The Arctic This Week: 27 July 2013 – 2 August 2013

By Clare Kines, used with photographer's permission
The Arctic This Week 2013:29

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. 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.

A farewell note from Tom

Dear Readers –

The Arctic Institute published the first issue of The Arctic This Week early in 2012. Since then, we’ve gone through well over 15,000 articles from around the Circle, educating ourselves and – we hope – helping you to stay educated and up-to-date as well. It’s been a wonderful story of growth and improvement. TATW has gotten more comprehensive, added non-English news to its offerings, brought on two great new authors (with more to come – stay tuned!), begun producing a beautiful weekly interactive PDF and news map, and grown to a subscribership of more than 1,400 in more than 40 countries all over the world. Maura, Kevin and I are so grateful to you for spending valuable time with us in this way each week.

I am so proud to have been able to write and guide TATW from its first issue until today, with help from my outstanding teammates from The Arctic Institute and with tips, encouragement and important criticism and corrections from many of you. This will be my last issue as one of TATW’s authors, and TATW will henceforth be in Kevin & Maura’s capable and dedicated hands. In September, I will begin working at the Arctic Council’s new Permanent Secretariat in Tromsø, Norway. I hope you’ll stay in touch – I’m easy to reach via email or on Twitter (@friestm). And if you’ve got suggestions for TATW, shoot Kevin or Maura an email as they prepare to take the reins!

I’d like to offer particular thanks to the many outstanding photographers who have allowed us to use their beautiful images in TATW’s PDF version. In addition to TAI’s executive director Malte Humpert, this list of luminaries includes Clare Kines, Nils Arne Johnsen, Céline Clanet, Magnus Elander, Tormod Amundsen, Tristan Reid, Martha de Jong-Lantink, and many others who have contributed individual images. My own favorite photographs from many of these talented people are collected in this week’s PDF version of TATW – enjoy!

The team is going to take the next couple of weeks off while we prepare for the hand-over and the addition of new authors. Once more: thanks from all of us to each of you for being part of our community of readers.

Reads of the Week

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

A must-read is the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ report “The Benefits and Costs of Cold: Arctic Economics in the 21st Century.” The glossy, 66-page report (Don’t worry, there are pictures!) is also available in PDF format.

Then head to two captivating photo essays. The first, from the Atlantic and featuring photography by Joe Raedle, covers science and life in Greenland as the island draws ever more attention as a climate-change laboratory. The second, from, features great photography of a long trek through Baffin Island’s Auyuittuq National Park. A must-see.

Follow that with yet another excellent long read from Up Here. In the latest gem from Margo Pfeiff, you’ll read about archaeologist Patricia Sutherland and the possibility of a second Norse site in Canada, this time in Nunavut (The other is L’Anse aux Meadows on the northernmost tip of Newfoundland.). The idea that the site might be evidence of further pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact is difficult for many to swallow, as so many other such claims have gained popularity despite inadequate supporting evidence.

An enlightening article on access to justice in Nunavut (where “justice arrives by plane and is dispensed in the local school gym or community center”) was published this week on the website of National Magazine, the official periodical of the Canadian Bar Association. Titled “The wolf and the sheep” (a metaphor borrowed from Mark Mossey, director of Maliiganik Tukisiiniakvik Legal Services in Iqaluit), the article features interviews with lawyers practicing in the region.

And finally to the most quotidian but useful Read of the Week: The US State Department has put together a calendar of most/all upcoming Arctic-focused events and conferences.

The Political Scene


Nina Jensen, secretary-general of WWF-Norway, encouraged strengthening the Arctic Council as a means of curbing climate change (Fletcher Forum of World Affairs). She suggested that the Arctic Council’s next binding agreement should delineate trans-boundary zones, opening certain areas to economic activity while keeping more ecologically vulnerable areas closed. Speaking of the Arctic Council, Arvind Gupta published an article on “India’s gains from the Arctic Council” this week (The Indian Express). Gupta stressed familiar incentives for Arctic involvement (such as shipping, “energy prospecting” and the Arctic’s geopolitical significance) while also taking note of the research opportunities Arctic Council membership could help facilitate. In the United Kingdom, the Environmental Audit Committee has encouraged David Cameron (pictured here in the Arctic in 2006) to re-visit the Arctic and take note of the “huge changes” in the region since his last visit (The Independent). If he is to fulfill the promise he made in 2010 to create “the greenest government ever,” argues Labour MP Joan Walley, his government will need to stop “complacently standing by.”


Premier Aleqa Hammond issued a press release responding to the high turnover of top government officials this spring and summer, which has attracted considerable media attention in Greenland (KNR, in Danish). She maintained that the high personnel turnover was the result of a number of individual cases, stressing the government’s adherence to current guidelines, legislation, and procedures in all its inter-personal dealings (KNR, in Danish).


Arkhangelsk is supporting Murmansk’s position on the composition of Russia’s Arctic zone (AIR, in Russian). In a letter to Murmansk governor Marina Kovtun, Arkhangelsk governor Igor Orlov expressed his hope that the neighboring regions could further strengthen cooperation by working on this issue. In late July, Kovtun stressed to Prime Minister Medvedev that the main criterion for classifying certain areas as part of the “Arctic zone” (required as part of a new law in Russia) should be location above the Arctic Circle.

United States

Alaskan governor Sean Parnell’s speech “Partnership Across the Region Key to Our Success,” delivered at the Pacific Northwest Economic Region conference on July 16 is now available via the Top of the World Telegraph. So, too, is the schedule for August’s Week of the Arctic. Parnell’s colleague Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell (who recently secured a super PAC dubbed “Freedom’s Frontier” in support of his 2014 Senate bid (AD)), spoke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies this week on the future of economic development in the Arctic. A video of Treadwell’s conversation is available via the CSIS website, where you can also find the related report “The Benefits and Costs of Cold: Arctic Economics in the 21st Century.” Treadwell plans to run in 2014 against Senator Mark Begich, who helped move new legislation through the Senate Commerce Committee this week, including the Arctic Research, Monitoring and Amendments Act (Office of the Senator). At the State Senate level, Senators Huggins, Meyer, Dunleavy and Olson toured Barrow this week, discussing the priorities and challenges facing the North Slope Borough (ABM).

The relationship of the U.S. Federal Government to the State of Alaska will be a topic of discussion at two events later this month – the Citizens' Advisory Commission on Federal Areas’ two-day Federal Overreach Summit on August 12-13 (ADN) and a “Federal Listening Session” the next day on Approaching Integrated Arctic Management as part of the Week of the Arctic.


Josh Wingrove of the Globe & Mail reported on the shift in focus for the Harper government “from sovereignty to development” in the North. Economic development, housing, and infrastructure, rather than security, are now being stressed, although Paul Wells responded to Mr. Wingrove’s piece by adding that “Military exercises across the Arctic are still worth doing, because there will sometimes be trouble to which only military equipment can respond” (Maclean’s). Canada’s “multi-dimensional” policy approach towards the Arctic was also discussed at the Atlantic Council of Canada, and The Montreal Gazette reported that the government’s plans for the Arctic are suffering from “bureaucratic infighting and a lack of political leadership” (not to mention a lack of funds).

Patrick Borbey, chair of the Arctic Council’s Senior Arctic Officials, was back in Iqaluit from July 29th to August 1st after completing his first set of visits to Arctic Council member states (NN).



Author and Fairbanks resident Daniel Lum thinks that industry efforts to promote spill response in the Arctic are more PR than substance (AD).

The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority Board has approved a loan in support of a new tank farm and oil and gas transfer facility at Port Mackenzie (ABM). The AIDEA also released a feasibility study of a proposed project to ship North Slope LNG to Fairbanks. The report, which can be read in full here, says the project is economically feasible and will result in significant savings for Fairbanks consumers (ABM).

Much discussion at this year's United States Association of Energy Economics Conference focused on Senate Bill 21 and Alaska's recent oil tax cut. Opinions ranged from those of University of Alaska Professor Matt Berman, who thought the cuts went too deep and wouldn't provide enough revenue to the state, to those of ConocoPhillips's consultant Mark Miller, who thought they didn't go far enough. Alex DeMarban covers the issue well in this article for Alaska Dispatch.

The Obama administration is sticking to its guns on a state oil and gas exploration proposal for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This time it was the US Fish and Wildlife Service's turn to reject the proposal, saying that the exploration mandate for ANWR expired in 1987, an interpretation of the law that Gov. Sean Parnell and industry do not share (ADN). In what appears to be another attempt to push the debate forward regarding oil and gas exploration on federal lands in general, Senator Lisa Murkowski has introduced a bill to establish an Advanced Energy Trust Fund that will support domestic energy research in the US. The Senator says the fund will not add to the federal deficit as it will be funded exclusively from revenues derived from oil and gas leases on federal lands that are currently off-limits to oil and gas exploration (ABM). Murkowski is also sponsoring another bill that would compel the federal government to share 37.5% of offshore oil and gas revenues with the states. While Gulf of Mexico states already have a revenue-sharing agreement with the federal government, Alaska and other states that are considering offshore oil and gas projects are seeking similar agreements. For North Slope Alaska communities, offshore development would bring new burdens, particularly for infrastructure, and revenue sharing would be one way to share these new burdens with the federal government (Arctic Sounder).


Tests on a new appraisal well in the Barents Sea Norvarg gas prospect are nearing completion with preliminary results suggesting that the resource estimate for the prospect may need to be revised downwards (Your Oil and Gas News). Total E&P Norge AS's original estimate placed the prospect’s reserves at between 360 billion cubic feet and 1.7 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas (OGJ). The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate also announced that it had resumed seismic mapping of the northeast Barents Sea, a project that the directorate had begun in the summer of 2012 (Rigzone).

Both Statoil and Petoro reported lower earnings for the first half of this year compared to last. Petoro's revenues are down 20% this year, while Statoil's dropped by 17%. The two state champions blamed lower commodity prices and increased investment costs for the declines (AB).

Petroleum Minister Ola Borten Moe has come to the defense of Statoil this week after the company came under fire from several politicians for plans to move some jobs to lower-cost locations overseas (AB). Statoil’s outsourcing is nothing new; the company has been moving service and support positions such as IT abroad since 2000 (AB).

Swedish energy company Vattenfall is under fire for entering into an agreement to buy nuclear fuel from Russia. Critics are concerned about dependence on Russia, though Vattenfall’s supporters say the move will actually help diversify fuel sources and perhaps lower prices for consumers (EOTA).

In the UK, a group of MPs are raising concerns about the environmental impact of Arctic oil development and urging the government to call for a ban on oil and gas exploration in the region (Wired).


The Arctic Energy Alliance's July newsletter highlights a wood-pellet heating project in Yellowknife and passive solar ventilation heating efforts in Yellowknife and Inuvik.

Roland George of Canada's National Energy Board presented at the United States Association of Energy Economics Conference last week on the role the Board plays in regulating and monitoring Arctic energy development. The presentation is available as an annotated slide deck here. Mr. George is confident that the National Energy Board has sufficient regulatory mechanisms in place to protect the Arctic environment (UPI).

The Northwest Territories Power Corporation had a ribbon-cutting for its new hydro-power Bluefish dam. All went according to plan until a log jammed a valve open, which sent water gushing down the face of the dam, causing the attendant dignitaries to temporarily relocate (CBC). There’s debate in the NWT over the possibility of regulating the region’s high fuel costs, but NWT Minister for Municipal and Community Affairs Robert C. McLeod is against the idea (CBC).

Proposals to allow hydraulic fracturing in regions around Gros Morne National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site in Newfoundland have divided residents. Some are concerned about the impacts on tourism and the region’s natural beauty, while others are interested in the boost oil and gas development would bring to the economy (CBC).


Gazprom Neft has reported increased oil output after sinking a second well into the Novoportovskoye field on the Yamal Peninsula. Oil from the field is currently trucked out over winter roads, but Gazprom Neft plans to establish a coastal oil terminal and pipelines to ship oil year-round from the field (AIR - Russian). The nearby Bovanenko field, also developed by Gazprom, is projected to produce 115 billion cubic meters of gas per year and bring over 2,000 new jobs to local communities (AIR – Russian). Gazprom is also trying to trim some fat in the Yamal by offering up 10 drilling rigs for sale from the Bovanenko field (AIR – Russian).

Uralmash Oil & Gas Equipment Holding will be producing hardware for Novatek's new "Arctic" drilling rigs. These compact new rigs were commissioned by Novatek for onshore applications in Arctic conditions and feature a fully enclosed and heated drilling apparatus to allow year-round operations in all conditions (AIR - Russian).

In the Pechora River delta of the Nenets Autonomous Okrug, oil and gas company CH Invest is working to mothball a gas well in the Kumzhinskoe field that has become endangered by a change in the course of the river (AIR – Russian).

Transneft announced this week that it will increase the capacity of the East Siberian - Pacific Ocean Pipeline by 80% in order to carry 67 million tons of oil by 2018. No news on who will fund the project. Transneft has tried to get Rosneft to pay for some of the upgrades as much of the excess capacity will be filled by that company's growing exports to China (AIR - Russian).

Employees of Shtokman Development AG were tasked with cleaning up an illegal waste site that has been in use for 25 years near Teriberka. Teriberka, incidentally, was the designated location for on-shore facilities to support the Shtokman gas project (AIR – Russian).

Greenpeace calls attention to the poor environmental records and lack of offshore experience of both Gazprom and Rosneft as a harbinger of things to come as the two companies continue to acquire more offshore Arctic licenses.

Science, Environment & Wildlife

Climate and wildfire

Russia’s wildfires are no joking matter, as an image from NASA’s Earth Observatory shows and an excellent article from the Atlantic confirms. Wind patterns are keeping much of the smoke from many Russian blazes hovering over the country in a hazy vortex. In the Yamal, the government is at work on emergency plans to battle many of the region’s remote fires (AIR, in Russian), while in Yakutia Russia’s fire-fighting special forces have been called in to help battle particularly difficult fires (AIR, in Russian).

Across the Bering Strait in Alaska, Anchorage has had its longest-ever streak of 70-degree-plus days (ADN), while next door in Yukon two new lightning-sparked wildfires near the town of Mayo were promptly put out by firefighters (CBC). In Greenland, the news that the island had hit its new record high (78.6 degrees Fahrenheit) spread around the world (for example here, in the Washington Post), but a couple days later it looked as though perhaps that measurement had been faulty (KNR, in Danish). I still haven’t seen a conclusive decision.

Greenland in general is the subject of ever more attention from climate scientists and the general public. The Atlantic shared a breathtaking series of photos that capture moments in the lives of Greenland’s people and the scientists who sojourn there doing climate research. You yourself can keep track of the surface-mass balance of the ice sheet thanks to the Danes: Check the current surface conditions here (things looked very melt-y on Sunday). Then, if you’ve got a few minutes, watch a video highlighting the recent acceleration in melt as well (CRESIS). Greenland’s neighbor Iceland, meanwhile, is gradually recovering from an exceptionally cold winter and cold, wet spring (Pulitzer Center). It’s not so cold, though, that you can’t tie a bridegroom-to-be naked in the bed of a pickup truck and drive him around the island to prepare him (only metaphorically, one hopes) for the sufferings of married life.

Research into Greenlandic ice doesn’t just offer insight into today’s issues, either. A new study of data from an ice core helps give credence to the idea that an asteroid impact about 13,000 years ago may have contributed to a sudden change in climate in the northern hemisphere and the dying-out of many large mammal species (BBC).

The meltwater lake near the North Pole captured on webcam last week continued to capture the imagination of many. Even Stephen Colbert discussed the development of the lake, its downside for Superman, and its upside for Santa. The news that the lake had disappeared this week ( – likely by seeping down to the ocean beneath through a crack ( – was much quieter than the news that it had formed in the first place.

Another story that stretched into this week’s news was the USD 60 trillion price tag attached to Arctic methane release by an article from Nature last week; two of its authors (Peter Wadhams, Chris Hope) responded in the FT to arguments against their assessment of the probability of a “pulse”-style release of methane from beneath the East Siberian Sea. Simultaneously, new research indicates that thawing permafrost is not releasing carbon dioxide as rapidly as has been expected (, and other research into the climate of the Pliocene Epoch suggests that ice cover over the Arctic might serve an important role to dampen the warming influence of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide (

More headline-heavy research came out this week as well pointing to the effects that sea-ice decline is likely to have not just on marine ecosystems but on terrestrial ecosystems as well (original paper in Science, $$). Some of the potential consequences of disappearing sea ice cataloged in the research (here summarized in the G&M and on Carbon Brief) include impact not just on food sources but on mobility, genetic diversity, disease and mortality as well. Other research on polar ecosystems suggests that (1) as sunlight gains earlier and earlier access to the Arctic sea floor, dark-adapted species might be pushed out by algae (, and (2) that Arctic waters are at increased risk of acidification due to anthropogenic carbon dioxide because of their low chemical buffering capacity, susceptibility to warming, and comparatively low biological productivity (Nature, free).

In the US, a fascinating new study collected responses from New Hampshire residents to the question: “If the Arctic region becomes warmer in the future, do you think that will have major effects, minor effects or no effects on the weather where you live?” The results show interesting polarization in ways one might not expect, as well as a surprising level of concern that Arctic warming will indeed have some impact even on New Hampshire weather (Mother Jones, and the original study from the International Journal of Climatology, $$). At the same time, four former administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency, all under Republican presidents, offer “A Republican Case for Climate Action” in the New York Times.

Last, enjoy this infographic on the life of an iceberg from the CBC.


Let’s start our wildlife news this week with a couple of wide-ranging initiatives. The first, the Virtual Zooarchaeology of the Arctic Project, is using a 3D scanner to create a virtual database of “bones from every known Arctic bird, mammal, [and] fish” (FDNM). The second, the Arctic Freshwater Biodiversity Monitoring Plan, hopes to help provide a better framework for future monitoring initiatives around the Arctic, as well as a good resource for scientists to determine the existing state of knowledge in any particular field (video - CAFF on YouTube). And if you like, you can get introduced to several of the creatures that call Svalbard their homes via

Starting now at the bottom of the food chain, there’s continued shock & awe at the sheer number of mosquitoes plaguing Alaska’s Arctic Tundra (Business Insider). And though that’s in Alaska rather than Russia, one doesn’t doubt that similar vermin have plagued the 10,000 reindeer who have recently passed through the Bovanenko gas/oil field on their seasonal migration (AIR, in Russian). Caribou are also of critical importance to many Canadian Inuit, and the curious tension between Inuit, resource-development companies and environmental groups is cursorily covered in an article from the Pulitzer Center.

Moving now to top terrestrial predators, Sweden and the European Commission are at odds over whether a wolf hunt is the best way to control the Scandinavian country’s population, which some feel has grown too large (EOTA).

There’s news as well on the marine-mammal front this week, as Inuit hunters in Pangnirtung, Nunavut prepare to set off on their first bowhead-whale hunt in 15 years (!! – NN). Students from all over the world are coming to North Norway to study marine mammals of many kinds; the University of Nordland welcomed students from several Arctic states plus Colombia and Brazil to a 2013 spring course on marine mammals.

A new book reviewed in Audubon Magazine highlights migratory birds, many of which depend upon the Arctic as one end of their seasonal travels. Meanwhile scientists in the Russian Arctic are glad to have identified two new peregrine falcon nests in their region of study (AIR, in Russian), while the PAGE21 troupe is having less fun being constantly attacked by birds that have nested near to the team’s research sites.

Expeditions and initiatives

Let’s put our bad news first. A NASA-owned drone collecting data over the Beaufort Sea crashed into the ocean this past week (AIR, in Russian), while in Russia a professor kayaking around the Kola Peninsula alone appears to have disappeared (AIR, in Russian). Also in Russia, a mostly-German research crew aboard a yacht have decided to cancel their summer research expedition due to drawn-out problems with paperwork in Murmansk (AIR, in Russian).

First in the better-news department, take a few minutes and enjoy the latest video from the Students on Ice expedition, which has now concluded.

Now on to several ongoing expeditions. The IMARES team was excited to encounter some Arctic wildlife, while the comical practical difficulties of research on remote glaciers come through loud and clear from the Arctic Research blog. In Nunavut, astronauts are working on learning geology skills that could serve them one day on other celestial bodies (CBC), while the National Geographic-affiliated expedition on its way to Franz-Josef Land in the Russian Arctic captured a series of photographs showing how diverse even the flat expanse of the Barents Sea can be. Staying in Russia, the ship Mikhail Somov is under steam on its way to deliver supplies to several polar research stations throughout the Russian Arctic (Russia & India Report), while a separate crew of people is sailing its way through the Northern Sea Route aboard ships from long ago (AIR, in Russian).


Archaeologists in Alaska are at work on a fascinating dig near Kiana – a pre-contact Inupiat village that has already produced interesting artifacts such as glass beads, metal, human remains and extensive evidence of human-dog interaction (EOTA). / One of the teachers who took part in NASA’s Operation IceBridge will be sharing his experiences via an online event in the near future (NASA). / The BBC profiles the Alaskan town of Kivalina, whose residents are likely to be America’s first climate refugees. / Canada’s Wood Buffalo National Park has been officially designated as the world’s largest dark-sky park (Parks Canada). / The floor of the Barents Sea presents some interesting puzzles to marine geologists; how can it be so different in the eastern and western sections (, in Norwegian)? / INTERACT has access days to research facilities available; applications are being accepted through 30 Sep 2013.

Military / Search-&-Rescue


Vessels from Russia’s Northern and Black Sea fleets discovered an abandoned Norwegian sailboat in the Bermuda triangle (yes, really) this week while on a trans-Atlantic campaign (BO). Friends of the boat’s owners were traveling to Norway with the boat when its rudder broke and a passing cruise vessel rescued the sailors.

Two vessel groups from Russia’s Northern Fleet will soon sail the eastern region of the Arctic Ocean, coinciding with the busiest period for commercial shipping along the Northern Sea Route (BO). Elsewhere in the East, Russia plans to open a measuring point for telemetry information transmission and reception in Tiksi (AIR, in Russian).

The aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya “came out with flying colors” during full-throttle sea trials in the Barents Sea on the weekend of July 27th (India Today). The ship’s formal induction into the Indian Navy is scheduled for early 2014.


HMCS Summerside left Halifax on Monday, bound for the Canadian Arctic as part of a 39-day mission (Halifax Shipping News). HMCS Summerside and HMCS Shawinigan are participating in the “sovereignty exercise” Operation Nanook 2013 (NN). More on the exercise – which will also involve training some 550 soldiers in Whitehorse (YN) – is available from the Canadian website for National Defense and the Canadian Armed Forces.

In editorial news, Mark Collins posted about the odd silence cloaking recent joint Canadian and U.S. Coast Guard Arctic oil-spill exercises, and an article appeared in The Economist on Canadian defense policy. Remarking on the recent cabinet shuffle, which saw Peter MacKay and Rob Nicholson swap the defense and justice spots, the article foresees “difficult spending cuts” ahead for Nicholson and the Canadian Armed Forces.

United States

Military activity appears to be heating up in Alaska, since the U.S. Naval War College has launched an Arctic Regional Studies Group (BO) and Eielson Air Force Base is on the shortlist to house the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (FDNM). This week also saw U.S. Army Pacific’s commanding general Vincent K. Brooks and U.S. Army Alaska’s commanding general Michael H. Shields visit Fort Wainwright, Alaska for the first time since taking command (DVIDS).

Following the Stuart Creek 2 Fire, Senator Lisa Murkowski has asked the U.S. Army to review the cause of the fire and report to Congress about developing procedures for weapons testing on high-risk fire days (FDNM). The fire, which began on June 19, reportedly cost upwards of USD $20 million to fight.

“After the Galaxy,” a documentary film that tells the story of the U.S. Coast Guard’s search-and-rescue operations following the crisis on the F/V Galaxy in October 2002, aired this week (BBT). In a much less severe and more recent accident, an Alaska Marine Line barge collided with the Coast Guard Cutter Sycamore at Cordova Harbor over the weekend, damaging the Sycamore’s port bow (AD).


Police in Greenland ended the search for Nick Duus Hansen on July 27th (KNR, in Danish). The 19-year-old went missing while sailing off Narsaq Harbor.



Pebble Partnership CEO John Shively fired another salvo in the battle over the proposed Pebble mine in the Bristol Bay watershed in an editorial for Fox News, accusing environmental groups of wanting to circumvent the National Environmental Policy Act by petitioning the Obama administration to veto the project before a proposal is even submitted. Congressional Republicans have also spoken out against any pre-emptive veto, saying it would set a dangerous precedent (ADN). Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy said she may travel to Bristol Bay to see the region for herself as it appears that the issue is shaping up to be an early test for her young term as administrator (WP).


New mapping suggests that the 1,500 km ocean-floor volcanic mountain chain that stretches from Jan Mayen Island northwards may hold lucrative deposits of minerals that could supply significant revenues to Norway, should its oil riches run out (KNR, in Danish).

Shareholders of Northland Resources approved a USD 300 million rescue package for the company which should allow it to restart operations at the Pajala mine in Northern Sweden (EOTA).

A whopping 50.7 gram gold nugget was discovered by Sirkka and Kari Merenluoto in Lemmenjoen, northern Finland, though it doesn’t hold a candle to the 127 gram nugget they found last year (LK - Finnish).


Comstock Metals released drill core results showing that it has located two significant zones of gold mineralization at its QV project in Yukon’s White Gold District (CMJ). Eagle Whitehorse, the company planning to re-mine the tailings at the old Whitehorse Copper mine in Yukon, is applauding a planned ore dock expansion in Skagway, Alaska that will greatly facilitate exports from the Yukon mine (CBC). Also in Yukon, an agreement between First Nations groups and Teck Resources will see the mining company finance and install wind turbines to provide electricity for the remote villages of Destruction Bay and Burwash Landing (CBC).

The Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board approved Avalon Rare Metals’ proposal for a rare earth elements mine near Thor Lake without the need for a full environmental impact review (CMJ). Even with the approval, the project is far from certain. Avalon must raise CAD 1.6 billion to finance the project, and analysts say that rare earth prices will have to double to make the project economically viable (CBC).

Falling gold prices translated into a CAD 24.4 million loss for Agnico Eagle in the last quarter, and the company announced this week that it would significantly cut spending on exploration work at its Meliadine gold mine project in Nunavut (NN).

The Quebec government has officially confirmed its interest in taking on a minority stake in the Hopes Advance iron mine project in Nunavik. The project will supply 10 to 20 million tons of iron ore a year for up to 48 years, in addition to providing needed jobs and infrastructure improvements for the remote region (NN).


Australian company North Pacific Coal is moving ahead with plans to mine coal in the Chukotka region of far northeastern Russia. It will complete a feasibility study of the project sometime next year (AIR – Russia).


China’s interest in Greenland’s rare earth deposits may be driven by over-extraction of Chinese stores of the metals and the fact that China may not have as large a reserve of these strategic metals as previously thought (IceNews).

Fishing, Shipping & Other Business News


In shipping news this week, we start by genuflecting before Russian icebreaker 50 Years of Victory, which this week made the 100th voyage to the North Pole on record (AIR, in Russian). One is hard-pressed not to love this article, brief though it is, for the additional details it contains. For example: The icebreaker Yamal holds the individual record for trips to the Pole (46), but it is clearly overshadowed by the individual who has been there the most times – Irina Mikhailova, who has been working for years as a waitress on polar vessels and has been to the Pole 65 times. Now that is someone I want to meet. Further details from Barents Observer: of the 100 trips to the North Pole, 85 have been Russian vessels. Germany, the only non-Arctic state to make the trip, has done so three times. Canada has only gone once. Sweden, which has no Arctic coastline, has made the trip 8 times – second place behind Russia’s 85. The first surface vessel to get to the Pole was the icebreaker Arktika, in 1977. The first submarine to do so was the USS Nautilus, in 1958.

There was much buzz about the development of the Northern Sea Route for commercial shipping this week, much of it focused on the simple numbers. “Conservative estimates” suggest that the total tonnage carried on the NSR this year may grow to 1.5 million tons from 1.26 million in 2012 (BO), and the sheer number of ships applying for licenses to transit some portion of the NSR has indeed grown substantially from 2012, standing this year already at more than 213 successful applications (Society for the Study of Peace and Conflict – this article offers a succinct but thorough analysis of the factors helping and hindering the NSR’s development). You can take a look yourself at the list of ships that have applied to transit the corridor.

There’s excitement about the inaugural ship to run the NSR from Sabetta to China (AIR, in Russian) which perhaps indicates Russia’s big plans for the Sabetta port are more than just words. Meanwhile the Sakhalin Shipping Company is opening new routes from the port at Pevek to ports in the US (Everett, Washington) and China (Tianjin) (AIR, in Russian). All NSR traffic up to this point must carry its own protection against ice hazards, whether that is in the design of the ships themselves or in the form of Russian icebreaker escorts. Indeed, ships transporting cargo on the Lena River are still accompanied by two icebreakers despite the lateness of the season (AIR, in Russian). But US defense contractor Raytheon is at work on a system which provides “better eyes to see in a very austere environment”, perhaps competing with icebreakers for this kind of business (Quartz).

Other items of note in shipping this week include a really information-rich presentation on the ongoing development of a polar code by the International Maritime Organization, courtesy of Arctic Summer College. Pair that with a profile of a new icebreaker that will do its work sideways, thus clearing a much wider lane for much bigger ships (New Scientist). Finish with two smaller-scale developments: A British Columbia-based company is trying to break in to the shipping business along the Mackenzie River in the Northwest Territories (CBC); and the chief executive of the Stornoway Port Authority in the UK believes the port should begin positioning itself as yet another hub to receive ships heading out of, or into, Arctic waters (BBC).


The European Commission decided this week to apply sanctions to Iceland and the Faroe Islands after ongoing disagreements over catches of mackerel and herring. For Iceland and for the Faroes, that could mean “a ban on the country’s mackerel exports transiting or landing in EU ports”, among other things (IceNews in English, and KNR in Danish). A key part of the argument from the Faroese and Icelandic side is that their waters now host many more herring and mackerel than they did at the time current allotments were agreed upon (KNR, in Danish). Greenland’s minister for fisheries, hunting and agriculture Karl Lyberth appears ready to take steps similar to those of the Icelandic and Faroese governments if evidence suggests that mackerel and herring are getting more populous in Greenlandic waters as well (KNR, in Danish).

Staying in Greenland, the halibut season in Disko Bay is almost at an end (KNR, in Danish), while the government is considering tweaks to regulations that would, some fishermen believe, encourage growth of small- and medium-sized fishing enterprises rather than favoring larger businesses (KNR, in Danish). And a brief article from the Pulitzer Center covering the catch and sale of a whale in Greenland has a weirdly dark tone to it, though I could not explain why.

Nearby in Russia, a ban previously put in place keeping all Norwegian salmon out has now been slackened somewhat to permit five Norwegian companies to export salmon to the country (BO). Murmansk is meanwhile working on plans for two of its very own salmon hatcheries; this would liberate local fish farmers from reliance upon Norwegian hatcheries (BN). The Taimyr Peninsula also celebrated its annual “Day of the Fisherman” this month (AIR, in Russian).

Next door in Lapland there’s an ongoing war of words between “fish activists” and a company responsible for several hydro-power projects in the region (LK, in Finnish). The activists allege that the company isn’t doing nearly enough to protect salmon stocks that breed in local rivers. Finland also hosts some interesting research, however, on different ways of shepherding salmon smolts through their early days in order to ensure better rates of survival to adulthood (LK, in Finnish).

Last to a couple of one-off notes. In Alaska’s Cook Inlet, setnetters going after sockeye salmon will not get a hoped-for extension of their allotted time (EOTA). In Yukon, it’s looking like another bad year for Chinook salmon (YN). And in Norway, a German angler caught a 428-pound / 194 kg halibut that yielded 400 portions of fish-and-chips (Daily Mail).

General business and economic news

A weighty and thoughtful report on development in several Arctic economic sectors and on the role of private industry in general in the High North comes from CSIS this week, available here.

In Russia, the man who will guide the program to develop that country’s Arctic zone through 2020 has been appointed; Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak has been chosen for the role (AIR, in Russian). Also in Russia, St. Petersburg is hoping to reap some of the benefit of growing interest and activity in the Arctic (AIR, in Russian), and the city of Murmansk is in the process of updating its brand. This video is in some measure intended to contribute to that, but you should definitely turn your speakers down before you watch it. Otherwise, it is like you are suddenly In Da Club.

Next door in Finland, Eero Leppänen argues that the city of Oulu, and Lapland more broadly, need to develop a culture of entrepreneurship (LK, in Finnish). This is particularly so as Nokia shrinks. Moving then across the sea to Canada, CanNor announced that it’s sinking CAD 161,000 into three projects in the NWT to aid the territory’s development, and the Government of Nunavut received an Aa1 credit rating from Moody’s (that’s the second-best rating that’s possible) (NN).

Last to a few notes on other industries. Long-haul truckers are no longer welcome in Murmansk during daylight hours, though negotiations seem to be ongoing as to when stricter access rules will go into effect (BN). In Finland, foreign workers who fly in to harvest blueberries and lingonberries are sometimes unwelcome in some of the communities in which they do their work (YLE). In Canada, the community of Arctic Bay is preparing a tourism-development strategy that takes many of its cues from Greenland’s strategy (EOTA), and in Rankin Inlet the longtime owner of the Sugar Rush Café, a local fixture, is selling the restaurant to focus on some of her other developing business lines (NN). Further westward in Yukon, a profile of a temporary foreign worker from the Philippines is a difficult and painful read (YN).

Health, Education, Culture & Society


Canada holds a monopoly on health-related news this week. A new hospital opened in Watson Lake, Yukon (CBC), Auditor General Michael Ferguson will be conducting a performance audit of the Nutrition North Program (NN), and the Government of the Northwest Territories has shut down the Dehcho health board and appointed a public minister, Jim Antoine, to manage Dehcho’s health and social services facilities (CBC).

In Iqaluit, a young boy died after being hit by a truck, raising concerns about road safety and the lack of sidewalks in the city (CBC). Nunatsiaq News covered two studies this week, one prepared for Quebec’s public health department showing that inhabitants of Nunavik have a life expectancy fifteen years below Quebec’s overall average, and another from the University of Toronto revealing that over half of all children in Nunavut live in households classified as “food insecure” (NN).

Finally, seeking to better address health challenges in the North, the Ottawa Health Services Network is reviewing its program for medical appointments in Nunavut (CBC).


As a result of increasing demand for Inari Sámi education in Finland, the University of Oulu is offering a two-year web-based course in basic Inari Sámi (LK). The course begins this autumn. It’s already back-to-school time in western Nunavut, where students in Gjoa Haven started school on August 2nd (NN). Igloolik, Nunavut (population 1,800) will be building a third school in its community (to be completed in 2017) to accommodate its numerous high school-age students (CBC).


An enlightening article on access to justice in Nunavut (where “justice arrives by plane and is dispensed in the local school gym or community center”) was published this week on the website of National magazine, the official periodical of the Canadian Bar Association. Titled “The wolf and the sheep” (a metaphor borrowed from Mark Mossey, director of Maliiganik Tukisiiniakvik Legal Services in Iqaluit), the article features interviews with lawyers practicing in the region.

Justice is likely on the horizon for whomever sent close to a pound of marijuana to the Alaskan village of Kaktovik (AD), and police continue to investigate abuses at a boarding school in Canada’s Fort Albany in the 1990s (KNR, in Danish). In Iqaluit, a group of residents are hoping to curb crime using social media, and have set up a crime prevention and information Facebook page (NN).

Nearly 1,000 people are expected to move to the Yamal Peninsula as part of a new government-backed program (AIR, in Russian). Interest in the program, which has already relocated 43 people, has come from natives of Russia as well as Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Moldova, and Uzbekistan.


An exhibition featuring work by indigenous artists all over the world (see Eye on the Arctic for photos) is running until September 2nd at Ottawa’s National Gallery of Canada, and Copenhagen celebrated traditional Greenlandic culture at the “Greenland in Tivoli” music festival (KNR, in Danish). On the classical side of the music scene, Lapland’s Chamber Orchestra has been nominated for the 2013 Gramophone Awards (LK, in Finnish). If you really want to delight your inner anthropologist-historian-poet, read Tim Fulford’s article on the 19th century intersection of British Romanticism and Arctic culture, titled “Supernatural Sound: Science and Shamanism in the Arctic” (The Appendix). In Chukotka, folklore and ethnographic expeditions have resumed after a six-year hiatus (AIR, in Russian).


One senses that ever more people are beginning to think seriously about the development of northern infrastructure writ large. Is there such a thing as a development strategy that is comprehensive, sufficient and realistic? In Alaska, the consideration appears to be not whether there’s need and demand for infrastructure along its northern shores, but who should pay for the development of the needed facilities (AD, originally in Arctic Sounder). The state is clearly comparing its available facilities with those existing or in development along the Northern Sea Route, including a logistics center at the Port of Sabetta currently under consideration (AIR, in Russian). Meanwhile, in Canada, Yellowknife is focused on making some needed improvements to civilian infrastructure while money can be cheaply borrowed (Northern Journal), and – although this is not new this week – it might be worthwhile to take another look at a recent proposed development plan for maritime infrastructure development in Nunavut (CIGI).

Developments in air capacity occupied a surprising share of infrastructure news this week, including an absolutely fascinating brief story about how the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, is making use of Sweden’s Arctic space facility near Kiruna as a test location for a new model of supersonic plane (EOTA). They’re working on solving one of the key problems with the now-defunct Concorde, which was the massive sonic boom it made when breaking the sound barrier.

The government of Yakutia is working on a much more modest leap forward as it replaces its Antonov-24 and -28 planes with – if I understand this correctly – hovercraft (AIR, in Russian)? I am skeptical that I’m reading this right, but it looks that way. If you read Russian, give it a whirl yourself. Then move on to the news that the airport at Anadyr is hoping to begin accepting international as well as domestic flights (AIR, in Russian) while the airport in Murmansk has found a way to keep its weather folks employed ‘round the clock, meaning that the airport can also continue its 24/7 operations (BN).

A final piece worth checking out comes from the Conference Board of Canada. Broadly mentioned on Twitter this week, their recent report “Mapping the Long-Term Options for Canada’s North: Telecommunications and Broadband Connectivity” takes an in-depth look at the current state of affairs and possible future for northern Canada in this critical infrastructure component.


Young Nunavut wrestlers compete this week in the Canada Summer Games, held this year in Sherbrooke, QC (NN).

The Arctic Race of Norway, a four stage bicycle race from Bodø to Harstad via the Lofoten, will begin next week. has posted video footage of the race course that winds its way through some spectacular scenery along Norway’s coast. Worth a view if you can’t make it to see the real thing!

The 97 swimmers from 17 countries who will take part in the upcoming Bering Strait Swim between Russia and Alaska have begun to congregate in Kamchatka. The race was attempted for the first time last year but had to be cancelled when entrance into US territorial waters was rejected. This year, it appears everyone has their visas in order (AIR – Russian).

The CAD 40 million aquatics center that is being planned in Iqaluit will mean big changes for Atii Fitness, the town’s only fitness center. Atii Fitness will be given a space on the center’s third floor that is 2 to 3 times bigger than its current location, which is good as Atii had already outgrown its current space (NN).

The Last First Expedition, a four-man team that is seeking to row the Northwest Passage this summer, had a close and harrowing experience with an ice floe last week. You can read the blow-by-blow account in this article in the Vancouver Sun.

Skiers in Whitehorse went to great lengths to hold a ski race in July, including piling snow and burying it under sawdust and tarps in March, then spreading it with shovels and wheelbarrows across the backyard of JP Grand Prix founder John Perry to set a track for a summer ski race. CBC provides a video of the competition which included an improbable eight former Olympians.

The “Leif the Lucky” Marathon will be held 17 August in the area around Qassiarsuk, Greenland. In addition to the full marathon, there will also be a half marathon and 10 km course (KNR, in Danish).

The Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic was held last week. The 150-mile race through the wilderness attracted 13 competitors, five of whom actually finished the course. This article in Alaska Dispatch describes the experiences of this year’s competitors and makes it very clear why none of the contestants from the 2012 race decided to give it another go this year.

A bear that has developed a nasty habit of chasing bicyclists in Whitehorse, Yukon, has drawn the attention of conservation officers who have set out to trap and relocate it (CBC).

Arctic Images

An amazing photo journey through Auyuittuq National Park on Baffin Island is a must-see. Fantastic job, from Hike Bike Travel. Also well worth the small investment (4 minutes) is a video from the Global Oneness Project of life in Ilulissat, Greenland at the time of the sun’s spring return. Then take in a little personal experience of bird life in Arctic Bay, Nunavut thanks to diligent observer Clare Kines (10,000 Birds).

Some other series of photos worth checking out are: drying Arctic char near Iqaluit, from Ron Wassink; dramatic images of thunderstorms in Northern Norway – very unusual – from the Arctic Exposure blog; and a series of northern landscapes from Julien Fumard. Follow those with a couple single images from various sources, including: a delightful group portrait of walrus (Kellie Netherwood); cloud streets over the Bering Sea (NASA Earth Observatory), and a dangerously proximal polar bear from Borge Ousland, via National Geographic.

Move on to this week’s Instagram and Twitter haul, with images of: a massive ice face and two souls on the prow of a boat near Svalbard (@elnarperm); the Lena River ferry (@yakutia); an amazingly cyan-blue meltwater channel on the Greenland ice sheet (Sarah Das); the midnight sun over the ocean (@wanderingwyatt), a similar shot from shore on the North Slope (@alaskamaxxx), a third from @the_master_key, and a fourth from @staciared2, this one taken from the Hurtigruten; a cruise ship at rest off of Spitsbergen (@albumeditions); Paul Allen’s luxury yacht Octopus at rest at Pond Inlet, Nunavut (Paul Tukker); images of the Arctic Ocean from a plane overhead (Stella Guan); a breathtaking photo of the Arctic Tern from the crow’s-nest vantage point (@kodonova); an adorable photo of a thickly-clad child chasing a fat, furry puppy in the Nenets region (Diana Mastracci); an Arctic fox up close (@hall_evanw); a great Norway sunset (@perrydisehotel); one of the Students on Ice at the Ilulissat ice fjord (@lexie_818); noctilucent clouds from space (by Luca Parmitano, an astronaut aboard the Volare mission); “Save the Arctic” graffiti covering other graffiti in Toronto (@JTToronto); the icebreaker 50 Years of Victory during its most recent North Pole excursion (@olga_michi); the mosque in Inuvik, NWT (@ehnsee); Magdalena fjord on Svalbard (@albumeditions); Greenpeace’s ship the Arctic Sunrise at rest in Bergen (@greenpeacenorge); and a classic, perfect shot of a bald eagle in flight from @Alaska_editions.

On Flickr, we’ve got a no less impressive haul, including: a close-up of a wood frog and another of a massive mushroom (Bruce McKay); a sharp look at a pine siskin (Keith Williams); a young marten (Isaac Hilman); a beautiful shot of the expansive tundra near Arviat, Nunavut (Paul Aningat); snow falling on Inuvik in June (user jimbob_malone); a beautiful golden landscape of Arctic Bay, the photographer’s daughter on polar-bear spotting duty, a red-throated loon adult & chick, the hatchling all by itself, the CCG’s Henry Larson in Arctic Bay, plus a second great image of the same (all from Clare Kines).

The Grab Bag

Now to those bits and pieces that fit nowhere else.

The sun dipped below the horizon for Barrow, Alaska on 2 August for the first time since May (FDNM). / You can now register for the upcoming Arctic Circle conference in Reykjavík, Iceland 12-14 October. / In the lengthy process to photo-map the Alaskan coastline (all of it), St. Lawrence Island is the most recently-completed chunk (Arctic Sounder). / God bless the US State Department for putting together a calendar of all the upcoming Arctic-focused events and conferences. / Elfin Icelandic genius Björk, who has incorporated throat-singing into some of her previous work, is now teaming up with David Attenborough on a new documentary about the evolution of music (IceNews). / The search for this year’s Miss Rovaniemi is underway (LK, in Finnish). / Travel to Alaska in summer with the Daily Mail. / The maker of the reality show “Ice Cold Gold” thinks Greenland could be a reality-TV hotspot (KNR, in Danish). Or, instead, we could not traumatize it that way. One observer thinks this season of “Ice Cold Gold” has made positive strides towards representing Greenland positively, rather than as a sort of Arctic Mordor (KNR, in Danish). Indeed, one of the miners apparently feels that “Greenland is possibly the best place in the world” (KNR, in Danish). / A redesign of a 17th-century yacht has been launched from Arkhangelsk (AIR, in Russian). / I am a total sucker for any of the long reads in Up Here, and the latest from Margo Pfeiff doesn’t disappoint. This one is on archaeologist Patricia Sutherland and the possibility of a second Norse site in Canada, this time in Nunavut (the other is on the northernmost tip of Newfoundland). / A bunch of drunk young people stole an asphalt roller in Murmansk. They were caught (MOI Russia, Murmansk, in Russian). / An outbreak of botulism poisoning has struck Greenland’s northernmost village, Siorapaluk (KNR, in Danish). / The International Congress of Arctic Social Sciences has its call for sessions open. The conference will be in Prince George, BC from 22-26 May 2014. / We’re so glad to welcome Barents Nova back from its summer break. Catch up on all the English-language news from the Russian Barents region that you’ve missed. / “Wolverine,” the latest installment in the Marvel series, has the Yukon as his backstory. Listen to a radio interview about that here, from the 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)
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)