The Arctic This Week: 5 January 2013 – 11 January 2013

The Arctic This Week 2013:02

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Thanks for joining us this week! Much of the TAI team will be at the Arctic Frontiers conference in Tromsø, Norway, and we hope we’ll get the chance to meet some of you there. You can click here to see the sessions we will be presenting. If you’d like to catch up with us for a coffee, send us a note in advance; it would be great to meet face-to-face.

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

Reads of the Week

If you’ve only got a few minutes this week, these six articles should be your focus.

This week we enjoyed three wonderful, escapist articles on places of certain interest to Arctic devotees. Begin with a profile from Kelsey Gobroski of Sitkalidak Island. It’s the island on which the Kulluk has been grounded, and it has its own dramatic history. Move on to a colorfully-written sketch of Murmansk, courtesy of Russia beyond the Headlines, and finish your armchair globetrotting with a profile of Finnish Lapland from the New York Times travel section.

Our next two selections cover the moment’s two big headline-grabbing stories. In the first, Chelsea Vowell, writing in the Globe & Mail, makes a sympathetic and successful effort to explain the goals of, and reasons for, Idle No More. In the second, Popular Mechanics tackles the story of a harrowing Coast Guard mission to rescue the crew of the Kulluk before it ran aground.  It makes the challenges of Arctic search-&-rescue work absolutely palpable.

Finish the best reads of the week with a piece from Barents Observer’s Thomas Nilsen that reviews the status of Russia’s nuclear-armed submarines in the Barents, pointing out the first uptick in the number of nuclear warheads stationed in the Barents since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The Political Scene

Idle No More: Basics

On Sunday 6 January, Prime Minister Stephen Harper agreed to a January 11th meeting with First Nations leaders (Guardian). Two days later, Chief Theresa Spence announced that she would not attend the planned Friday meeting, saying that the absence of the Crown representative Governor General David Johnston was a critical missing component (CBC). On Friday 11 January, the day of meetings between First Nations and federal representatives, protests were held across Canada to “bring more attention to … Bill C-45, the Conservative government’s controversial omnibus budget bill” (CBC). Chief Spence spoke at a press conference on that day (video here), and protests on the Deh Cho Bridge in the NWT were covered on Protests in Ottawa itself drew thousands of people, and according to Assembly of First Nations Chief Shawn Atleo, the sound of the protests was distinctly audible during the planned meeting with PM Harper and other federal representatives (APTN). You can read the AFN’s official press release about these various issues here.

A debrief in APTN gives one the impression that there is some serious daylight to be seen between different First Nations factions; some felt it appropriate to meet with PM Harper and Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan, while others felt that without the presence of a Crown representative, the meeting was insufficient. Chief Spence in her news conference specified that a “working group” was not what was called for, but instead a nation-to-nation talk. For a brief but thoughtful commentary on the quite natural differences in perspective between various First Nations communities and leaders, see Media Indigena.

An important component of the national debate has been the positive and negative spin surrounding Chief Spence’s hunger strike. Such was tackled, point by point, in APTN. Related issues of spin and perspective were analyzed on the Dulce et Decorum blog. APTN also looked at a 2006 audit, conducted by Deloitte & Touche, of Spence’s Attawapiskat First Nation. The audit found a missing paper trail for a substantial chunk of the funds delivered to the community, but Clayton Kennedy – Spence’s partner and former co-manager of the band – said there had been no mismanagement, and if there is real interest in recreating the paper trail for the funds in question, that Canada’s Aboriginal Affairs should undertake a forensic audit as requested by the First Nation itself in 2004. It might be worthwhile to go back to a post from August 2012 ( indicating that financial mismanagement at Attawapiskat has been investigated, and has not been pointed out as an issue in the past.

Idle No More: Statements of support

Statements of support for Chief Spence and the Idle No More movement came from MiningWatch Canada, the Indian Country Today Media Network , NDP Aboriginal Affairs critic Jean Crowder and Nunavummiut Makitagunarningit, while an unsurprisingly more vague statement encouraging the Harper government to engage in a “meaningful dialogue” with its First Nations counterparts came from James Anaya, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Inuit leaders Terry Audla of ITK and Cathy Towtongie of NTI expressed their general support for the movement as well; Towtongie and other NTI representatives met with Chief Spence on Wednesday night (

Idle No More: Deeper reading

If you’d like to get below the surface of Idle No More, start with a series of interviews from of the CBC on the movement’s impact. Follow with a detailed effort to explain goals and reasons from Chelsea Vowell (Globe & Mail). See whether it’s possible or not for comment threads on articles about the protests to be more constructive – apparently some commenters have “pushed the boundaries of respectful debate” (*shocked expression*) (CBC). A healthy dose of editing wouldn’t hurt most commenters, and I myself go in more for letters to the editor, several of which in a recent Globe & Mail have to do with Idle No More.

Further analysis well worth reading – particularly for the legally-minded among you – looks at the details of the centuries-old treaties that first established the relationship between the Crown and aboriginal people living in North America at that time (Uncomfortably Canadian), while an effort to highlight the “lineage,” so to speak, of Chief Spence’s hunger strike is also worth tackling (OC).

Idle No More: Multimedia

Interviews with a multitude of participants were released on several news outlets as well. Hear from:
Pam Palmater, Ernie Crey and Aaron Paquette via CBC’s ‘The Current’; Stuart Hughes of the BBC; Ellen Gabriel (via CTV News); and Caleb Behn and Eugene Boulanger via Fractured Land. Photographs of cold, snowy protests abound on the Flickr group for Idle No More as well.

Russia & Europe

An opinion piece from Thomas Axworthy, president of the Gordon Foundation, makes another strong pitch to get RAIPON back at the Arctic Council table as soon as possible, while Norway’s Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide indicated concern at the Cold-War tone of rhetoric coming out of the Kremlin – more specifically, out of Vice Premier Dmitri Rogozin (BO). Minister Eide also delivered remarks on the challenges and opportunities of the Arctic region in general at an event in Dublin this past week (full media from IIEA here).

The twenty-year anniversary of the signing of the Kirkenes Declaration occasioned some fine writing and thinking from Barents Observer. Atle Staalesen wrote of dwindling interest in the Barents Euro-Arctic Council and the Barents Regional Council, and suggested a five-point plan to revive their usefulness and vitality. Jonas Karlsbakk interviewed Norwegian Barents Secretariat chief Rune Rafaelsen about the need for greater Norwegian-Russian cooperation in the face of increased global interest in the Barents region, and the challenges that face such cooperation.

A new law in Russia scheduled to take effect in September of this year will privilege Russian language above indigenous languages in Russian schools, even in predominantly indigenous regions. The law could make it yet more difficult for indigenous cultures of the Russian North to persist (BO). In contrast, Sweden has made Finnish an official minority language; the move means that Finnish speakers in several communities will soon be able to engage with public services in Finnish (IceNews).

Other news from Canada and the US

Researchers from McGill University called upon Leona Aglukkaq to put the needs of Northern communities first during her time chairing the Arctic Council. The signatories to the open letter are particularly concerned with the impacts of climate change on food security, health and youth engagement (Northern Public Affairs). The appropriate course for Canada’s chairmanship is also suggested in, though a subscription is necessary to read the whole article.

The Canadian government’s legal responsibilities to 600,000 Métis and non-status Indians were expanded this week after a court battle; this resolves the question of whether such individuals fall under the jurisdiction of the federal or provincial government (CBC). Métis groups in Yukon and the Northwest Territories both welcomed the decision (CBC), while infighting continued regarding leadership in the Liidii Kue First Nation in Fort Simpson, NWT (CBC).

Across the border in Alaska, a review by the federal Government Accountability Office asked some sensitive questions about the financial transparency and accountability of Alaska Native Corporations (EOTA), and suggested engaging the Securities and Exchange Commission to provide some oversight. Alaska’s congressman in Washington, Representative Don Young, did not hold back in questioning the value of the study and the recommendations that emerged from it ( Local lawmakers meanwhile are busy with a multitude of different issues (catalogued in FNM), including encouraging the state to found professional schools of law and medicine in an effort to stem brain drain (AD). Lastly, a short piece from the Heritage Foundation in the US recommends strongly against the country’s accession to UNCLOS, fearing frivolous international lawsuits and the “siphoning-off” of hydrocarbon royalties to poorer countries.

Blood & Treasure

Much of this week’s news on Russian military activity reprised last week’s, but you’ll want to start off with a great new article from Barents Observer that reviews the status of Russia’s nuclear-armed submarines in the Barents, pointing out the first uptick in the number of nuclear warheads stationed in the Barents since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Barents Observer also offered a little more detail on the three international joint exercises in which Russia’s Northern Fleet will be taking part this year, and it covered as well the completion of the Yury Dolgoruky’s commissioning into the Navy. Nearby, Vladimir Putin was in the closed city of Severomorsk to award the Order of Nakhimov to, one presumes, an officer aboard the cruiser Pyotr Veliky and not to the ship itself, as this article in Voice of Russia might suggest. But I don’t know how these things work – maybe the ship was indeed decorated. President Putin also took part in the naming of a ship in the Vitus Bering series; they will serve as icebreaking supply vessels for oil platforms in the Arctic (

In other news from the European side of the Atlantic, Russia announced that it would double its strategic nuclear missile launches this year; 11 ICBMs are planned for launch in order to test their reliability as they age (BO).

On the search-and-rescue (SAR) side of things, Norway’s preparedness to serve as a leader in Arctic SAR may be better than most of its fellow Arctic littoral states, but there is still much work to be done (AB). Neither are Canada’s SAR capabilities world-beating, as highlighted by a mishap during a rescue this past week that left a helicopter out of commission ( - $$$). Nunatsiaq News will tell you what you need to know about the accident itself. The need to improve Arctic monitoring is behind a new CAD 706 million federal contract to MacDonald Dettwiler & Associates for the construction, launch and set up of three new RADARSAT satellites; they’ll keep an eye in part on Canada’s northern reaches (G&M, press release).

Science, Climate & Wildlife

Frightening Climate News

A study in Nature Climate Change suggests a 5% chance that sea level rise by 2100 could reach 2.8-3.0 feet, depending on melting in the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets (U of Bristol, NBC), and the UNEP released its Global Mercury Assessment, which shows some troubling increases in mercury concentrations in Arctic creatures as well (see p. 31). 2012’s Arctic ice cap melt was apparently associated with a temperature anomaly – one assumes, an upward deviation, though it is not specified – in the northern Kara Sea of 7 degrees; this is the first time such a dramatic temperature anomaly has been registered in that region (VOR). Ice extent in the Arctic still remains comfortably below average (NSIDC), and a series of graphics from the NASA Earth Observatory shows the history of declining snow cover every three years from 1967 to 2012. Permafrost is thawing as well, and the North Slope town of Barrow, Alaska is “probably a foot farther from the stars than it was 20 years ago” due to subsidence as a result (ANN). If you’d like many of the troubling trends in marine research summarized in one ghastly package, turn to a lecture by Jeremy Jackson delivered to the US Naval War College.

While warming trends overall are troubling many scientists, Alaska actually appears to have gotten colder from 2000 to 2010 (ADN), and tendrils of ice are swirling their way south along Greenland’s eastern shore as winter progresses (Discovery). Dramatic ideas – think mimicking a volcano – are being considered as ways of mitigating warming of particular areas of the globe (AD), while traditional research is trying to get a better understanding of carbon in permafrost (Yale E360) and of glacial movement and drainage (EOTA). China will also be contributing to the overall Arctic research effort with its sixth Arctic expedition, to be launched this year (China Daily). If you’ve got your own science to contribute to this active research community, submit an abstract for the upcoming Arctic Science Summit Week in Poland – hurry! And do take the time to read Sébastien Duyck’s well-written recent article examining, among other issues, whether the UNFCCC adequately addresses the peculiar vulnerabilities of the Arctic.


Certainly the most well-publicized wildlife story of the week was about a group of killer whales trapped in ice in Hudson Bay (NN). Though there was talk of bringing in an icebreaker to open a lead for the animals, after several days the wind opened up space enough for the pod to escape (Arctic Portal). A close second to the whales’ story was that of wolves in Yakutia, which have apparently gone over their understood allotment of livestock takes. The Republic’s government has ordered a cull of 3,000 wolves, hoping to bring the overall number in the Republic down to 500 (RT, RIAN). Not-so-distant cousins of those wolves, purebred Inuit sled dogs are a vanishing breed. Their numbers have fallen over the years for several reasons, perhaps most importantly because of an incompatibility with changing lifestyles in the communities of which they have been a part for centuries (EOTA).

In other wildlife news, an area of Alaska’s North Slope which is larger than California was “declassified,” so to speak, as critical polar bear habitat. Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski was pleased with the decision ( Far from the Arctic, razorbills – small Arctic birds – possibly blown far off course by Superstorm Sandy, have turned up dead or dying on Florida’s beaches, surprising and dismaying locals ( That’s sad news, of course; temperate it with the thought of an Arctic birding expedition – Gullfest 2013 – near Varanger, Norway.


ITK announced that it would offer one full scholarship for Inuit students interested in participating in the 2013 Students on Ice Arctic Expedition. It’s a great opportunity. / Radio Canada International continued its series of interviews on the value of national parks in Canada’s North.



This week began with Shell's Arctic drill rig Kulluk still stranded off Sitkalidak Island in the Gulf of Alaska. High tides Sunday allowed salvage crews to pull the vessel of the rocks (Fuel Fix), after which it was towed to Kiliuda Bay, where it has been anchored since Monday (WSJ). Assessment crews on Sitkalidak found that several of the Kulluk's lifeboats that had washed ashore might have spilled several hundred gallons of diesel fuel (Houston Chronicle). Divers and unmanned submersibles have been brought in to assess the damage, though it appears that the Kulluk's thick hull and well-protected fuel tanks helped avoid any spillage (NPR).
You’ll find these two additional resources on the details of the Kulluk incident helpful. An attractive one-page timeline at gCaptain shows the chain of events leading to the vessel's grounding, and a helpful summary of Alaska media coverage and blogs on the Kulluk is available here.

While the Kulluk is off the rocks and in safe harbor for now, Shell's Arctic drilling program has entered new and dangerous territory. Analysis of weather models from the days leading up to the incident showed that the GFS model had predicted a significant Gulf of Alaska storm for the last week of December, calling into question Shell's decision to move the Kulluk at that time. The Seattle Times provides an interview with University of Washington Atmospheric Sciences Professor Cliff Moss on the questionable forecast. For details on the forecasts, see Moss's blog here. This revelation returned the spotlight to Shell's motivations for moving the Kulluk when it did and the role that taxes may have played. As first reported in Alaska Dispatch, Shell spokesman Curtis Smith told reporters that Alaska's tax on oil infrastructure was a factor in the decision to move the rig prior to 2013, a comment which he later tried to walk back after the Kulluk went aground. Nor is it the media alone that questions Shell's motivations: Rep. Ed Markey of the House's Natural Resources Committee presented a three-page letter to Shell asking the company to clarify conflicting statements it has given on the matter and to provide any internal documents relating to the decision to move the Kulluk (FoxNews, full text available here).

Markey's inquiry is but one of three government investigations and reviews taking a close look at the incident; the investigations are summarized well by Lisa Demer of the Anchorage Daily News (ADN). The broadest investigation will be an expedited, high level assessment of Shell's 2012 drilling program to be conducted by the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (press release). Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar personally expressed his concerns over the series of mishaps that have befallen Shell's 2012 drilling season in this article for Bloomberg. Despite his tough words for Shell, Salazar expressed the administration’s continued support for Arctic energy development in principle (CSM). The second marine casualty investigation, led by the Coast Guard, will look specifically at the events leading to the grounding of the Kulluk (FuelFix). The third inquiry was announced by Senator Mark Begich of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and the Coast Guard; it will examine Shell's contingency planning for the Kulluk operation (AD). Finally, the Environmental Protection Agency issued two notices of violation to Shell for exceeding pollution emission limits during its drilling season (FuelFix).

Begich, generally considered to be supportive of Shell's Arctic project, said the Kulluk incident was a transportation and shipping issue, and not a drilling issue. He went on to state his confidence that Arctic drilling would go ahead in spite of Shell's setbacks (ADN). Painting the Kulluk event as a transportation issue was a common theme amongst Shell's defenders this week (KTOO). The American Petroleum Institute's CEO Jack Gerard also came to the company's defense, saying Shell should press ahead with its drilling program (

Commentary on the Kulluk incident has addressed a variety of themes. For Shannyn Moore at the Anchorage Daily News, Shell could have benefited from some homegrown Alaskan common sense: any Alaska mariner worth their salt could have told them that towing the Kulluk across the Gulf in mid-winter was a fool's errand. The Seattle Times editorial board called on the Obama administration to freeze Arctic oil exploration. Writing for the Boston Globe, Juliette Kayyem sees the Kulluk incident as a call to slow down the rush to drill in the Arctic and establish a deliberative approach to mitigate the risks of environmental damage. Writing in Alaska Dispatch, Carl Marrs, chief executive of Old Harbor Native Corp., saw the event as a good-news story in that Shell's rapid and effective response showed the company was able to react effectively to unanticipated events as well as seek the input of local communities affected by such accidents. John C.K. Daly wondered aloud in whether this incident might lead to more of "corporate America's most feared nemesis: Congressional oversight." The response of environmental groups to the incident generally focused on the series of mishaps that have plagued Shell this year as proof that the company is not ready to operate safely in the Arctic. WWF-Canada drew lessons from the incident for Canadian emergency preparedness in the Arctic, while summarized a report from 2012 that compared infrastructure for oil spill response in the Gulf of Mexico and Arctic Alaska, showing how resource-constrained any type of spill response would be in Arctic Alaska.


In other Alaska energy news, Jennifer Dlouhy reported this week on a suite of baseline standards that the Interior Department’s Ocean Energy Safety Advisory Arctic Subcommittee counseled be adopted to help guide energy development in the Arctic (FuelFix). Dave Westerholm takes a close look at the activities of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Office of Response and Restoration's efforts to develop better Arctic oil spill response plans (

Suzanna Caldwell writes in Alaska Dispatch that the State Department of Environmental Conservation has filed a civil suit against the owners of two wood boilers in west Fairbanks due to their disproportionate impact on air quality. Fairbanks voters passed a measure barring the borough from regulating air quality last November, leaving it to the state to take steps to begin improving the city's persistently poor air quality. Fairbanks Natural Gas, a small utility servicing around 1,000 customers, reached an agreement with the borough and the attorney general last week on conditions it must follow to justify the prices it charges consumers for gas. The small utility has apparently made tidy profits as gas prices have dropped. The agreement will set a reasonable profit level for the utility so more savings can be passed on to the utility's customers (FNM).

Great article here from Alex DeMarban on the continued push to develop a large-scale LNG project in Alaska to supply Asian markets. DeMarban interviews Alaska Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan on his effort to market the project with Asian consumers and how competitive the project might be with other proposed LNG projects likely to come on-line in places like Australia, Mozambique and the lower 48.


An article in Yukon News profiles the young lawyer and activist Caleb Behn and his work advocating for First Nations communities in conflicts that arise over oil and gas development. Behn will be featured in an upcoming documentary, "Fractured Land".

Claudia Cataneo writes for the Financial Post on the energy woes of two Northwest Territories communities, Inuvik and Norman Wells. Both communities sit atop vast reserves of natural gas, but they’re slowly running out of gas to provide to local residents. NWT's natural gas deposits remain largely undeveloped due to regulatory delays, conflict with First Nations and price competition from shale gas. The Territories' small population makes development for local consumption cost-prohibitive. So while both communities sit on top of oceans of natural gas, the small developed wells they use are running dry and local governments may soon need to truck in propane, oil or wood pellets from far away Alberta to provide for residents. Meanwhile, success in shale oil plays like the Bakken have revived interest in pursuing tight oil in NWT, though issues of transport and regulation present roadblocks to development (

Canada's Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver is still confident that opposition to the Northern Gateway Pipeline between the Alberta tar sands and Canada's west coast can be overcome, allowing the project to move forward (Reuters). Opposition to the pipeline is keeping interest alive in a proposed rail link between Fort McMurray and Valdez, Alaska, to ship Alberta oil to market. There is still considerable debate as to whether a rail link is an economically feasible alternative to a pipeline (AD).

Canada's southern neighbors are watching the pipeline debate closely; President Obama recently directed the Coast Guard to conduct a risk assessment of increased tanker traffic along the US west coast that will accompany any increase in Canadian oil exports from British Columbia (

An article in the Globe & Mail looks at mines in Arctic Canada that are developing wind generation capacity to power their operations. Wind is an increasingly attractive alternative to diesel and oil generation which requires importing fuel over long distances to remote sites.

Europe and Russia

Gazprom and Novatek announced a new partnership to open several new gas fields in the Yamal peninsula as part of the massive Yamal LNG project (BO). Gazprom's production of gas for 2012 was lower than 2011 and failed to reach expected targets (BO). TNK-BP has meanwhile increased spending in its East Siberia Verkhnechonsk oilfield to $3 billion in order to increase production capacity (Bloomberg). A combination of market forces and increased Russian taxation of energy exports has led to a surprising role reversal: Finland may be looking into exporting energy to Russia (BO).

A vote by Norway's parliament is expected this year on opening up oil exploration in the southeast Barents Sea and around Jan Mayen Island. (Reuters). An article in Views and News from Norway shows that public opinion remains divided on the merits of expanding the geographic scope of Norway's oil and gas exploration. Environmental groups remain opposed to the proposed expansions in the Barents Sea (BO). In contrast, explorers are eager to move into Norway's sector of the southeast Barents Sea, a potentially oil-rich region that was long off-limits due to a dispute (settled by treaty in 2011) with Russia over the region's jurisdiction ( Statoil meanwhile submitted its plan for the development and operation of the Arctic Aasta Hansteen gas field. The field will include the world's largest floating SPAR platform as well as a 480 km pipeline to move the field’s gas to the Nyhamna processing plant in Møre and Romsdal (BO). As part of the expansion, Statoil awarded a contract last week to Ramboll Oil and Gas to design the 480 km pipeline (press release). Platts reported that oil production fell 4% and gas production fell 7% in Norway in 2012 compared to the previous year (Platts), and suggested that Norwegian offshore operators may face increased delays and cost overruns in 2013 as the service sector strains to keep pace with increasing pace of exploration (Platts). Jon Mainwaring writes in that 2013 looks to be an exciting year for oil and gas exploration, as European companies will be seeking new opportunities in remote regions like the Barents Sea, new prospects like coastal Ireland and new technologies like hydraulic fracturing in Poland and possibly England.

A Swedish wind energy company is taking heat for not informing residents around one of its facilities that its turbines can hurl massive chunks of ice up to 100m from the towers, posing serious risks to anyone nearby (EOTA).

Here's a fascinating graphic from FinGrid that shows energy production and flows across the Baltic and Nordic countries. The figures are constantly updated to provide real-time data. I'm not sure I quite understand it, but it sure looks cool.


The most headline-grabbing news in mining this week was the announcement by Baffinland Iron Mines that it would be scaling back its plans for the massive Mary River project, and looking instead to a “phased” approach in which development starts small. The Nunavut Impact Review Board will need to amend the certificate for the project before it can start; sounds like it could re-start another very, very length process (CBC). Up Here Business provided a nice review of Nunavut’s economic history in 2012, and it’s clear to see from the review that any setback in the Mary River project might also mean a big cut to Nunavut’s economic growth this year.

Also of note was the news that Yukon Minister of Environment and Economic Development Currie Dixon was on his way to China, where he will likely endeavor to drum up investment in the province’s subsoil resources (Yukon News). Also in Yukon, the prospect of re-starting the Whitehorse Copper mine has some worried about possible negative effects on local drinking water (CBC). Next door in NWT, Deepak Kumar and his eponymous company Deepak International (Yes, really.) are excited to “put Yellowknife back on the global map in the diamond industry,” thanks to a new deal with the Government of the NWT (CBC, Gov’t of the NWT). In other, smaller news, the Freegold Mountain gold project looks to be bringing in better-than-expected assays (CMJ), and a copper-gold-molybdenum project north of Whitehorse is also getting encouraging results from its recent feasibility study (CMJ).

Other Business and Industrial News


Fisheries news was thin this week. From Alaska’s SitNews, we hear that: more than 100 million salmon were brought in in 2012; the bottom has dropped out of the market for cod; the season for several different fish stocks has opened anew in January; and halibut is likely to be a rarity this year, with expected double-digit cuts in catch quotas coming up. In the Atlantic, Norway’s fishermen are feeling the pinch from cheaper Icelandic and Faroese mackerel (IceNews), while in the Nenets region indigenous people are eating less and less fish, with potential negative health consequences (Fish Update).


An article from Will Rogers in World Politics Review ($$$) suggests taking a relatively cautious approach to any plans for an Arctic shipping bonanza. That, at least, is what the title suggests, but I am just guessing. If you’re a subscriber, you can find out for yourself. Helping to enforce caution in Arctic waters is the establishment of a 24 NM zone of environmental protection / restricted navigation around Wrangel and Herald Islands, a UNESCO heritage site in the Russian Arctic (AD). The Faroe Islands are looking to 2013 with cautious optimism for their shipbuilding industry, which has fallen on hard times in the recent past (, and Nome, Alaska is thinking hard about whether its port could become a major facility in the future ( If Arctic shipping is your thing, be aware of the upcoming 9th annual Arctic Shipping Forum in Helsinki.


Although Russia claims to have undertaken a trade strategy aimed at increasing integration with global markets (BO), foreign investors remain unwelcome in the Murmansk-region military towns of Zaozersk, Vidyazevo, Severomorsk and Ostrovnoy (BN). / Craig Johnston asks why workers are being flown from Belize to Saskatchewan and Alberta when people eager for work are available nearby in Nunavut (NN). / Winter tourism shows the potential to become an ever-growing portion of the tourist industry in Arctic countries, particularly Norway and Iceland (Arctic Portal). / Airline Air North in Yukon must be wary of an application by their flight attendants to form a worker’s union; what could be the motivating factor (WS)? / We wish the best of luck to Sadie Vincent-Wolfe, who will soon be opening a bakery in Iqaluit (NN).

Infrastructure, Health, Education, Arts…

Health & Diet

Yukon’s birth rate is rising steadily (WS), but that growing population isn’t necessarily behaving safely; Yukon and its next-door neighbor NWT have the highest impaired-driving rates in the country (CBC). Healthy eating for remote northern communities may become less of an issue over time, if new energy-efficient greenhouses designed for outer space appear effective at growing vegetables year-round (CBC). Those greenhouses will doubtless feature at a greenhouse conference (there is such a thing) coming up late this month in Fairbanks, Alaska under the auspices of UAF (ADN). And in Iceland, tomatoes grown in a greenhouse near a geothermal power station are destined for grocery stores in the UK (

Infrastructure & Housing

Sweden is not known for rampant chaos, but failures of new trains particularly in northern Sweden have left the country’s rail network in disarray (EOTA). Neither do things look good for the Alaska Highway, or at least not for the portions of it running through Yukon. Budget cuts in the US have included a turning-off of the tap for US funds to maintain Canadian portions of the highway (CBC). Builders of Canada’s ice roads might be in for an improvement, however, as companies begin installing safety hatches in the roofs of construction vehicles to enable workers to escape should the vehicle go crashing through the ice (EOTA). Also on the positive side, CAD 1.6 million is coming in to five Nunavut communities to support a variety of needed infrastructure projects (CBC), and the Nuuk-Iqaluit route flown by airgreenland appears to be doing well enough to warrant more frequent flights (

In other infrastructure news, a new study suggests that improvements to facilities and management in Whitehorse could save the city CAD 300,000 a year in energy costs (CBC), but no amount of cost-saving will save some falling-apart student housing in Inuvik, NWT (CBC) – it will be torn down. And while student housing is being torn down in Inuvik, a brand-new prison in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut welcomed its first inmates (NN).


Fears that young people are responsible for a rash of recent fires/arsons in Iqaluit have driven a city councilor to suggest that the city implement a curfew for young people (CBC). / Sweden welcomed 19% more immigrants in 2012 than 2011, marking a new immigration record (IceNews). / The traditional dress of the Nenets people begs to be admired in this photo show from Russia Beyond the Headlines. / The Bachelor of Northern Studies and Barents Cooperation program at Finnmark University College & the Murmansk State Humanities University seems like the kind of thing I’d love to do if I were younger (BO). /


The CBC profiles brother-and-sister team Eric and Sarah McNair-Landry and their plans to paddle over 1,000 km across Baffin Island in Nunavut this summer in handmade, traditional kayaks (CBC). 

The Fulda Challenge kicked off in the Yukon this week.  I'm having a hard time figuring out if this is a serious competition, a reality TV show, some sort of tourism promotion or a tire advertising stunt. Events in the challenge include airplane pulling (?), ice chopping, mushing dogs, and running in snowshoes.  The 65 participants are – of course – predominantly European television personalities and sports figures.  Who else (WS)?

They certainly take their curling seriously in the Yukon.  Jeff Cressman, coach of Team Nerysoo, filed an appeal following the Yukon Junior Curling Championships held in Teslin last month. Team Nerysoo lost in two straight games to Team Young.  Cressman's complaints included poor ice and unpredictable stones in addition to an unfair advantage afforded to Team Young's coach, who visited the arena where the competition was to take place a week before the event. The appeal was dismissed by the Yukon Curling Association (WS).

The Jon Lindell Memorial Hockey Tournament will be held this year after a one year hiatus.  The tournament attracts teams from across the Kivalliq region and Churchill, Manitoba (CBC).

Alaska's Copper Basin 300 sled dog race is back on for this year.  After two years of marginal conditions and complaints from racers, many thought the race would not be run this year.  However the warm weather of early winter led to the cancellation of two other races and, thus, increasing interest in and demand for the Copper Basin race.  40 teams are registered for the race (AD).  Organizers are becoming concerned about marginal trail conditions for another upcoming race, the Yukon Quest International, run between Fairbanks and the Yukon border in February (AD).

After a fatality and several injuries marred the Mount Marathon endurance race in Seward, Alaska, last year, organizers have made course changes and tightened entry requirements to try to avoid similar incidents at this year's race (AD). 

Several interior Alaska skiers had good showings at the US Cross Country Ski Championships in Soldier Hollow, Utah, this last week (FNM). 

A collective sigh of relief from America's North could be heard as news spread that players and owners had negotiated an end to the National Hockey League's lock-out, though as of writing on Saturday, the two sides had failed to put out a collective statement summarizing the agreement and announcing a schedule.  Current plans call for a 48-game season (NYT).

Images and Videos

I want to talk with the people behind the many Greenland-focused tourism and media initiatives. They seem to be churning out slick, attractive videos and photos a mile a minute, including these two on kayaking in Greenland’s fjords and BMX biking in Sisimut. Follow that with photos from the estimable Bolot Bochkarev of a day trip from Yakutsk to the Lena Pillars, and then revisit Nick Cobbing’s outstanding photographs of many different Arctic landscapes; a new exhibit is going up this week at London’s Architectural Association – good luck, Nick!

Follow up with these individual images of: colorful houseboats on the frozen lake in Yellowknife (1); a beautiful sunrise over distant Norwegian mountains (2); a whole mess of Steller’s eiders (3); a snowmobile and Yakutia’s famed Lena Pillars (4); A fantastic pic of a fountain of light in the Arctic night (5); a very cold-looking landscape (6); a view over Tromsø (7); snow-laden trees against a rosy sky in Piteå (8); and “ice broccoli” coming off of a glacier on Novaya Zemlya, as viewed from space (9);

The Grab Bag

Now for some choice tidbits that fit nowhere else…

11 January saw the return of the sun to Murmansk ( after a week of absence. One of our Reads of the Week, though, is a wonderful history of the city from Russia beyond the Headlines. Another is the New York Times travel section’s profile of Finnish Lapland. The sun also returned this week to Inuvik, NWT, whence it departed on December 4 (Toronto Star). / I am so excited that Werner Herzog is doing a documentary about a Siberian village on the shores of the Yenisei ( / An emergency medicine student is specializing in medicine for remote Arctic communities in Russia (U of the Arctic). / The New York Times has decided to dissolve its environment desk ( / The Finnish snow sculpting championships took place this weekend (EOTA). / You might be curious to read a profile of eight abandoned Arctic islands (Warning: giant irritating ads). / A delightful-sounding North Norwegian band is making its debut appearance in Murmansk (BO). / Beef up your Arctic knowledge with a review of Arctic-themed cigarette-pack cards issued in Britain in 1910 – now that’s a collector’s item ( / Court cases involving the people implicated in Iceland’s earlier financial collapse are still working their way through the system (IceNews). Two men who sat at the helm of Glitnir bank prior to the country’s slide into crisis have been sent to prison (IceNews). / Nunavut and Canada bid a sorrowful farewell to renowned Inuk artist Kenojuak Ashevak, a visual artist and sculptor who died this week at 85 (EOTA).

This week’s credits:

Tom Fries: Politics, Military, Mining, Science, Sports, Social, Photo/Video, Grab Bag
Kevin Casey: Energy, Sports

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)
Christian Science Monitor (CSM)
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)