The Arctic This Week: 26 January 2013 – 1 February 2013

The Arctic This Week 2013:05 

Not a subscriber yet? Sign up here. The newsletter is also available as a PDF with higher-contrast black-on-white typeface. Please click here to read that version.

Thanks for joining us this week! 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

This week’s best reads are substantial, and will keep you busy. Shall we begin with the small stuff?

This article in Petroleum News helps explain chronically high fuel prices in Fairbanks; it’s well worth the read, as it reveals the complex drivers of energy prices in northern communities.  If the article piques your interest in the topic, check out this presentation by University of Alaska Fairbanks economist Antony Scott on the pros and cons of the different options for providing the city with more affordable utilities.

Move on to two excellent, concise, content-rich articles that contradict prevailing wisdom. The first, from eminent Arctic observer Trude Pettersen, dares to point out that, while Russia has a suite of new laws that are quite repressive, the enforcement of those laws runs from “lax” to “nonexistent” (Barents Observer). Follow with a densely-packed article from TAI’s own Kathrin Keil, who enumerates and dispatches each assumption that underlies forecasts of resource-based Arctic conflict.

The last easy item this week is a historical piece from the Defense Media Network, which offers a sketch of the construction of the Alaska-Canada highway, one of the early twentieth century’s most impressive engineering marvels.

Now to our two heavy-hitters this week, both valuable for their rarity and their quality. The first is a collection of Inuit writing on issues of security, patriotism and sovereignty in the Canadian North. Well curated, edited and laid out, it’s a piece to keep on hand (from the Inuit Knowledge Center). The second is a suite of research articles delivered this week by the Brookings Institution in Washington; all consider displacement of Arctic peoples due to climate change, taking perspectives from Alaska, Russia and Scandinavia.

And for a bit of fun: I would be most remiss if I did not draw your attention to the most influential (Canadian) brand in Canada for 2012, which is: Tim Horton’s (Ipsos Reid, via WSJ). Grab a dozen assorted TimBits to celebrate. They are delicious. Send me a dozen, too. If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll hear some a capella singing while you’re waiting in line. (Our thanks to reader Melanie Minzes for the link.)

The Political Scene

Idle No More

The end of Attawapiskat chief Theresa Spence’s 43-day hunger strike (The Star) inspired a good bit of commentary on the Idle No More movement, not all of it positive (Toronto Sun, Vancouver Sun). Assembly of First Nations chief Shawn Atleo spoke with the Globe & Mail about his meeting with PM Stephen Harper and his expectations for changes to the government-First Nations relationship in the near-term future. Some First Nations chiefs, however, continue to be unhappy with what they perceive as Mr. Atleo’s willingness to act without the approval of the many chiefs from whose ranks he is drawn (APTN).

Canada’s House of Commons returned from winter break to find continued protests against bill C-45 on their doorstep (CBC), while the legal details that underpin Idle No More were covered in the Ottawa Citizen. The legal relationship of Inuit to the federal government is different from that of First Nations and Métis, but many Inuit have found solidarity with the spirit of the movement, leading to modest demonstrations in Iqaluit and elsewhere (Media Co-Op). Terry Audla, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, wrote a cautiously-worded explanation of the Inuit perspective on the relationship with the Government of Canada and the Crown more generally, well worth reading from the National Post. Meanwhile, Romeo Saganash – MP from Nunavik – introduced a bill “that would make all federal laws compatible with the 2007 UN Declaration on Indigenous Rights” (NN).

The Arctic Council & New Observers

The upcoming hand-over of the Arctic Council chairmanship from Sweden to Canada brings with it hopes and concerns, not least those having to do with the potential introduction of new observer states to the circumpolar body. General observations about the issues that will face the Arctic Council during Canada’s chairmanship come from the Globe & Mail, but a much clearer, more thoughtful and more detailed assessment is delivered by Jennifer Welsh via the Canadian International Council. Two good complements to Ms. Welsh’s article come first from Paul Koring, who writes of the concerns that industry and environmental groups have for the direction that the Arctic Council is likely to take under Canada’s hand, and second from Lisa Gregoire, who covers ITK President Terry Audla’s cautious perspective on new observers for the Arctic Council (Globe & Mail and Nunatsiaq News, respectively). A candid, sensible article from Heather Exner-Pirot points out – wisely and uniquely – that an Arctic Council focus on human development may avail little for northern communities when compared with what regional and local governmental entities can accomplish; the Arctic Council is simply not the right level of governance to tackle those issues in a practical way (EOTA).

The text of Maria Damanaki’s (European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries) speech to the Arctic Frontiers conference in Tromsø is now available online; indeed, the EU hopes to hear positive news this summer about its ambitions to become an observer at the Arctic Council (EurActiv). Current buzz, however, would suggest that the EU’s chances aren’t that good, and an ongoing contretemps with Norway over its failure to live up to the EU’s expectations of an economic partnership is unlikely to better those chances (BO).

Tongues are wagging as well over the possibility of several Asian countries as observers at the Arctic Council. The Economist does its usual tidy job of concisely describing the various countries in play and their interests. India seems hopeful of securing a coveted spot (Hindustan Times), and the language of various Arctic actors has been largely comfortable with the idea of greater Chinese engagement (Spiegel). Indeed, Premier of the Northwest Territories Bob McLeod expressed an eagerness to have China as an economic counterpart for his territory’s subsurface resources (China Daily). Not all in Denmark are comfortable, however, with the idea of Chinese engagement in Greenland’s mining sector (News Republic).

Circumpolar Matters

This week, Joël Plouffe offered a nice series of interviews on the three Arctic border disputes that remain unresolved, as well as on other topics (Exploring Geopolitics), while Annika Nilsson of the Stockholm Environment Institute posed the question: What role for environment policy in the development of “rules and norms” for the Arctic’s future (Environment Dep’t of Sweden)? Also of concern is a potential increase in smuggling, human trafficking and other forms of organized crime that could follow the opening of the Northern Sea Route (Arctic Portal).

I’m also very sorry to have missed the “Arctic Peoples and Security” conference in Toronto this past week, which looks like it welcomed many of the most articulate and compelling writers on Arctic issues. See the full conference agenda here (PDF). Congratulations from our whole team to those who put together the great event.

Canada / United States

Perhaps the most important news coming out of Canada this week was that progress has been made on a devolution agreement under which the federal government would cede significant authority over land, water and resources to the Northwest Territories. This has been a long process, and though NWT Premier McLeod was enthusiastic (G&M), by the end of the week it was clear that there are still some hurdles to clear before the NWT strides across the finish line (CBC). Also in the NWT, long-time CEO Nellie Cournoyea was elected to her ninth term at the head of the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation (CBC). Next door in Alaska, perhaps-surprising poll results show Senator Mark Begich would have a decent shot at reelection, were the race held today (it won’t be held ‘til 2014, BTW) (AD), and there is some surprising upheaval within the Alaska GOP; their incoming chairman has been accused of being insufficiently Republican (FNM).

Russia / Europe

Russia expects to file its claim to a share of the Arctic continental shelf by the end of 2013; thus sayeth Arctic illuminatus Artur Chilingarov (BO). The country meanwhile seems to be considering a special set of rules for its Arctic regions, the goal of which would be to balance economic and social development with environmental protection (BN). What the concrete meaning of that might be is anyone’s guess; elucidation is apparently not in the draft version of the bill anyway (ITAR-TASS).

On the social side, a brief but important article from Trude Pettersen with Barents Observer points out that, while Russian legislators have recently instituted many repressive laws, the enforcement of those laws seems to sit between “lax” and “nonexistent”.

We’ll finish with a brief note from Iceland, which might be moving towards direct democracy. The struggle between government, business, citizenry and bureaucracy is a fascinating one to watch – enjoy this read from Truthout.

Blood & Treasure

The Indian navy’s INS Sindhurakshak is on its way back to its proper owners after receiving a two-year overhaul in Arkhangelsk’s Zvezdochka shipyard (RIAN, BO, Russia & India Report). It will be accompanied by Russian icebreakers Dickson and Captain Chadaev, as it’s returning via the Northern Sea Route in the depths of winter. For measured and engaging writing on the relationship between the Sindhurakshak and India’s Arctic interests, go to Vijay Sakhuja’s excellent writing. You might also be interested to see Mr. Sakhuja’s presentation from Arctic Frontiers, downloadable as a PDF here.

While it repairs ships for India, Russia herself is going to foreign contractors for some of her military needs. This isn’t always successful; two Mistral-class ships delivered by France apparently won’t work in cold temperatures (RIAN). Seems like an odd frailty for a warship. Warships are of less concern to Agneta Norberg of the Swedish Peace Council than radar and satellite installations in the Nordic countries, which she sees as signs that NATO is militarizing the Arctic (VOR). Russia’s own past militarization of the Kara Sea, and use of it as an all-purpose repository for undesirable nuclear waste, are meanwhile causing concerns for the oil & gas industry today as more Arctic offshore installations are considered (AD).

In search-&-rescue (SAR), the one-year anniversary of the death of a Labrador teen out on sea ice is an occasion for local residents to express once again their concern that inadequacies in SAR infrastructure have not been addressed (CBC). That may well be true, considering that portions of the equipment being used in a Canadian Forces SAR exercise near Iqaluit are based far away in Nova Scotia (NN). Interestingly (though not specifically Arctic), the UK is considering partial privatization of its own SAR capabilities, which have historically been managed by the Royal Air Force and Navy (Guardian). The idea has been reason for a frank discussion of costs & benefits when lives hang in the balance.

Science, Climate & Wildlife

The Ice

Both American and Russian estimates of ice extent continue to peg it as significantly lower than the 1979-2001 average, particularly because of low ice in the Kara and Barents Seas (BO). Mother Jones pointed out, not for the first time, that the real catastrophe in an Arctic melt could be the disappearance of the Greenland ice sheet, and climate Wise Man Lord Nicholas Stern issued an urgent warning at the World Economic Forum that his 2006 estimates of the possible economic damage of global warming were too modest by a fair bit (Guardian). A similar siren was sounded by the USGS and NOAA, who took a look more specifically at how climate change and warming oceans are likely to impact America (AD), and the government of Sweden prepared a “discussion note” (PDF) for the upcoming Arctic Environment Ministers’ meeting on the most important environmental issues facing the Arctic at this point – worth a read.

The summer Arctic cyclone that made so much news might have temporarily accelerated the melting of ice in the Arctic, but is unlikely to have had a meaningful impact on the season’s total melt (study from Geophysical Research Letters, summarized in the Summit County Voice). For excellent information on the specific methods and tools used to study Arctic ice at the macro scale, turn to IEEE Spectrum (on laser altimeters), APECS (on methods of predicting polar lows) and (on nuclear magnetic resonance as a tool to look beneath ice). A more crowdsourced science initiative is going on in Canada, where researchers from Wilfrid Laurier University have issued a wildly successful call for observations from the many Canadians who maintain their own home-made ice rinks (APECS): What are the surfaces like over the course of the winter? And further climate research will soon be supported in Greenland, where a new research station should be up and running by 2015, courtesy of Aarhus University (Copenhagen Post).

Before we move on, take note of three other climate-related items. First, new research suggests heat trapped and reflected by major cities may alter high-altitude flows of air, warming or cooling destinations far away from the cities themselves (FNM). Second, the Inuit Circumpolar Council announced it was pleased with a new treaty to reduce environmental mercury, signed recently in Geneva (AD). Lastly, Sébastien Duyck provided an interesting note on the strange absence of the Arctic as a topic of discussion at the COP18 climate negotiations in Qatar.


Let’s begin with the iconic polar bear, whose numbers in the Southern Hudson Bay region are still a matter of uncertainty. Delays in a meeting to set this year’s allowable harvest mean that, for now, last year’s voluntary quota of 60 will remain in place (AD, NN). And while a WWF project in Arviat, Nunavut to reduce human-bear conflict seems to be working (NN), apparently Charles Monnett – the scientist famous for having reported seeing drowned polar bears – is under investigation by the US Department of Justice as part of the same case, which many had thought closed in September 2012 (PEER).

The modest wolf hunt in Sweden continues, with a quota of 18 (EOTA), while a couple of NGOs have picked up the Yakutia wolf-hunt story and are rising to their feet in defense of the wolves ( Unlikely to defend wolves, if they could speak, are the caribou of the George River herd in Newfoundland and Labrador. Their numbers have shrunk so profoundly that the territorial government this week announced a five-year ban on killing any of the animals (CBC). Tension with the Innu Nation, which traditionally hunts the herd, is on the rise, though – Innu representatives suggest that say they will continue to hunt caribou despite the ban, unless the government takes measures to curb mineral exploration as well (CBC).

Moving out to sea, new research begins to suggest an osteological protocol for distinguishing between North Atlantic, North Pacific and dwarf subspecies of minke whales (APECS). Narwhals in Nunavut are now the beneficiaries of a management plan, though to look at the comments it seems there might be a devil or two in the details (CBC). A new and more comprehensive survey of marine life in the Chukchi Sea presented its findings at the Alaska Marine Science Symposium (KUCB), and – back on land – a longitudinal study of parasitoid wasps on Ellesmere Island suggests that the creatures have not yet been affected by climate change, though their southern relatives’ communities are changing dramatically (from the wonderful Arthropod Ecology blog). More humble still than wasps, Arctic microbes are the subject of studies, too; how do they survive in such cold climates (Live Science)?

And, if you prefer your animals fully decomposed, you’ll be happy to read about the new discovery on Alaska’s North Slope of a nearly-complete, 40,000 year-old steppe bison (Frontier Scientists).


The latest edition of the WWF’s “The Arc” newsletter is now available. / Planning for an EU Arctic Information Centre may have taken a step forward this week with the announcement that Rovaniemi’s Arctic Centre would be taking on a big project funded by the European Commission (BO). The consortium of 19 institutions is known as the EU Arctic Information Centre Initiative (Arctic Portal) – sounds promising, yes? / Greenpeace activists chained themselves to pumps at a Shell station during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland to publicize their stand against Arctic oil & gas drilling. / Norway and China are intensifying their collaboration on polar research (Norsk Polarinstitutt). / A state lawmaker in Alaska is making an effort to get interference with “oil and gas, timber or other development projects” a felony; he’s calling it the Lucy Lawless bill (ADN). / A compelling short letter from Dave Aplin, who works for the WWF, looks at his reasons for getting involved in Arctic work. / Driftwood on Arctic shores may be an unconsidered resource; recent research looks at how driftwood could serve as an indicator of historical Arctic currents, as well as helping scientists to evaluate past environmental conditions ( / A lake in Oymyakon, Russia – the “Pole of Cold” – was plumbed for the first time ever by a Russian diver; it’s so cold that it’s never been explored in person before, only electronically (RIAN). / Congratulations to the University of Tromsø, which is now home to a Center of Excellence for research into Arctic gas hydrates (APECS). / Scientists: A call has gone out for papers for the upcoming edition of Advances in Polar Science (Arctic Portal). / Congratulations to A. David McGuire, a professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks whose research focuses on the carbon cycle in Arctic and sub-Arctic environments, on being named a Fellow by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, or AAAS (FNM).


Let me refer you first to an outstandingly dispassionate and clearly-organized article from TAI’s own Kathrin Keil that illustrates the misguided nature of articles that point to conflict in the Arctic as a likely outcome of a “race for resources”.


While for most of us a power outage is a temporary inconvenience, in the Northwest Territories in the middle of a January cold spell a power outage can be a matter of life and death. Two NWT towns, Norman Wells and Behchoko, both experienced crippling power outages this last week. In Behchoko, a power outage caused part of the main power line to freeze in the -40c weather; it took crews more than twelve hours to repair the damage (CBC). A power outage in Norman Wells early Monday morning caused the natural gas field and plant to shut down, leaving many residents without gas for heat (CBC). Those affected were relocated to buildings with backup heating systems and contingency plans were even drawn up for the town’s evacuation before power was restored and the plant brought back to capacity.

Meanwhile negotiations between NWT and Ottawa on devolution have reached a critical phase. The two parties signed an agreement in principal last year, but several first nations groups have not given their consent, fearful that devolution would complicate current land disputes with the federal government. Devolution would give NWT much greater control over resource development and the concomitant revenues. See good reporting on this issue by the CBC. Also check out this episode of the CBC’s As it Happens where this issue is discussed in depth with writer and academic Stephanie Irlbacher-Fox.

In another sign that rapid climate change in the Arctic is changing Canada’s energy equation, the country’s Finance Minister Jim Flaherty discussed shipping oil from Alberta’s oil sands east or north through the Arctic if environmental or political concerns derail the Keystone XL or the Northern Gateway pipeline through British Columbia (Global News). Ottawa also announced new legislation this week requiring energy companies to pay more for cleanup and remediation if a spill occurs during offshore operations (CBC).

While gas prices are dropping across Canada, not so in Yellowknife where prices hover around $1.39 per liter. The culprit, according to the CBC, is retailers who can afford to keep prices inflated due to a lack of competition.


The consolidation of Russian Arctic energy exploration by state-owned Rosneft and Gazprom continued apace this week, as the Kremlin awarded 12 more Arctic licenses to Rosneft (BO). The Kremlin meanwhile admitted that it will make EUR 2.2-3.7 billion in 2013 from licensing its continental shelf (NGE). A very informative article by Danila Bochkarev in Natural Gas Europe helps unpack the reasons behind the growing clout of Russian “independents” Novatek and Rosneft in that country’s gas markets and the impacts this may have both domestically and abroad. Gazprom’s exports have been steadily eroding thanks to a decline in the gas available for purchase and export by the company (Bloomberg). Sergey Komlev, Head of Contract Structuring and Pricing Directorate at Gazprom Export sat down for an interview with Natural Gas Europe to discuss oil-indexing, European “phobia” of Russian gas and EU anti-trust investigations of the company.


Appearing unbowed in the face of a troubled 2012 Arctic drilling season and growing criticism of his company, Shell CEO Peter Voser affirmed his commitment to the company’s Arctic program in spite of any difficulties they may encounter (Telegraph). Meanwhile, Shell continues to keep mum concerning the ongoing damage assessment of Kulluk, still anchored in protected waters off Kodiak Island (FNM). The company’s Arctic problems are overshadowing what was a rather robust earnings report for the year (The Independent). The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will take a second look at their 2011 Environmental Impact Statement addressing Arctic oil exploration, apparently thanks to some strong lobbying by Alaska’s congressional delegation (Oil and Gas Journal). Are they hoping the Administration will water down its original findings? Hard to imagine after the uproar about Shell’s Arctic drilling mistakes this year. Whoever replaces Ken Salazar at the Department of Interior will likely have a significant impact on Washington’s support for Arctic energy exploration post-Kulluk. Jennifer Dlouhy discusses some of the names that have been floated for the position in an article for Fuel Fix.

Dropping gas production in Cook Inlet and rising demand in Anchorage have together led to some “scary incidents” this winter in which demand almost exceeded supply. To understand more about this dilemma, see this article in Alaska Dispatch. Paradoxically, Alaska Dispatch also published a piece this week on the 180 degree turn the LNG industry in the US is in the process of making, from import to export. Worries of a natural gas shortage spurred the construction of 8 new LNG import terminals in the US since 2000. Then came shale gas, and as many as five of these terminals didn’t import a single drop of LNG last year. Now their owners are looking to reverse the flow of these terminals to begin shipping shale gas to energy hungry markets in the Pacific. See this well written article by Bill White for the business and political dimensions of this emerging transition.

Leadership changes in BP Alaska: President John Mingé has been tagged to replace outgoing BP American president Lamar McKay. Mingé is to be replaced by current BP Alaska vice president Janet Weiss (AD).

Alaska Senator Mark Begich introduced legislation this week that would give Alaska a 37.5% cut of federal revenues from oil and gas licenses granted off the states shores. The state currently receives no revenue, and with production beginning to lag on the North Slope, getting a piece of the offshore revenue would be an important step in balancing the state’s budget in the future (Fuel Fix).

The State of Alaska approved geothermal leasing on volcanically-active Augustine Island. Unfortunately, the island’s remote location far from large energy markets will likely hinder development (Petroleum News).

I’ve always read about high energy prices in Fairbanks, but this article in Petroleum News helped me understand why it’s such a persistent issue. Well worth the read.


In Norway, the ruling Labor Party announced that it would back a controversial plan to allow oil exploration off the Lofoten Islands, a popular tourist destination and critical habitat for one of the world’s largest cod stocks (Reuters). This decision caused an uproar within Norway’s environmental community and strong protests from some of Labor’s minority coalition partners (Views and News from Norway).

Swedish company Arise Windpower announced a new, 45-turbine wind farm that it will be developing in Norway (ReNews). Norway could probably use more nearby electricity production: on 20 January, the country recorded its highest ever consumption of electricity, 24.18 megawatt-hours, thanks to some very cold weather in the south (BO). Meanwhile, Radio Sweden reported that electricity rates were down 40% this winter compared to last, thanks to abundant rains that helped fill depleted reservoirs. Barents Observer reported that even though the total number of ships sailing around Norway from Russia was up last year, the total volume of oil being carried fell by 10% from 2011, likely the result of sagging production at the Yuzhno-Khylchuyu fields.



The Government of Yukon announced it would almost quadruple funding for the Yukon Mining Incentive Program this year, making $777,000 available for grants to encourage mineral exploration in the territory (Mining News North). Grants are given to prospectors through a competitive, proposal-driven process that has been instrumental in providing seed money to mineral projects to promote economic development. In other Yukon mining news, CBC reports that the Ross River Dena Council and the Liard First Nation have signed a mineral exploration agreement with the Golden Predator group. Just last November, the same groups had threatened to halt all mineral activity on their lands during a spat with the Yukon government over First Nations’ veto rights. The groups approved this project due to Golden Predator’s initiative in reaching out to First Nations groups in the initial phase of the project and taking their concerns seriously. The Ross River Dena Council’s claims were supported by a ruling from the Court of Appeal of Yukon saying that the Crown has a “duty to consult” with First Nations on mineral and energy development. See this detailed article by Rose Ragsdale in Petroleum News for details.

The Conference Board of Canada’s Centre for the North released a report forecasting a 91% growth in the mining economy across Canada’s north in the coming decade. A full text of the report (PDF), which addresses both the great opportunities and the risks of this rapid expansion of the North’s mining industry, can be found here.


Finnish Minister for International Development Heidi Hautala visited the troubled Talvivaara nickel mine to encourage to company to overcome environmental and production problems (EOTA).


Greenland’s Bureau of Minerals and Petroleum announced that it would be hosting a half-day program in mining and energy development at the Prospectors’ and Developers’ Association of Canada 2013 convention in March. A list of speakers and topics was made available here. Though you’ve probably come across the Economist’s great article on Asian interests in the Arctic, read it again for the last section which provides a good précis of the political and regulatory hurdles that face China as it seeks to go all-in on Greenland’s mining sector. For a great read on how the complex politics plays out in regard to uranium mining in Greenland, read Ray Weaver’s article in the Copenhagen Post. Follow that with a great article in Uranium Investing News that helped me, at least, to understand some of the dynamics of the global uranium market, particularly as it relates to Russian uranium mining and the US consumption. Note to self: Dig deeper into this topic.

I must admit to having to do a little digging to interpret this one: Hudson Resources released assay results for its White Mountain anorthosite prospect in Greenland (Junior Mining Network). Anorthosite apparently has economic value, in that it’s made up of 90-100% plagioclase feldspar. Particularly pure anorthosite is a key ingredient in E-Glass, which is used to manufacture stronger fiberglass.


Alaska is, apparently, in the throes of another gold rush. In 2012, the state produced roughly 1 million ounces of gold. The only other years in which production exceeded 1 million ounces were 1899 and 1906. See this article in North of 60 Mining News for a detailed overview of Alaska’s new gold rush and the prospects for 2013. Contango Ore Inc. posted results from exploratory work from its Tetlin project out of Tok (also North of 60 Mining News).

Other Business and Industrial News


The Chinook salmon disaster in Alaska this past year prompted the state’s Department of Fish and Game to assemble a long-term research plan which, hopefully, will provide information that will help to avoid or mitigate future such disasters (audio from APRN). Meanwhile, fresh research in many different areas was served up at the Alaska Marine Science Symposium (audio from APRN).

The season for pollock got started in Alaska (1.258 mn metric tons catch quota) (AD), and the first fish of the year to reach Murmansk in any great quantity will be capelin, a staple in the region (BN).


Perhaps the most-shared bit of shipping analysis this week was a great article from Reuters that takes a withering look at the hype-vs-reality of the Northern Sea Route as a channel to take Russian hydrocarbons to Asian markets. One of the issues identified in the Reuters article is the inadequate number of ice-class LNG carriers; four such carriers may soon be in the works at Russia’s United Shipbuilding Corporation, though no final agreement has yet been signed (RIAN). Finland’s shipbuilding industry writ large seems to be hurting, however, and there’s disagreement even within the ranks about what – if anything – the government should do about it (interesting read from YLE).

In Alaska, the development of an Arctic deep-water port is a subject of continued interest; the US Army Corps of Engineers released a report this week identifying Nome / Port Clarence as the most promising region for such a port (analysis from KSKA via EOTA here). Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell talked about the need for better information on, and policies for, the ships that come and go in ever greater numbers through the Bering Strait; nice reporting and analysis from Carey Restino in the Bristol Bay Times.

Back eastward, the commercial port in Murmansk is now largely owned, at its root, by Andrey Melnichenko, who sits atop the boards of co-owners SUEK and EuroChem (BN). The city itself has an aggressive plan for infrastructure improvement and improved connectivity under the guiding hand of Governor Marina Kovtun (BO), but its fortunes are looking less than golden; many important industries contracted from 2011 to 2012 (BN).


Russian premier Medvedev seems to have offered a frank assessment of Russia’s future prospects and of the challenges the country must overcome to be successful in the long term; the list is daunting, but then again, the same could be said for the United States (BN). / Iceland is seeking to revive its fortunes post-crisis with creative industries in addition to its more traditional sectors (nice article from Wired). / I missed an interesting report on the knowledge sector in Yukon back in August; it’s also worth a look.

Society, Infrastructure, Health, Education & Arts

What a wealth of information on climate change, mobility and displacement in the Arctic was released by Brookings this week; we’re grateful for the excellent, readable studies covering this largely-undiscussed issue in Alaska, Russia and Scandinavia. A definite Read of the Week. Also take a look at the North of 60° project, which sends students from schools around the Circle to record stories from their communities, creating a rich, variegated “tapestry” of Arctic knowledge. The students left on an expedition to Arctic Alaska this weekend, and are heading to Canada in early April.

Infrastructure & Housing

Civilian infrastructure was a major topic of discussion in the Barents region this week. Russia announced it would be sinking EUR 10 billion into infrastructure projects nationwide by 2015 (Murmansk & Shtokman News), and the four Barents countries began working on a joint transport plan for the whole region (BO). Nils Arne Johnsen meanwhile made a strong pitch for the idea of Tromsø, Norway as an “Arctic capital”, though he also considers the areas in which the city could stand to improve.

There was good news for northern communities in both road and air travel as well. An all-weather road from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk in the Northwest Territories has been given a “go” on its environmental assessment (EOTA); it has an expected total cost of CAD 300 million, or just over CAD 2 million per kilometer of road. For more on road-building in the North, you’ll want to dive into a great article on the construction of the Alaska-Canada highway, one of the 20th century’s engineering marvels (Defense Media Network). In the air, people who call Krasnodar their home airport are doubtless excited that Yakutia Airlines is expanding westward, adding new routes to major cities in Turkey, Israel, Armenia and Cyprus (Airline Route). Airbus is meanwhile taking advantage of Iqaluit’s facilities to cold-weather-test the engines for its new A350 passenger jet (CBC).

When it comes to communications infrastructure, Arctic Fibre’s recent announcement that it had reached an agreement to bring broadband to northwestern Alaskan coastal communities has been followed with word that the Polarnet project (which seems like it would be a competitor?) was back under discussion ( The proposed cable would run from the UK to Japan via Murmansk, Anadyr and Vladivostok. Along a portion of the same corridor, a coalition of telecom companies has proposed to offer wireless broadband across the Nordics and out to sea; the hybrid system would switch automatically from land-based to satellite-based once ships passed out of range of the coast (MarineLink). At a less ambitious level, Northwestel announced that it will be expanding its DSL service to Rankin Inlet, Nunavut in February (NN). (Side note: a new jail just opened in Rankin Inlet, too. – CBC) While telecom infrastructure is expanding, power transmission infrastructure looks overtaxed; Behchoko, NWT suffered a 12-hour power outage in about half the town during a deep cold snap (CBC).

In a possible sign of the North’s growing “mindshare” elsewhere in the world, Whitehorse, Yukon is beginning to look at the possibility that its population will double – double, mind you – in the next 20 years. Where might these new residents be housed (AD)? Perhaps the increased gravitational pull of northern communities is also to blame for a jump in housing prices in the Northwest Territories last year, though a local expert points out that a few high-value housing sales can really skew the numbers in a territory with such a small population (NNSO). Meanwhile a chronic problem in Nunavut’s housing scene is a rash of fires, which local fire departments and police are learning to tackle (NN).

Health & Diet

A three-day symposium in Nunavut produced a series of recommendations to deal with food insecurity in the territory’s communities, synthesized by Nunatsiaq News. I ordinarily can’t stand reading comments, but you might want to check them out in this article; they’re sort of fascinating. Contrast them with the uniformly positive comments on another article about a Facebook group (which I could not find) that catalogs Inuit hunting images and stories (NN).

On to health issues, where comparatively high rates of tuberculosis infection in Nunavut and Greenland have brought doctors from Canada and Greenland together in Iqaluit to consider ways to improve TB treatment in their communities (EOTA). A shortage of doctors in Yukon is meanwhile leading to behind-the-scenes work to recruit more physicians (Yukon News). The territory has also made plans to add a youth wing to its addiction-treatment center (CBC). Finally, you might wish to look at a recent movie project that explores the issue of suicide in Alaska’s native communities (ICTMN).



6th graders from across Yukon prepared this week for the 44th annual Polar Games, held this year in Whitehorse (WS). Whitehorse will also be seeing some new bike lanes in the coming year (WS).

The Yukon Challenge kicked off Saturday morning in Whitehorse. You can track the progress of this year’s teams as they make their way over the 300 miles from Whitehorse to Fairbanks thanks to GPS beacons that each team carries. Go to the Yukon Challenge website here to see an interactive map that plots the progress of each team.


The University of Alaska Fairbanks Nanooks are having quite a winter. The men’s hockey team carried a seven-game winning streak into this weekend’s heartbreaking loss to Miami of Ohio, leading them to be considered amongst the top NCAA Division-I hockey programs (FNM). Meanwhile, the ski team is poised to defend their Central Collegiate Ski Association title this weekend in Ishpeming, Michigan (FNM).


It seems most Arctic sports stories are about hearty adventurers defying the elements in feats of superhuman endurance. For a different type of Arctic experience, check out this video of a program by clothing company Fjällräven that takes ordinary people on a three day dog sledding and Arctic survival trip through the Swedish Arctic.

Someone tell me this is a typo: Norwegian speed skier Liss-Anne Pettersen scored a new world record when she was clocked going 225 km/h (Norway Post). Is that possible?


Russian Arctic travel veterans Fyodor Koniukhov and Viktor Simonov are preparing to attempt a 4,000 km journey by dogsled in April across the Arctic Ocean from Russia to Greenland (VOR).

A vacation idea for the tin-foil-hat types: The Seregesh ski resort in Siberia is opening a Yeti Park. The man behind the plan is Igor Idimeshev, who claims to have seen Yetis several times, and that they are glow-in-the-dark aliens that can walk on water (Daily Mail).

Images and Videos

Start with a couple of nice photo essays on Svalbard (from Outdoor Times), on Finland’s winter sunlight (from YLE) and on ice of various stripes in Iceland, Greenland and Norway (from the Daily Mail). Then peruse an extensive gallery of pictures of Greenlandic communities.

Move on to a panoply of individual photos of: midwinter Yellowknife (@mericsso); a winter road in Norway (@sophieneechan); a winter fjord (@ambarhamid); a blissful skiing experience (@msollijiha); a snowed-in town (@rosincore); an Arctic hare surveying its fiefdom (Clare Kines); Rovaniemi (@northernloop); the community of Dettah (@kristinna18); Tromsø (@rach_fotos); Alaskan tundra (@alaska737); A Greenland boat trip – Pic 1 and Pic 2 (@matthewgla); and Tromsø from the air (@ingridagnete).

The Grab Bag

Now for some choice tidbits that fit nowhere else…

A travelogue of Mark Vogler’s trip to Ittoqqortoormit, Greenland has some great photos and is a good escapist read. / Rovaniemi police are ticketing people for icy windshields and public urination (YLE). / The Solovki archipelago in Russia’s White Sea may soon have special protection, limiting the number of tourists who may visit the beautiful monastery there (BO). Much closer to St. Petersburg, fans of the famed Church of the Transfiguration at Lake Onega are afraid that its new manager – the ex-governor of Karelia – will be too open to tourists (BO). / The Barents Spektakel festival in Kirkenes begins this week! If you’re around, get there (BN). / If you’d like a quick summary of Arctic Frontiers 2013, find it at Arctic Portal or read Phil Steinberg’s entertaining and thoughtful ruminations on the conference as a whole. / The number of super-rich in Murmansk is on the rise (BO). / A sympathetic portrait of Komi reindeer herders on the Kola Peninsula from Russia Beyond the Headlines is well worth a read. / An anthology of Inuit thinking on “Security, Patriotism and Sovereignty” was released by ITK this week – briefing on it by Nunatsiaq News, or full PDF available here. / A World War II-era Grumman Duck that crashed on Greenland, killing the three US troops, has at long last been discovered by a Coast Guard search team (IceNews). / The National Geographic Channel is creating a new reality-TV series profiling the Russian Old Believer communities on the Kenai Peninsula (EOTA). Seems patronizing and exploitative, but what isn’t these days?

This week’s credits:

Tom Fries: Politics, Military, Science, Business, Social, Photo, Grab Bag
Kevin Casey: Energy, Mining, 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)