The Arctic This Week: 2 March 2013 - 8 March 2013

The Arctic This Week 2013:10

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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. If you find TATW valuable, please spread the word!

We’re beginning to look for research help with TATW among readers of other Arctic-relevant languages; if this is you, feel free to get in touch with us to learn more. We’re also looking for early-career “creatives” to expand the kind of content we offer from The Arctic Institute. If you’re a young pro in art, graphic design, GIS, layout, cartooning, video production, audio production, photography, infographics, social media or things yet more unanticipated, and if you’re interested in expanding your portfolio, write us and let’s talk.

Reads of the Week

Most of this week’s best writing was for fun, rather than for work, so we hope you’ll enjoy these pieces.

The running of the Iditarod is an endless source of wonderful writing, images and sound. Alaska Dispatch has a whole section of their website devoted to the race, with play-by-play calls of the race, which is scheduled to finish this week. Beyond that, you won’t want to miss this article to understand how mushers are dealing with the wet, warm and windy weather. Follow that with a photo album that puts prominent mushers on display with celebrity lookalikes including Snoop Lion (née Dog) and Bradley Cooper. Finally, listen to the stirring “symphony of sled dogs” as teams bed down for the night at the remote Alaskan village of Takotna.

Next we’ll move to two serious articles. In the first, The Atlantic tackles the difficult challenge of providing education in small, remote northern communities with sensitivity. In the second, Petroleum News explores the complex dynamics of political pressure for maximum public benefit, industry desire for minimum taxation, and the tightly competitive global marketplace as British Columbia seeks to enter global LNG markets.

And finally, enjoy three escapist pieces exploring the less well-traveled corners of the world. Start with the “best-of” towns cataloged by Up Here magazine. It may be the best introduction to the Canadian North you’ll get. Follow it with a wonderful, if brief, travelogue from Radio Free Europe chronicling a Moscow-to-Vorkuta train trip in “celebration” of the 60th anniversary of Stalin’s death. And last, listen to this fascinating Public Radio International story about Efterklang’s aural exploration of the abandoned coal mining town of Pyramiden.

The Political Scene

CITES / Polar bears

The proposal to up-list the iconic polar bear from Appendix II to Appendix I under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (thus banning all international trade in polar bear products) was much of the week’s political news, partially because of the fascinating cast of characters involved in the debate. Last week saw numerous articles in which the two sides of the argument made their respective pitches, with Inuit organizations and several others coming down clearly on the side of keeping polar bears under Appendix II (NN). The WWF did a most excellent job of putting their arguments against the up-listing simply, clearly and briefly; it’s a model of how to make your point in this day and age. Thomas Walkom argued for the other side, taking a normative stance in favor of the up-listing and against Canada ( An attempt by the EU halfway through the meeting to produce a compromise resolution seemed to please nobody, as such things are wont to do; Terry Audla, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), spoke about the proposal in strongly negative terms, saying that it showed “contempt for a rigorous management system already in place.” Strange bedfellows the United States, Russia and the Humane Society International were also strongly opposed to the EU amendment (BBC, RIAN).

On Wednesday, final word came from Bangkok that the US-led proposal had not passed the voting round (Global Toronto), largely because  of the abstention of many European countries. The most informative end-of-process debrief comes from Maclean’s, and gives a little history from the last CITES meeting as well. If you’re thinking of writing a more detailed analysis, you can do no better than to turn to the excellent ASTIS database for your research. As additional background, you may find it useful to review earlier presentations on polar bear management from ITK, Environment Canada and the Government of Greenland. Thanks to Madeleine Redfern for sharing links to all three via her Twitter feed.


The devolution of rights and responsibilities currently held by the federal government to the government of the Northwest Territories (NWT) is impending; Premier Bob McLeod spoke to the Globe & Mail (video) about the benefits, as he sees them, for his own territory and for the federal government. Many observers seem to see this as an effort primarily to supplant Ottawa-based environmental oversight of various natural resource-development projects with more “streamlined” oversight by the territorial government (G&M). A critical part of the devolution process has been the signing-on of the Tlicho community, which this week joined the agreement-in-principle despite earlier fears that the agreement would undercut the authority of the community’s land and water board (CBC). The agreement is expected to come into effect on 1 April 2014, assuming it goes ahead as planned (Montreal Gazette).

The world’s second-largest country is also preparing for its upcoming chairmanship of the Arctic Council, and announced this week that Patrick Borbey, currently president of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, will be the new chair of Canada’s Senior Arctic Officials (Gov’t of Canada, NN). I am embarrassed to confess that it is not clear to me what precise duties the role entails. The different ways in which the NWT itself might play a role during the Canadian chairmanship are covered in detail and at length in a speech from the Gov’t of the Northwest Territories; the speech covers the government’s thoughts on Canada’s Arctic Foreign Policy and Northern Strategy.

Also of potential significance is the passage of the Harper government’s Northern Jobs and Growth Act through the House of Commons to the Senate (AANDC). According to Bernard Valcourt, the newly-minted Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, the Act exists to create “the conditions for jobs and economic growth in the North, to the benefit of all Canadians.” President of ITK Terry Audla chronicled his first meeting with Minister Valcourt briefly on his blog.

Lastly, in uncollected tidbits from Canada, Manitoba’s Métis population won a major victory over the federal government; the lawsuit confirmed the outstanding claims of the Manitoba Métis and the children of the Red River Settlement in a case that dates back to Canada’s Manitoba Act of 1870. It may mean lengthy renegotiations over land ownership (Leader Post). The full draft decision can be read here. / An electoral district, or riding, for Nunavik alone will remain a dream; it will remain attached for the time being to its current riding, which has expanded slightly southward (NN). / Federal funding that supports police services in First Nations and Inuit communities has been renewed for the next five years, despite earlier concerns that it would get axed (CBC). Nunavut’s justice minister was pleased to confirm that funds do indeed extend to Nunavut (CBC). / A lengthy profile of Inuit advocate Aaju Peter by the estimable Margo Pfeiff is well worth the time to read. Ms. Peter’s story is a fascinating one (Up Here).

United States

An interesting, if slightly hawkish, post comes from William Edwards at the US Naval War College (via the Atlantic Council). As the US’s Arctic military footprint is smaller than those of its Arctic colleagues, Edwards proposes  the creation of an Arctic Region Treaty Coalition, which “by adding security into the charter, […] would surpass and assume the position of the current Arctic Council.” At a more local level, a new bill signed into US law will offer Alaska Native (and American Indian communities across the US) the right to prosecute non-Indian criminal as well as civil offenders in their own courts. Because previous Supreme Court decisions appear to contradict this idea, the law may well be tied up in court for some time to come (FNM). Within Alaska, Iñupiat leaders are concerned that state legislation currently under discussion will unduly limit the participation of local communities in planning for resource-development projects (AD).

Europe & Russia

Perhaps curiously, the EU took center stage in Lapland this week, with an informal meeting hosted by the Finnish prime minister to discuss “in an informal and leisurely way” the future of Europe (BO). Meanwhile officials from both sides of a high-level Russian/Norwegian meeting left the event with very different ideas of what subjects had been discussed, and what the takeaways were (BO). Russia and the EU meanwhile are gradually moving towards a visa-free regime for Russian government officials of various stripes who travel under “service passports” (BO).

At the more local level in the Russian Arctic, trust in Murmansk’s officials seems to be on the rise, with a recent survey producing relatively sunny results regarding corruption in the region (BN). The region’s governor, Marina Kovtun, was also ranked this week the 73rd most influential woman in Russia (BN).

Around the Pole

The Arctic Council’s amicable working style, the possibility of admitting external observers, and Denmark’s views on Arctic territorial disputes were all on the agenda during a recent presentation by Denmark’s Arctic Ambassador Klavs Holm, here tidily summarized by Mia Bennett. A good piece from the Christian Science Monitor meanwhile looks hard at China’s interest in the Arctic, drawing heavily on remarks by TAI’s Executive Director Malte Humpert.



A Norwegian lawyer claimed this week that differences in litigation law between the US and Norway mean that BP would have fared better post-Macondo had the accident happened in Norwegian waters (AB). Unions are raising concerns about long hours and poor working conditions for employees on multipurpose vessels working on the Norwegian continental shelf (AB). Norway’s Sovereign Wealth Fund recorded its second best year ever in 2012 with returns of 13.4% (AB), and investment in the oil and gas sector rose steeply, coming in at 18% above 2011 rates (AB).

Norway’s announcement of significant new Barents Sea oil and gas finds in a region that Norway recently agreed to divide with neighboring Russia in 2010 has caused some alarm and finger-pointing in Moscow. The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate announced the discoveries last week: 390 million cubic meters of oil equivalents in fields along the Russian Border. Thomas Nielsen, writing for Barents Observer, tells how headlines critical of President Dmitri Medvedev began appearing in Russian newspapers, blaming him for signing the 2010 deal that fixed the disputed border in the Barents Sea and handing over all that oil to the Norwegians. Moscow’s Foreign Ministry went so far as to release a statement that the 201o border delimitation was not a gift to the Norwegians (RIAN). To quell the accusations, the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources made a statement providing assurances that Russia’s side of the new border also contained large oil and gas reserves, though they had yet to be systematically mapped (Russian Geographical Society). For a good background on the disputed border and the current oil and gas prospects, see this article in Pravda.

An article in Barents Observer details technological advancements Statoil is bringing to bear as they prepare for operations in the Barents Sea Skrugard fields, including “nanopaint” that keeps ice from freezing to rig structures.


Repsol and Alliance Oil announced that gas production has commenced at their joint Syskonsyninskoye field in the Khanty-Mansiysk region of Siberia. The project is producing 855,000 cubic meters a day (NGE). Higher than expected gas prices helped boost Novatek’s revenue 20.4% in 2012 (NGE).

An article in Russia Beyond the Headlines profiles Rosneft’s bids to become a global energy player after the announcement of recent joint ventures with Exxon Mobil, the soon-to-be-concluded buyout of TNK-BP, and expansion in the Arctic and Venezuela. Rosneft president Igor Sechin also sought to promote his company’s Arctic expansions in Houston this week where he met with industry officials and encouraged American companies to invest in the Russian Arctic (BO). An interesting addition to the article is the picture of Sechin speaking in front of a large map of the world with big red arrows showing oil and gas flowing from the Russian Arctic going not west to Europe, but East to Asia - another indication of Moscow’s increasing energy orientation towards the Asia-Pacific. Need even more evidence of Russia’s Asia pivot? See this concise article in Johnson’s Russia List that describes the budding energy romance between the Russia and China since 2009. Still not convinced? See this article in Bloomberg about Russia’s East Siberia-Pacific Ocean pipeline which by 2015 will carry a staggering 25% of Russia’s crude exports, all bound for Asian markets.

Russian independent Lukoil continues to clamor for access to the Arctic shelf, though Moscow has for now reserved the region for state-owned companies (AP). In contrast, Qatar Petroleum International announced that it was no longer considering taking a stake in the Yamal LNG project, though the state-owned enterprise did not rule out future engagement (Reuters).


Swedish state-owned energy company Vattenfall is laying off 400 employees in Sweden and 2,100 around the world to cut costs (Radio Sweden). Disagreements abound over safety assessments of Sweden’s nuclear reactors. The Swedish Radiation Authority has classified the reports for security reasons, while Greenpeace accuses the Authority of covering up the results and the risks of accidents at the country’s reactors (EOTA).

United States

I can’t blame Greenpeace for wanting to take a victory lap after Shell announced it would suspend its Arctic drilling program until 2014, but did they have to do so by making a Harlem Shake video, as Greenpeace Belgium did? Greenpeace also staged an impromptu “art exhibit” outside a Shell shareholder’s meeting (video) that featured a six-foot oil painting of the Kulluk running aground in Alaska. If Shell thought its decision to “pause” its Arctic program would prompt Greenpeace to call a time-out on its media blitz, they were, apparently, mistaken. Meanwhile, Shell’s drillship Noble Discoverer was loaded onto a Chinese heavy lift ship for a “dry tow” to an as-yet-undisclosed Asian port for repairs. If you are interested in how the process works, check out this article and photo gallery in Alaska Dispatch.

More fallout from Shell’s 2012 drilling season: Jennifer Dlouhy writes for FuelFix this week on how Statoil may postpone, or even abandon, its leases for drilling in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea. How is it that the Norwegian state-owned company with one of the thickest Arctic resumes in the business would back out on potentially lucrative leases? Statoil vice-president Tim Dodson’s response: we’ll let Shell be the guinea pig, and hopefully learn from their mistakes. Statoil doesn’t expect that pausing on Arctic exploration will keep them from achieving North American production goals, as the company holds significant interests in North Dakota and the Gulf of Mexico, both lower-risk options than the Arctic (Bloomberg). After Shell’s trouncing at the hands of Mother Nature this year, the Seattle Times praised the Obama administration’s decision to open half of the National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska to oil and gas exploration as a prudent alternative to Arctic offshore exploration.

ConocoPhillips is undeterred, however, and announced it is on track to drill two exploration wells in the Chukchi Sea this year, as described in this Reuters article. ConocoPhillips plans to use jack-up rigs that rest on the sea floor instead of the floating rigs that Shell used. The rigs are also being purpose-built for the Arctic, and Chukchi program manager Mike Faust is quoted as saying that ConocoPhillips was not going to “bring up a 30 year old piece of equipment,” an obvious dig at the aging vessels that gave Shell so much trouble this year. Local and environmental groups are appealing ConocoPhillips’ Arctic leases after the numerous problems encountered by Shell in their 2012 drilling season (ADN), and we’ll just have to wait until this summer and fall to see if ConocoPhillips has better luck, or shows itself better prepared, than Shell in 2012.

Western states have gotten accustomed to having one of their own heading the Department of the Interior, the agency that manages the oil, gas, and mining development on millions of acres of federal land in the West. While Obama’s recent nominee for the position, Sally Jewell, is a westerner (she hails from Washington) there is one thing about her that is raising the hackles of some western lawmakers: her most recent job was as CEO for REI, the large outdoor recreation equipment retailer. Some suspect that means Jewell, who has also held leadership positions in national conservation groups, would lean more towards conservation than development. Jewell assured Alaska Senator Mark Begich that she supports responsible development of Arctic oil and gas in meetings last week (Petroleum News). A full video of Jewell’s confirmation hearings before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee can be found here.

The state legislature continues to grapple with changes to the state’s oil tax law. Representatives had an opportunity to comment on the Senate’s proposed changes this week. Kristen Nelson provides a good overview of the remarks made by the major companies’ representatives in Petroleum News. Sitka Republican Senator Bert Stedman urges his co-legislators to slow down in their rush to slash oil tax rates, particularly as looming state budget cuts will likely impact the state’s citizens and create backlash against lower oil tax rates (FNM).

To emphasize its position regarding Alaska’s oil tax regime, ConocoPhillips is promoting new technology that it says can increase production from legacy North Slope fields and slow overall production declines to 3% by 2017. Problem is, high taxes make the tech unaffordable in Alaska, so in the meantime the company is exporting its expertise to the lower 48 and overseas (Petroleum News).

New Hampshire Professor Nancy Kinner will be sharing her expertise on Arctic oil spill mediation with the residents of Barrow via video conference this Saturday and next. Dr. Kinner travels frequently to Barrow and is an advocate for providing better education for Native communities on oil spill response (AD).

Seven residents of the Arctic village of Nuiqsut have filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming that planned development by ConocoPhillips on the eastern edge of the National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska poses a threat to their traditional subsistence practices (AD). The lawsuit claims that the Army Corps of Engineers’ original permitting of the project violates the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Protection Act (Petroleum News). 


Ottawa will be accepting bids for oil and gas licenses for the Bent Horn oil field on Cameron Island off of Baffin Island, Nunavut. The field, discovered in 1974, has been abandoned since 1996 (EOTA).

Interesting dynamics are playing out in British Columbia as the province seeks to enter global LNG markets. Gary Park provides a well-written article in Petroleum News that explores the complex dynamics of political pressure for maximum public benefit, industry desire for minimum taxation, and the tightly competitive global marketplace for LNG.

Science, Environment & Wildlife


My, my. Everyone was so excited to hear that 3.5 million year-old, giant, fossilized camels had been discovered on Ellesmere Island (Science Daily). A quick Google search will yield you an endless trove of articles on the discovery, but for a charmingly-written and amusing take on the research, turn to Ben Ayliffe of Greenpeace. For whatever reason, news of a much younger (42,000 year-old) woolly rhinoceros in Britain failed to spark the imagination as much (BBC). New research on the animal’s remains and surroundings tell us that, in Britain of that era, winter got down to -22C. Also apparently less inspiring than fossilized camels was the whimsical news that a walrus has made a rare journey to the Orkney Islands (BBC). They are exceedingly rare visitors, though not unheard of.

In Sweden, Sami have been denied permission to engage in protective killing of lynx, which take reindeer from their herds (EOTA). Wolves in Alaska, northwest of Fairbanks, will in contrast be the subject of an aerial hunt intended to boost moose numbers in the region (FNM). Moving to Quebec, the George River caribou herd is now estimated to number 28,000, down from 800,000 (yes, that’s right) three decades ago, but the crash has led to a series of new research initiatives that may pay benefits down the road (a fine article from the Montreal Gazette). Despite a governmental ban on hunting caribou from the herd in Newfoundland and Labrador, some Innu communities continue to take small numbers of animals (CBC). Not really related to caribou issues is Yellowknife’s Caribou Carnival, a video of which should nonetheless not be missed.

Finally, take a look at the documents associated with a recently-held meeting in Alaska looking at the plans that oil companies operating in Alaskan waters have for minimizing their impact on marine mammals (NOAA), or go a little lighter and more reader-friendly with a debrief of the meeting from Ben Anderson at Alaska Dispatch.

Climate & Environment

Beginning with news of peril, as we so often do, we’ll turn to the word that a large fracture has occurred in the Arctic sea ice between Ellesmere Island and Barrow, Alaska. According to the article from Nunatsiaq News, this is not dramatically unusual, but it is nevertheless somewhat early and somewhat extensive for such an event. Check a quick satellite image of the crack via A post on Science Blogs nicely summarizes the past years’ decline in ice extent with some good embedded videos, though it will not provide any new info for those familiar with this issue. Also disheartening is new research suggesting that Canadian glaciers are likely to melt quickly over the course of this century, adding up to 1.4 inches to sea level by 2100 (Bloomberg), and more along those lines from the US Global Change Research Program forecasting up to 10 degrees of warming over that same time period for Alaska itself (FNM). Storm surges are accordingly expected to have ever greater impact on coastal flood plains in northern Canada and Alaska; such surges kill freshwater-dependent vegetation for years, driving wildlife away as well (an interesting post from Mother Nature Network).

Not everyone sees imminent catastrophe; some observers believe our ability to impact the planet in sudden, dramatic ways is probably overstated (HuffPo).

Other Science News

In terms of keeping yourself informed, you might enjoy a quick look at a graphic showing the watersheds of the Arctic’s largest rivers (via Pinterest). Let us also recommend the ASTIS database, which is an excellent resource for scholarly literature on most Arctic issues.

Just a quick note about three upcoming conferences: the first Alaska Native Studies conference will be at the U of Alaska Anchorage on 5-6 April; the Arctic Observing Summit will happen in Vancouver, BC from 30 April – 2 May; and the UK Arctic Science conference will take place way down the road from 18-20 September at the Scott Polar Research Institute at Cambridge University.

Other uncollected bits: The University of Manitoba and Professor Søren Rysgaard are doubtless excited to herald the upcoming opening of a new state-of-the-art Arctic research facility (GOC). You can learn more about Dr. Rysgaard’s work via Globe Advisor. The University of the Arctic also has a brief new video highlighting the innovations that it has made in Arctic research.
NASA is preparing for the next round of its IceBridge Arctic campaign, while an appropriately hardy Scottish research buoy has apparently made it through the nearly-over Arctic winter and is still beaming back good, high-precision GPS data (Scottish Association for Marine Science). / In Canada, a program that draws on Canadian Rangers as data collectors looks to be moving forward this year (Vancouver Sun)./ Contributing to safer polar research is a new self-guided robot that maps out hidden crevasses (Occupational Health & Safety). / Spring is likely to be warmer and wetter for Nunavut this year than in previous years (NN). / The Onega Peninsula welcomes  a new national park, signed into existence by Dmitry Medvedev last week (BO).

Military / Search-&-Rescue

Russia, the Nordics and Beyond

President Putin continues to push for a massive rearmament program for Russian forces (RIAN); the program appears to include refurbishment of two Sierra-class titanium subs from the 1990s, the Karp and the Kostroma (RIAN, BO). The Nordics next door, while not pushing specifically for increased defense spending, seem to be gritting their teeth as they learn that the Nordic Defence Cooperation plan instituted in 2009 has done nothing yet to bring down defense costs (BO). Norway also apparently has a new threat to deal with – cyber-espionage, traceable to the Chinese military, has been undertaken against Norwegian companies in the recent past (The Nordic Page).

For a good view of the circumpolar security landscape, turn to a nice interview with Katarzyna Zysk of Norway’s Institute for Defence Studies. Dr. Zysk goes over the recent history of the Arctic as a security theater; her measured tone and extensive knowledge make this an excellent read (Defence IQ).

North America

Perhaps the most important piece for you to read in this section is Katherine Laidlaw’s retelling of “Rescue 915,” an heroic effort to rescue two hunters in Nunavut that left one SAR technician dead (Up Here).

The CAD 288 million contract awarded to Irving Shipyards to “refine and complete” the design of Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships (Toronto Sun, Gov’t of Canada) may be an indication that the Canadian government is pushing forward on the project. This is probably wise, as sneaking suspicions are beginning to run around Canada that the expected costs of construction (a separate contract, to start 2015) may have been grossly underestimated. More on where the associated jobs are likely to be, and on details of the whole massive shipbuilding program, come from the CBC, and the best explanation of things comes from Mia Bennett via Foreign Policy Blogs.

News that the Canadian Army would take the deepest cut (22% of its budget) of any branch of Canadian Forces came this week as well; apparently the detailed plans for cuts involve scaling back of Arctic training and activities (Global News). This means, among other things, that a planned Arctic Training Centre in Resolute Bay will not go forward after all (NN).

Lastly, all the discussion about the legal/illegal use of drones on US territory has found its way to Alaska as well, where House Bill 159, which would place limits on how UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) can be used for surreptitious information-gathering in the state, has gone to committee for discussion (ADN).



For the second year running, Russian mining magnate and owner of Metalloinvest Alisher Usmanov secured the spot of “Russia’s Richest Man,” ranking 34th on Forbes Magazine’s list of the world’s richest people.


Greenland Prime Minister Kuupik Kleist warned the EU that he could turn his back on a preliminary deal that secured Europe’s access to the island’s mining prospects. China has mounted a full-court diplomatic press and the prospects for mining development are a central issue in Greenland’s elections next week (World Bulletin).


In the Yukon, Selwyn Resources Ltd. has reached an agreement with Chihong Canada Mining Ltd. to sell the company’s 50% interest in the Selwyn zinc and lead project (Market Wire). The Yukon Territorial Court fined Tagish Gold Corp. $24,150 Monday for safety violations last year at the Mount Skukum Gold Mine (WS), and small mining operations across Canada’s north are feeling the squeeze of the poor economy as investors shy away from the high risks associated with the sector (EOTA).

Drilling by North American Tungsten Corp. Ltd. at its Cantung Mine, NWT, has returned some encouraging results indicating a new zone of mineralization adjacent to the mine’s current operations (North of 60). The company dropped plans for a new road to its other major holding, the Mactung mine on the NWT-Yukon border, that has been held up in permitting for some time (CBC).

Yukon MP Ryan Leef is promoting the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency’s investment of almost CAD 400,000 to support marketing, training and First Nations collaboration for the mining sector in Yukon. The program hopes to foster growth in the mining sector and thereby encourage economic growth throughout the territory (North of 60).

United States

The Bureau of Land Management is holding public comment sessions this week and next about allowing mining in a portion of the White Mountains National Recreation Area, a popular recreation area 30 miles north of Fairbanks (FNM).

Fishing, Shipping and Other Business News


A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences analyzes seven different climate models for the decades ahead and, synthesizing their projections, states that the transpolar route is likely to be navigable for Polar Class 6 vessels by midcentury. Also likely to become passable in principle to many vessel classes are the Northern Sea Route and the Northwest Passage.

I would implore you to read the study itself – its authors will thank you, it is neither long nor difficult to read, and it has pretty graphics – but if you prefer to have it competently “processed” by others, you have many sources to turn to (Scientific American, Foreign Policy, Telegraph, Guardian, Independent). This likely development is a knife that cuts both ways; according to the Independent, the authors of the study describe it as “exciting from an economic development point of view and worrisome in terms of safety, both for the Arctic environment and for the ships themselves”, and Scientific American rightly points out that the unintended consequences by way of invasive species are impossible to know. And word that Russia is engaged with plans to modernize the infrastructure that supports the Northern Sea Route will not surprise you (Op Ed News).

In the United States, a hefty document listing priorities for future management of growing vessel traffic in American Arctic waters was released by the Committee on the Marine Transportation System. The public comment period for the document is open through 22 April. Senator Mark Begich is meanwhile pushing Alaska’s state legislature, as well as the federal government, to allocate great sums of money to the development of a system of Arctic ports (Alaska Public).


Start with a great article from Up Here Business on a small-scale fishing enterprise in Whitehorse.

New research from the Institute of Marine Research suggests that fish are not, in fact, frightened away by noise from boats (in Norwegian). That’s good news for Icelandic fishermen, as fishing-boat registrations in Iceland have grown in the past year (IceNews).

Congratulations to West Greenland’s cold-water prawn fishery, which has been certified “sustainable” by the Marine Stewardship Council (IceNews).

Other Business News

A fascinating article from Current Intelligence – really worth reading – looks at the rise of interest in Arctic locations as data-storage hubs. / Trude Pettersen considers the challenge posed to Arctic tourism by the difficulty of obtaining a Russian visa (BO). / The leader of Westbank First Nation spoke in Whitehorse this week about First Nations leadership and free markets (Yukon News). / The Icelandic bank formerly known as Kaupthing has issued its first international bond since the financial collapse of the country (IceNews). / A donated FedEx 727 will provide critical training gear for an aviation-maintenance program in Fairbanks (FNM). /

Education, Health, Culture & Society

Diet & Food Security

A massive new study suggests that the greatest health threat facing Canadians overall is to be found in their diet (CBC). While too much fat, salt and sugar may seem like a so-called “first world problem,” Canada’s federal government is busily swatting at accusations from a UN representative that it isn’t doing enough to ensure that all Canadians are food-secure (CBC). Peter Taptuna of the Government of Nunavut’s Anti-Poverty Secretariat seems to take a positive but noncommittal view of the report, suggesting that it offers “strong recommendations” (NN).

An important contribution to this whole debate comes this week from Nunatsiaq News, in a special report looking at the actual cost changes that have been observed since the April 2011 implementation of the Nutrition North Canada program. The results aren’t flattering to the program at first glance, though - to be fair - there is no control against which to compare its performance. A former manager of the program that preceded Nutrition North says the numbers the government has been presenting are cherry-picked to give the impression that the program is successful (CBC). Unappetizing though such a practice may be, they certainly won’t be the first to have done such a thing. New methods for monitoring the prices in question – drawing on volunteers or Government Liaison Officers – were tabled in Nunavut’s legislative assembly on 7 March (NN, CBC).


A fascinating story of stickin’ it to The Man comes from Yellowknife, where martyr to the cause James Anderson has finally made it to court after five and a half years of legal preliminaries against Bell Canada, which has apparently been charging northern residents a small but unjustified 911 fee (CBC). Why unjustified? Because the service is unavailable in many northern communities (CBC). Also decrying inadequate facilities are some MLA’s of Nunavut, who say that cancer detection in Nunavut is grievously inadequate thanks to the absence of an MRI or CT scanner (NN). Nunavut MLA Johnny Ningeongan also pointed to the absence of patient boarding homes in Cambridge Bay and Rankin Inlet as something to be remedied (NN).

The establishment of a Minister’s Forum on Addictions and Community Wellness in the Northwest Territories may ultimately lead to better methods of addressing these challenging problems for northern communities (GNWT), while the Nunavut community of Kugaaruk voted in a plebiscite to keep alcohol illegal in the town (NN). In some good news, mercury levels in Alaska’s women appear to be beneath levels of concern (FNM), and a new book cataloging midwifery practices in Nunavut – released in English and Inuktitut – has been the recipient of praise at many levels (NN).


March is Aboriginal Languages Month in the Northwest Territories (GNWT), and Nunavut is celebrating its Francophone heritage from March 8-24 with various events (NN). Also in Nunavut, elders are working with the younger generation to preserve and pass on their knowledge (Nunavut Arctic College). The very sensitive question of whether “continuous progress” / “social promotion” is an appropriate way to deal with Nunavut students’ educations bubbled up again this week thanks to remarks by Nunavut MLA for South Baffin Fred Schell (NN, National Post). A radio show on APRN discussed the need for culturally-appropriate curricula for Alaska Native students, while a wonderful long-form article from The Atlantic tackles the issue of education in small, remote northern communities with sensitivity and style.

Other social news

Canada’s correctional investigator has told Ottawa it is not doing enough to correct disproportionate incarceration of aboriginal people in Canada (4% of the population at large, 23% of the prison population – G&M). ITK President Terry Audla called the report a “wake-up call,” and called upon the federal government to work with Inuit to better-support the incarcerated Inuit population (CBC).

A strategy to address family violence in Nunavut is on the way, responding to Nunavut’s dismayingly high rate of violence between intimate partners (NN). Despite this ongoing issue, a motion to prolong by 4 months the consultation period on a proposed child & youth advocate office for Nunavut was carried, to the frustration of supporter Premier Eva Aariak (NN). In Igloolik, three years of diligent fundraising have at long last led to the opening of a daycare center (CBC), while immigrant families are leaving Norway in ever greater numbers for fear that their children will be taken from them by child welfare services (IceNews).

And lastly, three uncollected tidbits. A new plan put in place by a coalition of federal agencies hopes to better-protect sites held sacred by American Indians and Alaska Natives (ADN). / A new system requiring Canadians to appear in person to acquire a social insurance number would certainly be a heavy burden on residents of many of Canada’s remote northern communities (Montreal Gazette). / The process of investigation for allegations of wrongdoing against the Nunavut RCMP is complex enough that it seems to stretch beyond the limits of patience for those concerned (APTN).


A really nice article from Vanguard magazine looks at the plan to build a deepwater port at Nanisivik – a plan which has gone nowhere since its announcement in 2007. (Though the article is quite good, the format is awful for computer-based reading. Good luck.) Planning is underway in Alaska for improvements to shipping infrastructure of all kinds; the Committee on the Marine Transportation System has opened its draft report, which lays down priorities, to public comment. And it’s not just on the sea that transport needs to be addressed; iced tracks and heavy elk are apparently doing brutal damage to new trains purchased by Sweden for their northern railroads (EOTA).

In other infrastructure news, White Architects from Stockholm has been chosen as the firm to design the new, improved (?) city of Kiruna, which will be moved kilometers to the east of its current location (Swedish Radio). Russian and Nordic power prices are drifting towards parity, and Finland has stopped importing Russian power for the first time in 32 years (BO), and satellite-based communications in Nunavut have been occasionally interrupted by sun transits between 22 February and 7 March (NN).


Is it just me, or have extreme sports reached a level of self-referential imitation that is nearly pathological? Exhibit A: Red Bull releases a video of its latest caffeine-fueled hybrid sport: wakeboarding on ice. The video shows Russian wakeboarder Nikita Martyanov cutting a hole in a lake, installing a metal rail to grind on, and then performing a mix of stunts that seems like a feverish pastiche of skateboarding, snowboarding, wakeboarding and…extreme swimming. What are we to call this new pursuit?


Winter sports enthusiasts are rallying behind Mount Sima and the Great Northern Ski Society as they go before the City of Whitehorse next week to request financial assistance for next year. The resort, within the Whitehorse city limits, received $1.3 million from the city last year, and $1.6 million in 2011, though comments to the article in the Whitehorse Star show that not everyone in the city is excited about continue to prop up the facility with municipal funds.


Arctic Man (at Summit Lake) is a uniquely Alaskan event. Part snowmachine competition, part tailgating party, part Last Frontier Burning Man gathering and part amateur ski race, the event has grown to attract upwards of 15,000 people for a week of partying and revelry. This year it seems that cable TV has also felt the attraction as the Travel Channel is planning on filming for several of its banner shows there. Read all about in this article from Alaska Dispatch.


The Amaury Sports Organization, which puts on the Tour de France, announced the creation of a new cycling race this week, the Arctic Race of Norway. The race will be held August 8-11 in northern Norway partly above the Arctic Circle (Velonews).


News broke this week that American Country and Western star (and noted “survivalist”) Craig Morgan will be taking part in the Fjällräven Polar dog sled expedition next year in northern Sweden (


The Siberian city of Sibiryak will be hosting the 49th QubicaAMF Bowling World Cup in November, 2013 (Intergame).


Start with the most delicious photo of the week - a massive sundog in Greenland, from wonder-worker Mads Pihl. Follow with a couple of Instagram finds, including: the first sunshine of 2013 in Longyearbyen (@darkseason); north Norway from the air (@sveinnare); and an actual igloo (@josteinson). Follow with a nice one of a moonrise and Northern Lights (Nigel Fearon / Flickr).

We’re lucky to enjoy heaps of photos this week from two excellent photographers via Instagram. Start with four from @biotope: a birdwatcher and his graffiti shadow behind him; Vadsø harbor; a mural advertising the upcoming Gullfest 2013; and a frozen, snowed-in cabin. Follow with a large collection from our friend behind the @yakutia Instagram account: what happens to steam from inside a warm house when it leaks out an Arctic window; Yakutian horses; an Oymyakon cat by a window; a mid-winter outhouse in Oymyakon; a reindeer peeking ‘round a tree; a reindeer’s dark pool of an eye; a wonderful image of reindeer pulling a sled; and five winter landscapes (12345).

Finish off with some amazing polar photos of wildlife (both North and South) from Paul Souders ( Follow with an extensive collection of historical black-and-white photos of Inuit, via the Native American Encyclopedia on Pinterest. And entertain yourself with the “spy on ice” camera reel of remote, mobile cameras being prodded and squished by polar bears.

The Grab Bag

Big congratulations to the Arviat Community Ecotourism Initiative and the Pond Inlet Environmental Technology Program, both of which were awarded a top-10 finish in Tides Canada’s annual search for the most innovative social change initiatives in the country. Congratulations are also due to each of the northern Canadian towns marked out for their excellence in one field or another by Up Here magazine. It’s honestly the best briefing I’ve ever gotten in one place on the life of Canada’s North. / As Iceland moves to ban internet pornography (IceNews), one writer has a suggestion for 10 alternative activities (HuffPo). / A new project is working to discover what lies behind the death of Abraham Ulrikab, one of several Inuit brought from Labrador to Europe in the late 1800s as anthropological curiosities (Indiegogo). Strange that an article on Inuit graves to be found today in Groton, Connecticut also appeared this week (NN). / Looks like a great exhibit is on at Canada’s Museum of Inuit Art; you might well wish to check out as well the inaugural edition of Inuit Art Magazine (from Dec 2012). / The Danish band Efterklang recorded at Pyramiden. Interested in how & why? Read an interview with Rasmus Stolberg (Dallas Observer). / Read this wonderful, if brief, travelogue from Radio Free Europe of a trip on the train from Moscow to Vorkuta in “celebration” of the 60th anniversary of Stalin’s death. Perhaps partner it with an even shorter one looking at a photographer’s trip to the Lofoten Islands (NYT), and a third looking at the upcoming “Dark Ice” expedition – a two-man, unsupported attempt at the North Pole from Greenland. / A lengthy essay from Shelagh Grant takes a look at the influence of history in today’s conception of the Arctic as a region ( / I am desperate for CBC’s “Qulliq” program, a radio show with great Arctic content, to become available as a podcast, that being how I get most of my news. Check out the show yourself – page updated regularly. /

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)
Government of Canada (GOC)
Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT)
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 Beyond the Headlines (RBTH)
Russia Today (RT)
Voice of Russia (VOR)
Wall Street Journal (WSJ)
Washington Post (WP)
Whitehorse Star (WS)
Winnipeg Free Press (WFP)