The Arctic This Week: 20 July 2013 - 26 July 2013

By Clare Kines, used with
photographer's permission
The Arctic This Week 2013:28

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Reads of the Week

Getting ready to head out on vacation? A little short on time? Go to these outstanding and entertaining articles first.

For some interesting Arctic history, see Jeffrey Mazo’s piece on Svalbard’s bowhead whaling industry. Mazo highlights the “interesting resonances” between the struggle for whale oil in the 1600s (what he calls a “Hot war over Arctic resources”) and the hyperbolized “race” for Arctic resources in the 21st century. Available via the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

 In Energy reads this week, I am eternally grateful to Bill White of the Office of the Federal Coordinator for putting together this fantastic and useful overview of all the various natural gas projects and pipe dreams that are currently in the works in Alaska. As Bill says, ideas for moving and exporting North Slope gas “are as plentiful as cottonwood seed in the June air.” 

Adam Goldenberg and Tony Penikett published a piece in the Globe and Mail on Canada’s “empire within.” Until a devolution agreement is reached that gives the inhabitants of Nunavut province-like powers over the territory’s lands and resources (as was recently completed in the Northwest Territories), the authors argue, Canada will fall short of “achieving equal citizenship for every Canadian citizen.”

And in sports, the first-ever Bering Strait Relay Swim is scheduled to take place this Saturday, August 3rd. The number of swimmers hoping to take part has swelled to 90 (AIR–Russian). Russian President Vladimir Putin is reportedly a supporter of the event, which involves teams of swimmers racing between Russia and Alaska (FDNM). Will Putin take advantage of the event to show up and doff his shirt? You can follow developments at the event’s website. And a reminder to all contestants: get your visas in order or risk arrest when you land on the Alaskan side of the Strait (AIR – Russian).

The Political Scene


South Korea announced plans to boost research activities in the Arctic and look into constructing a second icebreaker (Global Post). According to Yoon Jin-sook, Minister of Oceans and Fisheries, cooperating with Arctic states will be “more important than anything else” as the country seeks out commercial opportunities in the Arctic such as a memorandum of understanding with Russia on the joint development of an Arctic port. Ambassador David Balton and Rear Admiral Cari Thomas also emphasized international cooperation in an article they wrote on Ocean Governance and the High North. The U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings Magazine, where their article is published, focused on the future Arctic for this month’s issue. The Foreign Policy Journal chose to focus on China and India’s Arctic forays, which are arguably motivated by both geopolitical and economic factors as part of their “quest for energy security,” says Dr. Jyoti Prasad Das. A lengthy reportby Vesa Virtanen of Harvard’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs discusses the future engagement of “great powers”’ (the United States, Russia and China) in the Arctic and their implications for Finland. Colonel Virtanen concludes that Finland should develop its infrastructure (namely roads, railroads and transit areas) in order to benefit from the opening of the Northern Sea Route.

Much has changed since “the first time a vast new source of oil was discovered in the Arctic, just in time to replace declining reserves elsewhere.” Jeffrey Mazo’s fascinating insights on Svalbard’s bowhead whaling industry in the 1600s (what he calls a “Hot war over Arctic resources”) highlight the “interesting resonances” between the struggles for whale oil then and the hyperbolized “race” for Arctic recourses now (the International Institute for Strategic Studies). The Arctic Council is one example of recent change. Klaus Dodds discusses what he determines to be the two challenges of the Arctic Council - membership and institutional evolution – in an article published this week in the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs.

Four Dutch nationals were detained for questioning by police officials in Murmansk while filming for a project on gay rights. This is likely the first time foreigners have been investigated for “homosexual propaganda” since Russia passed a law last month imposing heavy fines for providing information about homosexuality to anyone under eighteen (BBC).


Adam Goldenberg and Tony Penikett, affiliates of the Munk-Gordon Arctic Security Program, published a piece in the Globe and Mail on Canada’s “empire within” – that lasting “result of a colonial hangover” which renders Nunavut’s inhabitants Canada’s “last batch of second-class citizens.” Until a devolution agreement is reached, giving the inhabitants of Nunavut province-like powers over the territory’s lands and resources, Canada will fall short of “achieving equal citizenship for every Canadian citizen.” According to the National Post, the jury is still out on the recent appointment of one such Nunavut native, Minister of the Environment Leona Aglukkaq. While her close connection to the Arctic as an aboriginal woman from the North “speaks volumes about our government’s commitment to the environment and sustainability,” according to the Prime Minister’s spokeswoman Julie Vaux, critics point to her “lackluster four years at Health Canada” and close adherence to “the Harper approach” as reason for skepticism.


An article in Alaska Dispatch highlights Mead Treadwell’s “call for Arctic action” and the success of this month’s Ice-Diminished Arctic Conference (hosted by the U.S. National/Naval Ice Center and the U.S. Arctic Research Commission), which focused attention on the need for effective Arctic policy. Treadwell recently engaged in “fed-bashing” at the recent Pacific Northwest Economic Region’s summit luncheon in Anchorage (AD), and suggested forming a committee to pursue devolution (which he dubbed the “D-word”) in order to gain more control over federal lands in Alaska. Treadwell, as Alaska’s top election official, is named as a defendant in a federal lawsuit filed by the Native American Rights Fund last Friday (ADN). The state allegedly suppressed voter turnout and violated the Voting Rights Act by not providing ballots and voting instructions for Yup'ik and Cup'ik speakers.



Summing up a recent research trip to Finland, Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Charles Ebinger questions whether Finland’s Arctic policy accounts for the dramatic changes that are on the horizon for business and investment in the region. Energy development is transforming the region, but disparate approaches to regulation may create divisions between Arctic states. Is there a role for the Arctic Council to, if empowered by a formal treaty, set a common Arctic regulatory regime to guide energy development (Brookings)?

Norwegian Progress Party MP Ketil Solvik-Olsen is saying “I told you so” to politicians who voted for Norway’s recent oil tax increase but are now crying foul as Statoil shifts resources abroad (AB).

Iceland is commissioning another study to look at the revenue potential of an undersea cable to export the country’s excess electricity to Scotland. Previous studies came back with a wide range of revenue forecasts and the government is looking for better forecasts to help decide whether or not the project is feasible (IceNews).


Gazprom chartered a second ice-class LNG tanker, christened the Yenisei River, to move gas along the Northern Sea Route (AIR – Russian). Novatek is also looking for ice-class tankers to service the Yamal LNG project, according to this NY Times article that looks at how Russian oil and gas companies in particular are profiting from the opening of the Northern Sea Route. Novatek has also contracted IG Seismic Services to conduct two months of seismic exploration of several complex geologic structures in the Yamal region (Upstream). Also in the Yamal, two new energy projects are in development to help offset the use of expensive diesel fuel for electricity generation for local residents. The first is a small experimental wind farm near the community of Labytnangi that will test wind generation capabilities in the region’s harsh climate (AIR – Russian). The second is a new, more efficient generator that will help lower electricity costs in the region (AIR – Russian).

Is Gazprom in line to receive more Arctic licenses this year? A somewhat opaque article in RTclaims that Natural Resources and Environment Minister Sergey Donskoy confirmed that Gazprom will receive more licenses in the fourth quarter. President Vladimir Putin tweaked the law governing Arctic oil and gas development this week, extending exploration licenses from 5 to 7 years (AIR – Russian).

Russian state-owned Rosneft is in a bit of a spat with (also state-owned) Transneft over who will finance expansion of pipeline capacity to make good on Rosneft’s new deal to dramatically increase crude exports to China. Transneft owns the Eastern Siberia – Pacific Ocean pipeline and is threatening to cut off Rosneft unless the company signs new contracts and agrees to help finance needed expansion to move more oil to China. According to analysts, the verbal attacks are only an indication that negotiations are ongoing (RBTH).

Russian state-owned minerals exploration company Rosgeologiya is looking for opportunities to partner with Lukoil, Gazprom, and Rosneft on exploration projects in the Arctic and the Caspian Sea (AIR – Russian).


The industry won a major victory when Alaska Governor Sean Parnell signed Senate Bill 21 into law, guaranteeing significant tax cuts for Alaska oil and gas in a bid to spur more production in the state. But did industry overreach? Craig Giammona asks whether the size of the tax cuts and the projected budget deficits for the state have fueled popular opposition that is driving a campaign to repeal the cuts (CNN). 

Senator Lisa Murkowski’s plan to share federal offshore oil and gas revenue with states is running up against opposition on Capitol Hill; the plan could leave a USD 6 billion hole in the federal budget (APM).

The state and federal governments are on a collision course over oil and gas exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, with Governor Sean Parnell pushing a 7-year exploration plan for part of the refuge and the US Fish and Wildlife Service poised to designate much of the reserve as wilderness and off-limits for development (Roll Call). Alaska Congressman Don Young put his support behind Parnell’s plan and pushed a bill through the House Natural Resources Committee that required the federal government to kick in USD 50 million to support the exploration project (PN).

Though Shell decided to postpone drilling on its Chukchi Sea licenses this year, the company has not given up on its Arctic exploration project. Shell is quietly continuing work this season mapping ice gouges on the sea floor to help plan for future pipelines (KUCB). The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in the Department of the Interior signed off on Shell’s summer work plan.

I am eternally grateful to Bill White of the Office of the Federal Coordinator for putting together this fantastic and useful overview of all the various natural gas projects and pipedreams that are currently in the works in Alaska. As Bill says, ideas for moving and exporting North Slope gas “are as plentiful as cottonwood seed in the June air.” 


Chairman of the National Energy Board Gaetan Caron took a five-day trip this week to the Beaufort Sea to better understand aboriginal concerns as Canada’s chief regulatory agency contemplates major oil and gas development in the country’s Arctic (UPI). A map and agenda of Caron’s trip can be found on the National Energy Board’s website.

Don Curren pokes holes in the common conception of Canada as a resource extraction-based economy in a blog post for the Wall Street Journal. The resource sector’s share of Canadian GDP has dropped to its lowest level in decades, though oil-sands expansion, new energy projects in the East and new mining development may reverse this trend in the near future.

Science, Environment & Wildlife

There were two dramatic stories this week concerning the melting/thawing Arctic, both of which highlighted both the changes going on in the region and the importance of critical reading. The first was the story of a meltwater lake (pitched early on as “open water”) that had developed around a webcam located on an ice floe near the North Pole. Here are the details, insofar as it is within my power to assess them. The webcam is part of a “buoy farm” set up by the Barneo camp this year. If you look at this map from the U of Washington’s North Pole Environmental Observatory, you will see that the webcam is not actually at the North Pole currently, but instead at about 85° North on its way toward the Fram Strait. Of course, that is still really far North, and the deployment did begin at the North Pole. The water that surrounds the webcam is a meltwater lake, not open water. And finally, this is not the first time that this has happened – you can see analogous meltwater lakes developing in the video from 2012 (NOAA), from 2011 (when the webcam itself tipped and fell over as the snow and ice around it melted), from 2010, and possibly farther back as well – I did not check any further back myself. And while the water-covered area around Webcam #2 (most current images available here) is certainly larger than what you see in the previous three years’ videos, it’s risky to use single data points as important supporting arguments for large-scale trends.

While this meltwater lake captures headlines, other scientists are focused on an Arctic cyclone (not an unusual weather feature, but an important one) that is likely also contributing to the degradation of sea ice (HuffPo).

The second exploding piece of Arctic climate news came from a group of scientists writing in Nature (next few quotations below are from the article itself, which is here). Running a series of climate scenarios 10,000 times through a model called PAGE09, which “calculates the impacts of climate change and the costs of mitigation and adaptation measures”, the scientists concluded that “the release of methane from thawing permafrost beneath the East Siberian Sea, off northern Russia, alone comes with an average global price tag of USD 60 trillion in the absence of mitigating action”. In running the model they considered multiple scenarios, but focused primarily on “a decade-long pulse of 50 [gigatons] of methane, released into the atmosphere between 2015 and 2025”. In their supplementary information, it appears that the USD 60 trillion figure is the net present value of the additional cost to the world, writ large, of the posited methane release up until the year 2200 – that is to say, those costs are spread over a 150-175 year time window.

The study and its $60 trillion figure were announced and usefully debated in the Guardian, New York Times, Carbon Brief and Climate, Etc., the blog of Judith Curry, Chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Both of the above stories showcase the role that dramatic analyses and anecdotes play in setting the boundaries of debate on climate change in the Arctic. Highlighting this as well is a made-for-the-web taleof scientist Jason Box’s efforts to bring home the urgency of glacier melt on Greenland (Rolling Stone). He’s “willing to say crazy stuff and push the boundaries of conventional wisdom”, according to one of his peers, and he himself seems clear on his mission to push policy rather than just add to a body of knowledge about the factors that influence glacier melt.

The acceleration of Greenland’s glaciers as they flow into the surrounding ocean – the subject of Jason Box’s study – is also the subject of new NASA-funded research. That research demonstrates, perhaps unsurprisingly, that when meltwater from the surface of the ice sheet flows down through the sheet to the base, it both lubricates the base and warms the ice sheet itself. Both of these contribute to faster flow. Researchers from the University of Michigan posit that this factor is not adequately accounted for in our current calculations of potential sea-level rise over the years ahead, which might mean that we’re looking at a much more rapid rise than we have expected (EurekAlert).


It’s so uncomfortably hot here in northern Germany that we will start this week in the ocean in an effort to keep cool. In Southeast Alaska’s Glacier Bay, officials have instituted new rules for cruise and tour ships in order to avoid collisions with any of the Bay’s humpback whales (AD). The whales are currently feeding there in huge numbers. Farther north- and eastward, a few lucky spectators in Norton Sound got to watch as a pack of killer whales chased and harassed a mother gray whale and her calf into shallow waters. Reports indicate that the pair eventually escaped (AD). And in Chukotka, indigenous whale-hunting residents will soon have access to freezers in which to store surplus whale meat. Should we pause to think about what it means that people on the Arctic Coast now require freezers? I leave it up to you.

Sticking with marine mammals, endangered Western Aleutian Steller sea lions have been granted continued protection in the form of restrictions on fishing of their prey populations by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals (EOTA). This follows a lawsuit suggesting that restrictions on fishing in the area had been improperly designed and implemented in 2010. Harp seal pups in the North Atlantic may be less fortunate than the sea lions; in years of low ice cover, the stranding rate for first-year pups appears to rise significantly, and whole “classes” may disappear in extreme situations (

On land now, Baffin Island caribou herds are the subject of intense study in Nunavut as their populations plummet. The South Baffin herd is down to just a couple thousand animals from its recorded high of tens of thousands several years ago, and a meeting this past week focused on whether a new management strategy is necessary (CBC). During the meeting, some expressed the view that the low numbers are simply a natural cycle, and the meeting’s conclusions seemed to lean towards the idea of self-governed community-based management of the caribou through hunters & trappers organizations (NN). A draft management plan is expected in the autumn (CBC). Far away at the very northern tip of Yukon, remote cameras in Ivvavik National Park captured images of local caribou, as well as carnivores living in the park, in a series of photographs that captured the imagination of many online (CBC, with video).

Moving now to polar bears, researchers have discovered that certain pollutant compounds are capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier in polar bears. This is unfortunate for the bears, but could also mean that this possibility should be explored in humans, too (KNR, in Danish). Polar bears in Russia’s Franz-Josef Land archipelago are meanwhile the subject of observation, as scientists try to collect the baseline data that will enable them to put together a sensible management plan for the population (AIR, in Russian). One lucky polar bear in Osaka, Japan received a special treat on 23 July, traditionally considered the hottest day of summer – a massive popsicle filled with 20 kg of apples glazed with honey (AIR, in Russian). And in Sweden, authorities have decided that hunters may take up to 300 bears throughout the country this year (EOTA).

Now to birds. There’s concern in Norway’s Lofoten about the long-term decline and low breeding success of local puffins (NRK, in Norwegian). The adorable birds appear to be suffering for numerous different reasons too interrelated to disentangle. Remaining in Norwegian territory, observers on Svalbard have identified a few eider-king eider hybrid ducks in the recent past; these birds are known to exist, but aren’t often observed (Norwegian Polar Institute, in Norwegian).

Last to a couple of miscellaneous articles. Finland has decided that it has too many lynx, and is allowing hunters to take some this year (EOTA). / Researchers at the University Centre in Svalbard are trying to discern the best way to mitigate the risk of invasive species hitchhiking via marine traffic into the waters around the archipelago (Fram Centre).


Oh, to be young again, and to go on the Students on Ice trip. God, it looks like fun. Enjoy a quick update video from one of the participants, see a series of nice photos and a couple quick written posts, or read a ruminative and well-written brief essay from the estimable John Crump of GRIDA.

While the Students on Ice are enjoying their research adventure, the Canadian Coast Guard’s research vessel Amundsensteamed away from Quebec City on the first leg of an 82-day journey to the Beaufort Sea and back (NN). It is the ship’s 10th anniversary as a research vessel. Université Laval offers a brief overview(in French) of the ship’s illustrious history in that capacity, and ArcticNet offers just a few of the many “firsts” and “bests” that the Amundsen has acquired in its working life as a research vessel (in English).

Staying briefly in Canada, astronaut Jeremy Hansen has been learning geology techniques on Devon Island that may be applicable on other planets as well (video from Canadian Space Agency), while an excited Anthony Pugliese shared his first experience at the PEARL Ridge Lab in Nunavut.  

The US Coast Guard is also at work conducting its Arctic Domain Awareness flights. The most recent round involved the collection of air and ocean data using sensors dropped from a search-and-rescue aircraft (AD, with photos).

You can also work alongside researchers on Svalbard via the Sustainable Arctic Development blog, join another team in northern Sweden as they get that sinking feeling that some key equipment is missing (Arctic Research blog), join the Pristine Seas Expedition on its way to Russia’s Franz-Josef Land (NatGeo), act as the mother goose for a troupe of young barnacle geese (Arctic Oracles blog), or imagine yourself as a member of a team cleaning up White Island in the Russian Arctic (AIR, in Russian).


Firefighters in Inari, Finland are growing weary of their ongoing battle with local blazes (LK, in Finnish). / Firefighters from Tyumen have been flown into the Yamal to help local firefighters battle remote flare-ups (AIR, in Russian). / One might think that warmer-than-normal temperatures helped out farmers in northern Norway, but instead the heat and dryness has led to many local crop failures (, in Norwegian). / NOAA’s atmospheric observatory in Barrow, Alaska marked the 40thanniversary of the day on which it began sampling and tracking carbon dioxide pollution in 1973 (NOAA). / A new report advocating the preservation of large swathes of Yukon’s boreal forest has been welcomed by the territory’s conservationists, but the territorial government has elected “not to respond to the report” (CBC). / Aircraft with skis will soon assist Russian polar scientists (AIR, in Russian). / The gradual retreat of glaciers has given some scientists interested in microbial communities in soils a unique chance to observe time-series samples of how those communities develop ( / Check out this week’s haul of new articles contributed to the ASTIS database. / A nasty heat wave has settled over Russia’s Arctic coast, leading to record-breaking temperatures in many cities (AIR, in Russian). / New research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences indicates that boreal forests are burning at a rate significantly greater than any seen in the past 10,000 years (Climate Central). / The Russian government decided to pony up the money to cover the emergency evacuation of the NP-40 research station (AIR, in Russian). / A new environmental research station, called “Kodak”, has been opened in Yakutia (AIR, in Russian). / The working group “Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment” recently held a series of workshops in Iceland to assess where current research stands and where it’s going in light of a new 2013-2015 work plan (Arctic Council). / Scientists in Alaska are trying to figure out better ways to predict and understand the sudden releases of water from Alaska’s Mendenhall Glacier (NYT).

Military / Search-&-Rescue

The U.S. and Canadian coast guards conducted their first Arctic offshore oil spill drill at Port Clarence on July 17 and 18 (AJC). The U.S. Coast Guard cutter SPAR, in the Arctic as part of Arctic Shield 2013, and the Canadian Coast Guard’s icebreaker Sir Wilfrid Laurier tested oil skimming systems as part of the exercise (Coast Guard Alaska). For a summary of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Arctic Shield 2013 activities, see this recent article from For more on their Arctic Awareness missions, conducted with scientists from the University of Washington’s Polar Science Center and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, see Eye on the Arctic.

The U.S Navy and Coast Guard’s preparations for an ice-free Arctic, as well as the United States’ Arctic ambitions, were discussed in articles from Discovery News and the Center for Global Research, respectively. Ships from Russia’s Northern Fleet, including the heavy nuclear cruiser Peter the Great(AIR, in Russian) are also heading to the Arctic, in a deployment timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Georgy Yakovlevich Sedov’s expedition to the North Pole (VOR). Are you curious about which icebreakers have made the trip to the top of the world? The U.S. Coast Guard’s Office of Waterways and Ocean Policy released a document this month on the Major Icebreakers of the World, which includes existing and planned vessels and capabilities as well as whether the vessels have traversed the North Pole.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO’s secretary general, praised Iceland’s commitment to NATO during Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson’s visit to NATO headquarters on Tuesday (IceNews), and it appears Sweden’s bid for a joint Nordic Battalion Force comprised of Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark will be seriously discussed this fall ( The Nordic Defense Cooperation (known as NORDEFCO), which facilitates cooperation among the Nordic militaries, is currently examining the basis for the new force, which would operate separately from the Swedish-led Nordic Battle Group.

Proposing a national rather than international union of forces, Honorary Colonel Fred P. Mannix suggested a merger between the Royal Canadian Navy and the Canadian Coast Guard. Dian Francis, editor-at-large of the National Post, discussing Mannix’s proposal in the Huffington Post, said that the “real solution” to Canada’s “woefully inadequate” naval capabilities is “to create a navy equivalent to the task of guarding Canada,” instead of merging the two groups. The Royal Navy’s Operation Nanook 2013 begins early next month (VOCM).

Regulators from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration have certified two types of unmanned aircraft – Insitu's Scan Eagle X200 and AeroVironment's PUMA – for civilian use. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported that the aircraft will be used to survey migrating whales and ice flows and support oil spill monitoring as early as next month.

In Iqaluit, from which the Coast Guard monitors shipping throughout all of Canada’s extensive Arctic waters (NN), the city council voted to modernize the Department of Emergency Services’ response systems with a series of six upgrades that will help better tackle health and fire emergencies (NN).



The Chukotka Autonomous Okrug has signed an agreement with Polymetal to exploit coal deposits in Russia’s far Northeast to offset the use of fuels brought in from Yakutia for local power generation. Polymetal also agreed to train the region’s indigenous people for employment in the mining industry (AIR – Russian). Polymetal recently constructed a new gold ore processing plant in Chukotka, and Canadian Company Kinross Gold is conducting exploratory work in the Chukotka region this summer, but the latter says it will need 3-7 years to study the area’s deposits before making a decision on investing in a mine there (AIR – Russian). Although gold production in the region peaked in 1974, Chukotka Governor Roman Kopin is confident that this new investment and construction will allow the region to increase gold production to 22 tons next year (AIR – Russian).

Anna Kireeva provides evidence in an article for Bellona that Murmansk authorities may not have been completely honest when they said several times over the last few months that the Kola Mining and Metallurgical Company’s facilities in Nikel and Zapolyarny were operating within pollution limits. Kireeva presents documents from the Murmansk Prosecutor’s Office that show the authorities had found the plants in violation of pollution limits and had actually levied fines against the company.


The Pebble Limited Partnership is plugging away at producing their final plan for the project and applying for permits at the municipal, state and federal levels by the end of the year. Planning for the complex and controversial project has lagged, causing mine supporter and U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski to express her concern to the company over the delays (AJC).


There are several items of interest in the July edition of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut Chamber of Mines’ Northern Mining News. The new wind farm built to help power the Diavik diamond mine in the NWT will be used as a case study at the Renewable Energy and Mining Summit in Toronto, Canada, this September. Information on the summit and a copy of the Diavik mine case study can be found here. The Government of the Northwest Territories has produced a new report that maps important wildlife habitat areas throughout the territories that will help mining companies understand wildlife risks at potential mine sites. A full copy of the report can be found here. The Gahcho Kué Panel of the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board has recommended that the Gahcho Kué diamond mine be allowed to proceed if certain measures are put in place to reduce impacts on caribou and other wildlife (CMJ). A full copy of the Panel’s report can be found here. The new mine will begin to replace production declines at legacy diamond mines in the NWT (EOTA).

The Nico gold-cobalt-bismuth-copper mine in the NWT received approval from aboriginal and federal authorities this week (CMJ).

Plans by the Harper government to join devolution together in an omnibus bill with controversial changes to the structure of the NWT’s environmental review boards has drawn objection from Western Arctic MP Dennis Bevington (Northern Journal).

Agnico-Eagle will cut spending by almost two-thirds at its Rankin Inlet site in Nunavut, putting a halt to exploration work there (CBC).

This short article in Up Here Business summarizes a series of regulatory changes that were passed as part of the Northern Jobs and Growth Act.

Fishing, Shipping & Other Business News


In Alaska, the pollock fleet is being cautious with bycatch of chum salmon; fishermen and management officials are doing rolling closures of “hot spots”, leaving areas where chum salmon seem to be temporarily concentrated (BBT). A salmon-cam in the Tongass National Forest meanwhile captures the drama of Sockeye-salmon life along one of the many rivers in which they spawn (Voice of America). And in southern Alaska, the Kenai River King salmon fishery has been closed, due once again to bad numbers (Seward City News). Next door in Canada, officers from Fisheries & Oceans are working to convince the fishermen who frequent Nunavut’s Sylvia Grinnell River not to waste any of the Arctic char that they accidentally haul in (CBC), while Quebec’s Makivik Corporation has signed a deal to start/expand a shrimp fishery in Ungava Bay (KNR, in Danish).

Elsewhere around the circle, Norway is considering whether catch-and-release deep water fishing as a tourist activity is harming stocks (NRK, in Norwegian); the question is: Do the fish survive the process of being hauled up from the depths or not? In Iceland, the country’s monitoring systems for health and quality of fish have been approved, though not without caveats, by the European Free Trade Association (IceNews). In Denmark, fishermen are pleading for the government to get involved in controlling what they see as a booming population of seals; the creatures are doing damage to their catch and to their equipment (KNR, in Danish). And in Greenland, salmon fishermen are looking forward to the start of the three-month season on 1 August (KNR, in Danish).


This week’s shipping news was comprised largely of general commentary along the following lines. Wow, Arctic shipping is increasing rapidly, percentage-wise. Goodness, we do not yet have anything like the infrastructure that is needed to accommodate and manage this traffic safely! Somebody should fix that.

The Financial Times and the Atlantic both pointed to various figures that indicate an ongoing jump in traffic along the Northern Sea Route, with more of the same to come in the years ahead. The FT shares an intelligent quote from Jong-Deog Kim of the Korean Maritime Institute, who points out that usage of the Northern Sea Route will depend in large measure on the appeal of the other, currently available, maritime shipping corridors. Author Richard Milne also points to a project we mentioned a week or two ago – German company Bremenports is considering the development of a shipping harbor at Finna Fjord in Iceland. Business Spectator republished an article by Andrew Freedman which highlights the myriad ways in which the US is ill-prepared for an Arctic “boom”, both politically and practically, while Mia Bennett writing in Eye on the Arctic asks what the real likelihood is of a shipping boom in Alaska, no matter what money may be spent on infrastructure in the state.

In Russia, the port of Arkhangelsk is looking at a good year, with a 12.6% increase in overall throughput in the first half of 2013 relative to 2012 (AIR, in Russian) , and Gazprom has taken delivery of a new LNG tanker, the Yenisei River, for use along the Northern Sea Route (Platts). Canada’s Nunavut Eastern Arctic Shipping has also welcomed a new family member – the MV Mitiq, which will contribute to sealift services for Canada’s Arctic communities (press release).

Reindeer & Cloudberries

Cloudberry season is in full swing in northern Finland (YLE, and LK, in Finnish), and the season looks like it will be a good one overall, but the Thai berry pickers who fly in to work the season are not welcomed by all to the communities in which they work (YLE).

The fifth world congress of reindeer herders took place in Genhe, China, bringing together reindeer herders from a surprising number of nations all around the North (AIR, in Russian). Meanwhile a company in the Yamal has taken on the burden of delivering 125 additional tons of reindeer venison to customers in Finland and Germany each year (AIR, in Russian). The agreement may be expanded to include the delivery of reindeer offal to customers in Finland as well (AIR, in Russian).


Cold weather-adapted bees are beginning to provide the first samples of Arctic honey in Russia (AIR, in Russian). / The Norwegian government reviews the different ways in which the North is booming, and is likely to keep booming in the future. / A meeting of businesspeople from Norway and Russia was held to examine how cross-border business can be better for both sides ( / One major Inuit corporation is moving staff and offices as it restructures (NN). / Tourism is an increasingly important part of the economy of Nunatsiavut (EOTA). / Formerly state-owned department store GUM(now an upscale shopping mall) in Moscow celebrated its 120thanniversary ( / Paper manufacturer Stora-Enso is preparing to sink a bundle of money into developing facilities for a new business line processing and selling lignin (EOTA). / Finland fell to sixth place in this year’s national innovation rankings from the World Intellectual Property Organization (YLE).

Health, Education, Culture & Society

Canadian premiers met with aboriginal leaders at the Council of the Federation’s annual summer gathering in Niagara-on-the-Lake (CBC). Significant agenda items included pushing for better living conditions and housing and a national public inquiry into the 600 aboriginal women in Canada who went missing or were murdered in Canada between 2005 and 2010. Shawn Atleo, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, called the consensus among the premiers in favor of a public inquiry an “important expression of support” (CBC).

The housing situation in Nunavut has prompted the creation of Facebook group called “A Place to Call Home” (NN), while in Greenland, denying student housing to the families of students in Nuuk has been proposed, if I understand it correctly, as a way to tackle the problem of student absence (KNR, in Danish). Hanne Søgaard, studio director at Ilisimatusarfik, considers the solution to be problematic in the long term.

In Ontario, Justice Stephen Goudge ruled Thursday that the federal government must turn over all documents related to Indian residential schools to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CBC). Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan maintained that the government “will meet the spirit and intent of the judge’s decision.”

After sixteen people developed facial swelling and rashes after eating clams harvested in Pangnirtung (CBC), health officials in Nunavut have advised people not to eat clams from the area (CBC). Nunavut’s summer research season is providing many young students with unique learning opportunities, including participating in the Qaujigiartitt Health Research Centre's Atii Game Show project, which hosted a 5-member student team (Nunavut Arctic College).

The successes of Northern newspapers and their websites, including Nunavut’s excellent Nunatsiaq News, is the subject of an Up Here Business article by Herb Mathisen. James Henry Bell, editor at Nunatsiaq News, posted this twitpic this week illustrating the high homicide rate in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.

In Russia, residents in the village of Enmelen asked Chukotka’s governor Roman Kopin and the State Duma to increase the fine for selling alcohol in Chukotka (AIR, in Russian). The 78 residents who signed the letter (in a village of less than 400) equated the spread of illegal alcohol products in Chukotka to “the deliberate destruction of the gene pool of indigenous peoples of the Far North.”



Canada’s Centre for International Governance Innovation released a report with a laundry-list of eminently sensible investments that the Canadian government ought to make in maritime infrastructure in the North (report here, summary here). I could not say whether such investments are likely under current budgetary conditions. Russia is pushing forward with its own suite of maritime investments; the dredging of the approach channel to the port of Sabetta will be undertaken by a phalanx of ships in the near future (AIR, in Russian). Elsewhere in Russia, a planned bridge over the Lena River will bring hope (and fruit) to the city of Yakutsk, connecting it to the country’s larger road system (MT).

Next to Iceland, where Google Street View is getting ready to take on Iceland’s roads (IceNews), and where a Sukhoi Superjet 100 on a test flight belly-flopped on a runway at Keflavik airport and slid to a halt (RIAN). None of the five people aboard were injured in the landing. Staying briefly with aviation news, lack of funds has meant a threatened reduction in aviation meteorological services at several key airports in the Russian North (AIR, in Russian), and the Students on Ice Arctic Fact of the Dayon 18 July was: The former US military airbasenear the Greenlandic community of Kangerlussuaq has a runway long enough to function as an alternate landing runway for the space shuttle.


The Arctic Fibre project had a week of buzz, as it announced that it would be going to communities along Canada’s Arctic Coast, enlisting local experience and knowledge to “ascertain the most appropriate location to land the backbone cable” in each community (press release). CEO Doug Cunningham also said that the company is exploring the possibility of extending the cable to Shanghai (G&M), and a profile of the man himself is available from Up Here magazine.


The Yamal-Nenets region is seeking a contractor to undertake an ambitious plan to expand and improve power infrastructure in the region (AIR, in Russian). One village in Yakutia will meanwhile receive a “modular automated diesel power plant” (AIR, in Russian). / The city of Iqaluit is considering how to deal with its garbage in the long term. Landfills are OK at the moment, but seem to have their minuses as well as pluses. The city is ruminating over the possibility of using an incinerator instead (CBC). / The town of Galena, Alaska, ruined by massive floods, is in need of help to rebuild to some extent before winter sets in (FDNM).


Two German adventurers got a little more than they bargained for on Lake Laberge in Yukon when rough weather forced them ashore, ruined most of their supplies and caused them to abandon their hope to sail their replica York boat from Whitehorse to the Bering Sea (YN).

In off-season dog sledding news, the Yukon Quest has increased the purse for next year’s race to USD 115,000, up from USD 100,000 this year (FDNM).

The Qinngorput neighborhood of Nuuk, Greenland, has a new skate park in a fairly spectacular setting (KNR – Danish). The Greenland Women’s Football Championship will kick off this Monday in Qeqertarsuaq (KNR – Danish). Team Greenland had an impressive showing at last week’s World Eskimo-Indian Olympics in Fairbanks, Alaska, taking home a number of medals. Mikkel Andersen, aka “Superman from Greenland” took home gold in the “Drop the Bomb” competition (KNR – Danish).

The number of swimmers hoping to take part in the first official “cape-to-cape” relay swim across the Bering Sea has swelled to 90 (AIR–Russian). Russian President Vladimir Putin is reportedly a supporter of the event (FDNM). Will he take advantage of the event to show up and doff his shirt?  You can follow developments at the event’s website. And a reminder to all contestants: get your visas in order or risk arrest when you land on the Alaskan side of the Strait (AIR – Russian).

For all you aspiring songwriters, the deadline for submitting an original composition to the Arctic Winter Games Theme Song Contest is 30 July. The games will be held in March, 2014, in Fairbanks (FDNM).

Plans for Iqaluit’s new CAD 40 million aquatic center are about 30 percent completed, with most of the major elements decided on, including a fitness center, café, pool, spa and water slide (NN).

Craig Medred offers some insight on the tangled political web surrounding caribou hunting on federal lands in Southwest Alaska (EOTA).

Results are in from this year’s Rubber Duckie Race on the Chena River in downtown Fairbanks. 7174 managed to just edge out 7955, while 3111 took the bronze in what must have been a tight race (FDNM).

 The Inuit world’s best-known athlete, National Hockey League player Jordin Tootoo, made a tour of the Baffin region this week to meet adoring fans and encourage kids to pursue their dreams (NN).

Canoe racers from across the Chukotka region gathered for the traditional Chukchi-Eskimo canoe race at the 21stannual Seal Hunter’s Festival in the village of Lawrence (AIR – Russian).

Yukon MP Ryan Leef is in the middle of a 1200 km run across the territory to raise awareness of health issues in Yukon (CBC).

Arctic Images

Let’s begin this week with photos from sources other than the usual.

Enjoy a couple attractive pictures of sunset over the Lena River (Bolot Bochkarev), follow with some great photos from the Students on Ice expedition, and then move to a gallery from Dave Brosha that will make you want to pack your backpack and tent and book a flight northward immediately. Follow with an awesome satellite photo of Franz Josef Landunder a clear sky from NASA, a series of great polar bear picsfrom Lauren Farmer, and a time-lapse videoof Ms. Farmer’s boat making its way through sea ice near Svalbard.

On Flickr, check out several images of an Arctic hare (1, 2, 3, 4) from the estimable Clare Kines, who also illustrates this week’s PDF edition of TATW. Clare also shared a great portrait of a Lapland Longspur. Follow with images of: Nunavut’s famed Mount Thor (Dave Brosha); a front porch that makes me covetous (Bruce McKay); boats on the shore at Pangnirtung (Dave Brosha once more); and a beautiful sunset over the Great Slave Lake from Steve Schwarz.

On Twitter and Instagram, check out images of: A First Air planegetting ready to head to Pangnirtung (@stephenborys); a beautiful landscapefrom Tromsø (@hawkeye75); the Iqaluit airport(@stephenborys); the Lofoten and Trollfjord from Norway’s Hurtigruten (@TXParentingPG); rows of houses on Spitsbergen (@classetouriste); the Naval Arctic Research Lab facilities in Barrow, Alaska (@Brimshack); the ice-sprinkled Beaufort Sea from the air (@YK_Centre); a beautiful Svalbard landscape(@BolmanBas); a lone ship in the sunseton the Denmark Strait (@MarkVogler); puffins on Iceland’s Grimsey Island (@kjelljostein); the moon over an Arctic landscape (@skatemaxwell); a beautiful hiking shot in Gates of the Arctic National Park (@NatlParksPhoto); a farmer and his cowsin the Norwegian Arctic (@arctic_cris); caribou on the North Slope (@alaskamaxxx); and a view from the airover Greenland (@JensArneSubke).

The Grab Bag

I loved an article from Above & Beyond magazine on the abandoned outpost of Dundas Harbour. / A ship in the Gulf of Alaska struck an iceberg and is leaking something, though nobody seems certain how much or what. The ship is on shore (EOTA). / This week’s Taissumani from Nunatsiaq News is a captivating tale of the Baychimo, an Arctic ghost ship abandoned in 1931 in floating pack ice and last sighted still drifting around the Arctic in 1969. Amazing. / A hiker in Labrador’s Torngat Mountains National Park was attacked and injured by a polar bear this week (Portland Press-Herald). / There appears to be some debate – not widely followed, it must be said – as to whether the city of Tromsø is in fact an Arctic city or not (Dagbladet, in Norwegian). / A couple of interesting archaeological finds have been pulled from the earth near Salekhard (AIR, in Russian). / A lengthy reflection on working as a mailman in Yukon is a wonderful read (The Billfold). / Several abandoned and derelict building in Inuvik burned to the ground this week; nobody seems to be especially distraught (CBC). / Two British citizens and a Russian were killed in a freak helicopter accident in remote northern Russia (Daily Mail). / The Greenlandic city of Uummannaq celebrated its 250th anniversary this week. Congratulations! (KNR, in Danish). / Registration is now open for the Arctic Circle conference in Reykjavik, 12-14 October 2013.

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)
Arctic Info (Russian) (AIR)
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)
Indian Country Today Media Network (ICTMN)
Johnson’s Russia List (JRL)
Kalaallit Nunaata Radioa (KNR)
Lapin Kansa (LK)
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)