The Arctic This Week 2013: 15 June 2013 – 21 June 2013

The Arctic This Week 2013:23

Thanks for joining us this week! If you find TATW useful and fun to read, please share it with others. If you’re not a subscriber yet, you can sign up here.

If you haven’t yet, let us suggest that you try out the PDF version of TATW. It’s easy to navigate directly to the sections you’re interested in, and this week’s edition is illustrated with a collection of gorgeous photographs of birds in Arctic Bay, Nunavut from Clare Kines, one of our perennial favorites.

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

Short on time this week? Stick to these outstanding pieces we’ve hand-picked for you.

A must-read this week is Scott Borgerson’s essay in Foreign Affairs, “The Coming Arctic Boom,” which looks at the implications of global warming in the Arctic. Aside from its unlimited quotability, the real beauty of Borgerson’s essay is his admission that his perspective has shifted over time – a testament to the changing nature of the Arctic political landscape.

Two articles on infrastructure and economic development merit special notice this week. Writing in MarineLink, Joseph N. Fields III argues forcefully for the potential of Alaska’s North Slope as a shipping node for goods and, most importantly, LNG. Pair that with a brief but rich blog post looking at the myriad practical, economic and political hurdles that stand in the way of Russia’s development of Siberia. The latter comes from Clifford G. Gaddy at the Brookings Institution

In energy, start out with this article by Charles Digges for Bellona, in which he reads the tea leaves on Gazprom’s intentions for the Shtokman project. Is the whole project, plagued by uncertain financing and lack of a clear market for its gas, being kept alive merely because Putin says it shall be so? Next, see this map and short article from WWF–Norway on how the Norwegian government has redefined what constitutes “ice edge” and how it has opened up new areas for oil and gas exploration in the northern Barents Sea. The map is particularly well done and shows clearly how the now boundaries skirt potential oil and gas leases.

In mining, see this article by Suzanna Caldwell in Alaska Dispatch that looks at whether or not Alaska is getting a fair share of revenue from mining operations in the state.

On fisheries, a report from Christi Turner in Barents Observer goes into great depth about the negative impact that salmon farming can have on other species that live in the same waters; there are aspects of this that may surprise you.

Finally, bless Tristin Hopper for composing an outstanding patchwork of some of the earliest known – or imagined – Inuit/European encounters (Up Here).

The Political Scene


In an articulate, insightful essay in Foreign Affairs, “The Coming Arctic Boom,” Scott Borgerson looks again at the implications of global warming in the Arctic. “A funny thing happened on the way to Arctic anarchy,” he writes, shifting tone from his 2008 essay “Arctic Meltdown” and praising the cooperation of Arctic states. While this cooperation may be driven by “a shared interest in profit,” Borgerson’s take on economic activity in this “Region of Riches” encourages policymakers to balance environmentalism and exploitation “before a Deepwater Horizon-like oil spill stains the Arctic and its appeal.” Also weighing in this week is Boston University Professor William Keylor, whose Q&A with BU Today provides short, sound bite-like answers to big questions such as “How significant is the move by Arctic Council members to admit nations far distant from the region as observers?”

Two blog posts, one by Stephen Blank in the Diplomat – “China’s Arctic Strategy” – and another – “How big is China’s interest in Greenland?”, from Irene Quaile, break from the usual by-the-way-China-is-interested-in-the-Arctic dialogue and provide some real analysis. Blanks’ piece lets us in on what China has done since it gained observer status (which he calls a “flood of vigorous Chinese activity”), and Quaile argues against assertions that Chinese interest in Greenland is “overhyped”. India has also turned interest into action in the Arctic. India’s Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid recently visited the Arctic and pledged to invest USD 12 million in scientific research in the region (Sunday Guardian).


After over three weeks of talks between Canada and the European Union in Brussels leading up to this year’s G8 Conference on June 17 and 18, negotiations came to a standstill and tensions mounted between the two parties (G&M). In the Arctic, as Andreas Østhagen reminded us this week, Canada’s strategy has been to keep the EU out of the Council “until a solution that favors Canada has been found” (TAI). During the trade negotiations, Canada has followed a similar rationale, halting finalization of the deal until it can secure enough access to European beef and pork markets (G&M). Canada’s devolution agreement with the Northwest Territories, on the other hand, has reached its final stages. A signing ceremony in Inuvik on June 25 will seal the deal, transferring some of Ottawa’s federal responsibilities, such as resource management and land claims resolution (Gov’t of NWT), to the territory (CBC).

The Northern Jobs and Growth Act, which “helps create a more stable investment climate in the North” according to Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq, was passed in the House of Commons on June 18 along with nearly twenty other bills (NN).

United States

Alaska’s Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell announced he will run for U.S. Senate. If successful in the Republican primary in August next year, Treadwell hopes to unseat Democratic incumbent Mark Begich (AD). Senator Lisa Murkowski’s efforts to get Washington interested in Arctic issues, from encouraging Arctic Council participation to requesting additional Coast Guard support and convincing fellow senators that the U.S. is an Arctic nation, were the subject of a recent article in Alaska Dispatch.

Bruce I. Turner, the U.S. Consul General in St. Petersburg, made an official visit to Murmansk this week, hailing Barents regional cooperation and suggesting that similarly strong links between people and businesses would strengthen U.S.-Russian ties and “help keep up the balance” during times of political tension (BO).


Dmitry Berezhkov, activist for indigenous peoples and former Vice President of RAIPON, was released from jail after a Norwegian court ruled against his extradition to Russia. Arresting dissidents, “just another weapon in the President’s arsenal against opposition” (BO), is commonplace in Russia. Barents blogger Aleksandr Serebryanikov of Blogger 51 has recently been accused of violating paragraph 282 of the Russian criminal code (BO). While a Norwegian court was able to dismiss Berezhkov’s extradition, Norwegian researcher Salve Dahle is worried that other Russian actions, namely a law introduced in March requiring many nonprofit organizations to register as “foreign agents,” could be detrimental to research and scientific collaboration in the Barents Region (BO). Berezhkov’s arrest also put a strain on already-tense relations between the Russian government and indigenous peoples’ organizations, both within and outside Russia (NN).

In Murmansk, police officials reported that twenty-five percent more corruption crimes were investigated the first half of 2013 than in the same period last year (BN). “Serious corruption crimes” reportedly increased by 32 percent, and large bribes increased by a whopping 72 percent.


President Sauli Niinistö conducted talks on foreign and security policy at Kultaranta, the summer presidential residence, on Monday (YLE). Finland’s security cooperation with NATO, the EU and other Nordic countries was tackled in a live closing session at the end of the day.


Business intelligence firm RepRisk provided a special report on controversies surrounding the Arctic energy development projects of Shell, Cairn, Gazprom, ExxonMobil and Statoil. While there is little new here, the report provides a good overview of a variety of controversies that have surrounded the Arctic agendas of these firms.


The Shtokman LNG project in Russia’s Barents Sea has, perhaps, a new lease on life this week. After being pronounced dead several times over the last year, most recently two weeks ago when Gazprom Deputy Chairman Andrei Kruglov announced that the field should be left for future generations, Gazprom’s board affirmed once again that the project must go on. Writing for Bellona, Charles Digges describes how, in spite of uncertain financing and no clear market for the gas, the project has been kept alive merely by the influence of President Putin. Gazprom has continued work on the design of offshore and shore-based infrastructure to support the project in spite of the continued uncertainty about its future (UPI, Offshore Magazine). Those who have peered into the Shtokman tea leaves lately are rightfully perplexed by the lack of clarity and conflicting statements coming out of the company. Atle Staalesen, writing for Barents Observer, reports that company insiders have insisted that indeed Shtokman will be abandoned in favor of more promising developments in the Far East and the Baltics.

The Murmansk region has long pinned its hopes on the development of Shtokman, but the continual back and forth over the future of the project has proved frustrating for local governments and residents. Murmansk Governor Marina Kovtun welcomed an announcement this week by Rosneft that it would begin investing in the region’s development, providing a new opportunity for growth not tied to Shtokman (BO). Rosneft signed two cooperation agreements with the Murmansk regional government regarding investment in transportation and LNG infrastructure in the region (BN). And in more good news for Murmansk development, Russian state-owned company Zarubezhneft is interested in developing the Murmanskoye gas field 200 km from the city of Murmansk in the Barents Sea (BN).

Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller and Shell CEO Peter Voser put their heads together this week to discuss the way ahead on the strategic cooperation agreement between the companies (press release). Rosneft also touted progress on its joint ventures with ExxonMobil, Statoil and Eni this week, focusing on projects in the Kara, Chukchi, Laptev and Barents Seas (Arctic Info – Russian). Rosneft President Igor Sechin hopes that joint projects in the Kara Sea will start producing by 2018 (ITAR-TASS).

Russia announced it will put up four new oil and gas areas in the Arctic for auction. The leases are within Russian territorial waters, but are not on the continental shelf. Thus they will not be subject to current restrictions that limit projects on the continental shelf to state-owned companies (Arctic Info – Russian).

This week President Putin presided over the signing of an agreement bringing the China National Petroleum Company into the Yamal LNG project as a 20% stakeholder with Russian Novatek and French Total SA (Bloomberg). Following the signing, Putin announced Russia would begin to dismantle Gazprom’s natural-gas export monopoly to allow the project to go forward (Reuters). Novatek also inked a deal with Sovcomflot and Vnesheconombank to provide two LNG carriers to service the Yamal project (Sacramento Bee).

The large oil spill on the Kolva River in the Komi region is still making headlines. Concerns that those responsible may have attempted to conceal the spill have led Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to support a Greenpeace proposal to criminalize concealing oil spills (Greenpeace).


Chinese state-owned oil company CNOOC announced it will partner with a small Icelandic firm, Eykon Energy, to explore the continental shelf between Iceland and Jan Mayen Island (The Australian).


Engineering and construction company Subsea 7 has opened an office in Tromsø to begin servicing oil and gas projects in the Norwegian and Barents Seas (Scandinavian Oil and Gas Magazine). GE Oil and Gas announced it had secured a contract to supply subsea equipment for the Snøhvit gas field in the Barents Sea (Upstream). Statoil will likely announce plans to purchase two new Category D semi-submersible drilling rigs later this year (Upstream).

Statoil says it is on track to produce 1.4 million barrels of oil a day by 2020, though this will depend on “a predictable and stable fiscal environment,” referring to Norway’s recent decision to raise taxes on the oil and gas sector (Rigzone). Statoil recently announced it would postpone its plans to develop the Johan Castberg field in the Barents Sea due to the tax hike, though the lack of a clear resource estimate for the field was likely just as important in the delay (World Oil Online). Statoil is drilling four wells this summer to get a better picture of the field’s potential and will make a determination based on a more detailed assessment (AB).

Norway’s recent release of new licenses in the Barents Sea has stoked controversy over Arctic exploration. Norway has traditionally rejected oil exploration in ice-impacted areas, though it appears a recent redefinition of what constitutes an “ice-impacted area” has allowed the government to go ahead with exploration in marginal areas of the Barents Sea. See this great map and article by WWF-Norway for more details. Despite objections from opposition politicians, Parliament approved the new licenses in the northern Barents Sea and along the border with Russia in a vote last week (NRK – Norwegian). The awarding of licenses to Russian companies Lukoil and Rosneft has drawn criticism from the environmental organization Bellona, which says that both companies have extremely poor environmental records (AB).

Stavanger’s oil and gas sector has long attracted workers from abroad, but oil services company MPM has taken the city’s international reputation to new heights, boasting 22 nationalities amongst its 150 employees (AB). While this may seem to indicate that the oil sector is attracting plenty of talent from abroad, a local headhunter says that the industry is still having difficulty filling slots requiring specific technical expertise and that even more efforts should be made to bring in foreign recruits (AB).


A proposal to use hydraulic fracturing to explore for oil near Gros Morne National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Newfoundland, has attracted UNESCO’s attention and “serious concern” (CMJ). Elsewhere in Newfoundland, Statoil is assessing new oil discoveries it has made at the Harpoon Field off the province’s coast (G&M). Statoil’s Vice President for exploration Erik Finnstrom says Newfoundland is the “gateway to Arctic development” as the region’s less severe conditions provide a good laboratory for developing Arctic-specific exploration technologies (VOCM).

The Yukon government announced it plans to open 730 square kms in the Eagle Plains Basin for oil and gas exploration after extensive consultations with local residents and the Vuntut Gwichin First Nation (CBC).

The Canadian government raised the liability limit for oil spills in the Arctic from CAD 40 million to CAD 1 billion (NN, CTV), though Greenpeace Canada has called for the feds to abolish any liability limits, citing the USD 40 billion needed to clean up after the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico (CBC).

In the Northwest Territories, sudden jumps in gasoline prices have led residents to call for more regulation to protect consumers (CBC). To combat the growing expense of diesel electricity generation in the territories, a pilot project in Inuvik will spend CAD 100,000 to convert the town’s generators from diesel to natural gas and begin trucking in LNG to power them. Natural gas should save the town 10-15% on its utility bills over diesel (CBC).


The fight over Alaska’s oil tax overhaul has moved into the streets. A pro-industry group has hired canvassers to shadow activists who are gathering signatures for a petition to put the industry-friendly tax law to a public referendum (FDNM). In other political news, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski is teaming up with Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu to insist that a greater share of federal revenue from offshore oil and gas production be diverted to the states (FuelFix).

Federal, state, local, tribal and industry representatives gathered in Anchorage this week for a working seminar to validate plans for responses to large oil spills (press release).

While several companies await the green light from federal regulators to begin seismic surveys off Alaska’s Arctic coast, some local residents are concerned that the unprecedented levels of seismic exploration taking place across the Arctic this season may have dramatic and harmful impacts on the Arctic’s marine wildlife (Arctic Sounder).

ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, BP and TransCanada are discussing a LNG export plan to get Alaska gas to market, though as in past schemes the project is held hostage to high costs, competing LNG portfolios among the concerned companies and the collapse of gas prices (Breaking Energy).

Science, Environment & Wildlife


As the melt season continues towards its probable nadir in September, speculation is rampant as to how low the ice extent and volume will ultimately go. While a group of Japanese scientists is convinced that this summer’s ice extent will be lower even than last year’s (Asahi Shinbun), current ice extent is a little bit higher than last year’s (NSIDC – a great interactive graph). Some describe the ice as “slushy”, however – take a peek at this satellite image from Danish site Polar View. A lovely one-stop-shop for various sea-ice projections comes from the Arctic News blog, which also offers it’s own forecast of 2,000 cubic km for ice volume at the season’s minimum point. An opinion piece from Carey Restino – here republished in Alaska Dispatch – argues that the best understanding of the rapidly-changing sea ice landscape will come from close collaboration between scientists and indigenous communities.

Beyond sea ice, Greenland’s ice cap is a continued focus of attention as well. This week saw the inauguration of, which – thanks to Danish research institutions – provides daily input on both sea ice and the Greenland ice sheet. The NSIDC offers daily imagery of the Greenland ice cap’s surface melt-area both for the last 24 hours and for the year to date, and Polar Portal offers images of the daily surface-mass balance, indicating where the ice cap is adding thickness or losing it (pic via @greenlandicesmb). A great series of photos from NASA on Flickr shows the adventures of Grover as it cruises the Greenland ice sheet, while reports from Newfoundland indicate that icebergs from Greenland are drifting by its shores in abnormally high concentrations this year (EOTA).

Perhaps the most famous consequence of the weakening ice cover has been the evacuation of Russia’s Arctic scientists from their floating research station and their transport to Severnaya Zemlya. Perhaps ironically, worsening ice conditions are actually delaying the progress of the enormous Yamal – the nuclear icebreaker carrying the team to their new destination – on its way to the archipelago (Arctic Info, in Russian). In order to accommodate the transplanted team, Russia is re-opening an abandoned former Soviet research station on the island of Bolshevik (BO). And while that team is on its way to dry land, Norwegian scientists are planning to get their own research ship frozen into the sea ice in winter of 2015, thus emulating the journey of the famed Fram, Fridtjof Nansen’s ship (Norwegian Polar Institute, in Norwegian, and Gadling, in English).

Heat and forest fires

It’s been incredibly hot in Alaska for the past couple of weeks (WaPo), with temperature records falling all over the state ( and AD – look down the page). This and other recent dramatic and/or unusually persistent weather phenomena are leading scientists in the UK to examine the underlying causes of that country’s “disappointing” weather over the past few years (Guardian). What action plan might be developed as a result of these discussions is anybody’s guess. The chairman of the Arctic Methane Emergency Group is disappointed that explicit mention was not made of the influence of Arctic sea ice decline on UK weather in the process (Guardian), while Lewis Page writing in The Register points to new research in the International Journal of Climatology that appears to indicate that the UK’s disappointing weather cannot be attributed in any large measure to Arctic sea-ice decline.

Norway is also tackling weather extremes with an upcoming conference, Oslo Extreme Dialogue – Building Bridges to the Future.

One side-effect of the extreme heat in Alaska and northern Canada has been rampant wildfires. The Kanuti fire near Fairbanks has been one noteworthy outbreak (AD, FDNM), while the praiseworthy efforts of firefighters at another site kept a small fire from getting out of hand (FDNM). Next door in Canada, a lightning-sparked fire is burning south of Dawson City (CBC), another is going north of Whitehorse (CBC), and a lightning storm late in the week coupled with hot, dry, windy conditions appears to have started several new blazes (CBC). Firefighters from British Columbia have been called in to help teams in Yukon (


A new Wildlife Act under consideration in the Northwest Territories would institute rules requiring that all hunters – aboriginal and otherwise – report their takes to authorities, in order to assist with management of wildlife populations (CBC). This is in part to tackle the challenge of diminishing populations of some significant herds, such as the Beverly caribou herd in Nunavut. Researchers there are at work to collect data on whether the herd’s numbers continue to decline precipitously or not (CBC). Such declines are not an exclusively Canadian problem, either. In Norway, malnutrition and starvation are killing reindeer at much greater rates than predators, new research indicates. This is a sensitive issue, as reindeer herders in the North receive state compensation only for reindeer killed by predators (Fram Centre,, both in Norwegian). And in Alaska, the two calves orphaned when their mother was killed a couple of weeks ago near in Denali National Park have disappeared (AD), wandering off to whatever fate might await them.

Marine mammals

Frances Beinecke of the Natural Resources Defense Council is concerned about the impact that increased shipping through the Bering Strait is likely to have on the marine mammals – whales and others – that depend on the Strait as a migration path and as a place to feed. She is not alone; Daniel Lum writing in Alaska Dispatch is also concerned that the impact of seismic exploration in Alaska’s Arctic waters is not understood by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. In Nunavut, Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans is working with several Inuit students to help gather data on the current state of narwhal, beluga and bowhead whales in the territory’s Arctic waters (CBC). And while sightings of blue whales in Norwegian Arctic waters have been unusually plentiful this year (BO), many towns on Alaska’s North Slope have had a difficult time this year landing their allotment of whales (AD). Iceland, which does not acknowledge the authority of the International Whaling Commission and its ban on commercial whaling, has meanwhile resumed a commercial fin whale hunt (Guardian). Relatedly, Norway is engaged in research to demonstrate that the country’s commercial seal hunt, which has been hit hard by the EU’s ban on trade in seal products, is (a) humane and (b) sustainable (NN). And in Iqaluit, the Celebration of the Seal took place this week, coincident with Canada’s National Aboriginal Day (NN).


An interesting article from Nunatsiaq News looks at local Red Knots and what can be learned about their sometimes-surprising histories from bands on their legs. Other research into several migratory species that spend their summers in the Arctic indicates that, while they are up North, their wake/sleep cycles become essentially nonexistent, perhaps to allow them to take advantage of the constant daylight to feed 24 hours a day (Nat Geo). Further south, Arctic terns breeding in Maine are displaying worrisome difficulties feeding their chicks – thousands have starved to death, thanks, apparently, to the disappearance of herring in the surface waters around their breeding grounds (WaPo). Also having difficulty breeding are black-legged kittiwakes; ongoing research is attempting to determine whether high concentrations of mercury could be the cause of the birds’ failed attempts to produce offspring (BO). And in a bit of disappointment for bird-watchers everywhere, Alaska’s Loon Cam must now do without its usual subject. The loon that usually sets up housekeeping there has abandoned its nest and gone elsewhere (AD).

In other bird news, Ross’ geese may soon be the target of Nunavut hunters, following a dramatic population rebound over the past 50 years (CBC). And this week’s Bird of the Week from Polaria is the Arctic skua – get to know this rapacious thief better in its brief profile.

Other wildlife

Thus far, infections of wild Norwegian salmon by sea lice seem to be down a good bit this year from what was observed last year (, in Norwegian). At the same time, plankton species distributions in Norwegian waters are changing as temperatures and currents change (, in Norwegian). And a lengthy and reflective article from Rick Sinnott in Alaska Dispatch looks at the conflict between the preservation of salmon rivers and the development of hydroelectricity in Alaska.


Thanks to Mia Bennett for pointing to the following new developments (FP blogs). First, the new China-Nordic Arctic Research Institute, funded by the Polar Research Institute of China, with contributions from Norwegian and Icelandic institutions, will soon be set up in Shanghai. The announcement was made as part of a China - Nordic Arctic Research Cooperation Seminar (press release from PRIC, in Chinese). Next, the oil-funded Arctic Research and Design Center for Continental Shelf Development will be set up in Moscow soon. In Canada, the new High Arctic Research Station to be built in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut will reflect “Inuit culture and philosophy”, according to the architects (CBC). And if you’re interested in the research activities of Italy’s team on Svalbard over 2011-2012, the full report on said activities is available (PDF on Issuu).


The upcoming International Forum on Polar Data Activities in Global Data Systems, taking place in Japan in the months ahead, will tackle the not inconsiderable task of making enormous volumes of data on polar science available, searchable, accessible…usable, in essence. And in the recent past, the University of Bergen held its International Workshop on Modeling the Ocean, looking at…well, better ways of modeling carbon-dioxide uptake, acidification, warming, etc (U of Bergen). Meanwhile in Washington, NOAA held its Arctic Science Days event – agenda here.


Writing on ongoing and new expeditions also made for good reading this week. The centennial of the 1913-1918 Canadian Arctic Expedition has prompted one documentary filmmaker to chronicle as much as possible of the Expedition’s history (NN). Equally interesting are: tales from the team behind of their unexpected stay in the Lena Delta town of Tiksi, where they shared research insights with young local students; and a post narrating the voyage to the research station at Cherskiy, Russia, where multiple different interesting projects are underway (


A spill of 15,000 liters of waste oil in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut has been attributed to mischievous kids (CBC). Kids these days. The oil belongs to Kitnuna Corp, which, with the help of local authorities, has been scrambling to clean up as much of the oil as possible (NN). / Emissions of sulfur dioxide in the Russian city of Nikel, mostly attributable to the Norilsk Nickel plant, are more than those from the entire country of Norway (Fram Centre, in Norwegian). The pollution’s drift over the city of Sør-Varanger led that town’s mayor to file charges against the responsible company under Norwegian law (BO). The charges were not supported by her municipal council, and were thus dropped later in the week (BO). / The danger of a methane “time bomb” trapped within and beneath Arctic permafrost is not news to Arctic observers, but a new article from the American Security Project makes the danger feel clear and present with a succession of estimates and some harrowing math. To add to the anxiety, new research from permafrost caves in Siberia suggests that warming of only 1.5 degrees Celsius is adequate to trigger massive thawing of permafrost ( / A paper on the Arctic atmosphere is, sadly, beyond my ability to comprehend from the abstract alone – check it out yourself in Atmospheric Chemistry & Physics if this is your field. / I really, really wish that I had a full hour to watch the presentation of photographer Camille Seaman at the World Affairs Council – if you do have the time, I strongly recommend that you do so. / The Gakkel Ridge in the Arctic Ocean is one of the most slowly-spreading ridges anywhere on the earth’s crust (Geophysical Journal International). / Evidence of ancient residents of Finnish Lapland has recently been identified (YLE). / The latest edition of the WWF magazine “The Arc” is out and available.

Military / Search-&-Rescue


A piece in the World Policy Journal on “Surviving a Cold War” by Judith Matloff details the challenges of conducting military operations and training above the Arctic Circle and boasts superb photographs by Robert Nickelsberg. Matloff and Nickelsberg recently traveled to the Arctic to observe British, Dutch and Norwegian forces in action.

Norway has opted for “gender-neutral” military conscription, extending its one-year mandatory military service to women and making it the only European country to have peacetime conscription for women (Defense News). Although no date has been set for a parliamentary vote, all of the parties represented in the Norwegian parliament, save the Christian Democrat party, have agreed to the proposal. On Monday, Parliament adopted a proposal to strengthen the Norwegian Special Forces. You can read more about their plans via the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website (in Norwegian).

Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja has quelled rumors that Sweden may seek NATO membership following the latter country’s elections next year. Tuomioja, who said he would know if Sweden were seriously considering joining the alliance, said he did not believe Sweden would apply for membership, regardless of the outcome of next year’s elections (EOTA). In Brussels, Sweden’s EU ambassador to NATO reportedly received a positive evaluation from NATO of Sweden’s capability to defend itself against “all but the most persistent and prolonged attacks” (EOTA).

The Navy Times highlighted the U.S. Coast Guard’s relationship with China this week, featuring an interview with Commandant Admiral Robert Papp. At the end of the Q&A, Papp addressed the Arctic, saying, “in the future, not within the next 10-year window, there will be people permanently stationed up there.” If you’re interested in the Coast Guard and other U.S. maritime programs, an article on outlines the budgetary outlook for maritime programs in the 2014 fiscal year. Looking northward, an article in the Hill Times argues for the need for three additional ports in the Canadian Arctic to serve military, SAR and business purposes.

Rob O’Gorman discusses the geostrategic implications and ponders the intentions of Russia’s 2011 addition of two Arctic brigades in a piece for Open Briefing, which reads nicely in tandem with a Barents Observer piece out this week exploring NATO’s decision not to establish a stronger Arctic presence. In the article, Igor Alexeev suggests that a “predictable power balance” in the region may mean economic cooperation will outweigh power projection, easing tensions. This year, Russia will be conducting test launches of Bulava ballistic missiles using its two new nuclear-powered submarines, the Aleksander Nevsky and the Vladimir Monomakh (BO).

Search & Rescue

A fisherman from Resolute, Nunavut was found cold and hungry but otherwise unharmed six days after snowmobile troubles forced him to attempt to walk back to his community (CBC), and an American tourist died off the coast of Norway when a dinghy she and twelve other passengers had boarded to approach a fjord was hit by a wave and capsized ( Three other passengers suffered minor injuries. In Alaska, warm weather has exposed more debris from a C-124 Globemaster crash that killed 52 when the plane crashed into Mount Gannett in 1952 (EOTA). Members of the Hawaii-based Joint MIA/POW Accounting Command are hard at work attempting to recover and identify the bodies of those lost in the crash.



The Northwest Territories and Nunavut Chamber of Mines applauded the federal government’s passing of the Northern Jobs and Growth Act which will, according to the Chamber, streamline regulation and provide investment certainty for mining development in Canada’s North (press release).

The Giant Mine in the Northwest Territories apparently contains enough arsenic trioxide dust – left over from gold mining activity at the site – to kill every person in the world. To stabilize the waste until a permanent solution can be found, the federal government has developed a plan to freeze the dust in place to keep it from contaminating local water sources (CBC). While plans move ahead to clean up the Giant Mine site, TerraX Minerals is conducting preliminary work to develop several potential gold mines across the NWT (HQ Yellowknife). Elsewhere in the NWT, Canadian Zinc Corp received the go-ahead from federal regulators to move forward with planned developments at the Prairie Creek mine (Proactive Investors). Another company, Nighthawk Gold Corp., announced promising new resource estimates for its Colomac gold property in the NWT this week (NASDAQ). A two-day mine rescue competition brought together mine-rescue crews from across NWT, Nunavut and Yukon in Yellowknife last week to show off their skills and compete for awards (press release). The rescue team from the Meadowbrook gold mine took first place (NN).

Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. submitted its scaled-back plans for the Mary River iron mine project this week to the Nunavut Impact Review Board. The plan, while smaller than a previous development plan, calls for significant activity at the site, including projected growth of up to 2,000 new workers by 2015 (NN).


Cecilie Hansen, mayor of the Norwegian town of Sør-Varanger, proposed that the town file charges against the Norilsk Nickel mine just across the border in Russia for its notoriously high levels of pollution. The town council, however, has rejected the plan and called for the establishment of a working group to explore a political solution to the problem (BO). While the pollution problem has been known for some time, the level of pollution has actually increased over the past few years and has prompted a more robust response from residents in neighboring Norway (BO).

Russia’s Far East Development Program will bring billions of dollars in new investment to Siberia and the Far East to develop the region’s transportation infrastructure. The proposed development will be a boon to mining and oil & gas interests in the region, allowing them to more economically exploit the remote region’s resources and, most importantly, transport them to booming markets in Asia (CNBC).


A EUR 240 million refinancing plan approved last week for Northland Resources has allowed the Kaunisvaara iron mine to return to operations, much to the delight of local workers and municipalities that depend on the mine (BO).


Alaskans are asking whether the state is getting its fair share of revenues from mining development. Taxes on mining have often been overshadowed by oil and gas taxes, which dwarf those on mining and provide up to 90% of the state’s general budget. Suzanna Caldwell explores the interest in revisiting mining taxes across the state in this well-written article for Alaska Dispatch.

Fishing, Shipping & Other Business News


Leiv Lunde of the Fridtjof Nansen Institute is convinced that economic and political considerations make significant increases in Arctic shipping and marine activity likely over the long term (MarineLink). An article in Port Strategy is also bullish about the growth of Arctic shipping, but sagely advises caution in terms of insurance and preparation before undertaking any such voyage. It refers to a “checklist [that] has been issued by the Nordic Association of Marine Insurers (Cefor) for underwriters, and ship owners and managers, to heighten awareness of risks associated with voyages in Arctic waters” – I didn’t know this existed, but lo: Here it is.

To capitalize on this anticipated boom, Russian firms are getting suited with ice-capable shipping vessels galore. Sovcomflot is doubtless thrilled at its order from Gazprom for 13 (!!) LNG carriers capable of working the Northern Sea Route (Arctic Info, in Russian). Novatek also has an order in for two similar ships to serve the Yamal LNG project (

Two of Russia’s Arctic ports have opened for the season and are taking on some of their first cargoes. Norilsk Nickel is taking deliveries through the port at Dudinka (, and the port of Pevek is accepting fuel deliveries; it’s only operable during the summer months (Arctic Info, in Russian).


Depressing returns of king salmon at many key sites in Alaska have inspired severe closures (AD). Everyone had hoped for better this year, but the situation looks really bad at this point. At the same time, the Marine Research Institute has recommended a 10% increase in Iceland’s quota for cod (IceNews), demonstrating that that fishery is in better shape. The Norwegian groundfish industry is not doing well, as exports have taken a big hit during the economic crisis (Gov’t of Norway, in Norwegian), and monitors of cod and haddock stocks in northern Norway are concerned that these species are the unintended victims of poor nutrition that they’re getting from local salmon farms. Local fishermen who rely on non-farmed stocks feel the health of their stocks is threatened by the dominance of salmon farming nearby (fascinating article from BO).

In other interesting fisheries news, SINTEF in Norway is working on a calculator to determine the carbon footprint of the fish one eats (Barents Watch, in Norwegian). You will be shocked to hear that this Norwegian project identifies Norwegian fish as one of the most carbon-friendly things you can eat.

Other business and economic news

There are some fascinating tidbits in this miscellany this week. My favorite is the announcement that the city of Murmansk is working on a major rebranding project (Stas Marketing, in Russian). That’s closely followed by a short but gimlet-eyed piece from Clifford Gaddy at the Brookings Institution; he responds to a couple of questions from a reporter about the development of Siberia with the sort of withering logic that one wishes would get more play in other news outlets. Also of genuine interest is a new initiative by SCS Global Services to offer an “Arctic Climate Neutral” certification. The description, though brief, is worth a read.

Other news: Consultancy Ramboll is expanding its offerings and offices in Tromsø (, in Norwegian). / Jackson Lafferty, an MLA in the Northwest Territories, spoke at length about the territorial government’s efforts to create an educational system and a workforce in the Territories that is ready for the future (Gov’t of the NWT). Premier Bob McLeod follows with an opinion piece in the Hill Times that argues the Government of the NWT is itself a model for collaboration towards growth between aboriginal and non-aboriginal communities. / Although the stream of Russian tourists to Finland is drying up slowly (IceNews), Finnish businesspeople continue to see Russia as a growth opportunity (BN). / Major Swedish-Finnish paper company Stora Enso plans to wave goodbye to 650 Finnish workers as part of a global downsizing (YLE). / A ban on the sale of beer from street kiosks in Russia is being cited as a terrible thing for small businesspeople (BN). / Iqaluit made its pitch as a cold-weather testing ground for planes at the Paris Airshow (CBC). / A set of annoying customs rules that were chafing Canadian boat owners with boats docked in Skagway, Alaska seem to have been relaxed, much to their relief (EOTA).

Health, Education, Culture & Society

NPR’s Talk of the Nation did a spot on the importance of language, interviewing Bob Lane, who speaks Athabaskan, a language of the Siletz tribe in the Pacific Northwest. Mr. Lane suggested that for an endangered language to be kept alive, it has to be made necessary. One way to do this is by explicitly connecting language to culture, for instance, by conducting traditional ceremonies in the endangered language. In the Northwest Territories, the government is hoping to encourage “language revitalization” by recognizing 414 traditional Gwich’in place names in official records as of June 21 (Gov’t of NWT), and by introducing the Inuvialuktun language app, one of a series of NWT-based language apps available on iTunes ( In Finland, a new cabinet report stresses the importance of strengthening services available in Swedish, Finland’s second official language, as well as in Sámi, Russian and Estonian (EOTA). Also of important cultural note, Netsilik Inuit artifacts traded with Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen during his navigation of the Northwest Passage over a century ago will return to Nunavut for the opening of the Netsilik Cultural Centre this fall (, and Jon Magnuson wrote an in-depth piece on Inupiat culture: “Arctic Drums and Dreams: A Journey in the Inupiat Spirit World” (Indian Country Today). June 21 was National Aboriginal Day in Canada, with residents in Iqaluit celebrating Inuit culture at the sixth annual Celebration of the Seal (NN).

The problem of poverty in Alaska, where milk prices are as high as $9.99 per gallon and many residents fail to reap the benefits of the pollock catch-share system (New York Times), persists. The same is also true for Canada, where indigenous children are two and a half times more likely to live in poverty than their non-indigenous counterparts, according to a study released this week by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and Save the Children Canada. In a policy briefing in the Hill Times, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president Terry Audla urged the continued partnership between the Government of Canada and Inuit to ensure that “basic standards of living” are met, eliminating what the Canadian Commission for Human Rights sees as “conditions of persistent disadvantage” (CBC).


Everybody has a sudden urge this week to become a transit hub in the new, more accessible Arctic. Russia’s Sakhalin Island is but one such entity; it sits between the Eurasian mainland and Japan, separated by two straits. Tunnels across both have been considered in the past, though many hurdles of the most obvious kind stand between conception and realization (RBTH). Some Wikipedia digging into this issue will reward a diligent reader. A similarly fanciful bouquet of construction projects – (1) rail tunnels connecting Helsinki to Tallinn, (2) a major Norwegian port on the Arctic and rail line connecting that port to Finland, and (3) the completion of rail from St. Petersburg to Vladivostok – could also contribute to a substantial change in Finland’s position as a transit hub for goods traveling worldwide (YLE). In Alaska, Joseph N. Fields III is pushing hard for the development of infrastructure on Alaska’s North Slope to help the region serve as a departure point for goods and, in particular, LNG traveling along Trans-Arctic Shipping Routes (MarineLink – an information-rich article). Murmansk is hoping for a reason to revive its own hopes of becoming a transport hub; those hopes have dimmed after the shelving of the Shtokman project (BN). And Iceland, already in an advantaged position as a maritime hub, announced that it had grown 4.6% in Q1 of 2013 vs. 2012 (IceNews).


Issues with telecommunications infrastructure continue to plague northern Canada. The country’s regulatory body, the CRTC, met with representatives of current de facto local-phone monopolist NorthwesTel and eager monopoly-breaker Iristel in Inuvik, NWT to discuss Iristel’s plans to begin offering local telephone service in the northern centers of Yellowknife, Whitehorse and Inuvik (CBC). The hearing also considered NorthwesTel’s modernization plan for the North, which comes in with a hefty price tag of CAD 233 million. The tension between the high cost of investment in infrastructure and the low number of potential consumers for improved services continues to bedevil such plans (G&M). Someone will clearly lose money on this; who will it be? At a hearing later in the week in Whitehorse, smaller alternative models to provide internet and phone service were highlighted. The CBC’s reporting suggests that NorthwesTel did not encounter a friendly audience at the hearing.

Next door in Alaska, the state is hoping to benefit from a federal grant program through the USDA that would offer grants for broadband provision to rural, remote communities (ADN). The state also welcomed a telecom ribbon-cutting of sorts, as Verizon turned on its 4G data network in the state. The company now operates in all 50 states (ADN). On a personal note, based on my own experiences as a past, badly-burned Verizon customer, this may not be an unmixed blessing for Alaskans. But I will hope for the best.


In road infrastructure, first take a look at this road atlas for Yakutia, which is encouragingly illustrated with photographs of extremely doughty vehicles being brutally toyed with by the conditions of Yakutian roads (thanks to Bolot Bochkarev). If these photos don’t reassure a fearful driver, then I don’t know what will. Indeed, Yakutia’s Kolyma highway, which runs from Yakutsk to Magadan, was washed away during spring flooding. Reports say, however, that it has reopened for cars and trucks as of 18 June ( Also in Russia, a deal has been struck to run a highway from Petrozavodsk to the Finnish border, for the low price of EUR 4.6 billion. The border crossing will be between the cities of Syuvyaoro in Russia and Parikkala in Finland (BO). A major highway that connects Murmansk to Norway and to St. Petersburg is also up for renovation and expansion, at an expected cost of EUR 238.6 million (BN).

Moving around the Circle to Canada, NWT Minister of Transportation David Ramsay catalogued several major transport projects on the agenda for the Government of the NWT in a speech to the Canadian Institute’s Arctic Logistics and Infrastructure Conference. Next door in Yukon, the territorial government has elected to invest CAD 1.1 million in the reconstruction of the Ross River bridge (CBC). And representatives in Iqaluit are discussing whether, and how much, the city ought to invest in repairing its badly-worn roads (NN). The issue, of course, is where that money might come from.

Three final infrastructure notes: The first Nuuk-Iqaluit flight of the season took off safely despite bad weather (IceNews). / The city of Iqaluit is expanding, clearly, and residents must consider which of two areas they would like to expand to first (NN). / Regional airline Nolinor will begin serving the Kitikmeot region this summer with flights to Yellowknife and Cambridge Bay (EOTA, in French).


Residents of the Arctic and High North are taking advantage of 24 hours of sunlight with some unique sporting activities. In Fairbanks, AK, upcoming events include a Midnight Sun baseball game, a Midnight Sun Run, and the Yukon 1,000 Marathon Riverboat Race from Fairbanks to Kaltag and back (FDNM). In Iceland, the long days and warm temperatures are a great opportunity to try one of the island’s 65 golf courses, if you can put up with the moist, windy conditions and occasional attacks by territorial Arctic Terns (EOTA).

Anchorage angler Tom Baker landed a whopping 44 pound king salmon in Ship Creek, but unfortunately brought it in 30 minutes after Anchorage’s annual fishing derby had come to an end, missing out on the grand prize of a new John boat, outboard and trailer (AD).

A wheel length was all that separated 1st and 2nd place at the Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay last week from Haines Junction, Yukon, to Haines, Alaska. The 238 km race is run every year (Yukon News).

A Yellowknife grandmother will be embarking on a two-month, 2,000 km kayak trip from Tuktoyaktuk, NWT, to Gjoa Haven, Nunavut, this summer. Fifty-seven year old Diane Haché will be armed with a gun that “looks like it’s from the movie Rambo,” as well as a GPS beacon in case she encounters trouble (CBC). Haché won’t be the only paddler or rower up North this summer: four men are preparing to embark on an 80-day, 3,000 km rowboat expedition from Inuvik to Pond Inlet, Nunavut (Vancouver Sun).

Greenland politician Maliina Abelsen will resign from parliament to become director of the 2016 Arctic Winter Games which are scheduled to take place in Greenland (NN).

A tragic accident took the life of Barents region bicycle activist Anatoly Lipin last week (BO).

Images & Videos

We’re really pleased to be able to feature the photographs of Clare Kines in this week’s PDF edition of TATW, and we’ll start this week’s photo section by pointing to some more of his excellent work. On Flickr, you can see his images of a Baird’s Sandpiper, a drummer at Victor Bay, Red Knots, a Semipalmated Plover, a Lapland Longspur, and an especially lovely pic of a red-throated loon taking off. You can also get up-close and personal with the aforementioned Baird’s Sandpiper with some video from Clare. From other Flickr users, we’ve got images of: a Siberian husky in profile (Dan Newcomb Photography); Lady Evelyn Falls in the NWT (alexfreire); a completed amouti from Sanikiluaq, Nunavut (George Lessard); a float plane (Jason Pineau); and Mosquito Creek in the NWT (nwtarcticrose).

This week on Instagram was strong but not overwhelming. Along with the weekly collection coming to us from Yellowknife (, We saw a series of photos from Yakutia, including images of the Lena River pillars, a village seen from a helicopter, local horses, and bison that have been transferred from Alberta (all from @yakutia). From @ecojackiejo in Canada, we have pictures of the two foot high kick and the Inuvialuit blanket toss at the Northern Games demonstration for Aboriginal Day. From @dkulugutuk we have images of snow buntings and a plane coming in to land at Pangnirtung, and from @melissagrassi we’ve got a lovely portrait of two sled dogs as well as a solo shot.

Similarly on Twitter we have images of: Santa’s Technology Park (@klausdodds); a cruise ship in Tromsø harbor (@TromsoHavn); the town of Inuvik viewed from the air (@RileyNorthof60); beautiful wildflowers on Alaska’s Seward Peninsula (@BeringLandNPS); a Canadian icebreaker in Lancaster Sound (@Haggisman57); the Lloyd Hotel in Kongsfjord and a closeup of a polar bear (@laurenfarmer).

Other things worth checking out: the Longyearbyen Livecam appears to take a panoramic photo of the town every ten minutes, and you can keep an eye on everything from the comfort of your own home. Check out NASA’s most recent satellite photo of sea ice in the East Siberian and Laptev Seas. The CBC offered up its own selections of this week’s photos from the Canadian North, and I stumbled for the first time across the beautiful images of Arctic Norway from Alexis Dubois and portraits from a stand-up comedy evening in Iqaluit from Ed Maruyama.

The Grab Bag

Enjoy these bits that fit nowhere else.

Bless Tristin Hopper for this outstanding patchwork of some of the earliest known – or imagined – Inuit/European encounters (Up Here). / This week’s Taissumani feature from Nunatsiaq News covers the early portions of the life of Robert Janes, the man whose murder “led to the first murder trial in what is now Nunavut.” / A fascinating profile of one teenager and her family in Kiruna, Sweden offers a great deal of insight into life in the far North of Scandinavia (BO). / Alaska’s King Island used to be home to a small community of Inupiat, but has long been abandoned. Memories are still fresh, though, for the individuals and families that left the island (excellent feature from NPR). / A group of graduates from Baker Lake, Nunavut has been saving up for a trip to Los Angeles, and they’re excited to head out on a post-graduation trip (CBC). / Our Lady of Grace Mission Church, an 80-year fixture in the NWT community of Tuktoyaktuk, is getting a much-needed makeover (CBC). / Greenlandic artist Inuk Silis Høegh has taken the Christo & Jean-Claude approach to the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, encapsulating the building in a massive faux-iceberg (Sacramento Bee). / An award-winning game/app called Osmos is being released in Inuktitut on June 21 (NN). / The “Future North” project from the Oslo School of Architecture and Design is a little tough for me to understand, but if you’re in the design field you may find it easier to grasp ( / Kelly Fraser, a young singer from Sanikiluaq, Nunavut, has begun to attract attention for her Inuktitut cover of Rihanna’s “Diamonds” (NN). / Yellowknife’s Wildcat Café reopened after lengthy renovations on 23 June (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)