improve immeasurably thanks to this simple and useful map of administrative regions in the Arctic. Our thanks go to Winfried Dallmann of the Norwegian Polar Institute.

Four of the best articles this week have directly to do with oil and gas, starting with an article from Eurasia Review that catalogs just about everything you’ll have the time to learn about Russia’s oil & gas industry. Thanks for the amazing work, folks. Move next to a great piece in RIA Novosti from Konstantin von Eggert that looks at the Kremlin’s attempt to defend Gazprom from a European anticompetition probe, and the impact that that is likely to have on Gazprom and other state-champion businesses not just in Europe but worldwide. Follow that with a blog from Nick Butler in the Financial Times that makes the crucial point that Shell and other companies’ assessments of the economics of Arctic drilling have never been made public, and that the price projections under which these projects are profitable are unknown. A final complement to these first three is a piece from the always-readable Matthew Hulbert in Forbes that makes the point once more that – from the perspective of oil companies – political risk for oil projects is not just an issue in the developing world, but in the developed world as well. Canadian, Norwegian or American drilling may be just as risky in its way as drilling in Angola, Nigeria or Myanmar/Burma. 

Read the next two together: Following up on a brave earlier article on federal funds and Canada’s Northern communities, Heather Exner-Pirot goes deeper into taxation and governance in the Canadian North in Eye on the Arctic. Ms Exner-Pirot’s exploration of these sensitive issues is perfectly complemented by an article from the Globe & Mail on the potential near-term implosion of the Carcross-Tagish First Nation in Yukon due to an impasse on funding from the federal government. 

Finally, on a different tack, you should spend a few minutes with a really enjoyable article written, essentially, from inside a Boeing 767 carrying cargo to Iqaluit (Gerald Flood in the Winnipeg Free Press). It makes concrete the challenges of keeping northern communities stocked with anything needed or desired from the South.


Sea trials of the INS Vikramaditya, formerly the Admiral Gorshkov, which began a couple of months ago, came to an abrupt halt earlier this week as the ship’s power plant failed at sea. ITAR-TASS is careful to point out that not ALL the boilers failed, which I’m sure is a relief, though that will be small consolation to India for the delay in expected delivery – now October 2013 at earliest. According to the excellent Trude Pettersen in Barents Observer, seven of eight boilers were ultimately implicated, and the ship came to a complete stop while running full-speed at 30 knots. Some fascinating details on the history of the ship itself come from RIA Novosti – worth a read. Meanwhile the Baltiisky shipyard has perhaps been rescued from bankruptcy by the contracts not only for Russia’s newest and largest nuclear-powered icebreaker, but for its newest and largest diesel-powered icebreaker as well (BO). Details of the shipyard’s past problems and its bright future come from Naval Today.

In other Russian news, the country has agreed to hold a nuclear safety exercise with neighbor Norway in 2013 (BO), and is preparing to have its planned Arctic brigade fully staffed by 2015 (BN). This week also brought word that a military helicopter had gone down on an island in the Kara Sea during a training exercise, though no casualties are reported (BO). Incidentally, South Korea will be making a helicopter available for research and search-and-rescue in the Arctic beginning in summer of 2013; it will be stationed aboard the Korean Institute of Ocean Science & Technology’s icebreaker Araon (Korea Times). 

The Canadian Coast Guard’s numerous indispensable services to Northern residents are the subject of an interesting and well-written editorial in Nunatsiaq News, which you might wish to illustrate with a photograph of the CCGS Terry Fox in Arctic Bay from Clare Kines. Lastly, DARPA’s “Assured Arctic Awareness” program appears to be considering deployment of submarine-tracking sensors on icebergs, which seems like a logical idea. You could read the article from Wired or look at DARPA’s original presentation. And seriously: Isn’t the era of PowerPoint slide decks featuring nothing but dense text over? I had hoped so.



Matt Hulbert in Forbes writes with his usual quality on the subject of political risk in developed countries for international oil majors pursuing unconventional finds, while a well-done magnum opus from Anchorage Press covers the field of what is needed for, and what impacts could arise from, Arctic drilling not just in Alaska but in Russia. A shorter piece from the Independent makes the point that the economic viability of Arctic drilling depends a lot on oil prices, while a new movie on the Alaskan town of Kivalina and its legal battle to extract some form of damages from Exxon “puts a human face on climate change” (Montreal Gazette).

[North America]

After containment equipment deployed from the barge Arctic Challenger – itself a long-time problem child – was damaged in trials, Shell decided to, in essence, scratch the idea of finding oil in the Beaufort or Chukchi this season. It will still drill top holes, but nowhere will it plan to drill into oil-bearing layers (LA Times, FNM, AD). The preliminary article on the barge’s sea trials now reads like a portent of doom ( Alaska’s US Senator Lisa Murkowski’s press release expressed both disappointment at the delay and approval of Shell’s focus on safety, and Senator Mark Begich expressed similar sentiments on CNBC. Incidentally, Senator Begich also introduced a bill to establish a permanent Arctic research and monitoring program ( 

Shell also received final approval from federal authorities to begin operating in the Beaufort, but will have to wait nonetheless as local whalers finish their hunting season ( The company is meanwhile suing Greenpeace International in Dutch court to bar the organization from holding protests within 500m of any Shell-owned property (CBC), while Pete Slaiby of Shell Alaska continues to make public reassurances that the company understands the weight of responsibility it faces to be safe and clean in its Arctic operations (Brisbane Times).

Alaska’s Permanent Fund Dividend check for next year will be $878, the smallest since 2005 (FNM). Everybody was doubtless hoping for more.

[News from Europe]

Environmental Committees from the EP and Britain’s House of Commons both called for a moratorium on drilling in the Arctic for the time being, for all the reasons one might expect (BO). Scotland-based Cairn Energy shrugged off the plea (Herald Scotland). 

In Norway, it’s been a bruising week for Statoil. One cannot imagine that CEO Helge Lund meant to express in public the idea that robots might one day replace striking oil workers – that’s the kind of thing one doesn’t say in front of journalists – but whether he meant to or not, he did (AB). Though Mr Lund claimed that he was misquoted, Norway’s unions nevertheless demanded his resignation (AB). The country’s minister of petroleum and energy announced that he would not be seeking another term, causing the hearts of environmental groups to leap (AB). The country’s Petroleum Safety Authority meanwhile announced again that it would NOT investigate the recent incident in which the rig Scarabeo 8 began to heel over much more than it should, which is: not at all (AB). Operator Eni’s own investigation appears to show that person without appropriate skills had been left controlling the rig at the time of the incident (AB). 

The decision on what to do with possible future gas dug up from the Barents Sea off of Norway’s far northern coast – Transport with pipeline? Increase LNG capacity? – also remains an interesting one, with smaller companies pushing for a pipeline while Statoil leans towards increasing liquefaction capacity and Total begs everyone to just wait until they’ve actually found some new resources before making the decision (AB).

On the positive side of the coin, hydrocarbon subsea contractor Technip announced huge growth and lots of new spots for staff (AB), and fishing trawlers all along the Norwegian coast are signing up to be standby-emergency vessels to assist with cleaning up any oil spills that may, god forbid, happen (AB). Elsewhere, Faroe Petroleum – strangely, based in Scotland – talked with Bloomberg about its plans for future investment in the Arctic and elsewhere.


Everything you’ve got time and interest to learn about Russia’s oil and gas production is available, for free, in one place from Eurasia Review, while Barents Observer reports that Russia’s Minister of Energy Aleksandr Novak hopes to attract $1 trillion of new foreign investment nationwide in the hydrocarbon sector by 2020. As part of the country’s efforts to become a world leader in Arctic hydrocarbons, a new drilling ship is in the planning stage that will be able to drill in up to 1.5 meters of ice, and also during storms (BO). Rumors suggest it will also be powered by cold fusion and will give great massages. In further science fiction, the BBC reports that construction is underway on the first of 12 planned floating nuclear power stations for the Russian Arctic, intended to create the conditions for easier exploitation of Arctic resources. A great quote from Sergey Zavyalov, deputy director of Rosenergoatom: "We can guarantee the safety of our units one hundred per cent, all risks are absolutely ruled out.” Wow.

If only Mr Zavyalov had been at the helm of the Prirazlomnoye project, things would clearly be going better. But as it is, the platform’s expected start date for production has now been pushed back to autumn of 2013, thanks to a collection of technical issues (BO). Sovcomflot’s tankers for the project are meanwhile operating in Africa, while the rig’s crew members doubtless while away their idle hours playing cards, quilting and reading the Bible (BO). In comparison, the Sakhalin project seems to be proceeding well, with Gazprom announcing plans to invest just over $1bn in the region this year (NGE). 

The EU probe of anticompetitive practices by Gazprom in European markets meanwhile continues, with the Kremlin announcing – to nobody’s surprise – that the company is essentially a government arm (RIAN). This may protect Gazprom a little in the short term, but doesn’t do well for the country’s enterprises as a whole in their foreign operations. Gazprom’s head Alexei Miller meanwhile continues to press for special tax rates for the Yamal LNG project (Fox), which will be using German purification technology as part of its process ( The acceleration of that project was the subject of a meeting between Mr Miller and Yegor Borisov of the Yakutia government (

It’s easy to forget that Gazprom isn’t the only game in town, but BP is apparently looking at shifting its position in Russia from TNK-BP to greater investment in Rosneft (Platts). A recent meeting between BP CEO Bob Dudley, President Putin and Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin seems to have focused on negotiating BP’s involvement in Russian Arctic projects, among other things (Bloomberg). Novatek’s deal to supply LNG from the Yamal to German utility EnBW meanwhile looks like it will have to somehow go through Gazprom as the exporting agent, in a complex chain that I don’t quite understand (Reuters), and Lukoil is getting ready to throw money into outbound investments on the Norwegian continental shelf (BO). At the municipal level, the governor of Murmansk Marina Kovtun is doing her best to maintain a knowledge-sharing agreement with the Norwegian county of Rogaland, despite the recent disappearance of Shtokman as an incentive for such an agreement (BN).


Denmark announced its intention to be completely renewables-based by 2050 (AB), while Nunavut’s Qulliq Energy Corporation is heroically struggling to get a feasibility study and environmental review done for two hydro dams to supply Iqaluit with power, seeing rising hydrocarbon prices in the future (NN, CBC). The project’s estimated costs are CAD 450mn. Next door in the NWT, the town of Norman Wells is researching funding for a wood-pellet heating system to replace its disappearing natural-gas supply – will grants and external funding be enough (CBC)?


Canadian legislators are getting their knickers twisted over the sale of exploration leases in the Canadian Arctic to a tiny British oil firm (CBC). Fairbanks is relieved to have secured a deal that gets BP to truck LNG to the city to help offset its ridiculously high heating costs (AD). European markets for naphtha are weakening, which might impact Russian exports of the hydrocarbon mixture from the Arctic ports of Murmansk, Vitino and Arkhangelsk (Reuters).


[The week’s biggest stories]

The Mary River iron project in Nunavut cleared its first major hurdle – of many, let it not go unsaid – this week, but a number of different locks remain to be opened, and economic factors don’t all look positive (Reuters). Qikiqtani Inuit Association president Okalik Eegeesiak expressed her organization’s approval of the decision (NN), though – to judge from the comments – not all of her constituents were as excited as she. Peter Ivalu, acting mayor of Igloolik, was also pleased with the Nunavut Impact Review Board’s decision (CBC). The NIRB however sent a strongly-worded letter to Areva, telling it to stop dragging its feet on answering the body’s information requests on its proposed Kiggavik uranium mine (NN) while, next door in Alaska, a years-old decision on land classification that impacts the Pebble Mine area may be reopened – to whose benefit, nobody can yet predict (ADN).

The week’s second most glitzy story was news that Russia is sitting on enough diamonds “to supply global markets for another 3,000 years” at an asteroid-impact site in Eastern Siberia (Christian Science Monitor). A certain degree of skepticism would seem only reasonable, and indeed Business Insider takes the time – thanks, guys – to do a little deeper detail-digging, and debunks to a certain extent the vision of oligarchs breast-stroking through swimming pools filled with shiny princess-cut diamonds that we’ve all got in our heads. 

[Chinese and Korean engagement]

Korean minerals firm KORES and Greenlandic firm NunaMinerals have signed an exploration deal for Greenland (IceNews). President Lee Myung-bak also seems to feel that a shipping route running through Greenland is an eventual possibility (Arirang). Meanwhile RusAl is courting China as an investor in Siberian smelting projects (MT).

[Other North American news]

Positive indicators for gold mining have come for one company in Yukon (CMJ), while BC-based Kaminak has raised additional funds to continue existing work in the territory (CMJ).  Construction of infrastructure to support a placer gold mine south of Dawson City has been completed (CMJ), and Canadian Zinc is hoping to be the one to finally get the semi-cursed Prairie Creek mine into production (CMJ). Elsewhere, an ambitious project – RESDA – to determine and catalog “best practices” in Arctic resource development is underway (NN).

In Alaska, the Alaska Gold Company has paid a federal fine of $177,500 for Clean Water Act violations near Nome ( while – also near Nome – starry-eyed dredgers of all shapes and sizes are hoping to bring up “a shit load” of gold from the sea bottom (AD). Best of luck, fellas.


The fight between the Acron Group and environmental NGOs over the building of a road through Russia’s Khibiny mountains to serve a phosphorous mine is heating up (MT), and tension between Russia and Norway over heavy-metal emissions from plants in Pechenga (Nikel and Zapolyarny) is also growing (BO). And, in an unusual twist, Murmansk and Arkhangelsk apparently look attractive as import markets (Imagine!) for cement, and HeidelbergCement is expanding import facilities to serve that market (


[Ice minimum]

Well, THAT doesn’t look good – the Arctic’s ice extent low, reached on 16 September this year, was 3.41 million square kilometers, which smashes right through the previous low of 4.17 million square kilometers in 2007. The authoritative announcement came on 19 September from NSIDC. As you can imagine, similar reporting on this came from many news outlets (NN, EOTA, Inquire, Arctic Portal, National Resources Defense Council). The most catastrophic-sounding was from the Guardian, and – by a slim margin – my vote for the best reporting goes to the CBC, while Reuters (via Michael Byers’s blog) takes a look at the additional role of black carbon in accelerating the melt, a pet issue for the UNEP. Our own extensive collection of interactive ice charts is in the process of being updated; they’re useful for giving you some visual comparisons of ice extent and volume from different sources:

Tons of research came out this week related to the melting Arctic ice as well. An article from Ars Technica looked at anticipated release of carbon from thawing Arctic permafrost, while a team in northeastern Greenland is drilling permafrost cores down to 50m, and still going (University Centre in Svalbard). Ice cores are being collected as well at both poles as part of research attached to International Polar Week ( Recent research in Science looked at the rapidity with which glaciers and ice sheets can, and do, respond to warming and cooling trends (U of Buffalo), while NASA captured further images of that massive ice island in the Nares Strait, which is beginning to break into chunks (MSNBC). In the Russian Arctic, better monitoring of icebergs looks as though it will draw heavily on satellite data in the future ( 

If you’d like to geek out on NASA’s Operation IceBridge, you can do so with this extended interview from Research Europe


Starting in the ocean, Nunavik Geomatics is working to find out whether remote sensing technology is adequate as a tool for monitoring populations of marine mammals (, while researchers from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in California are trying to assess changes in noise levels in the Arctic, and what those mean for marine mammals (NN). The RUSALCA cruise drew to a close – check out reports from the 2012 assessment here – while the Qikiqtani Inuit Association announced that it would be receiving funds and support from the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation and Oceans North Canada to develop strategies for the protection of Lancaster Sound (NN, CBC and the Prince’s visit covered by CBC). 

Ringed seals may be left with inadequate snow to build the burrows that shelter and protect them and their pups, due to shorter ice seasons ( Perhaps most terrifyingly, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility pointed out that drilling rigs brought from elsewhere might quite reasonably be carrying invasive species that could wreak all kinds of havoc with Arctic ecosystems (Cordova Times). A communications officer from the U of Windsor has been charged with making Arctic research on fish migration more accessible to non-scientists (CBC), while Scott Highleyman of the Pew Environment Group’s International Arctic Program published an op-ed in McClatchy calling for an international agreement forbidding industrial fishing in the international waters of the Central Arctic Ocean.

Moving on to land, a proposed buffer zone excluding wolf-hunting near to Denali National Park has been rejected (FNM), while Arctic foxes on Iceland are likely to become more and more genetically distinctive as their “traffic” with populations from elsewhere (via ice in winter) decreases ( And in a harbinger of what’s to come, researchers identified the first recorded case of bird-to-bird transmission of avian malaria in Alaska (Climate Central).


A profile of geodynamics researcher Lindy Elkins-Tanton and her work in Siberia in Fast Company is both unusual and well worth a read, as is a short blog on the CAPISCO team’s journey to northern Finland to capture moths. The Norwegian Polar Institute in Tromsø is doubtless thrilled at the prospect of acquiring its first ice-class research vessel, which should be ready in 2016 (BO), but the search for the two lost vessels of the Franklin expedition has concluded with no whiff of the boats themselves (EOTA), though new artifacts discovered at existing sites on King William Island in Nunavut felt like a prize haul in and of themselves (EOTA). Some scientists in Canada appear convinced that the Franklin expedition was simply a front for the government’s desire to get better data in preparation for future Arctic drilling (Peninsula News Review). What sounds like a totally fascinating small conference on “human resources” in Arctic extractive industries took place at St. John’s, NFLD, debriefed nicely on the Arctic Anthropology blog

[Other news]

New research from a Queen’s university doctoral student shows, in part, the role that a warming climate can play in changing vegetation in the Arctic (Queen’s). Professor Thomas Duck at Dalhousie University does a step-by-step takedown of Environment Minister Peter Kent’s collected misconceptions regarding the PEARL research station on Ellesmere Island ( Alexandre Guertin-Pasquier of the U of Montreal speculated that the “new” climate in Canada’s High North will be similar enough to the ancient climate to permit trees to grow there once again ( 


Blessings on Winfried Dallmann of the Norwegian Polar Institute for compiling the simplest and most useful map of administrative regions in the Arctic. All of us should have this sitting around somewhere to refer to – maybe a lot of you already do, and I’m simply late to the table.

[Asian engagement]

Ordinarily I wouldn’t recommend such a basic-level article on Chinese interest in the Arctic (The Week), but – bless the author – s/he has chosen the most hard-eyed and realistic quotes from the different characters in this play. Give it a read, and – if you have a little more time – enjoy a worthy, comprehensive, informative and well-written article from Elizabeth Rosenthal, here republished in the Anchorage Daily News. The Xue Long is meanwhile on its way back home to Shanghai, though it seems as though it’s had escort from Japanese and US aircraft as it crosses the strait between the Japanese islands of Hokkaido (north) and Honshu (main). Everyone is so suspicious (! Thinking, clearly, primarily of China, Simon Kent in the Toronto Sun writes an article on foreign interest in Canada, finishing it with the productive and useful thought “it’s Canada versus everyone else”. Well, I guess that is one way to look at it. Korea, in contrast, seems to be encountering absolutely no resistance from Norway as it endeavors to advance its own Arctic interests; this is perhaps because the two countries already have a wealth of shared economic ties and interests (EOTA). 

[North America]

Heather Exner-Pirot further explores taxation and governance in the Canadian North in a wonderful follow-on to an earlier article that I loved (EOTA). Heather’s exploration of these sensitive issues is perfectly complemented by an article from the Globe & Mail on the potential near-term implosion of the Carcross-Tagish First Nation in Yukon due to an impasse on funding from the federal government. In more mundane developments, the new premier of Québec has named Elizabeth Larouche as her new minister of aboriginal affairs (NN).

I’m really pleased to see the diverse list of names on the commission of 22 people chosen to help develop Alaska’s state Arctic policy (see also AD). Let’s hope the myriad different interests represented can work together and produce something brilliant.

[Scandinavia and Russia]

This has never been the case before, but Finland tops the Scandinavian news this week with its opening of a new visa center in Murmansk, to take place on 12 October (BN). Last year, the Finnish consulate issued 48,000 visas to Murmansk residents, so it seems only logical (VOR). The office will employ 45 people and offer applications for Icelandic and French visas as well (BN). Will Norway join the Finns? That was an early plan, but now it’s unclear (BO). Finnish-Karelian cooperation is a subject of generally increased interest by both sides (BO), and Finland’s Minister of European Affairs Alexander Stubb says that Russia’s new WTO membership could have a positive impact on Finnish GDP (BO).

Norway also continues to loosen visa restrictions for Murmansk and Arkhangelsk residents, and both the Norwegians and Finns “envisage a complete visa-waiver regime with Russia” (BN). Norway continues to hope that Russia will follow suit (BO). In other Norwegian news, Espen Barth Eide will be the country’s new foreign minister, which will save me from having to type “ø” quite as often (BN).

Russia meanwhile has been less warm and cuddly than might be hoped; this week, it asked USAID in no uncertain terms to exit the country by 1 October (BO) and made another assertive – if a little silly – gesture to consecrate the North Pole as Russian Orthodox (AD). A less Arctic-related but no less worthwhile read comes from the Daily Beast, examining the exodus of young people out of Siberia’s eastern half. 


[Health matters]

Inuit children in Nunavik appear to demonstrate higher levels of ADHD symptoms associated with prenatal mercury exposure and early childhood lead exposure (Environmental Health News). Potential E. Coli contamination of ground beef in Canada has been cause for a recall of some meat products sold in the NWT and Yukon (CBC), while possible contamination due to a broken sewer means an order to boil water for residents of Watson Lake, Yukon (CBC). 

Tackling suicide as a community health issue continues to be top of the agenda for the Northwest Territories (NNSO), where the rates of suicide are twice the national average. Those rates are also higher for males and those outside of Yellowknife. Efforts are also underway to combat suicide prevalence in Alaska (FNM), where most violent deaths are on the decline but suicides are up. Also interesting is that rural residents in Alaska die more often from accidental injury, and that blood-alcohol content of drivers in fatal crashes has been on the decline.

In a bit of good news, Nunavut has at long last received replacement tuberculosis vaccine from a supplier in Japan (NN), and restarted its vaccination program for the young.

[Infrastructure and transport]

Russia is planning a bond issue of $46bn to help finance a raft of infrastructure projects across the vast country (Bloomberg), one of which is doubtless a planned new road between the Komi Republic and the Nenets Autonomous Okrug. This road would at long last connect Naryan-Mar to the outside over land (BO). In other transport, Iqaluit’s airport is in for a three-year, $77mn upgrade (EOTA), while the opposite is true in Sweden, where a change to the channels through which money flows to local airports could mean that some of them will soon breathe their last (EOTA).

In Canada, improvements to 3G service for rural and remote communities in Canada’s Northern territories were announced by a Chinese/Canadian partnership (Sacramento Bee). This is timely, as a massive power failure in Whitehorse and communications failure across Yukon and NWT made headlines this week (CBC) as well. The mess in Northwestel’s systems shut down 911 service and rendered businesses unable to process credit and debit card transactions, though most residents were merely inconvenienced (CBC). The region’s communications infrastructure is not especially robust, generally speaking (CBC). 

Sales of housing in Whitehorse are brisk, though prices are down from late 2011 (WS, G&M), and in Nunavut the government is preparing to help homeowners protect their investments by advising them on how to prepare their homes for thawing permafrost (EOTA).

[Culture, education and community life]

On the education front, the battle between the Kativik School Board and the Québec department of education over whether to offer French-language schooling for francophone students continues, with the local school board essentially pointing – reasonably – to its lack of resources (NN, CBC, NN). At the moment it seems to be deadlocked, with both sides waiting for the other’s next move.

It seems that the “traditional” Canadian family is on its way to disappearing, leaving in its place a diverse set of various other arrangements (CBC). Fascinatingly, the three Northern territories have by far the largest percentage of single-parent households and common-law marriages (Québec is an exception in the second case). There is also a youth bulge in Northern Canada when compared to the country’s South, and the RCMP is looking at ways to keep those young people out of trouble (CBC), as well as talking over the unique demands of maintaining public safety in the North (NN). What probably won’t help is the crippling of a major youth association in Nunavik for financial reasons (NN), and it’s hard to guess whether the lifting of an alcohol-importation ban in Puvirnituq, QUE will help by putting bootleggers out of business or harm by bringing cheaper alcohol into the community. We’ll wait and see (CBC, NN).

[Other news]

The chief of the K'atl'odeeche First Nation would prefer to have more control over hunting and fishing on the Nation’s lands (CBC). In Nunavik, the Kativik Regional Government is employing 60% Inuit staff, but Xstrata’s Raglan mine is employing only 13% Inuit labor (NN). A voluntary quota of 60 polar bears for Hudson Bay - 25 for Nunavut, 26 for Quebec, and nine for Cree from Quebec and Ontario – will remain in place for another year (NN), and successful narwhal hunts in Cambridge Bay are already underway (NN via Facebook). After two years of negotiations, the primary union for workers with the Government of Nunavut has reached a labor agreement with the Government that extends through 2014 (NN). The deadline to submit claims for compensation for abuse suffered in Canada’s residential schools passed this past Wednesday (EOTA).

Border Days, highlighting the bonds between the border regions of Russia and Norway, are set to take place on 1 November (BN).



It’s not the most amazing thing I’ve ever read, but an article in Arctic Sounder from Seth Kantner held me all the way to its last paragraphs, in which the real reason many people fish was suddenly illuminated for me; you probably won’t get rich, but it’s an opportunity to do something resourceful, demanding and independent of which you can be proud. If you start with Mr Kantner’s article, further writing from FNM on the underestimated damage of Alaska’s terrible king salmon run and from ADN on collapsing demand for halibut and sablefish while operating costs rise will be that much more poignant. The article from ADN is especially worth a read for its detail. Almost as an afterthought, an article from AD points out the value and volume of Alaska’s catch both topped the list of US states in 2011, but what fascinated me was the fact that the next three states by volume (Louisiana, California, Virginia) and the next three states by value (Massachusetts, Maine, Louisiana) don’t overlap more…what are Massachusetts and Maine doing that gives their fisheries so much added value? If you’re interested in really digging in to fisheries stats for the US – and you might be – enjoy NOAA’s 139-page “Fisheries of the United States 2011”.

On the European side of the ocean, Russia and Norway are collaborating on an across-the-board survey of ocean life in the Barents Sea (, and the European Parliament is backing calls for sanctions against the fisheries of Iceland and the Faroe Islands, largely at the behest of Scotland and Ireland (IceNews). Undaunted, the Faroes submitted a prawn fishery for certification by the Marine Stewardship Council – its silver smelt, cod and haddock fisheries are already thus certified ( Murmansk, in an everything-old-is-new-again move, is preparing to open the sort of regular fish market enjoyed by coastal residents around the world (BN).

[Other industrial news]

There was little to speak of in shipping this week, other than a short and enticing profile on the future of Churchill, Manitoba as an international port (AD) and a fantastic article written, essentially, from inside a 767 airlift on its way to Iqaluit (WFP). In other industries, I am incredibly confused by an article that suggests in its first paragraph that trapping is on the wane in rural Alaska (EOTA), while then going on to cite numerous statistics showing that it is in fact growing – what am I missing? In Finland there is no confusion: an initiative to get fur-farming outlawed altogether in the country is going strong (EOTA). Also in Finland, the number of winter-season Russian tourists took a big jump last year (YLE) while, back in Canada, government support for agriculture in the NWT is on the rise (GNWT). 

In what I think is an interesting development, Iceland is increasingly playing home to data centers for major multinationals like BMW (IceNews) and the Scandinavian academic community (IceNews), among others. For such a short piece, an article from IceNews “clarifying” the role of the “Nordic Ecolabel” in the setting up of the Icelandic data center is extraordinarily difficult to understand. Finally, Denmark’s demotion to #12 in the World Economic Forum’s rankings of global competitiveness don’t seem like a big deal to me; I think 12th is fine, but perhaps I need to be more ambitious (IceNews). Another Nordic country, Finland, cracked the top 3. Onnitellut!


An Alaskan man died last weekend while hunting goats (FNM). 

Admirable and maybe-a-little-crazy polar explorer Alex Hibbert is having a run at the North Pole this winter and next. His plans are detailed in a blog post. Good luck!

The Arctic Winter Games to be held in Nuuk, Greenland in 2016 will, apparently, not include curling, figure skating, short-track speed skating, midget hockey, dog mushing or gymnastics (CBC, WS). This is a big bummer for a lot of young Canadian athletes. Soccer meanwhile is growing as a sport in Iqaluit (NN). Next door in the US, the Equinox marathon in Fairbanks was won by a lightning-quick woman from Sitka (FNM). 


Now to those pieces of news that fit nowhere else.

Siberia’s Lake Labynkyr is home to a much more fearsome nonexistent monster than Loch Ness ( / Sylvester Stallone is preparing a new, awful action movie in the Arctic (Bloody Disgusting). / I am so sorry to publish plain old tall tales, but I am as susceptible to their charms as anyone, and you too might enjoy reading this retelling of the disappearance of an entire Inuit village with food still cooking ( / The Russian Orthodox Church has sanctified the North Pole, which I feel you really have to give them credit for. I mean, way to be ahead of the curve (BO). / Construction of the tallest church in the Barents region – also Orthodox – is proceeding in Arkhangelsk (BO). / Norway has announced its plans for getting the sunken Maud back from Canada to her original homeland (G&M). / An elk that fell into the canal at a hydroelectric plant in Murmansk was rescued, and of course ran off without thanking anyone (RIAN). / The UNESCO World Heritage site of Solovki is perhaps somewhat marred by the heap of scrap metal and toxins sitting just meters away (BO). / A young crew member on a sealift ship heading from Nunavut to Québec was found dead, but no further details seem to be forthcoming (CBC). UPDATE: The RCMP says the death was a homicide, but has not said of what kind (CBC).  / Marine Link provides more details on the nuclear-waste ship Lepse being towed from Murmansk to the Nerpa naval yard where it will be decommissioned. / Glaciologists in Alaska are helping to uncover the grisly remains of a sixty year-old accident (Frontier Scientists). / Wild boar are a real menace to Swedish drivers (EOTA). / A film produced in 1919-1920 by the Hudson Bay Company was revived and shown in a packed theater in Iqaluit this week (NN). Put it on YouTube or Vimeo so the rest of us can enjoy! / A large cross at the top of Iqaluit’s Hospital Hill was knocked down by vandals (CBC). / Fairbanks suffered through its first hard frost of the season (FNM) – winter is on its way! / My own most heartfelt congratulations to Carey Restino, celebrating the conclusion of Arctic Sounder’s first year. / Greenpeace set up a heart made of 193 flags from all the UN nations on an ice floe in the Arctic (Spiegel). 


You won’t be surprised to hear that the BBC has produced an excellent, if brief, photo essay with shots from Greenland and Svalbard, while another collection of magical images of similar material comes from 70 Degrees West. I’m enchanted by this essay, collection of photos and video by Karl Johnston, who overflew Canada’s Wood Buffalo National Park (, and I’m surprised by the extent of Greenland’s charm offensive, highlighted by this collection of Facebook photos as well as a New York Times slideshow on how the massive island’s communities are changing. This one’s old, but worth revisiting: a March 2012 photo/video essay on the Even reindeer herders from Yakutia’s strongest tourism advocate, Bolot. Finally, if you just can’t get enough, check out a sort of scattered assortment of enjoyable photos of sailing and whale-watching in Iceland.

You can also check out individual photos this week of (1) Lake Onega, (2) fish being squeezed out of some sort of sluice contraption, (3) a very elaborate and comfortable-looking photo “hide”, (4) the view from the Biotope office, (5) Northern Lights in Nunavut, (6) the Sahtu region of the NWT from the air, (7) Greenland, taken with crazy resolution by NASA, and (8 & 9) a slowly-freezing river in the Canadian North. 

On the video side, “Northwest Territories Muskox Hunt” makes me chuckle because the filming itself is kind of budget while the music would be more appropriate for the new Stallone flick mentioned above. The video “Icelandia,” however – meant to draw you to Iceland – certainly does its job. And famously successful nature photographer Florian Schulz’s short video on photographing polar bears makes you realize just how lame your job is in comparison to his. 


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