The Arctic This Week: 18 May 2013 – 24 May 2013

The Arctic This Week 2013:20

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Thanks for joining us this week! We hope you find TATW useful and fun to read. If you find TATW valuable, please spread the word. Please note that there will be no issue next week; the authors will be gathered for a workshop instead.

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

Reads of the Week

If you’re pressed for time, we believe the following articles will give you the most “bang for the buck.”

Robert W. Murray’s piece in the Winnipeg Free Press this week, “Harper embraces multilateralism on Arctic issues,” frames Canada’s desire to chair the Arctic council within the broader Canadian legacy of multilateralism. Murray notes that, whatever Canada’s prominent figure in the Arctic may be, “the rhetoric about Canada's role in the Arctic has not been met with the necessary actions that would be required to actually protect Canada's Arctic claims.” In a letter to the editor responding to Murray’s accusations, Mark Collins of the Canadian Defense & Foreign Affairs Institute raises the important counter-argument that “there is no need for such protection” and military presence, since Canadian sovereignty in its Arctic territory is, with very minor exceptions, undisputed.

Craig Medred of Alaska Dispatch wrote a sensitive, informative piece on the legal dispute surrounding Judge Bruce G. Ward’s ruling on religious fishing rights and the regulations protecting Chinook salmon in Alaska tested by Alaska native fisherman in 2012. If you’re unfamiliar with the dispute, which came before a Bethel courtroom this week, Medred’s piece will give you a thorough background.

An excellent report from the Finnish Institute of International Affairs sagely advises caution in the constant hype over the potential for Arctic economic development – it may not be the new Panama Canal or the frozen Saudi Arabia.

On May 21st, the US Coast Guard released an Arctic strategy – “The US Coast Guard’s Vision for Operating in the Arctic Region” (PDF). Three objectives were highlighted in the strategy - improving awareness, modernizing governance, and broadening partnerships.

A concise article by Tom Balmforth for Radio Free Europe explores the myriad challenges that Russian gas giant Gazprom faces as it celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. Also well worth reading is an article by Gary Park in Petroleum News about how the unexpected Liberal Party victory in British Columbia has shifted the debate over pipelines and LNG developments in western Canada.

Finish with this short article and spectacular photo gallery from Alaska Dispatch on the start of the annual climbing season on Mount McKinley, Alaska.

The Political Scene


As the news from the Arctic Council ministerial meeting dies down, commentators have shifted from news to analysis. Mia Bennett offered a candid analysis (FP blogs) of the Arctic Council’s new “Vision for the Arctic” (AD), and Christopher Schuetze reported on the implications of the meeting for sustainable development in the International Herald Tribune. One common thread in some of the analysis seemed to be the newly elevated status of the Council after Kiruna. Professor Timo Koivurova of the University of Lapland told Xinhua News that the Council is on its way to becoming a “real governance body,” and Anton Vasiliev, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Ambassador-at-Large, hailed the meeting as “a milestone event” (Arctic-Info). Vasiliev maintained, “the basic rules of the game in the Arctic must be set by those who live in it, of course, in line with the international norms.” Citizens in Greenland, recognizing the importance of participation in the Council, have criticized Premier Aleqa Hammond for boycotting the May 15th meeting (NN).

In further analysis, an article by Klée Aiken in the Global Y argued that America’s recent “symbolic progress” in the Arctic arena must be followed by concrete policy action, and Eurasia Review published both a series of concerns about Canada’s chairmanship of the Arctic Council and an op-ed on the hazards of the new US Arctic Strategy.

By far the most popular topic this week was the new Arctic role of the recently admitted observer states - China, India, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and Italy. The Council put out a new manual for permanent observers at the meeting, stipulating that observers may only participate in the Council’s subordinate bodies, and their membership will be terminated if they conduct activities contrary to the mission and purpose of the Arctic Council (Global Times). Their inclusion, however, seems to have strengthened the impression that the Arctic Council is rising in political prominence. One headline, from, reads: “The Arctic Council Could Become the Most Important Political Body in the World.” As the Council becomes increasingly influential, and since substantial economic development appears to be on the horizon in the region, the article argues, more countries want in.

China and India received the most attention in this respect. Articles on India and the Arctic appeared in Eurasia Review, the New York Times, the Indian Express, and the International Institute for Strategic Studies. On China’s Arctic influence, the BRICS Post, the Foreign Policy Journal, the Wall Street Journal, Russia Beyond the Headlines and the Financial Times weighed in. For both these countries, access to hydrocarbon resources and rare earths was highlighted as a key motivator for Arctic engagement. One of the biggest takeaways highlighted in these articles, slightly less obvious than the desire for Arctic resources, is the potential for shipping along the Northern Sea Route, which may become a viable thoroughfare for Pacific countries seeking to access the Atlantic. In 2012, forty-six ships traversed the route (Foreign Policy Journal), compared to only four in 2010 (International Institute for Strategic Studies). An article appeared in the Japan News urging that Japan “cannot afford to stand on the sidelines” when it comes to Arctic shipping and Japanese national security, since Beijing is “escalating to secure its own maritime interests” and since increased Arctic shipping could put pressure on the Soya, Tsugaru and Tsushima straits. South Korean President Park Geun-hye, in reaction to her country’s admission to the Arctic Council, requested that governmental agencies draw up an Arctic policy blueprint (Yonhap News). A paper published this month by the International Relations and Security Network, “The Importance of the Arctic Region: Implications for Europe and Asia,” by Lutz Feldt, explores how the Agreement on Cooperation on Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue in the Arctic (2011) offers opportunities for European and Asian participation in Arctic affairs.

The government of the Faroe Islands released a strategic assessment of the Arctic challenges and opportunities the self-governing country faces in the years to come. The full document (in Faroese) as well as an English summary of the assessment are available from the website of the prime minister.


After voters in Iceland returned the Independents and the Progressive Party to power on April 27th (the two parties had ruled together from 1995 until the 2008 financial collapse), Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, head of the Progressive Party, has been chosen as the country’s new prime minister this week (EOTA). Following the announcement, Gunnlaugsson announced a halt to the country’s periodic talks about the possibility of joining the European Union (NYT).

United States

Almost a year after Alaska Native fishermen were cited for defying a series of closures on the Kuskokwim River enacted by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in 2012, participants in the “fish in” were tried in a court in Bethel, Alaska (AD). The court was faced with the legal question of whether the right to fish constituted a legally protected spiritual pursuit for the Yupik people (as provided for moose-hunting for Interior Athabascan Indian funeral potlatches in Frank v. State in 1979). For a thorough discussion of the case, in which Judge Bruce G. Ward ruled that religious fishing rights did not trump the regulations protecting the Chinook salmon, see this excellent article by Craig Medred (EOTA). James Davis of the Northern Justice Project, who represented the defendants, is planning to appeal Ward’s ruling (AD).

Alaska Governor Sean Parnell signed an oil tax cut bill this week that, at current and projected price and production levels for oil, will “guarantee budget deficits for years to come,” reports Alaska Dispatch. The tax cut, provided for by reduced capital spending, received very few vetoes in the Alaska Senate and House of Representatives. Senator Lisa Murkowski, in a speech on the Senate floor on Thursday, hailed the virtues of the Arctic Council as a political body and informed her colleagues of the “enormous opportunities” within the American Arctic (BBT).


Bob Bromley, Weledeh’s representative in the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories, called for citizen involvement in the territory’s devolution process ( Bromley believes that the federal model for resource management, which the Government of the Northwest Territories must mirror in its own legislation as part of the devolution agreement, deprives the territory of the opportunity to develop a community vision for resource management. Inuvik, NWT will host the General Assembly of the Inuit Circumpolar Council in July 2012, the organization announced this week (NN).


Aleksander Shokhin, head of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, says that businessmen who committed certain “economic crimes” such as fraud, embezzlement, and breach of confidence may be set free in late 2013, although they will still have to cover the financial losses from their crimes. The proposition, which was encouraged by business ombudsman Boris Titov, received support from major political parties as well as the Chairman of the State Duma (BN).

A very interesting piece in the Barents Observer by Atle Staalesen, “Foreign Agents Everywhere,” highlights the expanding “foreign agents witchhunt” in Russia. Organizations deemed to be conducting “political activity” and receiving foreign financing are subject to increased scrutiny from Russian prosecutors. Human rights and environmental groups appear most frequently on the foreign agent list, but Staalesen maintains that research organizations are “next in the line.”



Russian gas major Gazprom has everyone guessing after CEO Aleksey Miller hinted last week that the company would soon announce a “fundamentally new” LNG project. Reuters, quoting unnamed sources, claims Gazprom is deciding between an LNG plant in the Baltic region or in the Barents Sea (RT).  Gazprom explored building a Baltic LNG terminal in 2004 to ship gas to the US, through the project was scrapped in 2007 (Forbes – Polish). Now it appears the plan is being dusted off again, this time to supply LNG to Europe.

Equally murky are the Kremlin’s intentions with regards to Gazprom’s LNG export monopoly. Putin called for the monopoly to be phased out, but an official determination has not yet been made. It appears that plans to end the monopoly will have significant caveats aimed at continuing to limit competition for Gazprom. Deputy prime minister for fuel and energy Arkady Dvorkovich seemed to suggest this week that exceptions to the export monopoly will only be considered on a case-by-case basis for specific projects, while no exceptions will be granted for exports to Europe (RBTH). The end of Gazprom’s export monopoly is only one of several serious challenges the company faces as it celebrates its 20th birthday this year. Tom Balmforth examines the laundry list of Gazprom’s woes, mostly self-inflicted, for Radio Free Europe. Slackening demand and increased competition cut Gazprom’s exports to Europe by 8% last year, forcing the company to throttle back on production in the Yamal (BO, Bloomberg). The Kremlin has even deemed it necessary to step in and mediate growing conflict between Gazprom and Rosneft over exploration on the Arctic Shelf (BO). An official audit of Gazprom’s books seems to be aimed at pushing the company towards reform, though the Kremlin denies it has any intentions to split up the massive company into extraction and transportation divisions (JRL). But despite the many challenges the company faces and the ongoing audit, Gazprom management decided to spend over USD 1 billion on celebrations to mark the company’s 20th birthday (MT). Happy birthday, indeed.

In some good news this week for Gazprom the company reported successful hydraulic fracturing at four of its wells on the Yamal Peninsula (OGJ).

Novatek says that a determination on Gazprom’s export monopoly is not standing in the way of investment and marketing of its Yamal LNG project, though companies looking to acquire an equity stake in the project are still a bit skittish about the Kremlin’s failure to reach a determination on the issue (Platts). BP is in early negotiations to secure LNG from the project (Maritime Executive).

While development of Russia’s Arctic shelf has yet to begin, Russia’s Kola Bay already suffers from frequent oil and fuel spills, mostly thanks to Russia’s Northern Fleet. An article by Anna Kireeva and Charles Digges look at efforts to better monitor and track oil pollution in the bay and some of the challenges to better identifying and mitigating pollution in the region as a whole (Bellona). Kireeva and Digges also reported this week that attendance at a public hearing in Murmansk on Arctic oil drilling was sparse, perhaps due to willful under-promotion by authorities (Bellona).

Scientists from the Astrofizika National Laser Systems Center has developed a concept for employing high-powered lasers on ice breakers to cut broader channels through ice and improve navigation in Arctic waters. See the nifty graphic on the concept at RIA Novosti. Laser technology is also being developed and touted by Gazprom as a way to deal with oil spills in the Arctic (Arctic-Info).


Testimony from the Coast Guard’s marine casualty investigation into the grounding of Shell’s drillship Kulluk in December, 2012, has provided numerous details into the chain of events that led to the accident (AD, WP). Suzanna Caldwell’s coverage of the hearing for Alaska Dispatch has been detailed and exceptional. The tug towing the Kulluk stalled out after bad fuel gummed up the ship’s fuel injectors, leaving the ship without power in a worsening storm for several crucial hours (AD). Testimony by the Kulluk’s manager described the chaotic scene on the rig as towlines failed and a Coast Guard rescue was called off due to bad weather (AD). What looks like a CCTV video actually caught the moment in which the Kulluk’s towline failed.  Shell’s emergency response team leader testified that the prospect of paying additional taxes was not the primary factor in the decision to move the rig, though the topic was discussed, and the weather forecast showed a four-day window of good weather, enough time to make the passage across the Gulf of Alaska (AD).

In the latest skirmish in the battle over oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), Alaska Governor Sean Parnell released a state plan to help finance 3D seismic studies and exploratory drilling to provide an accurate assessment of the area’s hydrocarbon potential (LA Times, Alaska Business Monthly, Platts). The proposed study would span 7 years and cost USD 150 million, of which the state has offered to pony up USD 50 million (AD). Parnell’s proposal was instigated by a 2011 US Fish and Wildlife draft management plan for ANWR that included new wilderness designations but no alternatives for oil and gas exploration (PN). A full copy of the state’s proposal can be found here. The proposal has the support of Charlotte Brower, the Inupiaq mayor of the North Slope Borough, who says that onshore development in ANWR is less risky that offshore Arctic oil exploration (NN).  Up on the Hill, congressional Republicans are looking to pass legislation to scrap the Interior Department’s latest management plan for the National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska, as well as a collection of other measures, in order to streamline permitting for oil and gas exploration (Fuel Fix).


A new EU law working its way through the European Parliament will require oil companies to ensure spill-response capabilities before drilling in challenging environments like the Arctic (FinChannel). Greenpeace welcomed the new legislation, though the environmental group is still pushing the EU for an outright ban on Arctic drilling (AB). An independent legal review in Norway concluded that the new rules should apply there (AB).

It was apparently a tip from a small Hungarian ethanol company to the EU that set in motion an investigation on price fixing that has ensnared Statoil, BP and Shell and led to a raid on Statoil offices earlier this month (AB). The companies are accused of supplying distorted pricing reports in order to manipulate published prices for oil and gas products. Platts, the agency responsible for the price assessments, is also apparently under investigation (PN). While British politicians threatened oil company executives with jail time, Norway’s political scene was tight-lipped regarding the allegations against state-owned Statoil (AB). Statoil alone could face an USD 11.97 billion fine in the case. See this article in Aftenbladet for a long list of other fines Statoil has had to pay since 2004 for spills, industrial accidents and other malfeasance.


New investment has extended the lifespan of five of Sweden’s nuclear reactors from 50 to 60 years, according to the state-owned energy company Vattenfall (EOTA). The extended operational lives of the plant along with growing efficiency and more production from renewables has allowed Vattenfall to put off construction of new plants until after 2030 (Bloomberg).

Plans to expand the Nord Stream gas pipeline will be the subject of a public information meeting on the Swedish Island of Gotland, where impacts on local communities and the environment will be open for discussion (The Local).


Four oil and gas companies planning exploration projects in Northwest Greenland (Maersk, Cairn Energy, ConocoPhillips and Shell) announced they are joining forces to complete a required Social Impact Assessment to study the impact their collective activities will have on local communities (press release).


While the Obama administration announced it was looking to reduce its reliance on drones in the war on terror this week, Norwegian geologists are looking for ways to increase the use of drones for oil and gas exploration in remote regions. Researchers at the Norwegian Center for Integrated Petroleum Research are using small drones with advanced sensors to help map the country’s geology to aid in resource exploration (Popular Science).  The National Petroleum Directorate, meanwhile, announced it will release its new resource report for the Norwegian continental shelf in June which will focus on exploration and development in the Barents Sea and around Jan Mayen Island (press release). Norwegian ships will continue mapping the Barents seabed this summer, focusing particularly on regions near the recently settled Russian border (BO).

Statoil is complaining that recent oil industry tax increases announced by Oslo will make it more difficult to develop remote oil and gas fields in the Barents Sea, while also undermining Norway’s reputation for political and regulatory stability (Bloomberg).

While unemployment rose slightly in Norway in the first quarter, the hydrocarbon industry grew substantially, adding 11,000 new jobs (AB).


An article this week in Bloomberg explores the potential oil and gas pipelines have to fuel Canada’s 21st century, resource driven economy, enabling exports and connecting the country’s vast resources to markets. The unexpected victory last week of British Columbia Premier Christy Clark and her Liberal Party has breathed new life into proposed pipeline projects to carry Alberta oil through the province and to the sea. Gary Park provides great coverage of the impact the election is having on the pipeline plans and on the future of proposed LNG developments in BC (PN). Kinder Morgan Energy received initial approval for an expansion of its Trans Mountain pipeline through British Columbia from the National Energy Board (PN).

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada announced it would accept bids for significant discovery licenses in the Arctic islands of Nunavut and the Central Mackenzie Valley (press release). An interview with AANDC’s Michel Chenier on CBC provides details on the significant discovery licenses in these two regions, both of which have known hydrocarbon deposits based on past exploration and development (CBC). An editorial by Stephen Bede Scharper for the Toronto Star picks up the theme of oil and gas exploitation in Canada’s North, saying that disputes over development are not between natives and non-natives, but between clashing environmental world views.

The town council of Mount Lorne, Yukon, has voted for a ban on hydraulic fracturing within the town limits. The measure passed the council with no opposition ( In the Northwest Territories, the Sahtu Land and Water Board has decided, for the time being, not to require an environmental assessment for a proposed ConocoPhillips hydraulic fracturing exploration project near Norman Wells. A similar project was cancelled two years ago by Shell Canada after the board required an environmental assessment (CBC).

Science, Environment & Wildlife

Arctic life

May 22nd was International Day for Biological Diversity, which Deutsche Welle’s Arctic blogger Irene Quaile reminds us is – if not the world’s most famous holiday – a good time to remember the critical importance of biodiversity in the Arctic and to reflect on the limitations of our current knowledge.

Doing a great job to bring Arctic ecology to The People is Rebecca Fowler, whose blogs are an integral part of an ongoing expedition in the Alaskan Arctic by researchers from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. This week she shared with us blog posts on: (1) life underneath the Arctic ice and on the shallow ocean floor near to shore; (2) the target knowledge that the team is looking for when taking ice cores, and; (3) ctenophores – also known as comb jellies – and their role in the marine Arctic ecosystem. The scientists also conducted a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) session; it’s still available online here, if you want to see how the conversation went. And it looks, from an article in the Valdez Star, as though they’re getting their exercise in the process of taking ice cores – no easy task! Other scientists on Ellesmere Island are studying tiny creatures as well, looking at bacteria living in briny channels in permafrost (McGill University). These creatures, who are active down to -25 Celsius, are now the world record holders in terms of their cold tolerance; they may provide examples of how life could, in theory, look on Mars, where similar conditions seem to exist.

Sticking to marine life, whale-hunting communities on Alaska’s North Slope have been waiting out inclement spring winds, and are hoping to be able to head out soon to begin chipping away at this year’s quota of 75 strikes permitted (Arctic Sounder). Further research into bowhead whales off of the Greenland coast is beginning to describe their singing in seasonal patterns and examine whether there are changes associated with the onset of mating season ( In seal news, the Alaska Oil & Gas Association is challenging the listing of some populations of Arctic bearded seals as endangered (ADN), while Labrador’s commercial seal hunt is being called a success by hunters this year; catch numbers are up from 2011 and 2012 (G&M).

The Alaska Loon Cam on Connors Lake is a popular thing every year; this year’s has been a little late because of persistent ice, but it’s now ready to get started (AD, with fun photos). While you’re waiting for that family to set up housekeeping, you can keep an eye on a trio of floppy bald eagle hatchlings pecking ineffectually at one another on the Yellowknife Eagle Cam. Or you can read about new research from Norway’s NINA research center, demonstrating that long-tailed skuas fly from Svalbard to Africa and back ( – in Norwegian).

The population of wolves in and around Denali National Park, which is already low, seems to be on the wane in ways that are worrying both conservation officers and tourism officials. Reasons are complicated, and opinion appears divided on how to attack the problem (ADN). Meanwhile Paul Aningat in Arviat, Nunavut has been sharing lo-fi video of polar bears that have been coming into the community with great regularity (on Flickr).


Those following the slow-motion disappearance of several coastal towns in northern Alaska will want to know that the US Supreme Court this week declined to hear Kivalina’s appeal of its case against ExxonMobil and other oil companies for creating the climate conditions that, in the community’s view, are causing the town to wash away bit by bit (Reuters).

Two new papers or particular interest came out in Geophysical Research Letters this week. The first indicates that massive melt atop the Greenland ice sheet is likely to become de rigueur in the future, and the second suggests that a nearly ice-free summer Arctic is in our future much earlier than most standard models suggest. The article on the Greenland ice sheet is nicely summarized and interpreted via Climate Central, while other new research out of the University Centre Svalbard tries to assess the ways in which glacier transport of ice will affect the shrinking of Greenland’s ice cap in the years ahead ( – in Norwegian). In Alaska, an article from Anchorage Daily News gives you a general overview of the mechanics that underlie the retreat of the Columbia Glacier. To discuss these and other topics, the conference “Climate Change in Northern Territories” coming up in Iceland in August might be the thing for you.

Word that Arctic vegetation may look very different in the years ahead is no surprise to our readers; some of the new research that has led to that suggestion is reviewed in Wired, while several conservation organizations have begun to pitch Canada’s boreal forest as an ecosystem as worthy of protection (and as beautiful, in my own opinion) as the Amazon (Vancouver Sun).

We turn briefly to NASA’s work past and present; a nice blog post looks at the ways in which two teachers who participated in the IceBridge campaign are taking what they’ve learned and integrating it into their teaching, while a photo from NASA shows GROVER (and Grover) hanging out on the ice in Greenland.

Ice breakup and flooding

In Alaska and Canada, spring breakup has begun in earnest, and ice-watchers have had much to report on. Molly Rettig offers a brief but good article in Alaska Dispatch on Barrow in spring, looking at the impact that the fracturing of sea ice offshore has had on the ongoing science initiatives there. Meanwhile the latest incarnation of Russia’s famed floating research station, North Pole 40, is readying for evacuation as the floe on which it sits breaks up, much earlier than expected or hoped (BO, BBC). This has happened before, in 2010 and 2012. The most likely rescue plan involves sending an icebreaker in to move the station and its scientists to Severnaya Zemlya.

A surge of Yukon River floodwaters and ice chunks made a hit-&-run attack on Circle, Alaska (FNM), injuring nobody – thankfully – but doing a great deal of damage to homes and property (FNM). The town of Fort Yukon appears to have been spared the worst of it (FNM), as were the communities of Rampart and Tanana, further downstream (FNM). Communities on the Kuskokwim River may also have dodged a bullet (AD). The USD 318,500 jackpot for guessing the breakup time of the Nenana River in Alaska was won by a couple from Kenai; this was the river’s latest breakup time in 97 years (AD). In Yukon, communities damaged by flooding are being invited to submit requests for relief from the Yukon Emergency Measures Organization (CBC).

Giants in the Earth

This week saw a good bit of drama in the bowels of the earth in near-Arctic regions. Certainly the most picturesque convulsion is the eruption of Mt. Pavlof in the Aleutian Island chain. Fantastic photos were taken by astronauts aboard the International Space Station (Slate). One in particular shows the ash column being blown right around the world; it’s breathtaking. A series of photographs from the Alaska Volcano Observatory is also available here, while a recent post on monitoring volcanic activity at Mt. Cleveland, also in the Aleutian chain, gives some insight into the ongoing efforts to keep track of such activity in the state (Frontier Scientists). Also this week, an 8.3 earthquake deep below the seabed of the Sea of Okhotsk sent perceptible ripples as far as St. Petersburg (BN) and Murmansk.


Greenpeace took to the skies over Seattle to make people aware of its campaign to protect the Bering Sea’s canyons (KING5). / A fascinating article from Motherboard looks back at a fantastical Soviet plan to build a dam across the Bering Strait, melting the Arctic and thus warming Russia’s northern reaches. / Norway’s KLIF is pushing for environmental impact assessments to be conducted of different options for developing the Skrugard oil/gas fields in the Barents ( – in Norwegian). / The Wildlife Conservation Society highlighted its own members’ contributions to major recent reports on Arctic biodiversity and Arctic resilience ( / A post from the Arctic Anthropology blog encourages researchers to be brave about taking their children into the field if necessary. / The Arctic Research blog reviews, quickly, a good bit of research conducted into soil microbial communities in the Swedish Arctic in the past few weeks. / ArcticNet’s Annual Scientific Meeting will be held in Halifax, Nova Scotia coming up Dec 9-13 this year. / New board members, who act as evaluators for research applications (among other things) are invited to apply to INTERACT.

Military / Search-&-Rescue


On May 21st, the US Coast Guard released an artic strategy – “The US Coast Guard’s Vision for Operating in the Arctic Region” (PDF). In the strategy, Commandant Admiral Robert Papp highlighted three objectives: improving awareness and understanding of the Arctic operating environment; strengthening the international legal regime for governing and protecting the Arctic; and protecting US sovereignty on its Arctic shores (US Department of State). These ten-year objectives, summarized as “improving awareness, modernizing governance and broadening partnerships” (Council on Foreign Relations), favor mobile offshore infrastructure over shore-side infrastructure, due to the expense and “uncertainty of dynamic and evolving requirements” in the region (Fierce Homeland Security). Vice President Biden, speaking at the Coast Guard Academy commencement, specifically addressed the Arctic in his remarks, aligning with the government’s marked emphasis on Arctic issues of late (the Hill). Navy officials, who are attempting to map out their fleet for the next thirty years, came under criticism from Randy Forbes, Chairman of the House Armed Services seapower subcommittee. Forbes said the Navy was living in a “fantasy land” about its shipbuilding funding (the Hill).

Russia, reports RIA Novosti, plans to withdraw two Typhoon-class ballistic-missile submarines – the Severstal and the Arkhangelsk – by the end of this year. The subs should be fully dismantled “before 2018-2020 at the latest.” Vladimir Shmakov has been appointed as the new head of Russia’s United Shipbuilding Corporation. The company came under criticism from President Putin for failing to meet Defense Ministry deadlines for warship construction, criticisms rumored to be the cause of Mr. Shmakov’s predecessor’s resignation on May 6th (BO).

A very interesting piece in the Moscow Times explores the feasibility of the Russian government’s proposed “war with the cold” to spur development in its far North and East, and Jeffrey Simpson, writing for the Globe & Mail, proposed that Canada should use its chairmanship of the Arctic Council to consider demilitarizing the Arctic altogether.

Search & Rescue

Two climbers were rescued off Mount Eaton in Yukon this week (CBC), and search-and-rescue teams found a man in Nunavut who managed to survive for six days after being separated from his father during a snowmobile trip (NN). Two travelers have been missing since May 18th in Northwest Alaska (Anchorage Daily News), and search-and-rescue parties in Baker Lake have called off a search for elder Alvin Kannak, who reportedly went missing May 6th, until conditions improve (NN).


The United Nations’ International Seabed Authority has published its plan for managing deep-sea mining and announced that companies can begin applying for licenses in 2016 (


A loan scheme that promised to return the Pajala mine in northern Sweden to solvency has stalled, leaving residents to wonder what the next step will be for the troubled iron mine (EOTA). Alex Boyd explores the impacts that another of Sweden’s iron mines has had on the town of Kiruna, which played host to last week’s meeting of the Arctic Council (NN). The most immediate impact is that the whole town will have to be moved to a new location to make way for an expansion of the mine. Most of the town is due to be relocated to the new site by 2018 (Bloomberg).


In neighboring Finland, conservation groups were outraged after waste water from the Talvivaara nickel mine was released into a nearby river, turning the water various shades of orange and red. The mine has had a series of environmental mishaps over the previous year (YLE).


Labrador Iron Mines Holdings has upgraded its total iron ore assessments for its Schefferville/Menihek project on the border between Labrador and Quebec (CMJ).

An article in North of 60 Mining News gives an optimistic assessment of the future of mineral exploration in Nunavut.


2013 has so far been a difficult year for the mining industry with falling commodity prices and tight equity markets. These trends have hit Alaska’s small and medium mining companies the hardest, and initial numbers from 2013 suggest that mineral exploration expenditures in Alaska will contract this year after record highs in 2011. Shane Lasley provides a look at how these macroeconomic factors are squeezing Alaska’s junior mining sector by profiling the adjustments several companies have had to make this year to reduce expenditures (North of 60). Another factor that’s causing a lot of pain for Alaska’s small mining operators this year: the long, unseasonably cold spring (North of 60). Lasley provides another great read this week in a second article where he unpacks the controversy surrounding the Environmental Protection Agency’s draft assessment of potential impacts of mining on Bristol Bay’s world-class salmon populations (North of 60).

Fishing, Shipping & Other Business News


Perhaps most exciting is the release of decades of Soviet-era Barents-Sea fisheries data from Russian archives (BO); the hope is that it will offer a wealth of additional insight into the crucial species in that ecosystem. The only potentially more thrilling news is that skin creams may soon be available that include compounds extracted from leftover bits of North Norwegian cod ( – in Norwegian).

Everyone is hoping that this year’s run of king salmon in Alaska’s Kuskokwim River will be better than last year’s, which was catastrophically bad. No matter the numbers, though, Alaska Natives 60 years of age or older may go out to fish, accompanied if necessary by immediate family members (AD). In Norway, fishermen can receive a GBP 500 reward for reporting the catch of any radio-tagged salmon; the organization that stocks them is trying to get a better idea of what happens to the fish with which they stock rivers ( – in Norwegian). Norwegians are also trying to decide what method to use to mark and track farmed salmon to distinguish them from wild salmon; clipping off the “adipose fin” seems to be the best way to do so without harming the fish in any meaningful way ( – in Norwegian). Salmon apparently have a wickedly complex genome – more so, in some ways, than humans – and the project to sequence it should be completed by the end of this year (BO). “Sally” the salmon is the research subject, and the funding hails from Canada, Norway & Chile.

Ships & Ports

President Vladimir Putin urged Russia’s United Shipbuilding Corporation to increase the speed and efficiency of its production (Kremlin); he sees the production of military ships and icebreakers as determinative of Russia’s successful future presence in the Arctic and elsewhere. Meanwhile contractor GAC Norway is working on expanding its shipping & logistics services to oil & gas majors working in the Arctic (Maritime Executive), and Foss Maritime in Seattle is pursuing the same clientele with the development of three new deepsea tugs designed for Arctic operations (Maritime Journal).

In port development, talks are underway for a massive update to the dormant port facilities in Liinakhamari in northern Russia, not far from the Norwegian border (BO). The updated port would hope to move oil and fertilizer products. And the Jan De Nul company - which won a plum contract to dredge for the new port at Sabetta, which will serve the Yamal LNG project – has received export credit insurance from the Belgian government, thus taking on some of the risk which the company would otherwise have to shoulder itself ( – in Dutch). Greenpeace in Belgium protests the decision.

Other business and economic news

An excellent report from the Finnish Institute of International Affairs sagely advises caution in the constant hype over the potential for Arctic economic development – it may not be the new Panama Canal or the frozen Saudi Arabia. Nunatsiaq News gives a more thorough briefing on the report’s contents. If you want to dive right in to these questions, you may wish to find yourself in Seattle on 29-30 May for the “Promise of the Arctic” conference. And if you’re on the hunt for a job, BarentsWatch is looking for a few good persons.

Nunavut is working on plans to help bring in greater numbers of tourists and business travelers and to encourage them to leave more of their USD, CAD, EUR or what-have-you behind when they go (NN). The territory certainly has much that is unique to offer; I hope they’ll succeed in their pursuit of 23% growth in tourism revenues over the next five years vs. the previous period. / The unrelenting winter in Alaska’s interior means that the businesses that survive on tourism for Denali National Park are suffering mightily (AD). / Foreign creditors are nervously watching the new Icelandic government, concerned that the country will elect ultimately not to pay back the debts that they hold (IceNews). / Canada’s recent brouhaha over temporary foreign workers has resulted in tightening of employment rules. The move may, however, make life hard for northern businesses, which already have a tough time recruiting the people they need from Canada (CBC). / Alaska’s Coastal Villages Regional Fund has its audited financial statements for 2012; the major bullets are available from Alaska Business Monthly. / Two loss-making sawmills in Arkhangelsk and Karelia are being sold off by Swedish owner RusForest ( /

Health, Education, Culture & Society


The United Nations Environmental Program’s World Environment Day, this year focusing on food waste, released a statement this week suggesting that much can be learned from indigenous cultures about reducing food waste (NN). For example, Kiviaq, a Greenlandic dish, is a large sausage made from wrapping small birds in a seal’s skin and allowing the parcel to ferment for seven months. In Nunavut, where food insecurity can be a persistent issue in many communities, the Feeding My Family Facebook group boasts nearly 20,000 members dedicated to creating a dialogue about food-related hardships (NN). For those interested in this topic, the 8th Circumpolar Agricultural Conference & UArctic Inaugural Food Summit will be held 29 September – 3 October 2013. Abstracts for this conference may be submitted until June 8th from UArctic member institutions.

Three recent suicides in Pangnirtung, a hamlet in Nunavut, have prompted the community’s mayor to call for additional help and resources (NN). According to Statistics Canada and the Canadian Institute for Health Information, Nunavut suffers from the highest per-capita rate of both potentially avoidable deaths and hospitalization for self-related injury (NN). To address these dismaying rates, Nunavut recently opened the Akausisarvik Mental Health Treatment Centre in Iqaluit (CBC). The deaths in Pangnirtung are an example of “clusters” or “suicide contagion,” especially common among adolescents. A study published May 21 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal examined this problem, finding that twelve- to thirteen-year-olds who dealt with suicide in their schools were five times as likely to contemplate taking their own lives (CBC).


The Obama administration included Alaska, Hawaii and West Virginia in the list of states whose requested waivers of federal No Child Left Behind requirements would be approved. Many Alaskans saw the law as a “one-size fits all approach to education that doesn’t fit Alaska’s needs” (FNM).

In Finland, the Sámi Education Institute is promoting Sámi culture, offering qualifications to over 150 students in programs on crafts and design, natural resources and the environment, hotel and restaurant management, business and administration, social services and health care, and information processing and tourism ( Both the Sámi Council and the Inuit Circumpolar Council, in the twelfth session of the UN’s Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (underway until May 30th), expressed a commitment to allow “Inuit and Sámi to develop as distinct peoples,” promoting linguistic and cultural diversity among northern indigenous peoples (NN).

Data released from Statistics Canada found that Nunavut spends half as much on education per student as do other northern territories, although the province spends the largest proportion of its GDP on education (EOTA).

Society & Culture

May 19-25 was Aboriginal Awareness Week in Canada. Click here to read National Inuit Leader Terry Audla’s media release on the subject of Aboriginal awareness (ITK). Aboriginal issues also feature prominently on the June cover of Up Here magazine, which features Fort Nelson lawyer Caleb Behn and the headline “The New Warrior.” The staff of Up Here, concerned that the title, while a “powerful metaphor,” risked reading as “sort of native-sploitation,” e-mailed Behn to gauge his response. The exchange between Behn and editor Aaron Spitzer is published on the Up Here website.

The Arctic Council organized a panel discussion on gender issues, “Challenges in the Arctic – A Gender Perspective,” the day before the Kiruna Ministerial Meeting. For a summary of the discussion, “something rarely seen in conjunction with Arctic Council meetings,” see Several days later, on May 18th, the YWCA Agvvik Nunavut group held a fundraiser in support of its two women’s shelters; the group raised over $12,000 (NN).

The Cape Dorset Print Collection, valued at up to $450,000, failed to sell for its minimum price at an auction in Toronto earlier this month (NN). Duncan McLean, president of Waddington’s Auction House, said that a museum might be a better home for the collection, but that most museums are currently low on funding.

The final report of a Survey of Alaskans’ Opinions on the Arctic is now available from the Institute of the North. Click here to go to PDF and explore.



A conference coming up in Ottawa on May 29 will discuss the many unique challenges of aviation in the Canadian Arctic (NN). Across the border in Alaska, the state’s dependence on air travel is causing a special level of concern about furlough-driven reductions in federal staff supporting aviation and weather-information networks (AD). Arctic airports on either side of the border can be oases of safety for planes making long flights over the lonely North; a cargo plane heading from New York to Anchorage made an emergency stop in Whitehorse, YK after a faulty indicator suggested there was fire in the cargo hold (CBC). And a unique community of northern air travelers also appears to spring into existence in Vancouver International Airport, gates 36 and 37 – touchingly painted in miniature by Eva Holland (Up Here).

On the roads, freak winter weather in May hit highways in Alaska’s interior this week with dangerous travel conditions (FNM), and the spring breakup flooding has left some interesting roadblocks around Alaska (pic from Alaska DOTPF). On the water, the putting-in of the ferry M. V. Lafferty across the Liard River near Fort Simpson, NWT is a “sure sign of summer” (, with video).


A fantastic article in Bloomberg BusinessWeek looks at the LKAB iron mine underneath Kiruna, Sweden, the continued development of which means that the town has to move altogether. / Deputy Governor of Murmansk Aleksey Tyukavin believes the Murmansk Transport Hub project is alive and well, just taking a little longer than hoped (BN). / The lawsuit over fees charged to Canada’s northern residents for nonexistent 911 services has been decided against Bell Mobility, but the company plans to appeal the ruling (CBC).


The climbing season is in full swing at Mount McKinley and the base camp is alive with activity as climbers wait for the weather to cooperate before attempting to summit North America’s highest peak. Craig Medred describes life at Mount McKinley’s base camp on the Kahiltna Glacier, including a great photo gallery (AD). The mountain recorded its first fatality of the year when a German climber died of a heart attack at 13,000 ft above sea level (AD). This year also marks the 100th anniversary of the first recorded ascent of McKinley in June, 1913. University of Alaska’s Museum of the North is celebrating the anniversary with a special exhibit on the expedition, including the original journal of a member of the expedition (FNM).

Solutions for funding Whitehorse’s Mount Sima ski resort remain elusive, though the community was advised to find a sustainable way to finance the mountain’s operations during a summit meeting of government representatives and Mount Sima Board members (CBC).

Sweden cruised to a 5-1 victory over Switzerland to take the gold in front of a home crowd at the World Hockey Championships in Stockholm on Sunday. The Swedish team was buoyed by the arrival of two stars from the National Hockey League who were able to join their national team after their NHL team was eliminated from the playoffs. The US team edged Finland in a shootout to take the bronze (CBC).

The Yukon Rollergirls of Whitehorse, Yukon, took first place at the “United We Roll” Tournament, a roller derby tournament held last week in Fairbanks, Alaska (FNM). The hosts of the tournament, the Fairbanks Rollergirls, have their own website.

Images & Videos

Start your viewing off with two videos, one majestic and one quiet, both delightful. The first is a short edit of “Light on the Land” – time lapse scenes from North Norway (Frank S. Andreassen). The second is simply some footage of a waterfall and its surroundings in the Northwest Territories (YouTube user FrombachCA). Follow that with two photo series both well worth your attention. The first is to be found in the Süddeutsche Zeitung (in German), of photographs by Ragnar Axelsson. The second is the collection of breathtaking landscapes from Vladimir Donkov taken as part of an invitation from Hasselblad to test its new cameras in raw conditions.

Special credit this week goes to Instagram user @iamverafilotova, whose stream of photos of Lapland have been a delight to track all week. Click through the following gallery: 12345678910. And an honorable mention goes as well to @ellefersan, who has been cruising about in Finnish Lapland. See those photos here 12345.

It is a sad week when we don’t get much from Clare Kines, and we were especially grateful this week for several wonderful iceberg studies he shared. Check out one, two & three. Number three is our favorite, even in this strong crowd. He also provided a great photo of a traditionally-dressed young boy on his way to Iglulik with his family.

Move on to our other Instagram auteurs, with pictures of rafting the Lena River, wildflowers in Yakutia (both @yakutia), the world’s northernmost railway and a harbor landscape in Kirkenes, Norway (both @mbrugard). Follow with pictures of: Yukon River “icebergs” in Eagle (@emilyeschwing); Tromsø (@chrishudson1977); an Arctic beach in Grøtfjord (@leneryd); beautiful crystal-blue ice (@ndl5); a northern Finnish sunset (@apple_fia2036); a cruise ship entering or leaving Tromsø harbor (@TromsoHavn); and an infantile but entertaining captioned image of the icebreaker “Yamal” from @djsanchez2.

Jason Simpson on Flickr shared a couple great wildlife photos of a fox, deeply absorbed in watching his lunch paddle about, and of a flock of geese on the wing. Other good images come from Paul Aningat, who has a screen capture of a polar bear nosing around the back door of the Arviat airport, and from Flickr user The Specializationalist, with a pretty landscape from the Northwest Territories. Finish with a narrated visual dive into a deep blue crevasse in Godwin’s Glacier, Alaska (Julian Kegel).

The Grab Bag

Check out a short but captivating profile of Niaqornat, Greenland – population 59 ( / A recent Taissumani feature from Nunatsiaq News looks at the story of Hector Pitchforth, an Englishman shipwrecked in the least dramatic possible way in Nunavut (NN). / A project to keep a riverside trail in Whitehorse from eroding into the Yukon River is well underway (CBC). / The latest edition of the U of the Arctic “Shared Voices” magazine for 2013 is out. / A lengthy and somewhat rambling article in Baltic Review looks at the formerly-closed Russian city of Olenegorsk-2. / The longest marriage known in Canada today is inhabited by a Yukon couple who’ve been together since 1932 (!!! – CBC). / captures the life of a family from Boston who spent one year on an Arctic island – a “sabbatical” of sorts from their lives. / A school trip to go ice fishing in Nunavut took a turn for the worse, though – thankfully – everyone made it home safe (NN). / Music festival Reykjavik Music Mess took place this past weekend (IceNews). / Russia has a new holiday: Polar Explorer Day, 21 May (BN). / Neither Murmansk nor Arkhangelsk makes it onto the list of Russia’s 50 most livable cities (BN). / Norwegians in Kirkenes celebrated Norway’s National Day on 17 May (BO). / There are apparently numerous Nunavut radio stations that you can stream online. / Trailers are now up for the new Simpsons episode which will take place in Iceland (News of Iceland). / An RCMP program in the NWT that teaches kids to hunt and trap got a CAD 10,000 donation from the RCMP Foundation (CBC).

Abbreviation Key

Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN)
Aftenbladet (AB)
Alaska Business Monthly (ABM)
Alaska Dispatch (AD)
Alaska Journal of Commerce (AJC)
Alaska Native News (ANN)
Alaska Public Media (APM)
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 Daily News-Miner (FNM)
Financial Times (FT)
Globe and Mail (G&M)
Government of Canada (GOC)
Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT)
Huffington Post (HP)
Johnson’s Russia List (JRL)
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)
Norwegian Polar Institute (NPI)
Nunatsiaq News (NN)
Oil & Gas Journal (OGJ)
Ottawa Citizen (OC)
Petroleum News (PN)
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)
Yukon News (YN)