The Arctic This Week: News for 1 September - 7 September 2012

Iceberg from the fast-moving Kangerlussuaq 
Glacier, East Greenland. Dave Walsh 2009

By Tom Fries The Arctic This Week – 1 September to 7 September 2012

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Really excellent writing was in somewhat shorter supply this week than last, and the two pieces I’ll highlight first don’t actually directly mention the Arctic, though their relevance will be clear. The first is a completely delightful tirade in Foreign Policy about the vast differences between Canadian and American legislators, and the second is an article from Platts on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, pointing out that, as costs for insurance rise, many companies big and small are electing to forego certain forms of insurance, preferring to “self-insure,” which translates to covering any damages out of their cash reserves. In the US system this must be nice, as we still have a $75mn cap on liability for damages from such incidents. This is important to remember when discussing drilling in the US Arctic as well. Excellent analysis came as well from the Financial Times in the form of a concise and dispassionate look at the risks and potential benefits of Arctic drilling. 

Many US legislators don’t – and perhaps couldn’t, for all we know (see Foreign Policy article above) – manage their own correspondence, but I hope that Senator Lisa Murkowski was herself sitting at the keyboard to produce this affecting love letter to her home state of Alaska. If not, then her staffers have successfully fooled me into thinking so. Regardless, I think many of us will be able to relate to such feelings for those places most dear to us.

Lastly, I am so grateful for the intelligent, reasonable, thoughtful argument going on between Anthony Speca and Diego Creimer of Greenpeace Canada on the Northern Public Affairs blog, the latest installation of which came out this week. I wish every debate looked like this, and I hope this one continues. 

Our thanks to Dave Walsh for use of the photo illustrating this week’s news. A collection of Dave’s surreal polar photos is going up at the Copper House Gallery in Dublin this week. 


Without too much reflection as to why this article felt good to read, let me simply suggest that you take the time to read Winslow Wheeler’s screed in Foreign Policy. It’s nominally about the debate over the purchase of F-35’s for the Canadian military, but in truth it is a damning comparison between Canadian MPs and US legislators. I’ll leave it to you to discover which group comes out on top in Mr Wheeler’s estimation. Northern News reviewed a concluding exercise for the Canadian Forces’ Operation Nanook 2012; it involved the threat of an ammonia spill near Tsiigehtchic, NWT. Next door in Alaska, Senator Lisa Murkowski is getting suspicious that the Air Force is preparing to move Eielson Air Force Base’s F-16s to Anchorage earlier than they’d agreed (FNM).

In Russia, ground-effect vehicles, which are a hybrid of hovercraft, boat and airplane, are a subject of study again for the first time in many years (RIAN). I’d never heard of these – fascinating! The country is also working on developing further unmanned submersibles for “special tasks,” whatever that might mean (Naval Today). Next door in Europe, a Russian coast guard vessel is paying a visit to Norwegian ports-of-call in Bodø and Sortland. It’s part of a visit which will see the signing of a new Norway-Russia cooperation agreement (BO). Meanwhile Finland was apparently still making positive noises about helping to patrol Iceland’s airspace, without having actually signed on to anything specific (YLE).


[General analysis and commentary]

The decision to put the Shtokman project in an induced coma for the foreseeable future, coupled with dramatic new low numbers for Arctic sea ice extent drew the Financial Times and the Motley Fool, among others, to comment in a general way on the prospects and challenges of offshore hydrocarbons in the Arctic. The FT also provided a great map showing approximate locations of most ongoing oil and gas activity in the Arctic. Aftenbladet and AFP pointed to a new study from the Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research and Statistics Norway that suggests the future role of Arctic resources in world markets has been somewhat exaggerated, while the Washington Times looks at the development of a “cold war” not between nations but between environmental groups and oil companies. 

Around the circle, Norwegian overall investment in the oil and gas sector, both real and projected, shows signs of rapid growth (AB), while in Russia heads are being scratched in an effort to game that country’s role in the rapidly-changing unconventional gas landscape worldwide ( Russia also announced this week that August’s oil production numbers were the highest since the collapse of the Soviet Union (BO). In the US, an editorial in the LA Times suggests that further drilling in the National Petroleum Reserve isn’t the solution to America’s long-term energy needs, and the FT interviewed Tim Dodson, head of exploration at Statoil, about how the industry in general views Shell’s experience in the American Arctic.


Shtokman may soon warrant its own series of zombie novels; the project continues to make headlines. Early in the week, Total representatives took public issue with the use of the word “indefinite” to describe the project’s postponement (MT, BN), and then Gazprom issued a statement indicating that it sees Shtokman as a priority in its own projections of global gas demand (BN). Later in the week, Gazprom indicated that it would assume the 24% stake that Statoil had handed back (Reuters); one assumes this means the stake is not being sold to another company.

Natural Gas Europe reported on internal concerns about Gazprom’s overall competitiveness in a world where shale gas is coming online rapidly, but Gazprom itself appears to be dismissive of reports of its imminent demise (FT). The European Commission is working on an anti-monopoly investigation of Gazprom, and the company hit back in the press this week as much as it reasonably could (ITAR-TASS, MT). The EC wasn’t the only organization taking a swipe at the Russian gas giant; Greenpeace also protested outside of Gazprom headquarters in Moscow and in Berlin (Greenpeace). Gazprom meanwhile continued to warn the Russian government that planned tax increases would change the economic feasibility of many projects currently under consideration (Reuters).

In other Russian news, Lukoil seems to have had a bad first half of 2012, with revenue dropping 29% from 2011 ( President Putin will be chairing a conference of oil and gas producers operating in the Yamal region (ITAR-TASS), and Voice of Russia produced a really detailed briefing on the different components of the Yamal LNG project. Rosneft is meanwhile reorganizing to reflect its growing engagement in gas and offshore activities, as opposed to onshore oil (Platts).

[North America]

Shell’s announcement that it would build the first carbon capture and storage project for Canada’s oil sands flew a little bit under the radar (Canadian Mining Journal), while the company continued to endure jabs at its apparent lack of preparedness for Arctic drilling from and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. The latter dissected and savaged the (apparently wildly inadequate) testing procedure that Shell’s capping stack underwent in Washington State. The Noble Discoverer did successfully make it to the Chukchi Sea this week (KNOM), so someone, somewhere, probably enjoyed a glass of champagne in celebration. 

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has suspended its review of a proposed Alaska Gas Pipeline while it awaits a decision from TransCanada as to whether the company plans to build such a pipeline at all or, instead, liquefy and ship North Shore gas to overseas markets ( A global shortage of skilled labor in oil and gas is driving salaries through the roof and making me want to go back to school for a hydrocarbon engineering degree of some sort ( 

In alternative energy, a wind farm in Alaska should be going on-line in October (FNM), and rural Alaskans are increasingly “buying local” – heating their homes with wood from nearby rather than fuel shipped in from away, which is increasingly expensive (EOTA). The town of Norman Wells, NWT is also moving increasingly to locally-available wood pellets as natural gas prices skyrocket (CBC). We did our own interview on this topic with Leanne Robinson of the Arctic Energy Alliance back in March, and it’s a fascinating story.

In Canada, NWT Premier Bob McLeod’s friendly overtures to Alberta regarding a pipeline to transport oil sands output to the ocean via the NWT looks increasingly as though it could steal business away from BC, but the viability of such a plan will take years to assess (AD). Across the seas, India’s ONGC Videsh is looking at investments in those same oil sands in Alberta (Platts). Interestingly, one Canadian geologist describes the oil sands as a natural oil spill that we are now cleaning up (Up Here Business). I guess that is one way to look at it. 

The NWT’s plans for its own oil and gas resources depend largely on the terms of eventual devolution (Petroleum News), and will have to take into account the value of the ecosystem services provided by the areas that might be affected by drilling ( Premier Bob McLeod covered these and related challenges in a speech to the International Forum on Water Policy, at which the Mackenzie River watershed was a subject of particular interest (G&M). In particular, the jurisdictional mess in which the watershed exists (federal, three provinces, three territories) makes managing it difficult (Vancouver Sun). Meanwhile the Dehcho First Nation has made progress in a fight with the federal government over an area of the NWT it would like to see protected, both surface and subsurface (CBC).


The most sensational story out of Norway this week was the listing of the huge Scarabeo 8, a rig working on the Salina prospect for Italian company Eni. The rig got water in a ballast tank and heeled 5.7 degrees to starboard, at which point emergency response teams were mobilized, but the situation was later brought under control (BO, Offshore). Unions are calling for the Petroleum Safety Authority to initiate a full investigation into the incident (AB). And, speaking of unions, a strike in the oil and gas services sector may be on the horizon (AB), although another strike was averted late last weekend by extending talks between union Industri Energy and employers’ group OLF (Platts). All this seems odd when you read that Norway’s engineers are the best-paid in the world (AB) – note some interesting bits buried in this article about competing on things other than simple price.

The Norwegian offshore sector seems generally vibrant this week, with news that a new oil terminal to serve Arctic prospects is being considered for development in Finnmark (AB) and that the Salina prospect apparently does indeed show evidence of hydrocarbons (Reuters, BO, Businessweek). Stock of Det Norske, one of the partners in the prospect, rose to a new high on the news. Also this week, Swedish company Lundin was given the go-ahead from the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate to drill another well in the Sverdrup license (AB), and the company announced as well that it had taken on a stake in two further licenses in the Barents ( Norway is also making its move into Russian waters with a newly-signed partnership between Statoil and Rosneft covering the Perseevky field in the Barents and the Kashevarovsky, Lisyansky and Magadan 1 fields in the Sea of Okhotsk. Details on the partnership come from Barents Observer, and a fascinating look into the law firms that manage these deals and negotiations comes from Meanwhile Norwegian engineering firm Kværner, in partnership with Russia’s Vostco Yard, will be playing a major role in supporting the Rosneft-ExxonMobil work in the Kara Sea (BO, BN, Offshore Energy, UPI), and – in the other direction – Lukoil is working with Norwegian partners to get involved in the Barents (BO 1, BO 2). Norwegians are also sharing technology with NASA for deep drilling in hostile environments (like the Arctic, or Mars –, Alaska Business Monthly, Bloomberg, AB). 

On the less-sunny side of things, Statoil has decided to postpone its Chukchi Sea / Amundsen prospect drilling efforts until at least 2015 (, AD), during which time it will see how things go for Shell. Drilling on the Norwegian Continental Shelf can come at a cost premium of 40% even to similar drilling off of the UK (AB). A news outlet that used some brutal and inaccurate oil-sands photos to illustrate Statoil activities has apologized to the company (AB). 


[A Girl’s Best Friend]

Levon Sevunts continued to deliver awesome information on the Canadian diamond industry with a great timeline and a Google Map, both nicely done. The Chidliak diamond mine near Iqaluit, currently owned by Peregrine Diamonds, has been courted by DeBeers and could, over time, shift to majority-ownership by the larger company (NN). At Shear Diamonds’ Jericho mine, however, mining has been halted for the time being because of precipitous declines in world diamond prices (EOTA).

[Other North American news]

The Government of Nunavut (pro) and Makita (con) are fighting, in the most tangled legal way, over Areva’s proposed Kiggavik uranium mine near Baker Lake (NN). Also in Nunavut, Chinese-owned firm MMG has submitted a project proposal for the Izok Corridor, which is supposed to be rich in zinc and copper (G&M). The mine would be connected to yet-to-be-built shipping facilities at Grays Bay by a 350km all-weather road (NN). In the NWT, remediation hearings for the Giant Mine, considered a toxic nightmare by today’s standards, are coming up this week, and hearings on a proposed gold, cobalt, copper and bismuth mine near Yellowknife have been adjourned until later this fall (CBC). 

Next door in Yukon, the Peel Youth Alliance is celebrating the government’s decision to extend a ban on new staking in the Peel Watershed until May 2013 (Canadian Mining Journal). On a broader stage, Canadian mining industry groups are set to adopt new standards of practice regarding reporting of payments to domestic and foreign governments on a project-by-project basis – think Publish What You Pay (G&M). On the US side of the border, the balance between mineral exploitation and traditional lives is the subject of a decent article in Alaska Business Monthly.

[Russia and Scandinavia]

The possible closure of Rusal’s Nadvoitsy plant in the Republic of Karelia would in essence destroy the town; 1/8th of its 8,000 inhabitants are employed at the mine (BO). A chunk of OAO Apatit, one of the most important employers in the Murmansk region, is being sold to PhosAgro, which is permitted ultimately to own up to 100% of the company, should it wish (BN). An analysis of the potential for mining in Greenland came from Rare Earth Investing News; it points to an interesting presentation (2009, I think) from Hudson Resources which, on slide 9, highlights the difference in investment climate between Greenland and Canada.


[News of disaster]

Arctic ice extent continued its downward trend this week, though average ice thickness rose as thinner single-season ice disappeared (PIOMAS). Since peak cover on 18 March, an area the size of Alaska and Canada has melted (AD). As of the end of August, ice extent had fallen below 4 million square kilometers (NN). Plenty of people pointed out that this is a bad thing (, neglecting the fact that those of us who read such matter need no further convincing. Several different outlets also seem to feel that the new ice-extent minimum is getting insufficient media coverage (Denver Post,; I have a tough time agreeing, as I nearly drowned in ice-minimum articles last week. I would love to know how these observers are “measuring” coverage, exactly. A bright spot in the generally predictable news was Carbon Brief, which was kind enough to take a pretty level-headed look at the many different predictions floating around of the year in which the ice will finally disappear. 

The Ilulisaat glacier also continues to retreat at a dramatic rate ( which, along with many other factors, will be incorporated into the new Services for the Analysis of the Greenland Environment from the NSIDC. Nature Geoscience published a paper pointing out that historical episodes of glaciation and deglaciation have taken place in a stop-and-go fashion, rather than smoothly, and that we should expect something similar in our own era. Research out of Norway shows that the Barents Sea has warmed significantly in the past decade ( All this plus the complete failure of recent international environmental conferences to produce any meaningful agreements to speak of is leaving little hope that the COP18 conference in Qatar in December will be productive in any meaningful way (AB).


One of those observations that’s forehead-smitingly obvious AFTER you read about it is that, as the first snowfall comes later and later and the snow melts earlier and earlier, creatures that turn brilliant white to blend in in winter may suddenly find themselves at an unexpected disadvantage (NN). Environmental groups are making efforts to establish a legal buffer zone protecting the wolves that inhabit Denali National Park even when they range outside of park boundaries (FNM). Caribou season for the Fortymile herd in Alaska is over; the quota has been used up (FNM). But across the border in Yukon, some guides are suggesting that caribou poaching along the Dempster Highway is unusually common (CBC). In the Alaskan interior community of Delta Junction, a white moose spotted several times over the past few years has popped up again (AD + photos). Back in Yukon, a management plan for the Aishihik wood bison herd has been adopted that permits thinning of the herd to approximately 1,000 animals (CBC). Further to the East, the NWT bison hunt has been cancelled thanks to an anthrax outbreak that has now killed 440 animals (CBC). 


An expedition aboard the Swedish icebreaker Oden is chugging along through the Arctic ice and passing back anecdotal observations about meltwater and ice density to the Arctic Council. Meanwhile, the Russian-American Long-Term Census of the Arctic is pulling aboard a fascinating haul of invertebrates from the Bering Sea floor. On land, the botanical expedition to the Soper River valley is back home and is busy cataloging the many gems they discovered (Canadian Museum of Nature). In Russia, research station North Pole 39, which has been drifting on an ice floe since October 2011, is getting ready to be replaced by North Pole 40, which will be set up on a different floe elsewhere. The seventeen scientists of North Pole 39 will be picked up by the icebreaker Rossiya shortly (BO). 

A group of scientists and activists aboard Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise is on its way to the edge of the Arctic ice to take measurements (Guardian), while the US Coast Guard’s Healy continues its mission to map the sea floor off of the Alaskan coast (, Alaska Native News). On the Alaskan shore, a 500 year old Yup’ik settlement is yielding a wealth of artifacts as the permafrost in which they sit thaws, but an extended and stronger storm season is wearing down the site as scientists rush to save as much as possible (BBC).

Despite the many fascinating expeditions above, it is the Franklin expedition which continues to capture imaginations and headlines. The CBC dives into the expedition’s “footprint” throughout Canadian literature, music and art. (The interesting article includes a link to the song “Northwest Passage” by Canadian folk singer Stan Rogers. If you haven’t heard of him, now’s the time to learn – you’ll thank me and the CBC.) The National reviews the story of the original tragedy completely and cogently, for those unfamiliar with it, while continued Captain’s Log entries from Bill Noon aboard the Sir Wilfrid Laurier are helping all of us to travel along virtually with the expedition. Meanwhile a text from the 1850’s shows that a roving captain, perhaps, saw Franklin’s abandoned ships adrift in the North Atlantic atop an iceberg (U of Manitoba).

[Other news]

Now to an assortment of other science news, first from the US. The National Science Foundation is putting the Office of Polar Programs under its Directorate of Geosciences. What impact this will have, I could not say. US researchers are set to record sound levels in the Northwest Passage near Resolute to see if appreciable impact on marine life from ship traffic can be detected (CBC). Interested in recapping some research on Alaska’s North Slope, released earlier this year? You can do so via APECS. Denali National Park is home to some fossilized dinosaur tracks so clear that skin impressions are visible. The NSIDC is working on a new project to help aggregate research and make it easier for users to identify and access.

In Canada, a new research center in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut should ultimately employ 35-40 people in 2017 when it is scheduled to open (The Manitoban). We also heard that there have been more fires, but with less aggregate damage than usual, in the Yukon this summer (CBC). 

On the European side of things, a wonderful profile of the scientific community of Ny-Ålesund comes from the BBC, while the University Centre in Svalbard published some fascinating research on glacier mice. They’re like dust bunnies, but they’re made of moss, occur on ice-covered surfaces, and help invertebrates to exist even in these most hostile of environments. Lastly, Voice of Russia covered Russia’s intended expansion of its Arctic science efforts.


[Around the pole]

The Conference of Arctic Parliamentarians took place in Akureyri, Iceland this past week, starting with the recommendation that the Arctic Council become a treaty-based organization. A response to Irvin Studin’s somewhat panicky opinion piece in last week’s Financial Times suggests that, in fact, all the pieces are in place to encourage compromise and collaboration in the Arctic, rather than conflict. Walial Hasanat at the Arctic Centre in Rovaniemi, Finland made the somehow surprising but sensible recommendation that local governments be more involved in the work of the Arctic Council, for instance through better connection between the Northern Forum and the AC (BO).

All the Nordic Foreign and Defense ministers gathered in Bodø, Norway to discuss Arctic development and security cooperation (BO), and all the Foreign Ministers at least will be moving on to Vilnius, Lithuania this week for a meeting with their Baltic counterparts to discuss relations with the UN, EU and NATO (YLE). Iceland’s Foreign Minister Össur Skarphéðinsson met with Senator Lisa Murkowski in Iceland as a prelude to the visit of a large contingent of Alaskans coming to the tiny country later this year (MFA of Iceland).

The agenda for the Polar Law Symposium that took place in Rovaniemi looks absolutely jam-packed with fascinating topics, and I wish I could have been there. Also, there was a visit to Santa Village. 

Lastly, I am so grateful to be able to read the intelligent, reasonable, thoughtful argument going on between Anthony Speca and Diego Creimer of Greenpeace Canada on the Northern Public Affairs blog. I wish every debate looked like this, and I hope this one continues. Please keep writing.


In Canada, the big news was that Parti Québecois had retaken the province’s parliament from Liberals. Luc Ferland, the PQ representative for the Ungava riding, which includes Nunavik, retained his seat (NN), and pledged to tackle “Nunavik’s high cost of living, lack of housing and need for more training programs” in his third term (NN). In Yukon, support appears to be growing for the New Democratic Party and Yukon Party (WS), and the Toronto Sun sees support for the NDP as “a distinct threat to Canadian unity.” Iqaluit’s voters also have a lengthy list of issues they’ll be dealing with when they go to the polls on 15 October (NN); it will be the first time electronic voting has been used there (NN). In Hay River, NWT, prospective mayoral candidates are already starting to stake claims on particular issues as well (CBC). 

In other news from Canada, Embassy Magazine went to a great deal of trouble to talk with numerous observers about the appointment of Leona Aglukkaq to chair the Arctic Council during Canada’s tenure as leader. The varied opinions thus collected give a well-rounded view of the issues that will be on the table, at least at the beginning. Finally, a perhaps-ever-so-slightly-hyperbolic open letter from Elizabeth May accuses PM Harper of being the era’s new Dr Strangelove, who has learned to stop worrying and love the Arctic melt. 

[United States]

Ever-so-slight hyperbole is also a hallmark of a letter from Senator Lisa Murkowski, who apparently “just had the best 30 days that anybody could have in any place ever,” but I must say that the Senator’s sentiments about her home state feel entirely authentic, and are certainly feelings to which I can relate. I’ve no idea if she or a staffer wrote it, but if it came from her own pen, then: Nicely done. And if the sentiments are her own, then I think Alaskans can trust that she is doing her best for them. Also in Alaska, it’s coming time for the permanent dividend fund check, the amount of which will be announced on 18 September (AD). An extremely intelligent analysis of the balance between the need for tax revenues and the need to encourage business in the state is presented by Alaska Business Magazine. Finally, Carey Restino in Alaska Dispatch asks why it is that rural Alaskan’s aren’t mobbing polling stations to make their voices heard, when so many of the issues up for discussion these days directly affect them.


I’m surprised to find myself recommending a 2-minute video from Stratfor on Iceland, but it’s informative and easy to digest. You may also be interested to learn that Iceland has a new set of rules for capital movement ready to go before the country lifts its post-crisis capital controls (IceNews). Fairly wonky but useful analysis of Sweden’s Arctic strategy and, somewhat more interestingly, Finland’s Arctic strategy, both from the Russian perspective, come from the praiseworthy Russian International Affairs Council.


Oh, my. With, no doubt, some training from Jeff Daniels, President Putin led a flock of young and extremely rare orphaned Siberian white cranes on some training flights to prepare them for finding their way to wintering grounds in India with their feathered brethren. President Putin clearly enjoyed himself. He advised everyone to try it (Note: Everyone?), and praised the cranes, saying “the birdies did a great job” (ITAR-TASS). This was generous of the President, considering the birds’ objectively poor performance – only a couple birds were able to keep pace with the flying President for 15 minutes.

President Putin, in an interview with Russia Today, expressed a tepid feeling that an Obama White House would be more productive for the US-Russia relationship in the next years (AD), but allowed that much of Romney’s anti-Russian rhetoric is merely campaign dross. He expressed a willingness to work with whomever might be elected to the presidency (RIAN). A good thing, as the two countries looked ready late in the week to sign a transboundary agreement for an international park touching both sides of the Bering Strait (EOTA). 

Russia’s Kuril Islands dispute with Japan, another close neighbor, remains unresolved. For a clear, interesting and well-designed chronology of the dispute, turn to RIA Novosti. Working with other Asian partners on other issues as well, President Putin kicked off the APEC summit in Vladivostok late in the week (RIAN), and Deputy PM Igor Shuvalov is quoted as saying that Russia hopes, in 5-10 years, to have increased its trade with APEC countries enough to surpass its trade levels with Europe (ITAR-TASS). PM Medvedev meanwhile expressed eagerness to improve Russia’s image abroad, and thereby attract greater foreign investment (BN). I don’t know if suing Madonna will help or hurt that goal. Lastly, it seems that Norwegians and Russians are moving back and forth across the border in greater numbers than ever before (BO).


[Health matters]

First, our congratulations to the hunters of Taloyoak, who set out last weekend for the community’s first bowhead whale hunt in living memory (CBC). A week later, they landed their whale, which now must be butchered and transported 35 km back to Taloyoak (CBC). To see pics of country food of several different kinds for sale in Nuuk, Greenland, check out this photo album, and to see the latest list of changes to food subsidy levels for the Canadian North, look to Nutrition North Canada. Cruelly, the subsidy for bacon is being reduced.

Beyond diet, a syphilis outbreak in Iqaluit is cause for concern for health officials (CBC), while domestic violence is forcefully and convincingly tackled by Julie Green in this slightly older but new-to-me post. New doctors recently arrived in Whitehorse, YK are finding themselves swamped with new business (CBC), and the Gordon Foundation released a new report by Karen Hall last week that tries to identify the best way to design health centers for a largely aboriginal clientele in the Northwest Territories. 

[Infrastructure and transport]

Much news on air travel, as a Boeing 737 landed in Dawson City, YK (CBC). If I understand the article correctly, this is the first time a jet has landed there. Iceland’s Keflavik airport is trying to figure out ways to expand business by attracting passengers and offering business incentives (IceNews). A volcanic eruption on the Kamchatka Peninsula caused a couple of Alaskan flights to be cancelled (KUCB). The airports in Kirkenes and Ivalo are popular departure airports for Russians from Murmansk to visit other European locations, both for reasons of cost and convenience (BO). Other modes of transit are also enjoying increased attention, as Sweden’s northern roads and railways are about to get a SEK3.5bn upgrade, thanks in large measure to the demands of mining concerns in the country’s North (BO). 

Other infrastructure issues are highlighted this week as well, as the Alaskan town of Kivalina watches the window of opportunity to repair its water infrastructure shrink as the freeze-up season approaches (BusinessWeek) and the community of Repulse Bay, Nunavut runs low on gas thanks to delays of a cargo tanker hindered by nearby ice. Three plane-loads of gas are being flown in (CBC, EOTA). 

[Culture, education and community life]

An agreement between Agnico-Eagle and the Education Department of Nunavut to bring trades-specific mining education into schoolrooms is probably a practical step (NN), and – though the examples cited are not from north of 60 – it appears that literacy-focused summer schools are fairly successful for aboriginal students in Canada (G&M). Some kindergarten classes in the Northwest Territories now offer Tlicho-language immersion for the young students (CBC), and a new award has been set up to encourage and reward Inuit, Métis and First Nations authors who write for young people (Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami). At the university level, the vice chancellor for research at the U of Alaska Fairbanks told a US Senate subcommittee that the university’s primary research focus for the coming years will be on better technology for oil-spill response (FNM).

In assorted other news, increased cruise traffic in Nunavut’s coastal communities doesn’t seem to mean increased income for residents (NN). Murmansk ekes its way into the top 20 cities in Russia in terms of citizens’ overall happiness with their lives (BN). Indigenous films are making a splash at this year’s Toronto film festival (APTN). Throat singer and songwriter Tanya Tagaq is up for an award as Canada’s best aboriginal entertainer of the year (NN). Yellowknife’s Gay Pride festival seems to have gone really well (CBC). The RCMP seems to be finding it easier to manage crime in Iqaluit this year (NN). The president of the Makivik Corporation in Nunavik says he’s ready to work with Parti Québecois, though it seems there’s been tension over a concern that French would be forced on Inuit communities in Québec’s far north in the past (CBC). Nunavut Tunngavik, Inc has meanwhile selected a new CEO – James Arreak – to take over from Terry Audla starting 1 October (NN).



In Russia, SDS-Ugol, a large mining concern, is getting set to build a seaport outside of Murmansk for coal export (Reuters, BN), while the privatization of the Naryan-Mar Seaport is cause for concern in the eyes of the regional governor of the Nenets Autonomous Okrug (BO). The existing Murmansk Seaport saw its largest cargo volume ever of 1.484 million tons in August (BN), and the Russians’ overall predictions for liquid (LNG) shipping volumes from Arctic ports run to a 2.8-fold increase by 2030 ( For a little insight into the patterns of freight shipping along Alaska’s coast, turn to Alaska Business Magazine.

The SCF Amur, carrying 44,000 tons of oil, made its way West-to-East through the Northern Sea Route in one week with the assistance of icebreaker 50 Years of Victory (BN). Meanwhile the possibilities of the Ob Bay for increased exports of oil by tanker were tested when the largest tanker ever to ply the bay, the 47,000+ ton Neva, made its test run (BO). 


Lo, some good news from North American fisheries. Chum salmon in the Yukon River are coming in in good numbers now, towards the end of the season (CBC), while Norwegian salmon are now being exported to China in record volumes (Aftenposten, Google-translated). At a sport-fish hatchery in Fairbanks, breeding is going really well, too (FNM). Alaska’s fall Pacific Cod season opened this week (, but things are looking a little strained for Alaskan halibut, as “mushy halibut syndrome” (not a joke) pops up in a couple of localities and Seattle retailers let the fish sit in their display cases for longer than one might wish (AD). 

[Other industries]

Briefly in other news, a splinter group from the Arctic Imperative Summit came to check out Unalaska as an investment destination (KUCB), and massive luxury ship The World was cleared to transit the Northwest Passage (NN). 


First, we’re happy to point to the success of former Arctic resident Shelly Reilly in the Paralympic Games, where she won a silver medal in a 5,000m wheelchair event (AD). Congratulations!

People are being careless with their guns. A 19 year old woman was shot and killed by her hunting partner in Alaska (FNM), as was a 26 year old man (FNM). 

Outside magazine published a fun article on hunting Dall sheep in the Northwest Territories. Elsewhere in Canada, competitive snowboarding is gearing up for a more competitive season this winter (WS), while Team Yukon came home from the Canada 55+ Games in Nova Scotia with medals and great tales (WS). In Nunavut, Kelly Owlijoot is taking up the sport of powered paragliding, of course (CBC). 

If you’re more interested in the European side of things, perhaps you’d like to check out this bombastic video of the Arctic Rally in Finland’s far North in 2011.

Lastly, for that necessary bit of refreshment while on a long hike, or while glued to the couch for a marathon of Shark Week or “Dallas” reruns, a chemist in Alaska has developed portable, concentrated, carbonatable beer for the trail (AD, with video). Note that you would only get through one beer. With even a light buzz you would definitely get at least one of the many preparation steps wrong.


Now, all the news that fits nowhere else…
Four unfortunate souls were killed in a plane crash near Arkhangelsk (RIAN). / A wonderful and patriotic review of Russia’s many contributions to Arctic research comes from Voice of Russia. / The “Days of Yakutian Culture” festival is coming to Toronto later this month. Certain to be cool (via @yakutia). / I get the whole “because it’s there” thing, kind of, but a Dutch kayaker who got lost and practically died on a solo crossing of the Bering Strait is pushing the limits of my understanding ( / A bewildering study of Icelandic horse DNA might help breeders select those best-able to race (IceNews). / The “treasures of the Kremlin” are on display at the APEC summit in Vladivostok (RIAN). / Numerous delightful maps that I’ve missed all this time somehow are available from TheArctic. / Nunavummiut apparently made it to the moon long before the US space program (NN). / While the Belzebub II was negotiating tough but navigable waters, a much larger yacht was stuck in pack ice in the East Siberian Sea. A little humility is in order for the Belzebub II, as the Scorpius already circumnavigated Antarctica as well this year ( / Arktikmorneftegazrazvedka, the tongue-tying owner of the Kolskaya rig, which sank with 53 lives in the Bering Sea, is trying to work its way through some legal technicalities to offload the responsibility for the accident and claim an insurance payment of approximately €73mn (BO). / The Trump fortune got its start in the Yukon during the gold rush, and not because Friedrich Trump was a successful prospector (UpHere). / A 110-foot flagpole in Anchorage blew down in a massive windstorm, revealing a 1960’s time capsule in the bulb on top (FNM). / Five narwhal hunters were rescued by the Canadian Coast Guard in Nunavut (EOTA). / The Churchill Zoo is getting a big upgrade (WFP). / Northern Sweden is enjoying bumper crops of cloudberries and blueberries (EOTA). / Murmansk landmark Hotel Arktika may be ready for reopening in December 2013 (BN). Let’s see. / Interested in the ins and outs of the publicized (and unpublicized) Northwest Passage transits? Check out a good deep dive from EOTA. / After last week’s record-setting pumpkin, this week a 138-pound cabbage enjoys its fifteen minutes of fame (FNM). All these massive vegetables are being eaten by animals at the Alaska Conservation Center in Portage (FNM). / A plane flying from London to LA had to land in Iqaluit because of a medical emergency; I was surprised to learn that Iqaluit’s runway is built to handle the largest planes in the sky because of its strategic location (CBC). / A legacy retailer in Iqaluit, Arctic Ventures, is being sold (NN). / A Yellowknife man drowned in Great Slave Lake (CBC). / The cleanup of islands in Russia’s Franz Josef Archipelago is going well (VOR). / The Ted Harrison artist’s retreat near Whitehorse is in financial trouble and is working on reinventing itself (CBC). / The Summer in Siberia program from the U of the Arctic sounds pretty awesome according to this blog post. / The deadline for nominations for the Arctic Inspiration Prize is fast-approaching! Get there. / Yellowknife on earth is making an effort to capitalize on the recent fame of that other Yellowknife, the spot on Mars where the rover landed (CBC). / Aulavik National Park in the NWT has averaged 12 visitors a year for the past 5 years; Parks Canada is working to increase that number (CBC). / A 35,000 square-meter shopping mall, the “Golden Mile,” is in the works for Murmansk ( / 


Lots to see this week. A highlight is a collection of surreal photos from Dave Walsh, getting ready to go up in an exhibit in Dublin. Then there are of course the insane color photographs of James Balog, filmmaker behind “Chasing the Ice,” a captivating photo-essay on Ny-Ålesund from Nick Cobbing, and a wonderful collection of portraits of Arctic people in the Nenets from Cristian Barnett, as well as a collection of beautiful but, unfortunately, neither geotagged nor captioned photographs of a summer trip to the Arctic. Black-and-white photo essays seemed popular this week, including one from Andrea Taurisano on a train ride in the Kola region, and an older set from Ragnar Axelsson on the Inuit of Greenland and Baffin Island. 

Now to individual photos, of (1) a socially-conscious and incredibly well-intentioned toy, (2) a waiting fisherman on Svalbard, (3) the Island of Death in Great Slave Lake, NWT, (4) the coronal mass ejection that led to Monday night’s aurora, (5, 6, 7) what looks to be quite the road and boat trip in Russia, (8) Kluane Lake in the Yukon, (9, 10, 11) three beautiful sunsets over Arctic Bay, (12) a photograph of my dream life, (13) fall color at Denali National Park, (14) Vardø, (15) a sailboat leaving Arctic Bay for Ellesmere Island, (16) an Icelandic waterfall, (17) bears, (18) fall colors in Yakutia, (19) Tromsø, I think, and (20) Greenland, seen at sunset from the air.

I’d also like to take a moment to recognize Clare Kines, who contributes a regular stream of beautiful photos on flickr from Arctic Bay, Nunavut, where he lives. Almost every day there are new delights.

And finally to videos, most noteworthy of which is this one, from, on Russia’s Arctic future (in Russian). Then, I don’t speak Norwegian, and so I have no idea what is being said in this video, but it doesn’t matter; it showcases a whole new level of “trained seal”. Others include the birth of an iceberg, which is legitimately kind of jaw-dropping to watch, and a lo-fi, homemade video of a family trip to the NWT that I somehow find really absorbing. Maybe because it does feel unmediated.


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Alaska Dispatch (AD)
Anchorage Daily News (ADN)
Barents Nova (BN)
Barents Observer (BO)
BusinessWeek (BW)
Eye on the Arctic (EOTA)
Fairbanks News Miner (FNM)
Financial Times (FT)
Globe and Mail (G&M)
Huffington Post (HP)
Moscow Times (MT)
Natural Gas Europe (NGE)
New York Times (NYT)
Northern News Service Online (NNSO)
Northern Public Affairs (NPA)
Nunatsiaq News (NN)
Ottawa Citizen (OC)
RIA Novosti (RIAN)
Russia Today (RT)
Voice of Russia (VOR)
Wall Street Journal (WSJ)
Washington Post (WP)
Whitehorse Star (WS)
Winnipeg Free Press (WFP)