The Arctic This Week 2012: 24 November – 30 November 2012

By Tom Fries The Arctic This Week 2012-43 
24 November – 30 November 2012

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If you’re pressed for time this week, I’d suggest you spend your time with the following…

It’s hardly a single article, but the library of content contained in the just-released Arctic Yearbook 2012 merits as much of your attention as you’ve got available for it. Among its many quality articles is a piece on the future of Arctic shipping and the trans-polar route by TAI’s own Malte Humpert and Andreas Raspotnik.

I can’t recommend strongly enough a fascinating article from Rachael Petersen on Inuktitut as a spoken, written, and tweeted language. Completely captivating. Follow that with an excellent travelogue from Eva Holland on the Matador Network; she brings her travels to the town of Gjoa Haven vividly and memorably to life.

Finish with a couple of excellent analytical articles, the first from Margaret Hobson, via E&E. It covers in detail what the US Coast Guard is facing in the Arctic waters off of Alaska, and what it’s preparing to deal with those challenges. The second is a lengthy analysis – the only such that I’ve read – covering hydroelectric power development in Russia’s far East and Russia’s plans to sell that power through to customers in China. It’s filled with all kinds of information that was completely new to me.



Before moving into details, let me recommend strongly a “strategic comment” from the International Institute for Strategic Studies. It has the odor of good sense and suggests that, shrieking headlines aside, Russia’s military adventurism in the Arctic will be subjugated ultimately to its economic interests.

The dismissal of Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov forms part of a wider anti-corruption effort, or at least the semblance of such, by the government of Vladimir Putin (Spiegel Online). In addition to the anti-corruption push, a reorganization of the Northern Fleet’s command structure into a unified Center for Material and Technical Support is underway. Barents Observer wisely points out as well that there’s been no further word of downsizing the Fleet’s command staff since an announcement several months ago. An independent motorized brigade stationed in Pechenga also became part of the Northern Fleet as of 1 December (BO).

On to Mother Russia’s new toys. The new nuclear submarine Severodvinsk, as part of its ongoing testing in the White Sea, test-fired a cruise missile this past week; its target was “successfully destroyed” (RIAN). Nonetheless, it’s clear that time has run out for delivery of the sub to the navy by the end of 2012 (RIAN). The FSB operating out of Murmansk is doubtless looking forward to receipt of a new, fast (49 knots listed top speed) patrol boat which will be delivered next summer (BO), but the plans for two new nuclear aircraft carriers for the Russian navy have been dismissed as out-of-date; new plans have been requested from the designers (BO). Elsewhere in Russia, the Arctic coastal town of Tiksi apparently had its airport summarily shut down until 2015 by the army without any particular prior warning (BO).

[Everywhere else]

In the plus column for Canada, a useful new database to help Nunavut track and analyze its search-and-rescue efforts will hopefully go live next year (EOTA). On the other side of the ledger, poor Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax, Nova Scotia saw both the sudden departure this week of its president (, in French) and a withering analysis of its ability to stay competitive in the modern military shipbuilding industry that, though I am no expert, has the ring of truth to it (Chronicle Herald). Next-door neighbor the US also has some challenges as the Coast Guard considers what skills, equipment and facilities it will need to manage exponential growth in maritime traffic in US Arctic waters (E&E).

In Scandinavia, the Finns and Norwegians cooperated on a small-scale exercise this week under the NORDEFCO umbrella (YLE), while the Finns’ political sensitivities have led to repeated reassurances that the country’s assistance to NATO in patrolling Iceland’s airspace will be restricted to non-combat missions (IceNews).


[In general…]

The most massive release of information this week was the new Arctic Yearbook 2012, from which the articles and commentary provide a fascinating look at a broad variety of current and future issues. The interactive Arctic Portal map, which is great fun, is also to be commended to your attention. But be warned: One can get hooked. The Arctic Centre in Rovaniemi is running a workshop on Monday 3 December to consider how a “Law of Ice”, useful for governing Arctic and other ice-covered regions, could look. SIPRI has just published a brief report on China’s Arctic aspirations, which can be downloaded as a PDF from the organization’s website.


The Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North is fighting gamely against last month’s decree by Russia’s Ministry of Justice that it should close its doors. With help from organizations outside of Russia, RAIPON has assembled and filed a report with the UN Human Rights Council listing numerous different ways in which the Russian government is failing to do right by its Arctic indigenous peoples (NN, AD). Later in the week, the organization mounted a letter-writing campaign to the Russian government (NN). Should you yourself wish to add your voice to others’, you can send a direct message to the Kremlin here or join a Greenpeace campaign.


Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide was unusually frank in expressing his concerns about a real or perceived Russian clampdown on civil society ( At the same time, new polls in Russia show the credibility and approval ratings of both President Putin and PM Medvedev slipping slowly (RIAN). [My note: How is it possible that credibility and approval ratings are so enormously far apart? Can 34% of Russians truly approve of Dmitri Medvedev without finding him credible?] Despite these concerns, Russian ambassador-at-large Anvar Azimov made positive, if indefinite, noises about an eventual visa-free waiver between the EU and Russia (BN). That is all well and good, but indications are that President Putin may be turning his sights eastward. He announced this week that he would consider “rejuvenating” an idea for a massive state-owned development corporation which, it is hoped, would serve as a sort of Wellbutrin for Russia’s depressed Far East (RIAN).


The slack-roped, unspirited tug-of-war between Denmark and Canada over scenic, inviting Hans Island provides a regular packet of harmless but exciting-sounding headlines, and so it did indeed this week. made the wise decision to talk to Michael Byers about ongoing Canada-Denmark negotiations; Mr Byers suggested sensibly that condominium of the island would be the ideal solution. He points out as well that the timing is felicitous, as Canada is currently negotiating a free trade agreement with the EU. Later in the week, the two negotiating nations did resolve long-standing questions as to the details of their shared maritime boundary in the Lincoln Sea (, but they left Hans Island an open issue.

Let’s look now within Canada’s borders. A group of academics who conduct research on social and health issues in Canada’s First Nations communities wrote an angry letter to Minister of Aboriginal Affairs John Duncan, excoriating cuts to the federal funds that support such research ( At the territorial level, the NWT Government and the Northwest Territories Métis Nation have re-signed the Memorandum of Understanding that establishes, in a general way, cooperation between the two governments. Next door in Yukon, the White River First Nation has decided to part ways with the Council of Yukon First Nations (CBC). This is at least in part because the WRFN has a legal relationship with the federal and territorial governments that differs meaningfully from those of many other CYFN members. The Nunavut Planning Commission is meanwhile underway with its herculean task of developing a “master map”, which would display countless different layers of information, for the future development of the territory (CBC).

[United States]

From Washington, DC, the White House announced that it would appoint former mayor of Alaska’s North Slope Borough Edward Itta to sit on the US’s Arctic Research Commission (AD). In Alaska, Governor Sean Parnell’s recently-released budget proposal shows a strong focus on public safety and domestic violence (FNM), while the new Alaska state legislature will be focusing at least some of its attention on prioritizing some of the state’s many pressing energy projects (FNM). A recent trip to Iceland organized by the Institute of the North took Alaskan officials, academics and businessmen to Iceland to find ways to share knowledge and cooperate, particularly on energy technologies (Ambassador Luis Arreaga’s blog here, the Institute of the North’s blog here). Finally from Alaska, the ongoing trials of 22 fishermen who took salmon during a fishing ban might be consolidated into one to allow for better advocacy (FNM).

[The Nordics]

Finland and Norway can feel pleased with themselves; their cross-border cooperation may serve as an example to other European countries that share borders (BO). Norway was also the subject of a tidy two-minute video briefing from Stratfor which, I have to say, gets plenty of useful information in there.



Polar bears continue to be a nuisance to residents of Hall Beach, Nunavut, as described in Nunatsiaq News. One comment on the article recommends that residents pick up the seals from their yards, which is doubtless good advice for discouraging polar bear overtures. 41 long-dead polar bears that have been sitting in legal limbo in Canada may soon be legally brought into the US by their owners, assuming the US House of Representatives approves the relevant legislation (MSNBC). Permitting for hunting of the Fortymile caribou herd in Alaska sounds like it is going to be a challenge for the one poor staff person fielding calls from every interested hunter beginning Monday at 8:00 AM (FNM), and swans, gulls and ducks are persisting in Finland longer and longer into each year (anecdotally) before finally departing to head to warmer climes (YLE).

On to the sea. Scientists are concerned that the noise of underwater seismic surveying may be causally linked to unusual behavior by narwhal groups which, in 2008 and again in 2009-2010, led to their eventual mass entrapment and death (Science Direct). Also behaving unusually are fin, minke, humpback and killer whales never – or only rarely – seen before in the Chukchi Sea off of Point Hope, Alaska. This year they’ve been observed in great numbers ( There is also concern that bycatch of Greenland sharks in Nunavut’s turbot fishery is having an appreciably negative impact on populations there, but so little is known about the animals that it’s hard to say (EOTA). Other researchers think that mammal-eating killer whales in the Pacific ought perhaps to be a separate species altogether (ADN). On the more popular-science end of the spectrum, the walrus is delightfully profiled on, and a robotic fish developed for Arctic deployment by Chinese engineers will, doubtless, be mentioned in the future as evidence of China’s plans for an Arctic takeover (

[The ice]

The latest round of climate change negotiations in Doha seem to be viewed from the outside with general pessimism, and a study on ice melt in Greenland and Antarctica now demonstrates conclusively that both ice sheets are indeed shrinking (Channel 4 – the paper can be purchased from Science). That ice loss led to an 11.1mm increase in sea level, +/- 3.8mm, between 1992 and 2011 (BBC). In total, it seems that both poles taken together are currently losing ice at a rate three times greater than in the 1990s (AD), while accelerating thaw of permafrost worldwide is also a grave danger in terms of the carbon it would release into the atmosphere (Reuters). The World Meteorological Organization also used the occasion of the UN Climate Change Conference to release an official report stating that 2001-2011 had been some of the warmest ten years ever recorded (NN). Other research on land ice on Greenland, Iceland, Svalbard and Scandinavia – all of which suggests further melting – came from a glaciologist at the University of Iceland and his colleagues (Arctic Portal), while research in Alaska suggests that the Columbia Glacier, which currently calves 2 cubic miles’ worth of icebergs into the ocean each year (!!!), will slow its dramatic output and reach equilibrium in about 2020. By then, it will have lost 15 miles in length since measurement began in 1794 (FNM). Beautiful photos of Greenland’s ice sheet from famed photographer James Balog are available via the LA Times.

[New research]

Funding is going in to fascinating new work at the University of Bergen and elsewhere which will be studying how the language we use influences our conclusions about climate science (U of Bergen, in Norwegian). The Norwegian Institute of Marine Research is also doing well and opening a new office on Svalbard (BO). In sharp contrast, many Canadian climate scientists are feeling assaulted by government cuts to research funding (Bloomberg). Even the privately-supported Churchill (Manitoba) Northern Studies Center is running lean and feeling the pinch, but ArcticNet director Louis Fortier says that “if you make an overall assessment of what is going on, there is still a lot more money being invested in the Arctic than in the past” (Canadian Geographic). ArcticNet also released its latest Integrated Regional Impact Study looking at Nunavik and Nunatsiavut, with a set of 24 recommendations covered by Nunatsiaq News.

In Alaska, the National Ecological Observatory Network is setting up shop at the Toolik Field Station in the Brooks Range to monitor “solar radiation, greenhouse gases, climate change and invasive species” over the next three decades (EOTA). The interesting Arctic Collaborative Environment project uploaded a video this week leading users through the process of contributing to, and using, the information available.


Continuing rebound from the end of the Ice Age means that the Nordic countries are rising above the sea at a rate of about .4 cm per year, in contrast to many other parts of the planet (EOTA). / A new national park in Nunavut looks set to open by next summer (NN, AD). / Comparison of centuries-old human waste and lake sediment in Norway’s Lofoten are helping to identify the different ways in which human residency affects the nearby environment (HP). / Documentation of the Maud before she is returned to Norway is being done by a Norwegian filmmaker despite the onset of the Arctic winter (NN). Listen to a radio interview via CBC’s show As It Happens. / A new CBC documentary covers recent research demonstrating, perhaps, that Norse came to Canada much earlier than originally thought. / Fairbanks is getting a lot less snow than it would like (FNM) and a hell of a lot more pollution (FNM).


[In general…]

Professor Peter Wadhams is in the press again, being frank with Radio Free Europe about the impossibility of cleaning up an oil spill that takes place in ice-covered waters. And in a thoughtful and practical move, an investment-research firm has ranked oil companies’ investment attractiveness according to their spill-preparedness and spill-response record, among other related factors (Bloomberg); Chevron and BP came out on the bottom, with Norwegian Statoil and UK firm BG on top of the list. Lastly, Foreign Policy wrote a quick and somewhat glib blurb “Inuits Strike it Rich”, (Note: Is “Inuits” even correct?) indicating that the development of resource industries in largely-aboriginal parts of the Arctic is one of the big stories of 2012 that a lay reader might have missed out on. That may well be, but I don’t know how fair it is to give the impression that these Arctic residents are rubbing their hands together, C. Montgomery Burns-style, in anticipation of “cashing in on the resource bonanza.”


Russia appeared to be making numerous pushes to increase its gas-market share in key regions this week.  Gazprom announced it would be investing about USD 2 billion in infrastructure to help improve its transport capacity across Belarus to Europe (Bloomberg). This addition to its supply bandwidth comes on top of the recently-opened North European Gas Pipeline (Natural Gas Europe). Gazprom is considering expanding the Nord Stream pipeline as well to feed Britain (Natural Gas Europe), and the company is engaged as well in nebulous discussions with potential Japanese customers for LNG (New Europe). Construction is slated to begin on the South Stream pipeline on December 7, which will create a meaningful lock on portions of the European market for Gazprom, but which might have negative consequences for its position in the world as a whole (enjoy this fine article from Matthew Hulbert in Forbes). At a broader level, liberalization of access to Russia’s Arctic offshore hasn’t yet been approved yet (BN), and the Russia chapter of Greenpeace points out that there appears to be no oil spill response plan in place for offshore projects (Greenpeace, in Russian).

In other Russian energy news, France and its champion Total appear interested in greater involvement in gas projects in Russia’s Arctic – both Shtokman and the Yamal LNG project (Russia Beyond the Headlines), while RusHydro will enjoy a RUB 50 billion boost to its expansion plans in Eastern Siberia, with the goal of selling hydroelectricity into northern Chinese markets (


A CAD 6.3 billion guarantee to the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project in Newfoundland and Labrador gives the project a big shove forward (CBC), but some residents downstream of the proposed project are convinced that the project will increase mercury levels in Lake Melville, poisoning a significant component of their food supply (CBC). The Nunatsiavut government is working with ArcticNet to monitor any possible issues (

Elsewhere, the Northwest Territories Power Corporation says its recently-completed Bluefish hydroelectric dam is built to last 100 years (CBC). Let’s hope. In Nunavut, ministerial responsibility for the Nunavut’s power utility, the Qulliq Energy Corporation, has been given to Member of the Legislative Assembly Monica Ell (NN). And in Yukon, the Kaska nations continue to fight to prevent loss of their current veto power over oil and gas projects (CBC).


Both the BBC’s May Abdalla and Hearst’s Jen Dlouhy delivered excellent articles looking at the question of whether offshore drilling in Alaska will be a net gain or a net loss to the North Slope Borough communities. The Reynolds Center also gives Ms Dlouhy a richly-deserved laudatory profile this week, talking with her briefly about what it’s taken for her to become a go-to source for information on this issue.

Shell, the company whose work has been the primary subject of Ms Dlouhy’s reporting, is apparently already in talks with the US Department of the Interior to extend its drilling leases past their current 2015 deadline (NASDAQ), and Shell’s Alaska VP Pete Slaiby appears to have dared to publicly state the obvious, which is that if there’s drilling, there will likely be a spill of some sort at some point in the future, though Mr Slaiby discounted the possibility that any such spill would be large enough to affect “people’s subsistence” (Telegraph). His remarks were seized upon, as one might imagine, but perhaps more worrying (although it got much less press) was the release via a Freedom of Information request of the precise results from tests of the containment dome carried aboard the Arctic Challenger. The fact of the containment dome’s failure was already public, but apparently during testing in Puget Sound the poor thing had some sort of dramatic accident that left it crumpled “like a beer can” (KUOW). Yikes.

The state of Alaska might consider investing in a state-owned liquefaction plant on the North Slope, which could help to produce LNG for trucking to assorted Alaskan communities as needed (FNM). Brooks Range Petroleum Corporation is at work to bring its North-Slope Mustang oil field on-line by the end of 2014 (Petroleum News). At the residential level, customers of Fairbanks’s Golden Valley Electric Association are looking at reductions in rates, thanks in part to a new contract with an electricity producer further south and in part to the opening of a new wind farm (FNM).

[The Nordics]

Statoil and ExxonMobil have elected to halt drilling off of the Faroes in expectation of foul weather this winter season (AB), while two new, semi-experimental windmills in Iceland will probably profit from a windy winter (Arctic Portal). The windmills stop producing at wind speeds above 34 m/s, though. Iceland has less experience with wind energy than it does with geothermal, and apparently Iceland and the UK have agreed to investigate together the possibility of an undersea cable delivering Icelandic geothermal power to the UK (IceNews). Another 1400MW cable connecting Stockholm and Oslo to fortify Scandinavia’s power grid is also under consideration (IceNews).

LNG from Statoil’s Hammerfest plant is making its way across the Northern Sea Route aboard the Ob River on its way to Japan. This being the first such trip by a gas tanker, the BBC story had a great run via Twitter this week. The Hammerfest plant that provided the LNG is back on line this week after a brief shutdown due to a power failure (Maritime Executive). In the same neighborhood of the Barents, a recent discovery by Sweden’s Lundin Petroleum looks unpromising (Rigzone).

Norway’s oil industry is bursting at the seams. A shortage of experienced workers is turning it into an employee’s market, and salaries for North Sea oil workers are going up at insane rates (AB). Despite this gold-rush feeling, petroleum minister Ola Borten Moe opted to keep waters off of Norway’s Lofoten closed to drilling for now because of their value to fisheries (BO). The country’s sovereign wealth fund also made its first investment in Switzerland this week with the purchase of a Zurich office building for a nice, round CHF 1 billion (AB). Despite the fountains of coin pouring down upon the industry, five serious incidents that could have become catastrophic occurred this past year, and Norway’s Petroleum Safety Authority has them all under investigation (AB).

Lastly, Finland’s gas company Gasum is looking at building an LNG import terminal in Southern Finland, from which it could then send gas on to the Baltics via pipeline (Natural Gas Europe).


[North America]

Let’s look first at major projects. Confusion over a term in the Nunavut Impact Review Board’s final assessment of the Mary River project has been cleared up (NN), and the Nunavik Nickel mine looks set to start shipping nickel, copper, cadmium and palladium to Europe in 2013 (NN). In Yukon, the public-feedback process on the territorial government’s proposed plan for the Peel watershed looks, from this distance, like an exhausting and vaguely tragicomic Hatfield-&-McCoy-style feud for everyone involved (WS, CBC). The territorial government is fighting as well with several first nations to determine who will have how much influence when new subsoil projects are considered (WS).

For those of you who know how to interpret mining assays, Kivalliq has gotten back results from a uranium project in Nunavut (CMJ), Seabridge Gold has early results from one portion of its Courageous Lake project in the Northwest Territories (, and Canadian Orebodies’ Haig Inlet iron project on Nunavut’s Belcher Islands seems to be bringing in exciting results (Financial Post).

At a more holistic level, apparently not all mining companies operating in Canada have gotten the message about prior consultation with First Nations (Mining & Exploration), and all operating in Canada’s North need to be thinking about thawing permafrost as they design their projects (Forbes). The NWT & Nunavut Chamber of Mines recently issued a short press release looking at the updated investment numbers for mineral exploration and production in the three northern territories. Next door in Alaska, two of the primary personalities in the Pebble Mine battle are at one another in the state’s courts (AD).

[Russia & Scandinavia]

Greenland appears to be looking for ways to leverage Chinese interest into greater investment from Denmark in the island’s mineral industry (IceNews). Continental neighbor Luleå in Sweden’s high North is home to a growing queue of crises in the steel industry, though the freshest crisis appears to have been resolved (EOTA). In Finland, not all is as it should be at the post-spill Talvivaara mine, to nobody’s surprise (EOTA). Stiff back or stiff knees, Russian diamond giant Alrosa will stand straight at Tiffany’s if a long-term contract to supply uncut stones to the major retail brand comes through (RIAN).


[In general…]

Life should be great for Arctic business. A recent survey by Forbes placed Denmark, Canada, Norway, Sweden and Finland all in the top 10 of business-friendly countries, with the US in place 12 and Russia in … place 105 (BN). The Moscow News tried to combat negative impressions of the Russian business climate with a profile of startups in Tomsk, while a profile of the soon-to-be-former owner of Arctic Ventures in Up Here magazine highlights the challenges and rewards of entrepreneurship in Nunavut’s “fragile economy.”

Getting to hard numbers, Iceland’s central bank has raised the country’s primary interest rate by .25% (IceNews). Neighbor Norway grew more than expected (.7%) in Q3 of this year (IceNews), and the country’s unemployment remained an enviable 3.2% (IceNews). Murmansk’s debt was rated BB, or “stable” by Fitch (BN), and final numbers on Russia’s 2011 external trade show that the Murmansk region provided .4% of it (BN).


Should the current state-of-play for the Northern Sea Route be a complete mystery to you, you’ll want to begin your reading with an article from the China Daily, by way of Global Research. A better article from Radio Free Europe highlights some of the reasons why the past few years’ spectacular growth in the Route’s usage may not necessarily indicate that the Northern Sea Route will be competing with the Suez Canal any time soon. Nor has the Northern Maritime Corridor, a planned channel of tax advantages and good ports between Europe and Murmansk/Arkhangelsk, lived up to the hype it enjoyed in 2002 (BO).

Lastly, word came this week that a mandatory ship reporting system will go into effect for the Barents Sea as of 1 June 2013, as requested by the Norwegian and Russian governments (BO).


The regional governor for Arkhangelsk is slapping a number of requirements on any prospective buyer of the Arkhangelsk trawler fleet, including “social obligations” to the employees, whatever that might mean (BO). Three organizations – one Russian-registered, two Cyprus-registered, have been approved to bid on the fleet after clearing a series of hurdles (BN). Nearby on the Kola Peninsula, a representative of the Russian Federal Fisheries Agency stated clearly that the aquaculture industry in Murmansk will require Norwegian help to reach its potential quickly (BN).

In Alaska, Governor Sean Parnell has proposed a booster-shot of funds to support research into king salmon, presumably in the hope that another disastrous year like 2012 can be avoided with better knowledge (ADN). Bering Fisheries’ purchase of catch quota for Aleutian Islands golden king crab (1.2 million pounds) may make the company’s plant in Unalaska a more significant player in the processing market (KUCB). A similar purchase of KDS Incorporated by the Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation brings another 1.2 million pounds of catch quota into the NSEDC’s portfolio as well (AD). The US’s National Marine Fisheries Service’s implementation of a new, tightened observer regime for halibut fisheries in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska has, unsurprisingly, gotten affected fishermen riled up (ADN).


[Transportation, Communications & Other Infrastructure]

The ribbon-cutting ceremony for the (in-)famous Deh Cho Bridge over the Mackenzie River in the Northwest Territories, which connects Yellowknife finally with the rest of Canada by year-round road, drew heavily-insulated politicians outdoors in droves (CBC). The ferry which the bridge replaces seems to have done its final run on Friday the 30th (Picture from @CBCNorth). The bridge’s opening leaves some locals worrying that increased connectivity with communities south of 60° may not be an unmixed blessing. In addition, a 2010 change in the structure of the project company means that local communities are looking at substantially less revenue than they’d originally expected or hoped for (CBC).

An interesting article in the Globe & Mail heretically asserts that perhaps public-private partnerships are not always models of improved efficiency, but that they instead postpone and disguise costs that governments would rather leave future politicians to deal with. On Twitter and in the article itself, the specter of the Iqaluit airport project was summoned up. Elsewhere in Nunavut, the Pond Inlet airport will be getting improved security in 2013 if all goes according to plan (CBC), while Iqaluit will miss the annual Christmas Ball hosted/sponsored by First Air, which is cutting back on expenses this year (CBC). Next door in the Northwest Territories, a subsidiary of Discovery Air is cutting employees for the winter season, and perhaps permanently (CBC), and on the other side of the world Finnish businesses have been pushing – successfully, it appears – to connect Russia’s Republic of Karelia with Finland by air (BN). Yakutia Airlines appears to be swimming in money, with expected orders for nine new Boeing 737s next year (CH Aviation). For a fascinating look at the history of transpolar flight, go to Arctic Portal.

While Murmansk may be looking at improved air connection to Finland, the Murmansk transport hub project is the subject of a tug-of-words between federal and regional authorities (BN). Is it alive? Is it dead? Opinion seems to lean towards the latter. Murmansk’s Arctic compatriot Kotzebue, on the Bering coast in Alaska, is taking advantage of frozen ground to dredge eight feet out of Swan Lake to improve a small-boat harbor (Arctic Sounder). A road bringing Nunavut year-round road access to the rest of Canada via Manitoba is a wonderful idea unlikely to be realized anytime in the near future (NN), but Arkhangelsk, thanks to the Chinese, may in the near term benefit from the Belkomur rail line, which would more easily connect the Arctic city with Perm (BO) and the rest of Russia.

In communications infrastructure, Northwestel suffered another legal defeat this week at the hands of the Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission (CBC), while the Northwest Territories K’atl’odeechee First Nation is moving on its own to bring fiber optic connectivity to the community (CBC). The Bering Sea community of Saint Paul, in the Pribilof Islands, should – god willing – also be getting broadband via a USDA grant to connect remote communities (USDA blog). The government suggests that this will make telework a viable option from the community. Let’s see.

An assortment of other infrastructure issues were at hand for the interested this week. The unfortunate community of Tsiigehtchic, NWT lost its pumping station on Monday, and we hope they’ll have it back up and running soon – winter repairs cannot be easy (CBC). The Nunavut Housing Trust’s construction of housing units is almost complete, but it’s been a slog to get here, and neither the process nor the outcome was remotely as hoped (CBC). Nunatsiaq News, as usual, provides a detailed and thoughtful debrief of the problem. Murmansk, for whatever reason, is also looking at its housing prices going up, even though most of the economic news one reads about the region these days sounds rather more dire than upbeat (BN). And the city of Yellowknife is preparing to up its debt from CAD 2 million to CAD 20 million to allow for needed investments in aging infrastructure (CBC).


Congratulations are due to Finland, whose education system this week was announced as the best in the world, followed closely by South Korea. Finland was also the only Western country in the top 5 (YLE). The BBC asked how the winner and the runner-up could have ended up there, considering that they take vastly different approaches to education.

In Iqaluit, a blizzard forced the postponement of the Circumpolar Conference on Education for Indigenous People (NN), but interesting research presented once the conference had begun suggests that Inuit children who learn Inukitut in day care enjoy top-of-the-class performance in many different subjects later in their academic work as well (CBC). A complementary report from TD Bank suggested that, at the national level, investments in early childhood education result in societal benefits that far outweigh the required initial investments (CBC). Nunavut Arctic College has meanwhile added Inuktitut classes to its nursing program (Nunavut Echo), but that bit of good news may have been ignored next to a fiery rain of comments from the community on a letter on social promotion from the Nunavut Department of Education’s Deputy Minister (NN).

Elsewhere in Canada, the union representing teachers in Yukon reached a deal with the government after a marathon negotiating session (CBC). I’m not sure what the starting point for the negotiation was, but it looks like the teachers’ union managed to secure modest salary gains, reduced class sizes, and several other modest concessions (WS). Teachers’ unions in Alaska, in contrast, seem less than thrilled about Governor Sean Parnell’s proposal to increase the proportion of a teacher’s evaluation that is based on the academic performance of their students (FNM).

In other education news, the U of Alaska Anchorage has received a promise of an anonymous $2 million donation to establish scholarships for students who are the first in their families to attend college (FNM). Elsewhere in Alaska, the coastal town of Kivalina’s recent water troubles, which forced closure of a school, seem to have encouraged the students and teachers to pull together, and the school is finishing its fall semester in good spirits and good shape (EOTA).


Tulattavik Hospital in Kuujjuaq, Nunavik was recently accredited by the appropriate Canadian bureau; it’s the first such accreditation for a medical facility in Nunavik (NN). In Yukon, the government is working with pharmacies to create a better IT system territory-wide (WS). Iqaluit will be observing Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week during the week of Monday 3 December (NN). Inuit women and youth in particular appear to suffer at much higher rates than non-Inuit women and youth across the Canadian North. Meanwhile a new Inuktitut glossary of cancer terms is being prepared for wide release next year as part of a broader initiative to improve cancer awareness among Inuit women (NN).


Björk, not unlike Diane Rehm (for those of you who know her), apparently suffers from vocal polyps, but the recent surgical removal of those polyps has left her, enthusiastically, as good as new (IceNews). Just as Björk herself has done in the past, the Nordics in general will be conquering the US via the Nordic Cool exhibition at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, coming up in early 2013 (Norden). In Alaska, masks made by an Arctic community make up part of an exhibition in Anchorage (Arctic Sounder). An awesome article, and a definite Read of the Week for opening my eyes to a subject I never even thought about, is on Global Native Networks looking at Tweet-tracking in Inuktitut. I’ll let you enjoy it for yourself.


Team Nunavut’s mixed curling team upset Team Newfoundland and Labrador at the Canadian Mixed Curling Championship, but failed to advance nonetheless (NN). There also appears to have been a hard-fought duel in a cash spiel in Whitehorse (WS). The Whitehorse Bantam A Mustangs won an invitational tournament in British Columbia (WS) and the season-opening cross country ski race took place this week in Whitehorse as well (WS).


Several nice collections came out this week. Start with a fantastic one of Arctic landscapes from Lottie Davies, accompanied by a nice interview with the author on each picture ( Move on to a series on the melting of the Pine Island Glacier (Guardian), another beautiful one from the National Park Service on the winter wildlife of the Western Arctic National Parklands, a third of Saami objects in the Nordic Heritage Museum (from flickr user saborista), and a fourth awesome collection by Madeleine Redfern on Pinterest of photos of hunting, wildlife and wild food in the Canadian North (many different photographers). Finish with a beautiful series of paintings from Frederic Edwin Church of icebergs during the Golden Age of Sail (

Also take a moment to browse through these individual photos of (1) a frost rainbow in Yakutsk, (2) Glacier Bay national park in Alaska, (3) twilight in northern Norway, (4) a young man skiing in Yakutia, (5) bundled-up souls crossing the street in Yakutsk, (6) a small ship on a tow line in Norway, (7) an old photo of the Panther steaming along under the midnight sun, (8) morning at the Snap Lake Mine in the Northwest Territories, (9) the Svalbard airport, (10) the Arctic Ocean viewed from Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise, (11) twilight in Tromsø, (12) frigid cold in Gjoa Haven, (13) an iceberg off of Spitsbergen, (14) the night sky outside of Arctic Bay, (15) Akureyri in winter, (16) Lenin Square in Yakutsk, (17) a snowed-in hut in Piteå, (18) two impact craters as dark dots on the snowy landscape of the Ungava peninsula, and (19) a Fata Morgana off of Svalbard.


Now to those pieces of news that fit nowhere else…

“Movember” is over, and Finns (YLE) and Canadians (WS) have gone from looking like Yosemite Sam to newborn babes. / Barents Observer has been seeing a doubling of traffic from mobile devices in recent months – we’re genuinely grateful for the surprising info. / Papers documenting the commercial history of several Bering Sea-coast and Yukon River communities from 1868 to 1940 have been donated to the U of Alaska Fairbanks (FNM). / The town of Chicken, Alaska is the first Alaskan locale to hit 50 degrees below 0 (Fahrenheit) this winter (AD), and Sweden got socked in with cold and snow as well (EOTA). / Both Longyearbyen and Cambridge Bay, Nunavut are now available for touring via Google Street View. / The search for 31 year old Thomas Seibold in the Alaskan wilderness has been suspended after 13 unsuccessful days (FNM), but friends from Wisconsin are still hoping to find him by sensing his aura (EOTA). In contrast, 81 year old Frank Sharp made it out of the snowy woods of the Alaskan panhandle by successfully orienting himself off of a passing jet (AD). / Whatever happened to a load of missing gold concentrate in a plane that went down at the British Columbia–Alaska border 16 years ago (Up Here)? / Lucky Murmansk will soon be home to a McDonald’s AND a Burger King (BO). / Delivering a $145 Ikea couch to Nunavut will apparently cost you CAD 1 billion – billion, yes – in shipping charges, but only a paltry CAD 50 million in taxes (APTN). / Owners of purebred Inuit sled dogs in Nunavut want the city to find a way to physically prevent interbreeding with the stray mutts that also inhabit the town (CBC). / Lights installed at bus stops in Umeå, Sweden to combat seasonal affective disorder are blinding local bus drivers (EOTA). / A wonderful travelogue from Eva Holland brings the town of Gjoa Haven vividly to life (Matador Network). / Stavanger’s Aftenblad, which we love, and Aberdeen’s Press and Journal will begin cooperating on energy news (AB).


Christmas is on the way for Finns, with the turning-on of 6,500 LED lights in Helsinki’s Senate Square (YLE). Whitehorse’s Santa garbage truck will now be but a shell of its former self. Henceforth, a rolling effigy of a garbage truck, instead of the real thing, will be decorated and festively lit for the holiday season (WS). A teacher from a small town in Oregon adorably took her students’ letters to Santa with her on a trip to North Pole, Alaska, where she did indeed deliver them to Santa (FNM). If you’re in England or Scotland and hating Christmas on a small northern European island, now you can escape with cheap flights to a completely different small northern European island. IcelandAir has seasonal promotions going on from Gatwick, Heathrow, Glasgow and Manchester to Reykjavik (IceNews).


Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN)
Aftenbladet (AB)
Alaska Dispatch (AD)
Alaska Native News (ANN)
Anchorage Daily News (ADN)
Barents Nova (BN)
Barents Observer (BO)
Bristol Bay Times (BBT)
BusinessWeek (BW)
Canadian Mining Journal (CMJ)
Eye on the Arctic (EOTA)
Fairbanks News Miner (FNM)
Financial Times (FT)
Globe and Mail (G&M)
Huffington Post (HP)
Indian Country Today Media Network (ICTMN)
Moscow Times (MT)
Natural Gas Europe (NGE)
Naval Today (NT)
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)