The Arctic This Week: 29 June 2013 – 5 July 2013

The Arctic This Week 2013:25

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Due to some travel, we’re offering a shorter version of TATW this week, featuring only our selection of the week’s best and/or most important reads. 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.

If you haven’t yet, let us suggest that you try out our regular TAI news map, a subjective selection of the week’s most newsworthy headlines.

The Political Scene

Alaska Dispatch republished a two-part series from the Arctic Sounder on the Alaska Arctic Policy Commission’s June meeting in Barrow. The first article addresses the desire of Alaskans to have a say when it comes to new development in the region, and the second article addresses the fast pace of change in the region as development and the impact of climate change are becoming increasingly evident.

A new federal law in Russia is expected to redefine what constitutes “Arctic” territory. Territories that qualify as part of the Arctic region under the new classification will be subject to new regulations and be included the government’s “Arctic Development Program” (BO). Spatial definitions are similarly undetermined in Nunavut, where the federal government has imposed a three-year ban on development on certain parcels of crown land while Inuit and Dene continue to negotiate their land claims in the Kivalliq region (CBC).

In Russia, the definition of a “foreign agent” has been an issue since a new law was introduced in 2012 requiring “political” NGOs receiving foreign funding to register as foreign agents. This week, a Russian prosecutor found the Murmansk Sami association subject to the foreign agent law because it received funds originating in Norway, Sweden and Finland (


For must-reads on Arctic energy this week, start with this excellent article from the Valdai Club on Russia’s oil and gas activities in the Arctic. This concise article surveys the variety of oil and gas projects under development in Russia’s Arctic and places them in the wider political and economic context of Russia’s hydrocarbon-driven political order. A major brake on energy development in Russia’s Arctic has been uncertainty regarding tax incentives for high-cost projects in the region, but some of this uncertainty was removed this week as the Duma voted to pass a bundle of tax breaks for oil and gas extraction in offshore areas. The law’s details are summarized in this article at Arctic-Info (in Russian). These tax incentives will apply to Gazprom’s Prirazlomnoye project in the Pechora Sea which the company announced would begin production in the 4th quarter of this year (ITAR-TASS - Russian).

A series of articles in Sermitsiaq AG (all in Danish) highlights a fascinating debate that is playing out on oil-spill preparedness and liability in Greenland that could have broad repercussions for energy development there in the future. Oil spill experts and environmentalists say that Denmark is woefully underprepared to respond to an oil spill in offshore Greenland (Sermitsiaq). Maersk Oil, which has exploration licenses off Greenland’s coast, has suggested that Greenland’s safety requirements for offshore drilling are too onerous and is lobbying to have them relaxed (Sermitsiaq). While Greenland’s government has in the past defended the requirements, the Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources has recently hinted that they were open for negotiation (Sermitsiaq). Meanwhile, there is confusion and debate regarding whether the autonomous government of Greenland or Denmark would bear ultimate responsibility for any offshore oil spill on Greenland’s shelf (Sermitsiaq).

Science, Environment & Wildlife

In writing on science, climate and wildlife, four articles in particular stood out this week. The first covers orphaned polar bear cub Kali, now at the Buffalo (NY) Zoo. He’s wild-born, brought in after his mother was killed. His playmate at the Buffalo Zoo, Luna, is a zoo-born two month-old female. This situation presents one of the first-ever opportunities to observe differences in behavior and development between wild-born and zoo-born bears (AD).

Next we’d recommend two science blogs to your attention. We’ve gotten the most pleasure this week out of the Shorebird Science blog, both from the Coats Island team and the Canning River team. It’s great to be taken along on a day-to-day basis with their research into Arctic birds during breeding season. The second blog worth a look is from the IMARES Wageningen UR team at Ny-Ålesund. In particular, we enjoyed their post “Exploring the Arctic’s change at Blomstrand glacier”. Relatedly, check out a quick note from National Geographic on an art installation in New York by Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson. He’s brought chunks of Icelandic glaciers to MoMA PS1 in Queens.

Military / Search-&-Rescue

A helicopter crash in Siberia on Tuesday killed 24 of the 28 passengers onboard the MI-8 (AIR, in Russian). Three crew members and a young passenger survived the crash (Radio Free Europe).


Increased scrutiny of the very modest tax revenues that Alaskans would receive from the proposed Pebble Mine near Bristol Bay (for background, see this article in the Alaska Dispatch) has shifted the debate for Clem Tillion - an Alaska fisherman and a former state legislator - from fish to finances. Tillion bemoans Alaska’s short-sightedness regarding its mineral and oil wealth in this editorial for Alaska Dispatch.

Fishing, Shipping & Other Business News

Several articles on Arctic shipping are worth a read this week. Begin with a truly outstanding piece, noteworthy for its detail, logic and style, from the U.S. Naval Institute. Author Stephen M. Carmel does his level best to bring nuance, reason and a little bit of skepticism to the chatter about an Arctic shipping “boom”. Follow that with a somewhat contrasting piece from Gcaptain (republished from ClassNK), in which Norwegian shipping company Tschudi’s enthusiasm for, and optimism about, the Northern Sea Route comes to the fore.

Move on to two pieces about new vessels soon to enter Arctic service. Novatek’s Yamal LNG project expects to require up to 16 tankers; South Korean firm Daewoo has landed the tender to build those vessels (Maritime Executive). Far away at the Sakhalin-1 project, two innovative new ships built at the Arctech Helsinki Shipyard are preparing to enter service. A full and starry-eyed profile of the hardware that graces the Vitus Bering and the Aleksei Chirikov comes from

Finish with two non-shipping articles, both focused on Greenland. In the first (from Sermitsiaq AG, in Danish), we learn that Denmark is threatening to leave the International Whaling Commission due to disagreement over a proposed increase in the annual catch quota for Greenland. In the second (from the Greenlandic Broadcasting Corporation, also in Danish), we hear that a contingent of corporate visitors from China has spent the week in Nuuk, learning about the business environment in Greenland generally.

Health, Education, Culture & Society

An Al Jazeera article highlighted the cleverly named “PharmaSea” project’s work in Norway, where samples of organisms such as deep-sea sponges and bacteria are being studied at the University of Tromsø in the hopes of combatting antibiotic-resistant bacteria. On a more human level, a new partnership between the University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Hospital has set up a residency program where doctors spend one year out of their three-year training in Alaska (EOTA). The program is designed to recruit more pediatricians to the state.


In infrastructure, you should most certainly begin with a short but absolutely fascinating study on urban policy in Russia’s northern cities from Zurich’s Center for Security Studies (and partners). This is the sort of information that one doesn’t often get in English, so enjoy the rare treat.

Move then to two articles from Nunatsiaq News (basics on 4 July, deeper analysis on 5 July) covering the announcement that the Government of Nunavut is preparing to take on its biggest construction project ever: a public-private deal to build a new airport for the city of Iqaluit. The details of the deal are interesting in and of themselves, and Jim Bell’s analysis of the deal is a great read, too.


The Arctic’s short summer season is witnessing a flurry of extreme sports and expeditions by foot, bike, and every variety of self- and wind-propelled boat. Here’s a list of interesting events to check on this week.

The Kenai 250 backcountry bike race covers 250 miles of rugged backcountry on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula. Blogger Jill Homer describes the course as:
“so choked with Devil’s Club that large stinging leaves slap mountain bikers in the face, so overgrown with brush and grass that it’s impossible to see the trail unless crawling on hands and knees, muddy, clogged with slimy roots, rocky and lichen-coated above tree line, smeared with bear scat, littered in discarded salmon carcasses, and punched with grizzly tracks.” (Half Past Done)
Whether or not this sounds like fun to you, you can track the race’s progress at this website as racers finish up early this week.

For a description of this year’s Seward Mount Marathon in Alaska, where competitors run, walk, crawl and scramble up and down Mount Marathon, see this article in Eye on the Arctic.

French adventurer Charles Hedrich started his quest to row the entire Northwest Passage in the small Alaskan village of Wales on the shores of the Bering Strait (KNR – Danish).

60 swimmers have signed up to race across the Bering Strait from Russia to Alaska this August (AIR – Russian).

And here are two sports that I never thought I would see included in the same sentence: Iqaluit brother and sister team Eric and Sarah McNair-Landry will cross Baffin Island by kayak and kite-ski (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)
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)
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)