The Arctic This Week 2012: 8 December – 14 December 2012

By Tom Fries The Arctic This Week 2012:45
8 December – 14 December 2012

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Thanks for joining us this week! This is the final issue of 2012, and all of us want to wish all of you a wonderful holiday season and a good start to 2013. TATW 2013:01 will be delivered on 7 January.

As always, all editorial choices, opinions and any mistakes are the author’s own. To comment or to request a back issue, feel free to contact the author directly.

Reads of the Week

Lots of us are getting in to the true holiday spirit right about now by working long, haggard hours trying to close out everything at the office so that we can then relax in a long, grumpy line at the airport. If you’re one of these, stick with the following five easy pieces this week.

WATCH THIS: There aren’t many things that everyone likes, but NASA Earth Observatory’s visualizations of our planet are probably on the short list. NASA EO’s lead data visualizer Robert Simmon talks about what’s popular, what’s not, why, and how NASA EO thinks about illustrating data and narratives.

A new report out from Canada’s Chamber of Commerce takes a comprehensive look at Canada’s three northern territories. The report’s categorization of different issues and its recommendations for dealing with each are well worth reading. It offers good perspective on the economic present and possible future of the Canadian North.

A fascinating conversation with Eva Aariak about the challenge of providing an education that helps people succeed both in Nunavut and in the cities of the South is a great read (Chronicle Herald).

This certainly isn’t focused on the Arctic, but a recent Chatham House report on the future of resource usage worldwide is important nonetheless for its relevance to Arctic resource usage and policy. The quality is outstanding; creative, thoughtful, concise and clear. Browse the executive summary or the full report. Also not specifically Arctic but critical to many different elements of Arctic development is a possible breakthrough in the use of DC current, as reported by Platts.

Blood & Treasure

Things are getting quieter as we head into the holiday season, and Thomas Axworthy of Canada’s Gordon Foundation would like to make them even more so with a Nordic nuclear weapons-free zone, a concept first discussed during the Cold War. The establishment of such a zone could be the first step on the road to an officially nuclear weapon-free Arctic (

In North America, General Charles Jacoby of NORAD and USNORTHCOM spoke with Aol Defense about the collaborative US-Canadian approach needed to tackle challenges in what the General calls “communications, domain awareness, infrastructure and presence”. On Tuesday, General Jacoby and Canadian colleague Lieutenant-General Stuart Beare, the head of Canadian Joint Operations Command, met in Colorado Springs, CO for the 230th meeting of the Canada-US Permanent Joint Board on Defense. The Commanders signed two agreements: the Tri Command Framework for Arctic Cooperation; and the Tri-Command Training and Exercise Statement of Intent. Official press releases - which are physically painful to read - are available from Canadian Forces and from USNORTHCOM. Scarcely more readable analysis from the US Department of Defense seems to indicate, at least as I am given to interpret it, that the agreements are official supporting documents for ongoing Canadian-US cooperation in the Arctic, and that the Arctic continues to be a peripheral focus for both militaries in comparison with more pressing issues elsewhere. More interestingly for a layperson such as myself, it appears that Canadian and US officials also met separately with a whole slew of Arctic-focused researchers from various government bodies in an effort to review, catalog and coordinate Arctic research across the various agencies (Science Codex, Summit County Voice).

Two US agencies with interests in the Arctic offshore – the US Coast Guard and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement – signed a memorandum of understanding geared to help make their collaboration in outer-continental-shelf activities more efficient, less redundant, and so on (BSEE – I missed this in late November). The upcoming Coast Guard Reauthorization Act, expected to pass the Senate finally after bouncing back and forth between the two houses since September (Marine Log), is seen by Alaska’s Senator Mark Begich as a necessary source of funding to help “ensure [that Alaska doesn’t] fall any farther behind” (press release). It includes a focus on the harbor at St George as a possible year-round facility, and gives the Polar Sea, which was slated to be scrapped in 2011, a stay of execution for the time being (Puget Sound Business Journal).

It was a quiet week for military news from the Russian and Nordic Arctic. Russia’s titanium-hulled, deep-diving sub Losharik, which assisted with the country’s recent expedition to gather geological data on the Lomonosov Ridge to support Russia’s claim to more of the Arctic Ocean seabed, may soon be getting a new, smaller sister for expected deployment as part of similar missions (BO). Another submarine – the scuttled K-27, a nuclear hulk lying in shallow waters near Novaya Zemlya – will be studied by Russia’s Emergencies Ministry to see if it’s possible to raise it for proper disposal (RIAN). Neighbor Norway is meanwhile focused on improving search-&-rescue capacity on the island of Svalbard with two new Super Puma all-weather helicopters; they’ll be run by a contractor, and the contract is for six years (BO).

The Political Scene


Ministers Carl Bildt and Leona Aglukkaq, whose countries hold the 2011-2013 and 2013-2015 chairmanship of the Arctic Council, sat down for a chat earlier this week about Sweden’s chairmanship (which runs through May) and Canada’s upcoming time leading the organization. Al Jazeera’s “The Stream” meanwhile went back to the seemingly inexhaustible well from which headlines about the “Race for the Arctic” are drawn. Greenland Premier Kuupik Kleist’s support for a South Korean observer spot at the Arctic Council was covered in Yonhap News, while Huang Nubo - the Chinese investor whose real-estate travails in Iceland have been so very public – expressed his belief that resistance to his plans is rooted in racism (IceNews). China meanwhile has elected to snub Norway by leaving it out of a new visa-free regimen; the new law permits visitors from many countries to visit Beijing for up to 72 hours without a visa (IceNews). Russia and the US are also firing legislative volleys at one another over each country’s perception of the other’s nasty habit of violating human rights (RIAN). Finland, in contrast, is working on easing transit with its eastern neighbor; a new online appointment calendar will allow travelers to schedule a specific time to cross the border, thus reducing long waits (BN). Also in Russia, the tantalizingly-titled conference “Electronic Memory of the Arctic – cultural communications of the circumpolar world” took place this week (Arctic Portal). I can’t quite gather what the topics discussed might have been, and – not for the first time – I wish I could speak Russian.

Idle No More

A sense among Canada’s First Nations of chronic neglect and ill treatment at the hands of the Canadian government has led to a growing protest movement in Canada: Idle No More. The issues the movement hopes to gain traction on include, among other things, “First Nations poverty, lack of education, clean water, control of resources and self-autonomy” ( I hesitate to mix myself up in the politics of such a thing from so far away, so let me simply say that several peaceful protests were launched this past week in Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba, British Columbia and Ontario (, as well as in Yukon (APTN), and Theresa Spence, Chief of the Attawapiskat First Nation, has begun a hunger strike, asking for “a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and a representative of the Queen to discuss treaty agreements between Canada and First Nations” (HP). Others have taken up the hunger strike in sympathy with Chief Spence (APTN).

Whether unhappiness within the Kaska First Nations in the Yukon over potential amendments to the territory’s Oil & Gas Act is associated with the Idle No More movement is difficult to say. Nevertheless, the two in combination present a picture of growing unrest. The disagreement in this case is over an amendment that would remove the First Nations’ veto authority over development on their territory (CBC). A meeting between the First Nations and Premier Darrell Pasloski to discuss the issue did not go well (CBC); a detailed debrief suggests that the primary speaker for the First Nations, Chief Liard McMillan, believes Premier Pasloski is kowtowing to the interests of oil and gas companies (WS).

Canada & the US

Inuit leader Terry Audla was profiled at some length in Nunatsiaq News this week; the article offers some useful insight into the priorities of the new leader of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. In Nunavut, current president of Nunavut Tunngavik, Inc. Cathy Towtongie kept her seat after this week’s election (NN). You can read an interview with her about the election and her priorities via Nunatsiaq News.

In the Northwest Territories, the Gwich’in, who recently signed on to the territory’s devolution agreement, had a closed-door meeting with Premier Bob McLeod on Monday to discuss “things that are impacting the Gwich'in, and services that government are providing to the Gwich'in” (CBC). Minister Michael Miltenberger gave a speech looking at the impacts that devolution could have on water management of various kinds in the territory (GNWT). Meanwhile the NWT’s Deh Cho First Nation is considering ways of covering funding gaps left by a 10% reduction in federal funds (CBC).

Next door in Yukon, protests over the territorial government’s plans for the disposition of the Peel Watershed seem to have led to increased distance and anger between the government and opponents of the proposed Peel watershed regional land use plan (CBC). The territory’s capitol city, Whitehorse, meanwhile announced that it would cut its capital spending by CAD 10 million for 2013 (CBC). Whitehorse mayor Dan Curtis is rallying support for restoration of funding to Parks Canada attractions in the area (WS). The Yukon’s Tourism Industry Association is pursuing other routes to keep the SS Klondike up and running, most particularly looking for private operators to take over where Parks Canada has left off (CBC).

In Alaska, Governor Sean Parnell has proposed a budget for the next fiscal year which is substantially smaller than the present year’s. This is in response to reduced revenues ( Meanwhile a former executive director of the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission was sentence to a fine and prison time for embezzling money from the Commission – she is the second executive director to face this charge (ADN). At the national level, it looks like Senator Mark Begich is likely to end up on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee (ADN).


Greenpeace UK’s campaign against British grocery-store chain Waitrose’s relationship with Shell is a case-study in what can be accomplished with social media these days. / RUB 7.9 billion went missing from Russia’s state coffers thanks to graft and corruption from January-October 2012 (RIAN). / Finnish stores in Russia’s Krasnodar region might be boycotted by residents, who perceive a strong Finnish bias against Russian parents in the country (YLE).

Science, Climate & Wildlife

Before we get into anything else, watch this: There aren’t many things that everyone likes, but the NASA Earth Observatory’s visualizations of our planet are probably on that short, esteemed list. NASA EO’s lead data visualizer Robert Simmon talks about what’s popular, what’s not, why, and how NASA EO thinks about illustrating data and narratives. Don’t miss this.

The Politics of Climate

Saturday heralded the official withdrawal of Canada from the 1997 Kyoto Protocol; the decision to do so was announced in 2011 (Vancouver Sun). In Doha, late-night bargaining produced an extension of the existing Protocol through 2020, though the world’s most significant emitters (85% of annual global emissions’ worth) are not signatories to the treaty (CBC). One throws up one’s hands in despair. Notice of Russia’s withdrawal can be read in Barents Observer. Marius Holm, a Norwegian advocate for emissions reform, enjoins Norway to consider how to cut its own emissions and help the world convert to renewable energies, rather than working on carbon-trading schemes with developing nations (AB).

Finland’s environment minister Ville Niinistö argued in an interview with YLE that Finland and the EU should be able to reach even more ambitious emissions-reduction goals by 2020, but Finland’s own climate record, as well as the Doha conference, were both roundly criticized by a group of Finnish environmental NGOs (YLE). In neighbor Sweden as well, a campaigner from the nation’s Greenpeace chapter criticized the Swedish government for failing to use its two years at the head of the Arctic Council to push climate change more vigorously (EOTA). Further westward, Norway is planning to nominate portions of the Svalbard archipelago for protection under UNESCO (BO). I doubt very much that the entirety of the Norwegian government is of one mind on this, particularly as word has it the government is also considering Svalbard for oil and gas infrastructure (Arctic Portal).


By disposition, I’m mistrustful of amazing cinematography, but this is just too impressive to miss: A segment of “Chasing Ice” looks at the largest calving event ever captured on film (Guardian). Don’t miss it. A lengthy piece from the Earth Institute blog covers a broad variety of ways in which the melting Arctic ice has impacts that matter elsewhere. Back that up with a brief article from Oceanography that suggests the body of evidence that links the changing Arctic climate to severe weather events in Europe and the US is growing.

There’s fresh evidence that Arctic wildfires and other dark particulate pollutants have a large role to play in the melting of Greenland’s ice sheet (Science 2.0), and a Stanford professor suggests, for this reason, that it would make sense to make the Arctic a no-fly zone to reduce black carbon from overflying jets (CBC).

Professor Peter Wadhams, meanwhile, in Scientific American, proposes – probably reasonably, though it sounds a little wacky – that geoengineering to keep the Arctic cool is the only solution that will work quickly enough to prevent catastrophic collapse of summer ice. Further commentary on this from the Vancouver Sun suggests that such a thing is well within the capability of any of the world’s large nations to do. Research from the Norwegian Polar Institute on Svalbard’s glaciers is a fascinating read, even when Google-translated, and a fresh publication from a collective of researchers indicates conclusively that sea levels have risen 11 mm in the past two decades as a result of melting of ice caps at both poles (IceNews).

If your romantic life needs the quickening spice of a doomed affair, then you can adopt a glacier via the National Snow and Ice Data Center. It will be great at first, but she’ll just leave you in the end.

Recently released images from NASA’s Earth Observatory illustrate how the ice edge can serve as the perfect environment to encourage plankton blooms, and blogger Mark Brandon collects a good number of links to related research. Weirdly, it looks like the unusual “frost flowers” that grow on the surface of ice may serve as Arctic coral reefs, at a very miniature scale, for microorganisms (


The Northwest Territories released the results of its first 2012 Species at Risk assessment, which is the first such since the act mandating such assessments went into effect in 2010. The assessment looked at Peary caribou (threatened), boreal caribou (threatened) and polar bears (special concern – a less critical classification than “threatened”) (GNWT). Terry Audla of ITK published a brief blog post arguing that polar bears are not as endangered as is often suggested; he points to an article from earlier in the week which mistakenly called polar bears “critically endangered”. debriefed hearings from earlier in the week on whether to upgrade polar bears under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species; it’s interesting reading. Some bears and other animals are heading into hibernation for the winter, and interesting factoids on the process are to be found in Alaska Dispatch.

Polar bears aren’t the only dangerous northern predators; grizzlies are beginning to appear in the communities of Arviat, Baker Lake and Rankin Inlet (Vancouver Sun). Residents of Juuka in Finland’s North Karelia have meanwhile been given permission to shoot two wolves that have killed a couple of dogs in the area recently (YLE). Back in North America, scientists and game officials are discovering that the debate about wolf-protection near national parks Denali and Yellowstone are similar, though the parks are thousands of miles apart (FNM).

Drifting out to sea, we find a group of scientists who have learned what massive herds of Beluga whales eat upon arriving in the Beaufort Sea every summer: Arctic cod (CBC). Should you wish to track a few Belugas on their travels, you can do so via a regularly-updated map from Oceans North Canada.

Taking now to the air, another interesting detail out of George Divoky’s longitudinal study of a guillemot community on Cooper Island, Alaska is that horned puffins have been moving north and occupying the guillemots’ nests (AD). Other small birds to be found in the Bering Sea, whimsical-looking crested auklets, apparently smell like oranges (Audubon).


The latest edition of the WWF Global Arctic Program’s newsletter is out, with several articles worth checking out. / A new permanent underwater mini-observatory, installed under the watchful eyes of the Gov’t of Nunavut, Cambridge Bay and Ocean Networks Canada, is streaming data to observers on land. The data is already interesting, and we’re all eagerly awaiting the longer-term results. / Russia has launched a new oceanographic research vessel, the Yantar, from Kaliningrad. It is equipped with three submersibles in addition to the ship itself, and it will enter service with the Northern Fleet in 2014 (BO). / Pieces of a skin boat, or umiak, excavated years ago from a site in the Arctic have just been carbon-dated to approximately 1,000 years ago, which would make them the oldest fragments of a skin boat ever identified by a comfortable margin of about 400 years (ADN). / A new international project, COOPENOR (It’s the world’s most complicated and capriciously-chosen acronym. Seriously – look for yourself.) will be trying to refine the use of common bivalves (blue mussel and Icelandic scallop) in Arctic waters as tools to monitor the marine environment (Arctos). / Particulate pollution in Fairbanks is a trial for all, but particularly for those with weakened systems (FNM).


This certainly isn’t focused on the Arctic, but a recent Chatham House report on the future of resource usage worldwide is important nonetheless for its relevance to Arctic resource usage and policy. The quality is outstanding; creative, thoughtful, concise and clear. Browse the executive summary or the full report.

In other general news of interest, you might have missed word of the Arctic Oil Spill Response joint industry program supported by the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers (Rigzone). That may not be a world-changing initiative, but a new circuit breaker for high-voltage direct current produced by a Swiss company could very be world-changing, helping deliver energy across great distances, either from remote renewable-energy plants or to remote communities (Platts).


Let’s begin with the biggest headlines, which do not fall into a tidy package, unfortunately. On the pipeline front, the week ahead of us should include a meeting between EU and Russian representatives to discuss “legal waivers” for the Nord Stream pipeline. It would require a psychic to glean any further details from the CNBC article, though. And I am delighted to refer readers for the first time ever to the Belarusian Telegraph Agency, which suggests that a second conduit of the Yamal-Europe gas line running through Belarus is under consideration.

The sale of 50% of TNK-BP to Rosneft has now been signed, sealed, delivered (Platts), and Rosneft released word as well that it had signed an agreement with ExxonMobil for joint work in Western Siberia; drilling is scheduled to begin in 2013 (Motley Fool). Every O&G-focused news outlet is thrilled at Gazprom’s announcement that the Shtokman project is back on (BN); now we will always have something to write about, at least. Gazprom also announced the next object of its affections – the Kharasaveyskoye field, located near the Bovanenkovo field (BO). All this new activity seems great, but problems with aged and frail infrastructure lead Russia’s oil industry to be the world leader in oil spills each year – more than 20,000 occur annually in the country, as estimated by Greenpeace (RIAN).

Rosneft has set up an outpost in Norway (BO), but Russians are unhappy with their wealthy neighbor for electing not to purchase power from the Kola Nuclear Power Plant (BO). Norway’s choice is intended in part to encourage replacement of the aged reactors, but the Murmansk duma argues that cutting off this market for the Kola NPP’s power in fact creates a powerful incentive to do just the opposite. An interesting article on the issue from Anna Kireeva at Bellona’s Murmansk office explains some of the politics and practical issues underlying the slow progression towards an updated power plant.

The Nordics

Norwegian oil junior Spring Energy, which holds licenses in the Barents as well as elsewhere, has been acquired by Tullow Oil (AB). Other news from Norway’s businesses includes word that Apply Sørco has been awarded a major contract from Eni Norge for work related to the Goliat field; the company will be investing in a new office building in Hammerfest thanks to the contract (AB). Aker Solutions also celebrated a major new five-year contract with Shell, with the option of a five-year extension, which will bring in between NOK 1.1 billion and NOK 2.2 billion (AB). On the non-corporate side, the Research Council of Norway has promised NOK 66 million to research projects looking at offshore operations in the Arctic, as well as in some other areas (BO).

On the less enthusiastic side, it looks as though Statoil is looking hard at eliminating up to 500 jobs internally and 200 consultant roles (AB). Union representatives are understandably displeased at the news, and one accuses CEO Helge Lund of caring more for the opinions and analysis of his external consultants than for that of his employees (AB). Let union representative Bjørn Asle Teige be warned, though: Few have spoken ill of the Consulting Firm That Must Not Be Named and lived to tell the tale.

Alaska and the US

The US Government’s Energy Information Agency has included an LNG export project on Alaska’s North Slope as part of its reference case in this year’s edition of its Annual Energy Outlook. The EIA suggests such a plant would contribute to a quadrupling of US LNG exports by 2040 (Petroleum News). Shell’s activity in the Alaskan offshore will require a successful test of its containment dome, which is getting prepared for a second go-round under the watchful eye of the BSEE (EOTA) after failing rather spectacularly earlier this year. Meanwhile Alaska’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is about to come to blows with the federal Bureau of Land Management over orphan wells remaining in the National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska (EOTA). And, unusually, we have a story about coal in Alaska: Uncertain world markets are making life tough for the state’s coal industry although Alaska has, apparently, 17% of the world’s coal under its soil (AD).

At a more personal level, brash and ingenious thefts of heating oil from empty homes in Fairbanks are on the rise again this year (FNM).


The tone of an editorial in Canadian Mining Journal looking at the CNOOC-Nexen deal is a little agitated, but the content is interesting. It suggests that the deal has some implications for future mineral deals as well, both in terms of expanded possibilities for foreign takeovers and expanded import of foreign labor. Meanwhile Iqaluit is looking at the option of a large hydro-dam project to power the city. It would consist of two dams, one to come online in approximately 2019 and the other some 15-20 years later. The CAD 450 million project would free the city from the diesel generators it currently runs on (CBC). Lack of enthusiasm from potential investors during the previous six years’ marketing of the project by Qulliq Energy Corporation means that the company itself is paying for the feasibility study and environmental review (NN).

The Northwest Territories is looking at turning itself into a provider of yet another renewable energy source - wood pellets. A facility to be constructed in Enterprise, NWT might begin to provide the steady stream of cheap fuel that would be needed to free up some NWT communities from diesel fuel as well (CBC).



The proposed Izok Corridor mine and its associated infrastructure (two mines, actually) near Kugluktuk, Nunavut could have wide-ranging impacts that are drawing attention to the project from outside Nunavut as well (EOTA). It doesn’t look like the environmental review process is going to be easy or smooth for the project. Meanwhile in a perhaps-surprising move, ArcelorMittal has given up 20% of its stake in the Mary River Project to its project partner, Nunavut Iron Ore Incorporated (CBC); the project is now a 50-50 partnership. Analysts speculate that the decision has to do with ArcelorMittal’s debt burden and with a downturn in the steel industry more broadly. The Jericho diamond mine’s owner, Shear Diamonds, seems to be having a rough time of it (quitting board members, defaults, etc.), and part of that is an increasingly frosty relationship with the Nunavut Impact Review Board, to whom it seems much overdue paperwork is owed (CBC). The NIRB has meanwhile resolved an argument with the community of Baker Lake over public consultation on the proposed Kiggavik uranium mine; as I read the letter, the NIRB has made some general noises about accommodating the schedules of Baker Lake’s residents, without making any specific commitment to a non-summer consultation date (NN). Lastly, a gold project south of Dawson City, Yukon appears to show good promise, with an estimated resource of 3.24 million ounces of gold (CMJ).

Greenland & Russia

The approval of a bill permitting foreign companies to import labor and pay less than Greenland’s prevailing wages will probably encourage mining development in the country, but many groups are concerned about the process by which the bill was approved and the eventual impacts that the new regulation may have on Greenland’s workers (IceNews). A comment in Canadian Mining Journal looks at similarities between this move in Greenland and a similar situation in British Columbia. Greenland’s premier Kuupik Kleist also met with South Korea’s President Lee Myung-bak to discuss, among other things, joint exploration of mineral resources on the world’s largest island (Yonhap).

Finally, in Russia, two modest Yakutian diamond concessions appear set to be sold for a few million USD (Israeli Diamond News).

Other Business and Industrial News

General Business and Econ News

A new report out from Canada’s Chamber of Commerce takes a comprehensive look at Canada’s three northern territories. The report’s categorization of different issues and its recommendations for dealing with each are well worth reading; it gives great perspective on the economic present and possible future of the Canadian North. In the Northwest Territories specifically, the Gwich’in Tribal Council and GNWT met to discuss, among other things, economic opportunities for Gwich’in, education for aboriginal students and collaboration on devolution questions (GNWT).

Next door in Alaska, the UAF Associate Vice Chancellor for Research used some newsprint to introduce readers to the University’s Office of Intellectual Property and Commercialization and its history and future plans (IoNorth). In the same state, Alaska’s Native Corporations are increasingly finding themselves in the hands of a younger, second generation of leadership, who will need to address a new set of challenges (AD).

Russia is looking at its lowest national unemployment rate ever (BN), but the Murmansk region stacks up poorly against other regions. Murmansk settled on 2,665 as the number of foreign workers it is willing to welcome this year, but questions remain as to what jobs they will fill and how the local population will welcome them (BN). And while the Murmansk Economic Ministry is working with Norwegian partners to identify ways to make life easier for foreign businesses interested in the region (BN), regional governor Marina Kovtun has been ranked the least friendly to local businesses of all Russia’s 83 regional governors (BO). It is certainly a distinction of sorts.


The low-heat battle over new federal regulations that would place observers on commercial halibut boats in Alaskan waters continues, with Senators Murkowski and Begich weighing in in favor of delaying the regulation (ADN). Elsewhere in the state, the False Pass Bering Pacific Seafoods plant is planning to double its workforce in the near future (Dutch Harbor Fisherman). In Murmansk, one company is trying to revive Russian shrimping in the region; their game effort to restart the industry for domestic sale will employ 50 people at the outset (BN). Lastly, a photo from Vardø harbor in Norway gives a chuckle with the building-size slogan “Cod is Great”.

Other industries

Alaska’s mariners are dealing with challenging, and surprising, ice chunks delivered to the region from Canadian islands and Greenland (AD). / The Port of Churchill, Manitoba seems to be doing OK, with cargo volumes slightly below the ten year historical average for the facility. Most shipping volume is grain products (press release). / Russia’s federal tourism agency is planning to develop tourism on the Russian-controlled portions of Svalbard, but the hurdles that such development would need to clear are quite high (BN). / Icelandair has signed a contract to purchase 12 new 737s from Boeing (IceNews). / Yarn spun from musk ox fur, called qiviut, is becoming a rare and desirable commodity again. It’s “about eight times warmer than wool, softer than cashmere and finer than the best Merino wool” (EOTA). Sounds delightful. / I’m surprised at how much I enjoyed an article from Up Here Business on a startup food truck in Norman Wells, NWT. It’s really a fun read.

Infrastructure, Health, Education, Arts…

Health and Diet

In Fairbanks and Anchorage, state authorities are preparing food stashes to help prepare for any kind of weather or other emergency that would halt the imports that keep the state stocked (FNM). In the North Slope community of Point Lay, residents rely more on country food than their fellow citizens in Fairbanks and Anchorage, but the quality of that food is also monitored; scientists regularly test the health of Beluga whales that the residents harvest each year (Arctic Sounder). Next door, across all four of Canada’s Inuit regions, 74% of Inuit men and 62% of Inuit women participate in the harvesting of country food (Statistics Canada, 2006). In Russia, the difficulties of Nenets reindeer herders who rely on their stock are highlighted in a video from the Arctic Centre at the University of Lapland.

The Bering Sea community of Emmonak, Alaska had a recent water scare which drove residents to pick up as much bottled water as they could manage (AD), but the community of Paulatuk, NWT wishes that alcohol could be kept out of the community more effectively (CBC).

Alaska is confronting a whooping-cough outbreak, the largest in four years, with 220 confirmed cases so far (CBC), and next door in Yukon a departmental review of the territory’s regulations of pharmacies may lead to partially new roles for pharmacists in the overall healthcare system (WS). For an overview of the health of Inuit in Canada’s north, peruse StatCan’s broad survey of health indicators 2004-2008.


An article I missed a couple of weeks ago looked at the issue of inadequate housing in the Canadian North and its pervasive negative impact on education, physical and mental health, and other indicators (Broadbent Institute). A report released this week by the Conference Board of Canada on precisely this issue was read differently by different readers. One Yellowknife outlet read it as an attempt to shine a light on the challenge of finding affordable housing, while the CBC elected to highlight two successful case studies of addressing chronic housing issues in Yukon and Nunavut. The Huffington Post seems to have given the most balanced précis of the report.

Transport and Infrastructure

The usual winter road to the town of Old Crow, Yukon will not be constructed this year due to inadequate snowfall (EOTA), and a plan to build a permanent road connecting Alaska’s Dalton Highway to the map-dot of Umiat has been categorized by the Sierra Club as one of the worst transportation ideas in the US (EOTA). On the European side of the Arctic, an old bridge on the road between Murmansk and Kirkenes was designed to be easy to blow up in case of a Soviet invasion; a new one will be designed to help facilitate the steady growth of international traffic between Norway and Russia (BO). The Solovki Islands off of Murmansk may also benefit from a new push to improve their infrastructure (BO).

Residents of Fort Simpson and Norman Wells in the Northwest Territories will finally be able to attain their full human potential: NorthwesTel’s installation of 3G service for the communities enables them to use iPads (CBC). In Iqaluit, Telesat’s recent press release announcing successful provision of broadband internet to the city makes it sound like the miracle of the loaves and fishes, which perhaps it is (


The Northwest Territories’ draft anti-poverty strategy is available online; it’s worth your time to go through it, as it condenses several different complicated issues into a readable whole. / The gender gap in Nunavut goes in the opposite direction from what one usually reads; women are graduating and entering public service at much higher rates than men (National Post). Couple your reading of that article with one from the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner which interviews two indigenous men in Arctic Village about the challenges they face finding employment. / The Arviat Film Society had its first broadcast on TV this past week, a major milestone for the group of young auteurs (NN). / A fascinating conversation with Eva Aariak about the challenge of providing an education that helps people succeed both in Nunavut and in the cities of the South is a great read (Chronicle Herald). / The patching-together of a quilt from Canada’s four Inuit regions may help Inuit to address the scars remaining in their communities from the country’s residential schools (NN). / A new project in Alaska attempts to collect knowledge from Alaska’s many pilots that will help the FAA determine the best ways to access and use weather data while in the air (AD).


Lack of snow has forced the cancellation of the first mid-distance dogsled race of the season in south-central Alaska (EOTA), but the Yukon Brewing Twister Race Series got underway last Sunday with no problems (WS). If you’re a dog lover, you’ll definitely smile over the photos of the Twister Race. The MacBride Museum in Whitehorse opened a new exhibit highlighting 30 years of Yukon Quest history (WS). This year, Christina Traverse will, at the age of 22, be one of the youngest women ever to compete in the event (CBC).

Yukon cross-country skiers are doing well in national and North American competition (WS), and four skiers expressed their excitement to race in advance of the cross-country World Cup in Canmore, Alberta (WS). That race has never sounded as exciting as it does under the tender attentions of the Whitehorse Star, but it was a tough event for the promising Yukon skiers.

In hockey, the persistent NHL lockout has allowed player Jordin Tootoo to focus on his training and on a camp for young people that he runs in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut (NN). Dave Dupuis, playing NCAA hockey at Skidmore, is also pulling down headlines regularly as one of the first Inuit – perhaps the first Inuk - to play NCAA college hockey in the US (Maclean’s).

Finally, young Yukon skater Rachel Pettit brought in the territory’s best place ever in Canada-wide competition at this week’s Skate Canada Challenge (Yukon News).

Images and Videos

Three photo essays / videos are worth pointing to this week, including Galya Morrell’s fascinating (but weirdly soundtracked) 6-minute briefing on the Avannaa expedition. A photo series of humpback whales feeding close to shore in Norway is that much more impressive thanks to explanatory texts (BBC), but it was more amusing to peruse a series of photographs seemingly portraying a Yakutian Santa Claus without understanding its captions.

Our friend Bolot Bochkarev, who seems to be a one-man tourist agency for Yakutia, shared numerous great photos with us this week, including (1) a snow-covered hammer-and-sickle in Mirny, (2) a bust of Stalin, also in Mirny, (3) a beautiful evening shot of the village of Verkhnevilyuysk, (4) a chilly pedestrian in Vilyuysk and (5) Khoro village. You can use this link to peruse many of his photos.

Additional single photographs came in this week as well, of (6) what I can only guess is the Barents Nova staff on stage, with at least one gentleman in a tutu, (7) Yellowknife at night, (8) the winter shore in Vardø and (9) the stylish door of a harbor building in Vardø. Is it political graffiti? I don’t know.

Finish off with four beautiful, meditative photos of the starlit winter night from Clare Kines (1, 2, 3, 4). And let me take this end-of-year opportunity to say again how much I and all the Arctic Institute staff enjoy seeing his photos every week. @Clare, we appreciate your generous willingness to share your excellent work.

The Grab Bag

Now for some choice tidbits that fit nowhere else…

Rovaniemi, Finland expects to process about 500,000 letters to Santa from Britain, Japan, Romania, Italy and elsewhere (EOTA). / Congratulations are due to Mason White and the Arctic Food Network, the Nunavut Literacy Council, Inuit Qujimajatuqangit and Lutselk'e, N.W.T. as the four winners of this year’s Arctic Inspiration Prize (EOTA). / Whitehorse’s traditional Santa garbage truck is on the road again this year, though not a garbage truck anymore (Yukon News). / Flight recorders from the flight that crashed on Sweden’s Mt Kebnekaise earlier this year indicate that the crew had no inkling a crash was coming, which seems a mercy (EOTA). / The performance of hybrid cars under Arctic winter conditions can be less than optimal (CBC). / Three paragliders who jumped off of Nunavut’s Mount Thor have been assessed modest fines (CBC). / Getting a snowmobile out of overflow, which is like winter quicksand, is a big challenge (FNM). / Soldiers from Alaska’s Fort Wainwright have made a big contribution to Santa’s Clearing House for donated toys (FNM). / A new media partnership ties the Arctic Centre, TV Murman and Barents Observer together to provide better, more accessible information on the Barents Region (BO). / A massive snow village is under construction in the Murmansk region (VOR). / Puzzling over what to do on a frozen lake? has several suggstions. / Coca-Cola’s annual “Arctic Home” partnership with the WWF is underway once more, to raise funds for polar bear research and preservation.

Abbreviation Key

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)