The Arctic This Week: 19 September - 25 September 2013

courtesy of Doris Friedrich
The Arctic This Week 2013:34

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As always, all editorial choices, opinions and any mistakes are the authors’ own. To comment, to point out an error or to request a back issue, feel free to contact Kevin, Maura, Doris or Seth directly. Anything that we missed? Please feel free to share material with us if you think it deserves inclusion in TATW. You can find the PDF version of TATW here.


Beginning this week, the Arctic Institute will be maintaining and providing access to a list of Arctic-themed conferences, workshops, and events. You can access the list by clicking on the following link:

                  Arctic Conference and Events List

Please help us keep this list up to date! If you would like to add an event to the list, please submit the required information including the event’s name, dates, location, description, website address and contact information using this submission form. The list will be updated weekly and a link to the list will be provided each week in TATW.


Pressed for time? We suggest you focus on the following pieces this week.

In an essay titled “Neither Conflict nor ‘Use It or Lose It’: Delineating extended continental shelves in the Arctic,” Elizabeth Riddell-Dixon provides a tempered perspective on Arctic resource development for the Canadian International Council’s Featured in the article is one of the site’s trademark infographics by production manager Cameron Tulk.

In energy reads, see this well-researched and crafted piece by Mia Bennett for Foreign Policy Blogs on the impact the recent Conservative electoral victory in Norway may (or may not) have on energy exploration around the Lofoten Islands.

The science read of the week is actually a video. Check out this video by astronomer and Slate writer Phil Plait, who gives a good overview of the debate around the melting of the Arctic sea ice and general sea ice melting patterns (Climate Desk).

Coincidentally, in the business news this week, the best read also comes in the form of a video. The unmapped waters of the Arctic present demanding challenges for shipping. See this video from PBS that profiles Coast Guard efforts to better chart recently ice-free waters for the benefit of commercial shipping.

In military reads, CBC provides a rather damning look at the procurement process surrounding Canada’s proposed fleet of Arctic offshore patrol ships (AOPS). CBC obtained a report issued by the International Marine Consultants of Vancouver warning the federal government that it was in danger of massively overpaying for the AOPS, detailing the extraordinarily high costs in the estimate provided by Irving Shipbuilding – which the government proceeded to sign anyways– for everything from man-hours to electronic systems integration.

Cindy Vestergaard of the Danish Institute for International Studies gives a fine overview of the political and legal background to uranium mining in Greenland in this editorial for the Copenhagen Post. A recommended read if you are in need of a background on this controversial issue.

Moving onto society and culture reads we have, and this must be a record, the third video making the reads of the week. As part of PBS NewsHour’s three-part series “Arctic Thaw,” April Brown reported on how melting ice and warming waters at the world’s “ground zero for global climate change” – Alaska’s North Slope – could alter the way of life for its inhabitants.


United States

On Thursday, President Obama hosted an Ambassadors Credentialing Ceremony for nine new diplomats in Washington, including two ambassadors from Arctic states, Ambassador Kaare Reidar Aas of Norway and Ambassador Bjoern Olof Lyrvall of Sweden (USA Today). Late Thursday, Bruce Heymann’s nomination for the post of U.S. ambassador to Canada was also officially announced after a long vetting process (WP).

Partially in response to the controversy surrounding the EPA’s aggressive inspections of small-scale gold-mining operations around Chicken, Alaska, Craig Medred has written a somewhat satirical piece for the Alaska Dispatch on arming and armoring all of Alaska’s state and federal officials. Considering Alaska’s preponderance of armed “oddballs,” Medred advises, “let’s armor them all.” In other commentary, Brad Keithley wrote a blog post on the “out-of-control spending” proposed by Alaska’s governor, and the American Security Project prepared a report on the Five Critical Security Challenges for the U.S. in the Arctic.


Michael Byers, commenting on the transit of the Danish-owned Nordic Orion through the Northwest Passage, suggested that “Stephen Harper should lose sleep this week” (G&M). Although Byers maintained that the vessel’s transit through the passage would not undermine Canada’s position that the route constitutes Canadian internal waters (because the voyage was registered with the Canadian Coast Guard), he maintained that Harper should ponder Canada’s coastal responsibilities and its relationship with the United States at bedtime this week.

Nunavut’s third legislative assembly has officially dissolved, beginning the campaign period for territorial elections to be held October 28 (NN). Present during the legislative assembly’s last pre-election session was Saori Miyazaki, a Japanese PhD student researching Inuit culture for her thesis, which she hopes will advance Ainu peoples’ rights in Japan (NN). The Government of Nunavut (which recently launched a new, more client-focused website) has introduced additional constituencies and created new election rules this time around. Jack Anawak, former vice-president of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., gave up his post so he could run for MLA in the new Iqaluit riding of Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu (NN).

Eddie Erasmus was re-elected as Tlicho Grand Chief in the Northwest Territories (EOTA). The Tlicho Government, concerned with “Canada’s vocalized intent to ‘streamline’ regulation in the NWT” and changes proposed to the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act, is formulating a course of action to address its concerns (NJ). Bill Erasmus, Dene National Chief, is supporting Barret “Sonny” Lenoir’s case before the Northwest Territories Supreme Court next month (NJ). Lenoir is arguing that his Treaty 11 rights allow him to harvest wood in his treaty territory without a permit. Elsewhere in the Northwest Territories, the Métis Nation is demanding that the Canadian Government promptly complete and authorize the Métis land and resource agreement-in-principle (NJ).

In Alberta, the Treaty 8 First Nations rejected the Government of Alberta’s draft Aboriginal consultation policy, claiming the province ignored all of the consultation alternatives proposed by the chiefs (NJ).

Russia & Norway

The Standing Committee of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region met in Murmansk on September 19th (AIR, in Russian). Morten Høglund, Norwegian MP and Chair of the Standing Committee, told reporters at the meeting that Norway’s newly-elected parliament considers Russia a major Arctic partner (AIR, in Russian). Although Barents regional cooperation and relations between the two countries are strong, borders still remain. The Barents Observer reported that Russian border guards are reinforcing Russia’s border with Norway using barbed wire fencing, and on the way to the meeting in Murmansk, a member of Norway’s Sami Parliament was arrested for violating visa regulations (BO, AIR, in Russian). Under Russian law, participants of conferences and forums may not enter the country on tourist visas.

Short videos on both countries’ activities in the Arctic were posted this week, one from Stratfor Global Intelligence on “Russia’s Arctic Ambitions” and one (narrated in English) from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Following up on her piece last week, Mia Bennett has written another post for Foreign Policy Blogs on the implications of Norway’s recent election for the Lofoten Islands.

Following “aggressive and provocative” actions by Greenpeace activists aboard the Dutch-flagged Arctic Sunrise, the Russian foreign ministry has urged its Dutch ambassador Ron van Dartel to condemn the activists’ protests (


The Kremlin press service said Friday that President Putin will meet with Icelandic President Olafur Grimsson while both heads of state are in Salekhard, Russia, this week for The Arctic: Territory of Dialogue (Russia & India Report). Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson, Iceland’s foreign minister, recently announced the government’s discharge of its EU task force, suspending the process of EU accession (Arctic Journal). Addressing the decision, Sveinsson said: “The process has been suspended. But nothing has been closed down…”


Tavis Potts of the Scottish Association for Marine Science argues for transcending the “schizophrenia” of an Arctic discourse that discusses oil and gas development alongside the perils of climate change in this well-crafted post for The Conversation.


Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise continued its campaign in Russia’s Arctic this week, leading to an escalating confrontation with the Russian Coast Guard that has seen the Greenpeace icebreaker boarded, towed to Murmansk and its entire crew detained. The confrontation started early Wednesday when two Greenpeace activists used ropes to scale Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya oil platform to protest against oil and gas drilling in Russia’s Arctic (Reuters). The Russian Coast Guard responded, detaining the protestors (Bloomberg), firing warning shots at the Arctic Sunrise and demanding that the ship leave the area (WP). Greenpeace was quick to release video of the confrontation around the rig showing its inflatable boats being rammed by the Russian Coast Guard and threatened at gun point. The Russian Federal Security Service stated that the aggressive response was required due to Greenpeace’s illegal actions and the fact that the ship failed to respond to requests to leave the area (VOR, Reuters). On Thursday, armed Coast Guard officers boarded the Arctic Sunrise and detained the entire crew and ship (Reuters, Guardian, ABC). The Coast Guard demanded that the Arctic Sunrise sail for the port of Murmansk and when the captain failed to comply the ship was towed into the port (CNN). Although no official charges have been announced, Russian authorities have compared Greenpeace’s activities to terrorism (Guardian) and piracy (4News). Greenpeace has rejected the piracy accusations (Upstream) and the environmental group’s lawyers have stated that the seizure of the Arctic Sunrise in international waters was illegal ( Professor Stefan Kirchner of the law faculty at the University of Lapland explored the incident from the perspective of international maritime law, concluding that the Russian Coast Guard likely overstepped its authority in detaining the ship and crew and disabling their communications equipment. You can find Kirchner’s brief on the website of the Social Science Research Network. The Russian Foreign Ministry summoned the Dutch Ambassador to complain about the activities of Greenpeace’s Dutch-flagged Arctic Sunrise on Thursday (press release, in Russian; AIR, in Russian). As of the morning of 23 September, the ship had not yet reached the port of Murmansk where both Russian authorities and Greenpeace supporters are preparing to receive it (Bellona).

According to a press release (in Russian), Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin has been selected to serve on a government commission for the socio-economic development of Russia’s Far East. The press release also takes the opportunity to catalogue Rosneft’s investment in the region including the Sakhalin oil and gas project, new exploration in the Chukchi Sea and Sea of Okhotsk, and a potential LNG export terminal on Sakhalin Island.

As questions of profitability continue to dog the Shtokman project, foreign investor Total may be looking to abandon the project to focus on other opportunities in the Russian Arctic. Murmansk Governor Marina Kovtun says area residents are suffering from “Post-Shtokman Syndrome” over the delayed and perhaps failed project (BO).


ExxonMobil has made progress on infrastructure for the Point Thompson project on Alaska’s North Slope (PN). Point Thompson has Alaska’s largest gas deposits but initial exploitation will focus strictly on gas condensate liquids as there is, as yet, not North Slope pipeline to bring the gas to market. The federal coordinator for Alaska Natural Gas Transportation Projects, the group charged with bringing a North Slope gas pipeline into being, said this week that a joint BP, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and TransCanada pipeline plan focused on LNG export is the most viable pipeline scheme at this time (PN), though the companies involved have not committed to the project yet.

The University of Alaska – Fairbanks will be hosting two renewable energy workshops this week focusing on passive solar technologies and a “rocket stove,” an efficient stove for heating and cooking that runs on wood (FNM). Under pressure from federal agencies to clean up Fairbanks’ air, the state Department of Environmental Conservation released a draft of new emissions regulations last week focused on curbing emissions from wood stoves (FNM). A copy of the draft regulations can be found here. The politics of clean air in Fairbanks are actually quite complicated. Last year, Fairbanks residents voted to strip the city of its authority to regulate air quality. In light of this, it’s uncertain who will be able to enforce the new regulations and how residents of the city will respond (AD). In other Fairbanks energy news, after the glacial pace of hearings last week by the Regulatory Commission of Alaska regarding new natural gas distribution in regions around the city, the commission extended hearings for another four days this week (FNM).


The National Energy Board assured Northwest Territories’ residents that oil companies would make full disclosure of all chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing during exploration activities on the Canol shale (NJ). An editorial in Northern Journal also looks at the impact of fracking in local communities, connecting the practice to other environmental tragedies of the Canadian north including the Giant mine outside Yellowknife.

Oil sands opponents got a celebrity boost this week when Neil Young drove his hybrid electric Lincoln Continental through Fort McMurray and said the area looked “like Hiroshima.” Young also highlighted the health and environmental impacts of oil sands extraction on local communities. Needless to say, Canadian Natural Resources Minister said he was not a fan of Young’s remarks. The local classic rock station also celebrated a “No Neil” day by not playing any Neil Young for a full day, which must have meant the station went dark for half the day as they play an incredible amount of Neil Young on the radio up there (NJ). Oil sands developers were granted another two-year reprieve before they have to comply with new provincial wetland protection regulations (NJ).

Northwest Territories’ Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment David Ramsay spoke at the 9th Alaska Oil and Gas Congress in Anchorage last week. You can find a copy of his remarks on oil and gas development in NWT at 4-Traders.


The oil industry is pressing its agenda in the follow-up to last week’s elections, lobbying for a roll-back of recent oil and gas tax increases and the opening of the region around the Lofoten Islands for energy exploration (World Bulletin). The first goal appears more likely than the second. As Mia Bennett shows in this post for Foreign Policy Blogs, the Conservatives may have to give up their goal of opening the Lofotens in order to form a governing coalition.

As oil and gas production ramp up in Northern Russia, Northern Norway looks to get in on the action. In addition to servicing new finds in Norway’s Barents Sea, a new oil terminal planned for near Kirkenes, a stone’s throw from the Russian border, will likely transit large amounts of crude from Russia’s Arctic regions as well (BO).


Karl Sorri takes a look at oil and gas development in Greenland for Global Risk Insights, concluding that Greenland’s energy reserves are quite promising, despite the fact that oil companies have been hoeing that row for some time with little success.



In celebration of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) 25th birthday, Nicola Jones of Nature guides us on a graphical tour through the history of the IPCC (Nature).

All eyes are on the Arctic sea ice this week. According to data from NSIDC, the sea ice likely reached its annual minimum on September 13 (NSIDC). It further appears that a consensus is forming in the recently ignited debate on the trend of sea ice melting. Even though Arctic sea ice recovered from its low in 2012, the long-term trend is still downward (see for example Scientific American). A video by astronomer and Slate writer Phil Plait gives a good overview of the discussion and the general melting patterns of sea ice (Climate Desk). For even more details, read the comment by Bob Ward of the London School of Economics (LSE). The website of the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) provides a variety of maps of Arctic sea ice for the period from January 2011 to March 2013, including information on ice type, thickness, density, concentration, snow etc. (AWI). Another outstanding contribution from the flood of news on sea ice this week is Strong and Rigor’s study on changes in the spatial pattern of the Arctic marginal ice zone (MIZ), a dynamic and biologically active band of sea ice cover close to the open ocean. The abstract, in Geophysical Research Letters, is available here.

Flora and fauna

Climate change has manifested itself in the changing nature of the diet of polar bears as they swap ringed seal with harp seal and hooded seal, both of which contain more contaminants (Aarhus University). The gathering of thousands of walrus on the shores of Alaska is seen as another consequence of a warming Arctic and melting sea ice. Because they are not endurance swimmers, walrus need ice floes near their feeding grounds. The current walrus haul-outs in Alaska coincide with the complete loss of ice in the Hanna Shoal area of the Chukchi Sea, on Alaska’s northwest coast, where the animals usually feed at this time of the year (AD). Pteropods (also called “sea butterflies”), a keystone species critical to its ecosystem, are at risk from ocean acidification which has been accelerated by melting sea ice (PBS). The increased occurrence of killer whales in the Arctic is also linked to the disappearing sea ice. A large portion of the world’s slow-moving marine mammals such as bowhead whales feed in Arctic waters from June to September. Less ice cover, however, provides fewer opportunities for them to hide from killer whales, which are not well-adapted to sea ice due to their large dorsal fins (WWF). Another victim of climate change are Finland’s Arctic hares. They are becoming rarer, especially in southern Finland. Winters have become shorter, which causes problems for the white-furred hares: “White fur is no good on grass” (EOTA).

Researchers in Canada’s Northwest Territories found a slug species native to Western Europe, but previously unknown in the NWT. The consequences of the introduction of the Grey Field Slug could be wide-ranging (CBC). It could, for example, be linked to the hardship of the rare Banff Springs snail in NWT. Ecology North’s speaker Dwayne Lepitzki explained that the Banff Springs snail, the first mollusc to be put on Canada’s endangered species list, is an important part of the ecosystem. However, human activity puts it at risk (NJ).

Jaymi Heimbuch is fascinated by the Rana sylvatica, a North American species of wood frogs that can survive for weeks with two-thirds of its body water being completely frozen. During several freeze-thaw cycles each winter, their hearts stop beating and they stop breathing. If you happen to live in the right region, you even have a chance to watch the video (Treehugger).

A new perspective on sea urchins comes from Alan Jenkins as he writes about Roddie Sloan, the urchin diver, for whom urchins mean “community, friendships, food” and a “proper life” (Guardian).

Expeditions & research blogs

The scientists of the Measurements and Modelling (MAMM) project on Arctic Methane continue their journey with the atmospheric research aircraft (ARA), which “sniffs” out methane sources during its flights. This allows the researchers to measure the presence of methane hydrates, deposits of an ice-like material containing methane that occur under the surface of the Arctic, and speculate on the impacts of massive deposits of gas hydrates melting and entering the atmosphere, an event they liken to the emergence of “Godzilla” (MAMM). The journal entries of PolarTREC scientists on their trip through the Arctic, most recently Greenland, are also worth a read (PolarTREC).

On his expedition to Svalbard, Mark Vogler stumbles across huge piles of beluga whale skulls from a 20th century whaling station (Mark Vogler). Remains of a more distant past were discovered along the Yukon River, where Fairbanks scientists found thousands of dinosaur footprints. This incredible finding shows that dinosaurs were all over Alaska 100 million years ago (AD). The prints were estimated to be around 30 million years older than other major dinosaur finds in Alaska (NM). A four-year study of Arctic fossils by Oxford and Durham universities connected skeletal remains found 500 miles (800km) from the North Pole to the first vertebrate ancestors of modern animals. The specimen are witnesses to the “Cambrian Explosion”, an evolutionary boom 520 million years ago that was enabled by a mix of specific biological, geological and geochemical processes (Telegraph). The original study was published in Science.


Umeå University is offering a post-doc position in plant ecology to work on the effects of reindeer grazing in Arctic ecosystem (EU).



The first Exercise Arctic Challenge is underway over the skies of Scandinavia, with more than 60 aircraft from five partner nations – Norway, Sweden, Finland, the U.K. and the United States – taking part. The operation will provide training for combined operations under NORDEFCO, with the U.S. and U.K. acting as training partners. The exercise will conclude on September 26 (BO, USAF, NORDEFCO, and Atlantic Council). If you just can’t get enough of planes and Scandinavian scenery, check out Gripen News’ Twitter account for photos.

The biennial international exercise “Barents Rescue” recently concluded, with over two thousand rescuers from Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Russia taking part in rescue scenarios ranging from a tsunami to rockslides (Itar-Tass and BO).


As we reported last week, Russia is re-establishing a permanent presence in the Arctic with the reopening of an old military base on the Novosibirsk Islands and the re-commencing of regular patrols in the region, and everyone from Glenn Beck to the Christian Science Monitor is taking note (see also: BO, The Maritime Executive, New Scientist, World Bulletin, AIR, et al). In an effort to get in front of the semantics of the situation, the Russian Foreign Ministry was quick to point out that it was merely “restoring” its presence in the Arctic, and that the move should not worry Russia’s neighbors (Johnson’s Russia List). Meanwhile, there has been some speculation that the move may be in response to NATO efforts to enhance sea-based missile defense systems, with some analysts speculating that Russia is concerned about the potential presence of U.S. Aegis-equipped ships in the Arctic Ocean (National Journal). Indeed, Russia has been decidedly unenthused in the past at the prospect of Aegis-equipped U.S. ships operating in the Arctic (BO).

Meanwhile, Russia’s Northern Fleet is concluding its naval exercises for 2013. Drills will run September 21-25 and will include some 2,500 troops and up to 30 ships, including the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov. The exercises will cover scenarios ranging from repelling a landing force to search-and-rescue operations (RIAN and Itar-Tass).

Elsewhere, the search-and-rescue operations have been decidedly more real, as high wind and waves in the Gulf of Ob forced rescuers to halt operations to find members of a research expedition who were stranded at sea after their boat overturned (AIR).

Finally, for all the naval enthusiasts, from Stratmil’s Twitter feed comes a photo of the flagship of the Northern Fleet Petr Velikiy off the aforementioned Novosibirsk Islands.


As the Canadian Coast Guard continues to reel from the deadly helicopter crash that killed CCGS Amundsen’s commanding officer, a Coast Guard pilot, and a scientist from the University of Manitoba, efforts are underway to recover the helicopter, with the Amundsen itself providing SAR assistance to the icebreaker Henry Larson (NN). Autopsies have revealed that all three men survived the initial crash, and subsequently died of “cold water immersion” (NN, Yahoo News Canada, and Times Colonist).

Two bits of news on the military technology front out of Canada: as has previously been reported, Canada is moving forward with the Radarsat Constellation Mission program (Arctic Journal); additionally, UPI reports that Canada is working to develop technologies to counter threats from laser-guided systems – specifically of the Russian variety - to its Navy.

United States

Cathy Jorgensen’s recent promotion to brigadier general makes her the first female to attain the rank of general in the history of the Alaska Army National Guard. Jorgensen received her commission in 1985, and joined the Alaska Guard in 2000 (FNM).

If you’ve ever wondered how to cook – or eat – on board an icebreaker carrying out a six-month deployment, check out the USCG Alaska’s Blog and Twitter account.



An English-language article from the Copenhagen Post covers the news from last week about a prominent Danish law firm that concluded that legally Greenland’s self-rule government is completely within its rights to make its own decisions regarding the mining and export of uranium, though the firm suggest that consultation with Denmark is wise owing to the sensitivity of the material in question. Cindy Vestergaard of the Danish Institute for International Studies gives a fine overview of the political and legal background to uranium mining in Greenland in this editorial for the Copenhagen Post. A recommended read if you, like me, need a background on this controversial issue. In another great article this week on this topic Naja Carina Steenholdt writes for the Arctic Journal asking not whether Greenland will mine uranium but, assuming it will, who exactly will the uranium be sold to and will not nuclear-armed states like Russia, China and the U.S. be first in line to acquire the mineral?


If you’ve ever wondered what drivers placer miners to strike out into the wilderness with a gold pan, see this article in the Canadian Mining Journal that looks at what draws people to the pursuit of tiny flakes of gold, other than the chance of striking it rich, of course.

For a triumphalist history of Agnico Eagle’s Meadowbrook gold mine in Nunavut, see this article in the Canadian Mining Journal on how Agnico boldly led Nunavut into the “modern mining era.”

A recent Supreme Court decision means that new rules for mineral staking in Yukon on unsettled lands will have to be developed through negotiations with the Ross River Dena Council, a decision that the Yukon Prospectors Association claims threatens the livelihood of its members (CBC).

A series of photos in Northern Journal chronicles the slow dismantling of the brick smokestack at the Giant mine in NWT, once the tallest structure in the territories.

Dominion Diamonds hopes to expand operations at its Ekati diamond mine in NWT to an adjacent kimberlite deposit that could hold up to USD 267 million worth of diamonds (EOTA).


Mining company Anglo American announced last week that it was withdrawing from the controversial Pebble Mine project above Bristol Bay. The speculation is that the withdrawal stems from increasing uncertainty as to whether the Environmental Protection Agency will approve the massive project in which Anglo American has already invested USD 541 million (Guardian). Does this spell the end of the Pebble mine? Hardly, according to Alex DeMarban at the Alaska Dispatch. The massive copper deposits sitting underground aren’t going away, and the departure of Anglo American may mean that the remaining partners, Rio Tinto and Northern Dynasty, may develop a smaller scale, underground mine as opposed to the open-pit mine sketched out in previous plans. An underground mine will pose less risk to surface waters and fisheries and may prove more palatable to groups that have opposed the mine in the past (AD).


Canadian mining company Mawson is interested in staking claims in Northern Finland and has begun diamond prospecting in the region (EOTA).



The Atlantic Prospect, the new vessel of the Arctic Fishery Alliance, is exploring turbot fishing in Grise Fiord, Nunavut. The Alliance is made up of hunters and trappers organizations in Qikiqtarjuaq, Grise Fiord, Arctic Bay and Resolute, which means that the community of Grise Fiord can rightly be proud of owning 25% of the new ship (CBC). The Atlantic Prospect and other fishing vessels in Nunavut are being monitored by officers with Fisheries and Oceans Canada through aerial surveillance. Their focus is on the Davis Strait, which is particularly important for commercial turbot fishing (CBC).

In Yukon’s Fox Creek, the introduction of 57,000 Chinook salmon in 2009 is beginning to bear fruit as spawning salmon are returning to Fox Creek, north of Whitehorse. If the population continues to develop well, harvesting could begin in a few years (CBC).

After a spring season that didn’t look too promising, the autumn whale harvest has picked up with twelve whales already landed in various communities in Alaska (AD).


A National Geographic animated graph illustrates the development of different transit routes through the Arctic Ocean from 1980 to 2012 (NG). A great infographic on the Northwest Passage comes from The Globe and Mail (G&M).

In the meantime, preparations to make the best use of the Northern Sea Route (NSR) are in full swing. The Alaska Vocational Technical Center (AVTEC) is developing a new training program on navigation in ice-filled waters. Key to the course is the vessel simulator, which feels like a real ship and has three bridges (AD). Find more details on the course on the AVTEC website. To the east, Canada is bolstering Arctic maritime surveillance and plans to launch monitoring satellites. While it has been confirmed that the Radarsat Constellation Mission will see the launch of at least three satellites by 2018, the capacity for receiving and processing vast amounts of data needs to be greatly improved (Stockhouse). To get a slightly different take on Canada’s preparedness for Arctic shipping, read Mark Collins’s 3Ds Blog. Securing its grip on the NSR, Russia reopened a Soviet-era military base on the Novosibirsk Islands north of the Siberian coast and restored its airfield for search and rescue and scientific purposes (ME).

Companies also appear to be borne along by a pioneering spirit. In a similar vein as the trip of the Yong Sheng, hailed as the first Chinese cargo vessel to traverse the NSR (read The Arctic Institute’s reaction here), the Danish company Nordic Bulk Carriers earlier this month sent its ice-strengthened bulk carrier Nordic Orion on a trip from Vancouver to Finland via the Northwest Passage. This could make it the first commercial bulk carrier transiting the route since the SS Manhattan in 1969 (G&M).

However, warnings about the NSR’s dangers are not to be overlooked. According to Jane George of Nunatsiaq News, many underestimate the challenges of navigating the Arctic and may conceive of it as nothing more than a “playground with some ice cubes” (NN). The unmapped waters of the Arctic also pose problems. For large areas previously covered by ice only rudimentary information exists. Ships heavily rely on charts from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is busy mapping the waters off Alaska with a sonar-equipped survey boat (PBS).

Other business and economic news

On September 24 and 25, the Third International Arctic Forum on “The Arctic – Territory of Dialogue” will be held in Salekhard, the administrative centre of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug in Russia. In view of the forum, the representative of the Russian Federation in the Arctic Council, Anton Vasilyev, emphasized the need to balance the interests of business and the protection of the environment (AIR, in Russian). When it comes to the local population in northern Russia, the situation is dire along the Indigirka and Lena rivers. Because of low water ships loaded with essential supplies for the 12 million people in the Sakha (Yakutia) Republic cannot get through to the communities to deliver their cargo. And the remaining time is tight. Ice is expected to form on the rivers in the beginning of October and the ships will need to have left the area by then (AIR, in Russian).

Up Here Business presents an interesting article on the Northern consultancy industry. Knowledgeable about how things work in the North, consultants help companies to realize their projects and act as bridges to the local communities. Thinking of trying your hand at consulting? Read this article first to better understand the peril and promise of the industry (UHB). Or perhaps you have an idea that you could turn into a project of your own instead? Nathan Lawlor wants to set up geodesic greenhouse domes in every community in Nunavut in order to make them independent from fly-in produce. The project would also have the advantage of creating local jobs. As a start, Lawlor has established the Pangnirtung Greenhouse Corporation, where he wants to set up two greenhouses (CBC).

Have you ever had a rocket land in your backyard? In Norway, a research rocket launched from the Andøya Rocket Range went terribly off course and landed just 200 meters outside the populated area of the Andøya settlement, 150km southwest of Tromsø. It is not yet clear why the launch system failed, but I imagine local residents are keen to find out why (BO).



The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse sent representatives to Yellowknife to meet with community members and leaders with the aim of furthering the Canadian dialogue surrounding substance abuse (NJ), and public hearings were held in Sahtu communities as part of the review process for a bill that seeks to amend the Liquor Act, allowing residents to vote to restrict liquor sales (NJ).

Mental health professionals in the Northwest Territories say that the Canadian North is suffering from an intensifying mental health “crisis” (EOTA). In Alaska, mental health facilities have been significantly diminished in Fairbanks, as Fairbanks Community Mental Health Services returned after a brief closure with a smaller staff and reduced client services (FNM).

Childhood obesity is becoming increasingly problematic in Iceland according to research out of the University of Iceland’s Center for Public Health (Arctic Journal), and a study on food waste found Finns the least wasteful, with Swedes topping the list of most wasteful (EOTA).


After a late start, the Galena Interior Learning Academy – which became the “lifeline” of the community earlier this year in the aftermath of the Yukon River flood – is off to a promising new school year (EOTA), and Gwich’in Tribal Council president Robert A. Alexie, following a national indigenous self-government conference in Inuvik, believes an educated youth is crucial if his community is to achieve self-government (NJ). In Nunavut, the Office of the Languages Commissioner is looking into gaps in services providing early childhood education (NN), while in Canada’s South Slave, educational speaker-slash-magician Terry Small taught students that they could “grow a better brain” and succeed in school (NJ).


Leaders of Canada’s First Nations, such as Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus, have come out against the Government of Canada’s response to a recent UN report on violence against women in northern Canada (CBC). The report calls for the federal government to conduct a comprehensive review of the violence, but the feds maintain it is up to the local and provincial governments to do so. Also advocating for Northern Canadian women, Iqaluit’s YWCA Agvvik received federal funding for a program to assist young women in becoming leaders (NN). In the United States, Indian Health Services has expanded access to emergency contraception for American Indian and Alaska Native women, ensuring access is available without a consultation or a prescription (FNM). On a much lighter note, a new television series – “Alaskan Women Looking for Love” – chronicles the journey of six Alaskan women from Kodiak to Miami, Florida in search of love.

In hunting and fishing-related news, whale hunting in Arctic Alaska is improving after a challenging start (AD), and permit cuts from Quebec have resulted in a scaled-back Caribou sports hunt in Nunavik (NN). In the U.S. Senate, issues of wildlife management in Alaska were debated before the Energy and Natural Resources Committee (AD).

Moving on to general society-related news, northern Sweden was hit by widespread flooding last week (EOTA), the Nunavut coroner’s office will hold an inquest into the jail-cell death of artist Solomon Uyarasuk (NN), and Greenland’s leading newspaper has launched a new site, “The Arctic Journal” (NN). Several articles from Arctic Journal appear in this week’s edition of TATW. Arctic-related pieces were also published on traveling the Northwest Passage (from The Guardian), on life “off the grid” in Alaska (AD), and on the consequences of ice melt for Alaska’s North Slope (from PBS).


In cultural news, Inuktitut language courses for non-native speakers are now being offered in Montreal (EOTA), a beautiful storybook has recently been released about the search for the Northwest Passage and the classic song memorializing the expedition by Stan Rogers (, and Yellowknife’s Northern Arts and Cultural Centre’s 29th season opened to a packed house last week (NJ). The film “Arctic Defenders,” about the movement that lead to the creation of Nunavut in 1999, opened last week during the Atlantic Film Festival (The Chronicle Herald), and Radio Canada International’s Eilís Quinn produced a video on the importance of sea ice in Inuit culture (EOTA). Eye on the Arctic featured an interview and a selection of works by Canadian artist Itee Pootoogook, whose work is currently exhibited at Toronto’s Feheley Fine Arts gallery.

In Rovaniemi, Finland, sacred sites custodians, scientists, indigenous leaders and government officials gathered last week to draft a declaration on the protection of sacred Arctic sites (NN). The event, organized by the University of Lapland with the assistance of UNESCO and the University of Montreal, was attended by representatives from Arctic states as well as the United Kingdom, Austria, Estonia, and Germany (AIR, in Russian).



Arctic Fibre’s plan to link Nunavut up to broadband internet via a fiber optic cable looks to be continuing to gain traction, as company representatives are in Nunavut looking to drum up support for the plan amongst the local community (Arctic Journal). Elsewhere, a new study by the Kativik Regional Government has concluded that a fiber optic cable is the best solution for providing broadband internet to Nunavik, finding fiber optic technology preferable to either microwave towers or a high-speed (ka-band) satellite (NN).

A small-craft harbor has opened in Pangnirtung, Nunavut – the first in the territory. The harbor – begun in 2009 – will allow for faster off-loading of fishing vessels and provide protection from tides and high winds (EOTA).

Finally, the Mackenzie Valley Review Board in the Northwest Territories is continuing to study a potential 800km expansion of the Mackenzie Highway to link Inuvik with Wrigley (EOTA and AD).


Sabetta – the new airport on Russia’s Yamal Penninsula – will be ready to receive regular flights by summer 2014. The airport was built as part of the Yamal LNG project, and will allow workers to arrive to begin construction on an LNG plant and port (BO and AIR).

A joint infrastructure plan has been completed for the Barents region, to include railway, roads, harbors, and air traffic. The plan looks to develop linkages between the different countries in the region, and break out of the North-South orientation that dominates infrastructure built during the Cold War (BO).


Icelandic officials in Vopnafjarðarhreppur and Langanesbyggð are developing plans to build an international freight harbor on the country’s northeast coast at Finnafjörður fjord to serve Arctic shipping. However, further assessments are needed, and some local farmers have expressed strong concerns about the potential project (Arctic Journal).

A new proposal from the Finish Transport Ministry, if approved by parliament, will end the state railway’s monopoly on import, export, and transit freight (EOTA).


A British adventurer aiming to circumnavigate the globe utilizing only human power – biking and rowing, specifically – has survived a near-miss with a cargo ship off the coast of Adak Island after her radar system failed (AD).

An Alaska runner’s essay on running will be featured in an upcoming anthology of the year’s “Best American Sports Writing” (AD).


Some stunning shots came up on Flickr this week, including an island in Kathleen Lake and a panoramic shot of Bullion Plateau, both shot in Yukon’s Kluane National Park by Iain Reid. Clare Kines shot a waxing moon at Adam’s sound, fireworks during a full moon, Dodo’s Delight docket in Arctic Bay, and a gorgeous night sky titled “In Waves.” Also on Flickr we have a shot of Twin Lakes Islands from Mikofox, and melting sea ice taken by John Farrell and rocks in Norway shot by Tommy Larsen, both posted by the Arctic Council

On Instagram, we have photos of Arctic tide pools, reindeer, and Nanbreen from arni_colorado, a rainbow in Barrow from mikefout1, and an iceberg shot and a polar plunge pic from kailamct. In the twitter category, we have dried fish in Norway from nova mieszkowska, Arctic cotton in Nunavut from Daniel Lak, ice floes from USCGAlaska, and some nice Arctic scenery from

Nunatsiaq News posted a shot captured by by Charlie Kowcharlie of a full moon at sunset and geese flying south, a shot that certainly “catches the mood of September.” Rounding up the images haul, “journalist, night sky photographer and overall adventurer” Peter McMahon of Sky News completed his project to photograph all Canada’s Dark Sky preserves with a stop to see the Northern Lights in the Northwest Territories (NJ).


Fairbanks, Alaska, received its first snowfall of the season on 18 September, registering .9 inches of the white stuff. This is about two weeks earlier than normal for Fairbanks and many residents are certainly wary of an early winter after last year’s winter seemed to stretch on forever in interior Alaska (FNM). The Olenek River in Yakutia, Russia, also got its first snow of the year (@yakutia). If you’re interested in finding the best place in the Russian Arctic to see the northern lights, you’ll want to consult this article in Russia Beyond the Headlines.

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)
Arctic Institute (TAI)
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)
Marine Executive (ME)
Moscow Times (MT)
National Geographic (NG)
Natural Gas Europe (NGE)
Naval Today (NT)
New York Times (NYT)
Northern Journal (NJ)
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)