The Arctic This Week: 9 February 2013 - 15 February 2013

The Arctic This Week 2013:07

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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

If you’re pressed for time this week, we suggest you focus on these four valuable items.

An article from Scientific American highlights the great value of knowledge gleaned from native hunters and residents in the North. One such resident, Bob Uhl, spent years at Alaska’s Cape Krusenstern National Monument. His detailed journals of the natural world there are now available for download from the National Park Service.

On the energy front, take a minute or two to look at the incredible equipment that will transport Shell’s Kulluk to Asia for repairs (from KUOW), and follow up with an article from Reuters enumerating the reasons that Shell and others are likely to continue to pursue Arctic projects despite their many practical and logistical difficulties.

The Political Scene


The tides of Idle No More have receded from Canadian headlines, leaving behind a scattered collection of smaller stories which, nonetheless, have their interest. I’m pleased to direct readers first to two valuable pieces. The first is the latest thoughtful analysis by Anthony Speca, via Northern Public Affairs, which looks at the gulf that exists between political vision for Canada’s North and the practical likelihood of funding that vision. The second, which I believe is by Jim Bell with Nunatsiaq News, is an editorial which explains the distance of many Inuit organizations from the Idle No More movement.

It’s been a tough week for Canada’s cabinet members generally: Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development John Duncan resigned when it came to light that he’d improperly interceded with Revenue Canada on behalf of a constituent (CBC); and Minister of Health Leona Aglukkaq took a metaphorical punch from a “prominent Ottawa physician and obesity expert” who claims that she’s abandoned her duty to look after the health of Canadians generally, leaving many key issues to gather dust (National Post).

Political romance between Ottawa and Yellowknife marked Valentine’s Day in Canada (Northern Journal), and members of the Northwest Territories’ Legislative Assembly elected to forego an opportunity to criticize the federal government for eroding environmental protections; many stated openly that this choice was due in part to ongoing devolution negotiations (CBC). Not everyone sailed on that tack, though, with MP Dennis Bevington taking the Harper government to task for ignoring the needs of northern communities (HQ Yellowknife). Nor is the government’s relationship with environmental activists going well; it seems the government’s security apparatus is keeping a close eye on such groups as possible terrorists (Guardian). Meanwhile, in northern First Nations news, one group has elected to split off from the Dehcho First Nations in order to better pursue its own goals (CBC), and the Attawapiskat First Nation is presenting a revenue-sharing deal it struck long ago with DeBeers as a “learning opportunity” (CBC). Their message: Other First Nations can, and should, bargain harder.

Last, two brief pieces on Nunavut. A fascinating article from Nunatsiaq News covers the Nunavut Impact Review Board’s need for greater funding to implement the provisions of now-famed bill C-47. Relatedly, demands for greater transparency in Iqaluit government are good in theory, but would require funds as well as desire to implement (NN).

United States

Most US news was at the federal level this week. A press release from Senator Mark Begich’s office briefly covers three bills he’s introduced to support greater efforts in Arctic science, Arctic health research and Arctic diplomacy. The last would involve the naming of an Arctic ambassador. This and other ideas were supported in a communication from Senator Murkowski to newly-appointed Secretary of State John Kerry ( Senator Begich has also been named chairman of a couple of subcommittees important to Alaskans; they deal with issues of emergency management, fisheries and the US Coast Guard, among others (

Russia and Europe

The Russian Council has laid out an ambitious (seriously - it’s ambitious) road map for a cooperative way forward in the Arctic for Russia. Well worth reading if this is your area. Russia is meanwhile working with neighbor Finland on simplifying visa procedures to ease travel between the two countries (Murmansk & Shtokman News). The presidents of the two countries, during a meeting this week, talked also about declining trade between their nations and what might be done to remedy it (YLE).

Elsewhere in the Barents Region, this winter saw the release of what looks like a fascinating book on indigenous property rights and the Saami people in the Nordics (Hart Publishing). If you’re interested in contributing some of your own thinking on these and other social, economic and political issues in the region, take a look at the call for papers for the first issue of Barents Journal. Further north in Greenland, elections have been set for 12 March; these elections may be seen as a referendum on the governing coalition’s readiness to engage with China on prospective mining projects (IceNews).



The Yukon government is seeking to wrap up public consultations on the Peel Watershed Regional Land Use Plan, through some government employees are wary of expressing their opinions on the matter for fear of retribution (CBC). Next door in the Northwest Territories, the National Energy Board ordered a work stoppage at Husky Energy’s Slate River oil camp due to poor safety protocols and the failure to report a recent injury (CBC).


Shell announced this week that it would be moving both the Kulluk and the drillship Noble Discoverer to Asia for repairs. Good coverage can be found in the Anchorage Daily News and Petroleum News. The decision to move both rigs to Asia suggests that more significant repairs than expected will be required. Though an official damage assessment of the Kulluk has not been released, the Unified Command Joint Information Center confirmed that the outer hull had been damaged but the inner hull and fuel tanks were not breached (press release). Both rigs will be dry towed, a process that entails their being loaded on semi-submersible ships that will lift the Kulluk and Noble Discoverer out of the water and significantly reduce tow times to Asia. If you’ve never seen one of these, they are impressive looking ships. See this story by Seattle Public Radio KUOW for pictures.

Carey Restino pokes holes in Shells claims that Alaska’s oil infrastructure tax had nothing to do with their decision to move the Kulluk during rough weather in December (Arctic Sounder). Ms. Restino also provides a more humorous take on Shell’s woes this year in an editorial in the Dutch Harbor Fisherman. With plans for the Kulluk now finalized and approved, the Unified Command which oversaw the response to the Kulluk grounding closed its doors Wednesday night (Fuel Fix).

Gov. Parnell announced plans for a natural gas pipeline to bring North Slope gas to market and also provide gas for Alaska consumers. Unfortunately, the plan is short on details, such as where it will start and end and what path it might take (FNM).

Despite Shell’s setbacks this year, Yereth Rosen and Gwladys Fouche write for Reuters that Shell and others will be back in the Arctic, if not next year, then soon. The reason is political stability. With the Middle East in turmoil from the Arab Spring and attacks on energy facilities in Algeria and Nigeria, the challenges of Arctic drilling seem manageable by comparison.

Exxon-Mobil and Rosneft inked a series of deals this week that linked the two companies’ Arctic ambitious more closely. In the first agreement, Exxon-Mobil gained access to an additional 234,000 square miles of the Russian Arctic for exploration. The second deal gave the Russian state-owned oil giant a 25% stake in Alaska’s Point Thompson Project on the North Slope (FNM). Dermot Cole, writing for the Fairbanks News-Miner, asks why the State of Alaska wasn’t at the table when such a large, government-backed deal was being discussed. The state moved to terminate Exxon’s leases at Point Thompson last year as the company dragged its feet on developing the project. Finally, the two companies agreed to explore the potential for a large LNG project in Russia’s Far East (OGJ). The agreements were signed at the home of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Alaska’s Senate voted in agreement with Governor Sean Parnell that the only way for the state to increase flow through the Trans-Alaska Pipeline was to lower state oil taxes, despite objections from the Democratic opposition (AD).

Air quality advisories were issued in Fairbanks this week as a persistent inversion trapped air pollution around the city (FNM). Common culprits of poor air quality are residences that still use wood or coal for heating. The state Department of Environmental Conservation sued one residence this week to compel its owners to shut down their wood boiler which has caused smog problems for a local school (FNM).

The Southcentral Power Project, a partnership between the Chugach Electric Association and Anchorage Municipal Power and Light, came on line 31 January. The new power plant has primary natural gas generators and secondary steam generators that run off of excess heat from the gas generators. The power plant is 25% more efficient than a natural gas generator, though customers won’t see savings for some time; rates are scheduled to increase to help pay off the debt for the $369 million upgrade (AD).


A glitch at the Kola Nuclear Power Plant in northwestern Russia forced one of the plant’s four reactors off-line (Power Engineering). This is the third time in four months that Kola’s Number 1 reactor has experienced problems and been taken off line at the ageing plant (BO).

Novatek announced that it was in talks with five European countries to sell half of the gas from its Yamal LNG project, a joint venture with Total (Fox Business). Gazprom’s Shtokman gas project, however, seems to be receding ever further into the hazy future. Gazprom admitted that the project will definitely not launch before 2019, contradicting President Putin’s assurances to Murmansk that the project would begin in 2017. The culprit is certainly economics. The huge investment required to bring the project on-line makes little sense with current gas prices and uncertainty brought about by the shale gas revolution (BO). When Shtokman does eventually begin production, estimates report the field could produce up to 2.1 trillion cubic feet of gas annually (NGE).

The Yamal’s largest oil field will start producing in 2015, Gazprom announced, with oil being shipped through a new terminal being constructed in Cape Kamenny in the Ob Bay and thence along the Northern Sea route with the help of icebreakers (BO).


As Statoil looks to continue its steady northward expansion with its Barents Sea drilling program, the company is bullish on the prospects of Arctic oil exploration. Statoil exploration manager Gro Gunleiksrud Haatvedt said the Arctic potentially contains “170 Johan Sverdrup fields,” referring to the large field discovered in Norway’s North Sea (AB). As oil exploration expands northward, northern communities are looking forward to realizing the economic benefits. Statoil announced that oil from new fields in the Barents will be brought ashore at Veidnes in Finnmark, a move which is expected to bring jobs and development to Norway’s “next big petroleum region” (BO). A new pipeline and oil terminal will be constructed in the region. Environmentalists expressed concerns that the new terminal and related ship traffic will endanger nearby Gjesværstappan, one of northern Norway’s largest marine rookeries (BO).

Science, Environment & Wildlife

Warming, Thawing, et al

A new paper released in Geophysical Research Letters (full PDF - $$) compares two years of data from the European Space Agency’s Cryosat satellite with similar data from NASA’s earlier ICESat mission. Although the researchers are forthright in pointing out that two years of data does not a long-term trend make, their observations have, as one might expect, not been encouraging. By comparing thickness of ice floes from the two periods (the BBC explains how the satellites assess this – a neat trick), they have identified a dramatic drop in ice volume during the months of October and November from 11,900 cubic km (2003-2008, ICESat) to 7,600 cubic km (2010-2012, Cryosat). The math wizardry necessary to perform an accurate comparison of the two data sets was done in large part by scientists in NASA’s network of research centers; that work and an upcoming ICESat-2 mission are covered by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. You can also see a video animation and explanation from NASA here, check out a video animation from ESA of September sea ice concentration from 1978 to 2010, or read about the modeling that predicted such results from the U of Washington. The current ice cover on the Kola Bay belies this overall trend; the Bay has been ice-covered only five times in the past hundred years (Murmansk & Shtokman News).

As usual, these are just some among the many indicators of change in the Arctic environment. Other new research indicates that decomposition of organic matter in thawing permafrost will accelerate appreciably as it is exposed to sunlight, dumping carbon dioxide and methane even more quickly into the atmosphere (LA Times, New Scientist). Meanwhile governments, oil companies and others are beavering away at improved methods for predicting Arctic weather (AD), and Indian authorities are working to understand how Arctic conditions may impact the Indian monsoon, “the backbone of [the] Indian economy” ( For more insight into connections between Arctic sea ice and weather, settle in with a cup of coffee for this talk from Rutgers University’s Dr. Jennifer Francis. You might also want to play with a web-based “app” from New Scientist allowing you to explore warming in your own neck of the woods, wherever that might be.

New work in Canada to understand conditions beneath Arctic sea ice in winter is bringing together the Vancouver Aquarium, Canadian High Arctic Research Station, Department of National Defence and Department of Fisheries and Oceans (CBC). That last partner got itself into hot water this week with the release of language from a contract for joint US-Canada Arctic research stating clearly that all research results are to be considered confidential by default, and unavailable for release or discussion to the general public of any kind without written permission from the guiding organizations (OC). An American scientist has declined to sign the agreement (click here for his post on the issue), and the press has leapt on it. Speaking now at a purely personal level (please pardon the editorial digression), I find this extremely troubling; nor am I the only one. I would feel less troubled if I saw room for interpretation, but the language of the agreement is clearly intended to leave no room for discussion. Bob McDonald of the CBC’s Quirks and Quarks asks how Canada can feel that it’s within its rights to muzzle American scientists; I would ask how it is reasonable even to muzzle Canadian scientists, if this research is publicly-funded. Is it anticipated that they will collect information the release of which would threaten national security?

Polar Bears

Another topic that gets a lot of people hot under the collar is, of course, polar bears. The “dueling anecdotes” (a felicitous turn of phrase from the Boston Globe) argue – neither with iron-clad data, it seems – that polar bears as a species are either in grave danger or flourishing. Whatever the story, it’s certainly more complicated than either storyline suggests. Andrew Revkin with the New York Times got a “thoughtful and thorough” (I agree with his assessment) message from Andrew Derocher, who made headlines by describing – not recommending, mind you – the feeding of polar bears as a management option, should their population crash suddenly. Meanwhile, as the next meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species draws ever closer, “popular” support is growing for the upgrading of polar bears under the convention, which would outlaw trade in polar bear parts as it does elephant ivory (CBC). The CITES secretariat itself has rejected the scientific arguments made thus far (Wildlife News). The WWF meanwhile has contributed funds to Nunavut and the Northwest Territories to support the carrying out of a new population survey (NN). The WWF will also be hosting a workshop coming up in Tromsø to identify potential ways to reduce human-bear conflict in Arctic communities (WWF).

Other Wildlife

For reasons I can’t even begin to fathom, trapped beluga whales near Sanikiluaq, Nunavut haven’t drawn nearly the level of public attention that a group of trapped killer whales did earlier this winter. Both polar bears and local hunters have been doing their best to hunt the doomed creatures and bring them ashore for use before they inevitably drown/suffocate (NN). A just-because look at bearded seals vs. ringed seals is an interesting addition to one’s Arctic knowledge (Redoubt Reporter), as is a description of the characteristics of and threats facing walruses (Frontier Scientists).

On to smaller creatures. Cormorants are light-dependent for their hunting, so although they’ve been moving further north with warming waters, they face ever-longer migrations southward to escape the winter darkness (National Environment Research Council). One subspecies of sandpiper is meanwhile breaking records by getting plump enough to overwinter in Alaska’s Cook Inlet while most of its compatriots head south (ADN). The sandpipers may be fattening themselves at least partially on insects; new research from The Canadian Entomologist looks at the relationship between Arctic arthropod populations and various weather factors to get an idea of how a changing climate may affect this important food source. Under the ice, a “bumper crop” of algae (a by-product of thinner ice and greater light penetration) has meanwhile fed an abundance of fat, happy sea cucumbers and brittle stars (NN). Cold-water corals, however, are perhaps doing less well – whatever the case may be, the National Marine Fisheries Service concluded that there’s not enough information to warrant putting special protections in place (ADN).

On land, scientists using DNA barcoding identified an extremely diverse patchwork of parasitic hymenoptera in sub-Arctic Canada, suggesting both that host species are plentiful and that DNA barcoding may serve as a useful method of identification “when morphological specialists are not available to identify every specimen” (BMC Ecology). Seems like a good idea to me.

An opinion piece in the Times Colonist strongly supports the development of marine protected areas in Canadian waters, and a wonderful piece in Scientific American looks at the necessity of drawing on the knowledge of local hunters to learn about many of the elusive species that make their home in the Arctic.

Other Science News

Several “new” experiments and expeditions are worth noting. The Canadian Rangers Ocean Watch program is getting underway north of Gjoa Haven (Vancouver Aquarium), a project to study neutron radiation is engaging students in Nunavut (Arctic College), and Students On Ice – which looks like an awesome program – is offering scholarships for the 2013 round to students from Nunavut and Nunavik (NN). On the European side of things, new research into freshwater rivers in Iceland and Finland is starting up under the care of scientists from the University of Brighton.

Space figured prominently in this week’s science news as well, even without going into detail on the meteor that exploded so dramatically over Chelyabinsk, Russia (animated .gif here). This week saw the launch of a new NASA satellite under the NASA/USGS Landsat Data Continuity Mission (RIAN). It is the most advanced earth-observing satellite yet launched by NASA, but its predecessor Landat-7 has captured lots of great data and images of its own, including this one of Greenland’s Kangerdlugssuaq glacier. Pictures of the launch from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base are available here, and a great photo of the launch of a rocket to study the northern lights is available from the NASA Earth Observatory here. You’ll also find it worthwhile to nose around on the GINA website for cool satellite imagery. Astronomers in Finland meanwhile hoped against hope for a good view of asteroid 2012 DA 14, which so famously passed close to earth on Friday (YLE).

In other news, white spruce may be expanding their range in Denali National Park as permafrost thaws (AD).

Military / Search-&-Rescue

Sweden’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Carl Bildt expressed dismay this week that neighbor Russia appears to be spending increasingly on developing military might while cutting spending on social goods such as education and health (BO). Indeed, much of that increased military spending looks almost comically lopsided; the newly renovated nuclear sub Verkhoturye returned to its home base at Gadzhievo on the Barents Sea coast where the residents themselves are suddenly without any cooking gas (BO). Nor, apparently, does the country currently produce the kind of fuel needed to enable its two brand-new Mistral-class amphibious assault ships, purchased from France, to work in very cold temperatures (OC). Meanwhile, a “gift” of sorts from Italy – the Rossita, built to help transport spent nuclear fuel for safe disposal – has been sitting unused for two years and must now go in for repairs (BO). Increasingly frequent observation flights over Arctic waters, however, proceed with no problems (RIAN). Russia’s focus on a diverse, bristling northern arsenal may be part of a stated strategy: the development of a “steel fist in a kid glove” (BO).

Military collaboration between Norway and Russia meanwhile took a step forward this week, with a meeting between Norway’s Minister of Defense Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen and Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoygu in Moscow. Minister Shoygu will apparently return the favor of a visit to Oslo in the near future (BO). Neighbor Finland has meanwhile agreed in principle that it will participate in unarmed patrols of Icelandic airspace so long as Sweden agrees to take part, too (YLE).

On the North American side of things, a talk by USCG Rear Admiral Thomas Ostebo reviewed the US’s recent Arctic experience, as well as announcing that the Polar Star would be ready for service in the summer of 2013 or 2014 – it’s not clear to me which he meant (JE). Open Canada interviewed an unnamed official about that country’s military engagement in the North; it’s clear that it is viewed as an actor collaborating with civilian authorities, as any northern operation requires “all hands on deck”. At a more specific level, Alaska’s Governor Sean Parnell has sent a letter to the Secretary General of the US Air Force proposing the transfer of a squadron of 24 F-16s from a base in Germany to Eielson Air Force Base near Fairbanks (JE), while in Canada a debate as to whether F-35s or F-18 Super Hornets are better-suited to Arctic ops continues to simmer (OC).

On the search-&-rescue front, three members of Canadian Forces were awarded the Star of Courage for a 2009 rescue of a teenage boy near Coral Harbour, Nunavut (EOTA).

Fishing, Shipping & Other Economic News


In a bit of brilliant research, scientists from the University of Washington suggest that wild fluctuations in Alaskan salmon runs in recent years are, rather than a sign of the End Times, simply the way life has been for hundreds of years (AD). A bad run of king salmon this year led to a low-stakes but interesting legal dust-up between Alaska native fishermen and government fisheries management organizations; a lawyer for the fishermen is preparing an argument that his clients and the communities they represent should have priority access to salmon runs in the future (ADN), and – what’s more – that the state should have done more to protect stocks from non-native fishermen in years past (EOTA). I have to say: It is a fascinating case.

No matter the salmon, the Bering Sea crab fishery is hoping for – and anticipating – a less ice-choked season this year (AD). But across the border in Nunavut’s waters, the fledgling turbot fishery may find itself the victim of its own success without better information to assist with management planning for the stock (AD).

On the European side of the ocean, a Russian trawler has been hauled in to Tromsø and fined a hefty EUR 35,000+ for illegally dumping fish in the Barents Sea (BO). This is a chronic and sensitive issue between Norway and Russia (BN). Meanwhile the Iceland-centered “mackerel wars” were toned down a little bit by Iceland’s announcement that it would reduce its catch quota by 15% by weight this year (IceNews).

General Business News

The Confederation of Finnish Industry is, like its compatriots all over the world, asking the government to cut the corporate tax rate (YLE). I’m sure the Finnish government was astonished to receive the revolutionary suggestion. Arctic business development in the Barents Region specifically is on the menu for an upcoming event in Rovaniemi (Finnish Chamber of Commerce). In Murmansk, foreign investment-promotion agencies FIBA and NBA have elected to merge (BN), and a new Minister of Economic Development – Dmitry Sosnin – has ascended that particular throne (BN). I highly recommend you read a Barents Nova interview with Terje Meyer for personal insight into what it takes to do Norwegian-Russian business. Far away in Nunavut, a new program from NTI and the federal and territorial governments is trying to give more Nunavummiut the training and job experience they need to enter public service (NN).

Other Industries

Dutch companies are meeting in Murmansk in April to help the city identify the best ways to expand its harbor “in a sustainable manner” (Dredging Today). / Wesley Loy’s breakdown of the recent study picking Nome and Port Clarence as the best available sites for a new Alaskan deep-water harbor deserves a read; it’s thorough and well-organized (Petroleum News). / Vessels out of Murmansk need new licenses depending on their size before they can go fishing, but it’s not clear which ones need which licenses (BN). / A new bill easing the rules for wastewater treatment on cruise ships is a matter of serious contention in Alaska; the rules and the debate around them have a long history (ADN). / Russian tourists spent EUR 1.2 billion in Finland last year (YLE).



Kinross Gold Corp. of Toronto, Ontario, announced operational results from the 2012 season. Gold production was up 16% in the fourth quarter from the previous year, thanks to continuing strong production from the company’s Fort Knox mine north of Fairbanks, AK (North of 60).


The White River First Nation challenged the mining licenses the Yukon Territorial Government granted to Kaminak Gold Corp., citing lack of consultation on the project (North of 60). Disputes over revenue sharing between Attawapiskat First Nation and the De Beers-owned Victor Mine have been a cause for introspection amongst First Nations groups across the region. Original revenue sharing levels negotiated between First Nations and De Beers have left local communities with a mere .5% of yearly revenues from the mine. As mining increases across Canada’s north, CBC reports that First Nations groups are seeking to learn from agreements like this to help negotiate better deals for local communities.

The Government of the Northwest Territories is in discussions with the Dominion Diamond Corp. over a diamond allocation agreement that will help support a diamond manufacturing sector in the Territories (North of 60). Will devolution bring a new mining boom to the territory as a whole? Chad Fraser looks at the potential in this article for Resource Investing News.

The Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board issued a land use permit to Canadian Zinc Corp. for a winter road to provide access to the company’s Prairie Creek Mine (North of 60).

The Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB) announced that it would have to reconsider the project certificate for the Mary River iron ore project. While both the Board and Ottawa approved the project in late 2012, Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. made significant changes to their near-term plan, opting to forgo major infrastructure projects for a smaller project that will begin generating some revenue. The NIRB will ask Baffinland to prepare a new section for their environmental impact statement covering the new project and stated that new public consultations may be required (NN). Elsewhere in Nunavut, Elgin Mining is looking to reopen the Lupin gold mine, which has been shuttered since 2004 (CBC).


Canadian company Elgin Mining Corp. announced 2012 production results from its open pit and underground operations at the Björkdal gold mine in the Skelleftea mining district of Sweden (press release). Some mayors across northern Sweden’s mining belt are asking why their communities aren’t benefiting from resource extraction through a direct tax. After Australia and Poland passed taxes on iron and coal mining to benefit local communities, mayors in Sweden’s northern towns are exploring tax options, though concerns remain that increased taxation will scare off investment (EOTA). And while the Pajala mine in Sweden is struggling to find new investors to stay in operation, the mine’s management team has taken home some handsome compensation over the last four years (EOTA).


Moscow plans to make the port of Murmansk the hub of the country’s rare-earth metals industry. The region holds an estimated 70% of Russia rare earth metal deposits (Industrial Metals).

A methane explosion at an underground coal mine near Vorkuta claimed 18 lives (BBC). Exactly what sparked the explosion is unknown and still under investigation (Moscow Times). Originally constructed by prisoners under the Gulag system in the 1930s, the city above the Arctic Circle survives on the mining industry. See this fascinating photo collection at NPR that profiles Vorkuta, where Soviet-era industrialization meets the harsh environments of the Arctic.


Opinions are divided in Greenland as the country moves to develop its rare-earth metal deposits with Chinese investment – and thousands of Chinese laborers. Carol Matlack writes for Bloomberg that China’s outsized influence in Greenland may be part of strategy by the country to buy a “proxy-vote” in the Arctic.

Education, Health, Culture & Society


Food insecurity continues to be a hot-button issue in the Canadian North, never more so than with the release of a report on food insecurity in Canada – particularly among aboriginal residents – by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food (CBC). The UN’s rapporteur Mr. De Schutter and Minister of Health Leona Aglukkaq don’t see eye to eye on this issue. Whatever the true state of food security in the North, tickets for the Taste of the Arctic festival which took place this week in Ottawa were running CAD 199 a piece (Metro News). Some Innu in Quebec are meanwhile struggling against a recent ban on hunting (in Newfoundland & Labrador) of the George River caribou herd; they contest the idea that the herd is at its lowest ebb, and wish to continue hunting as a food source (CBC).

In other health news, an outbreak of syphilis in Nunavut is spreading (CBC), and another round of air-quality warnings due to particulates (smoke, essentially) has been issued for Fairbanks and North Pole, Alaska (FNM).


On the education front: the principal of a school in Rankin Inlet has been marked out as one of Canada’s outstanding principals (NN); efforts are underway in Ottawa to standardize Inuktitut, in the hope that doing so will be a boon to Inuit education (Metro News); and a proud piece in Aftenbladet looks at the success of students from the U of Stavanger in Norway’s oil industry (in Norwegian).


An open call for art by Nunavut’s women will bring handmade works to Iqaluit for International Women’s Day (NN). / A new exhibition of photographs taken on and about Alaska’s Dalton Highway by Ben Huff is opening in Juneau (EOTA). / Village public safety officers appear to be valuable contributors to public safety in Alaska’s small communities, and Governor Sean Parnell is seeking ways to expand the program and recruit more to this difficult work (ADN). / Sami in the Murmansk region are looking at what might be called a precipitous decline in their population (BO).


Premier of Nunavut Eva Aariak took some time in Ottawa this week to seek out increased federal investment in housing and energy infrastructure; she indicated as well a desire for further devolution of control over resource development to the territorial government (NN). Also in Nunavut, a revised and expanded proposal for a port and road project to serve multiple mines in the Kitikmeot Region may, or may not, require a new environmental impact statement; we’ll see in the weeks ahead (NN). Next door in the Northwest Territories, the likely total cost of a highway from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk is as yet undetermined, though Minister David Ramsay’s assessment is “just under” CAD 300 million (CBC). Thank goodness these things always come in under budget. Some are already grumbling in Alaska about a second “bridge to nowhere” – this one to help tourists in Katmai National Park reach the Valley of 10,000 Smokes more easily (EOTA).

In air travel, Icelandair plans to begin serving Anchorage this summer, bringing Anchorage closer to Reykjavik than to Houston (AD). Alaskan tourism entities have jumped on the opportunity with a promotional tour around the European countries that will now be connected to Alaska with relative ease ( An exhibit celebrating Alaska’s own aviation heritage is open in Anchorage as well through August (AD).

Lastly, in Murmansk, further discussions of making Murmansk a substantial transport hub for industry took place between PM Medvedev and Regional Governor Marina Kovtun (BO).


UK polar explorer Pen Hadow announced not only that he would be abandoning his attempt this year to ski across the Arctic from Russia to Canada, but that he would be retiring from Arctic exploration completely (Explorers Web).


The Alaska Skijoring and Pulk Association will be hosting two races over the coming weeks around Fairbanks. For a full listing of the groups events, check out their website.

Representatives from the US Terrain Park Council, an organization dedicating to making ski and snowboard parks safer, conducted a detailed assessment of University of Alaska Fairbanks’s park and offered recommendations (FNM).

The 1,000 mile Yukon Quest Sled Dog Race between Whitehorse and Fairbanks wrapped up earlier this week. For comprehensive coverage and results, see the Yukon Quest page at the Fairbanks News-Miner.

With the Yukon Quest finished, all eyes turn towards the Iditarod. Five racers from the Yukon Quest will be turning around and running the Iditarod starting 2 March, including the Quest Champion Allen Moore (FNM). While Alaska’s sled dog races earlier this winter were snow-starved, mother nature has stepped in with some much needed precipitation and conditions should be good for the Iditarod (AD).

Frostbite has never sounded like so much fun as it does in this article in the Arctic Sounder by Seth Kantner.

Permits for this year’s big game hunts were sent out by email this year from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Apparently in past years results were posted online, but the rush of users often caused the site to crash (FNM).


Finn Jarmo Kekäläinen made history this week, becoming the first non-North American General Manager of an NHL team, when he took the helm of the Columbus Blue Jackets (YLE).

The Rovaniemi 150 Race was run this weekend in Lapland, a 150 KM endurance race which can be completed on bike, ski, or foot. Results aren’t in yet for this year, but you can see photos and videos of last year’s event at the race’s website.

A Finnish court has called an end to that country’s wolf hunt after pressure from environmental groups and the European commission (EOTA).


The Iqaluit City Council is having some difficulty forming a building committee and finding a suitable company to build a new aquatic center. The problem: The current candidates have no experience building in the Arctic (NN). Those issues haven’t affected the Northern Hockey Challenge, which continued in Iqaluit this weekend. The whole town turned out (CBC) for the Challenges, which takes place over eight weekends and showcases the best hockey talent from across Canada’s North. For scores, standings and scheduling, see the Northern Challenge’s website.


After last week’s bumper crop, we had to do without photo essays this week, though there is a constantly-changing series of photos about country food & hunting in the North on Madeleine Redfern’s Pinterest page.

We are nonetheless richly provisioned with individual photos of: two northern landscapes and the Tromsø reindeer race (@elisaborealis); the new cathedral in Alta and winter sunlight through the trees (@smokenotfire); a beautiful night landscape near Yellowknife (Ian Wills); the new Cathedral of the Northern Lights in all its glory (nice job by Nils Arne Johnsen); a surreal mountaintop outlook (Bruce McKay); tourists photographing the ice road near Yellowknife (Jason Simpson); a seascape off Svalbard (@sveinnare); a racer’s accoutrements for the Rovaniemi 150 and a sketched out map of the course (@leepeyton); crazy-looking northern lights over Iceland (@ozzophotography); big machines rolling about on Alaska’s North Slope (@sades11); a roseate Svalbard sunset (@darkseason); a coastal Norwegian landscape (@torillchristine);and northern lights over Lapland (@renzze).

The Grab Bag

Ian Frazier writes a starry-eyed review of Subhankar Banerjee in a recent New York Review of Books. / A former Murmansk official who holds Swedish citizenship may have embezzled billions of rubles from the region’s power sector (BO). / Swedes are the most likely of all Nordic residents to underreport their income when tax time rolls around (IceNews). / Facebook is putting new servers in Luleå, Sweden. Will they help Swedish police catch online criminals (EOTA)? / The titanium-clad, futuristic-looking Cathedral of the Northern Lights in Alta, Norway opened to much attention this week ( / The debate about whether to officially rename Mt. McKinley as Denali “rages” on (AD). / An interview with explorer Alex Hibbert is a nice read, with appealing photos (Indie Gandolfi). / Populations on Svalbard are growing, but nowhere faster than in the Russian settlement of Barentsburg (BO). / In comparison with last year, it’s been a snowy, low-visibility winter for Iqaluit (CBC). / A new resident of Iqaluit enthuses over her first experiences of the city; it’s an engrossing read ( / The Northwest Territories’ tourist bureau extols the virtues of Yellowknife in the Globe & Mail. / An unbelievable resource: Fourteen years of journals on life written by Bob Uhl from Alaska’s Cape Krusenstern National Monument, edited and uploaded by the National Park Service.

This week’s credits:

Tom Fries: Politics, Science, Military, Fishing/Shipping, Education/Health, Infrastructure, Images, 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)