The Arctic This Week: 8 September - 18 September 2013

Stranded courtesy of Clare Kines
The Arctic This Week 2013:33
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As you have likely noticed, we changed the distribution schedule for TATW. We will continue to provide the same great coverage of the week’s events in the Arctic, only now it will be released on Wednesdays instead of Mondays. You can find the PDF version 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 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.


Short for time? We suggest you focus on the following pieces:

If you haven’t followed Norway’s recent elections that closely (or, indeed, if you have and are hungry for more analysis), Mia Bennett crafted a helpful post for Foreign Policy Blogs on what a Conservative victory means for the Arctic, delving into both foreign and domestic affairs.

In energy reads this week, start off with this new report by Andreas Østhagen for Institutt for forsvarsstudier that explores the give-and-take between regional and national level interests in Arctic states and how this dynamic impacts decisions regarding oil and gas development. Next, we applaud Joel K. Bourne, Jr., for writing this even-handed and accessible report on the current state of research on Arctic-specific oil spill response technologies. Bourne includes the perspectives of numerous stakeholders in government and industry, describes the environmental challenges and questions the optimistic assumptions of many in industry regarding U.S. and global preparedness for an Arctic oil spill (National Geographic).

In the science section, Skip Walker and Uma Bhatt look at the consequences of changes in sea ice coverage on Arctic vegetation and clearly contrast their observations of the “browning” of some Arctic regions with reports from past weeks on a “greening” Arctic. Indeed, Walker and Bhatt conclude that the picture beginning to emerge is not a simple linear relationship of less ice leading to more vegetation as some plant life on land actually needs year round ice to thrive (EOTA).

In military news, two trenchant pieces this week examine the importance of cooperation between allies – and some of the mechanisms and institutions for doing so – in the Arctic region. With the widely heralded arrival of the Yong Shen – the first commercial container vessel to cross from China to Europe via the Arctic – in Rotterdam last week, Brooke Smith-Windsor of the NATO Defense College takes a look at why the Arctic will be increasingly important from a NATO perspective in the future (DefenseNews). Maj. Gen. Randy Kee, Director of Policy, Strategy, Partnering and Capabilities at U.S. European Command, discusses his experience at the recent Arctic Security Forces Roundtable meeting in Naantali, Finland in a short article on EUCOM’s website. Kee explores some of the issues discussed at the ASFR and stresses the importance of continued multilateral military dialogue and development of shared regulations moving forward to keep the region safe.

Finally in infrastructure news, the Financial Post has a fantastic overview of Canada’s Inuvik-Tuk Highway project, looking at the road as something of a microcosm of both the opportunities and challenges inherent in not just infrastructure, but indeed all development projects in Canada’s Arctic.



In last Monday’s elections in Norway, Conservative Erna Solberg defeated Labor Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, whose Labor-led coalition has held power for the last eight years (BBC). Solberg, who will become both the first Conservative prime minister since 1990 and Norway’s second female prime minister, is expected to form a coalition government with the Progress Party and either the Christian Democrats or the Liberals. For some analysis of the impacts of the Conservative victory for the Arctic, see Mia Bennett’s post in Foreign Policy Blogs. Eye on the Arctic also published a piece on the new center-right government’s plans to reform the Norwegian oil fund.


Quebec’s Premier, Pauline Marois, visited Kuujjuaq to meet with Nunavik Inuit leaders (CBC). During her visit, the Quebec government promised to provide CAN 1 million over the next three years to support marine infrastructure and CAN 5 million towards cost-of-living subsidies (NN), also pledging CAN 1 million for local tourism and CAN 5 million towards the Nunavik cooperative development fund (NN).

Nunavut’s justice minister Daniel Shewchuk announced that he would not be running in next month’s territorial election (NN). Shewchuk has served as Arviat’s MLA for the past five years. Fellow Nunavut MLA Tagak Curley has questioned the Government of Nunavut and the Government of Canada’s funding of researchers’ search for the remains of the vessels used during the 1845 Franklin exhibition, believing the funds would be put to better use elsewhere (EOTA).

Hay River has threatened to cut off water, sewage and other services to neighboring communities in the Northwest Territories if the territorial government does not address its “flawed funding formula” and the shortcomings it presents for Hay River (CBC).

Yukon’s Liard First Nation withdrew its support for the Liard Aboriginal Women's Society, a group Chief Liard McMillan says is unaccountable in its use of government funds (CBC). The Yukon government’s use of its funds is the subject of a recent editorial by Jesse Winter titled “A journey to nowhere” (YN).

United States

State Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan has announced that he will resign, fueling speculation that the Republican will run for U.S. Senate, hoping to oust Alaska’s Democratic Senator Mark Begich (AD). Alaskan Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell, the first Republican to officially announce his run in 2014, has now officially kicked off his own campaign to unseat the Senator (FNM). Senator Lisa Murkowski, whose term does not expire until 2017, announced the passage of the Denali Park Improvement Act in a press release issued on September 10.

After meeting with the Fortymile Mining Association on Saturday, Alaskan Governor Sean Parnell concluded that representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency “clearly used excessive force” in their enforcement sweeps of “mom and pop” mining operations in Chicken in August (FNM). The official investigation ordered by the Governor surrounding the enforcement actions has not yet begun.


Next month, the Arkhangelsk region will assume chairmanship of the Barents Regional Committee (AIR, in Russian). Arkhangelsk will assume the position previously held by Sweden’s Norrbotten County for two years (Barents Euro-Arctic Council). Moscow’s “Arctic ambitions” are the subject of an article in Russia & India Report. The article, written by Dmitry Litovkin, primarily discusses the strategic importance of the Northern Sea Route.

President Putin briefly addressed concessions to oil and gas companies operating on Russia’s continental shelf during the question-and-answer portion of a press conference held following the G20 Summit. Mr. Putin’s response touched on the importance of environmental impact assessments and the need for government support in the early stages of offshore projects. A transcript of the press conference is available in English via the Kremlin website.


A new study published in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics found that natural gas flaring at oil and gas installations around the Arctic is responsible for 42% of the region’s black carbon emissions. Elevated levels of black carbon in the Arctic have been blamed for accelerated ice melt ( This new study has increased calls for discussion of an Arctic-wide regulatory standard for gas flaring (Scientific American).

Following up on several successful awareness-raising campaigns regarding the environmental hazards of oil and gas exploration in the Arctic, Greenpeace launched “Ice Ride” this weekend, featuring demonstrations on bicycle to protest Arctic oil drilling. All told, protests occurred in over 100 cities in 34 countries (Greenpeace). In London, 3,000 protesters were led by a giant mechanical polar bear (Metro). The bear, which weighed 3 tons, apparently did not conceal a team of crack environmental activists waiting to sack Shell corporate headquarters should they have been allowed through the gate.


Putin responded to questions about environmental requirements for oil and gas work on the Arctic shelf at the G20 summit last week by saying that companies wanting to operate there would be subjected to strict regulation (AIR, in Russian). Moscow is stepping in strongly to support oil and gas exploration on the shelf by pledging funding for research and mapping (AIR, in Russian) and significant tax breaks to incentivize investment (Bellona). The Duma moved this week to extend tax benefits and other privileges to projects on the Arctic shelf. The package of benefits will be similar to what has already been instituted for the Prirazlomnoye oil field in the Pechora Sea (VOR).

While President Putin has expressed his support for the idea and companies such as Rosneft and Novatek have already entered into agreements to sell gas to potential customers, Moscow has yet to officially end Gazprom’s gas export monopoly, though it appears that the Duma will take up a bill to do just that this fall (AIR, in Russian).

The Chinese National Petroleum Company doesn’t seem concerned about the continuing ambiguity over LNG exports. The state-owned company signed a deal with Novatek last week to take a 20% stake in the Yamal LNG project (BO). Several Chinese commercial banks were also party to the agreement, signing on to provide crucial financing for the project (AIR, in Russian).

Plans are moving forward to connect several communities across the Nenets Autonomous Okrug with natural gas pipelines (AIR, in Russian). Government and industry representatives will be on hand to witness an oil spill response exercise at the joint Rosneft-ConocoPhillips Ardalinskoye oil fields in Nenets on 18 September (AIR, in Russian). Like Gazprom, Rosneft has also begun funding “Rosneft Classes” in villages and towns surrounding their major oil and gas projects in Russia’s north. These classes focus on science and engineering and provide a career track for local youth to join the oil industry (AIR, in Russian).

A Gazprom executive claimed this week that his company is the best prepared to operate in the Arctic (Stockhouse, UPI). Gazprom’s preparedness leaves something to be desired if we are to believe video footage released by Greenpeace UK purporting to show all sorts of safety and sobriety violations on a Gazprom offshore oil rig. Greenpeace Russia has also released news that Gazprom Neft has had to halt work on Dolginskoye field in the Barents Sea as the company failed to procure the proper environmental certificates. Gazprom has also announced that it will keep its controlling stake in the long-delayed Shtokman project even as gas prices have made the project unprofitable in the near future (ITAR-TASS).


There is much speculation on the impact the Conservative Party’ electoral victory this week will have on Norway’s energy policies. Mia Bennett touched on the issue in her assessment of the election’s political fallout (FP) while Charlotte McDonald-Gibson wrote for the Alaska Dispatch on the growing opposition to oil and gas exploration within the younger generation of the Labour Party and the desire within the Conservative Party to open up places like the Lofoten Islands for energy development (AD). The necessities of coalition forming may, however, keep the Lofotens off limits to oil and gas. Two minor parties and probable coalition partners, the Liberals and Christian Democrats, appear to be holding the oil and gas closure around the Lofotens as a condition for joining any coalition with the Conservatives (Reuters). Norway’s oil and gas industry is pressing its agenda in Oslo, calling on lawmakers in an open letter (in Norwegian) to reverse recent oil and gas tax hikes, open the northeast Norwegian Sea (including the area of the Lofoten Islands) to oil and gas, and increase public expenditures for energy research and development (Reuters).

Two recent discoveries announced last week in the Norwegian Barents Sea have stirred excitement about the increased potential of several oil and gas fields in the region (BO). Lundin Petroleum announced in struck oil and gas condensate with a wildcat well in the Gohta prospect (Upstream), while Tullow Oil and OMV hit a reservoir that could contain up to 160 million barrels of oil (Guardian).


The political opposition is calling on Parliament to rethink plans to contract with Russian state-owned Rosatom for construction of a new nuclear reactor in Pyhäjoki, saying that the proposed model will not meet Finnish safety regulations (AD). In response, the government announced it would put off any decisions on the new plant until next spring (EOTA).


A persistent bitumen leak at an oilsands site in Northern Alberta has drawn the attention of federal regulators and soured the relationship between the Cold Lake First Nations and the company running the site, Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (NJ). Across the border in the Northwest Territories, Sahtu residents are complaining that the federal government has done nothing to clean up industrial waste left over from oil and gas exploration in the 1960s that is polluting an area considered sacred to the Mountain Dene aboriginal group (NJ).

In spite of lagging interest in the Mackenzie Delta’s gas and other prospects in the northern Northwest Territories, the federal government is calling for nominations for lands in the region for oil and gas development. If there is sufficient interest, the federal government may initiate one last licensing round in October before responsibility for oil and gas licensing passes to the government of NWT next year as part of devolution (PN).


In Fairbanks a public utility and a private company are competing to win the right to deliver natural gas to a medium-density region in the city’s southeast. At stake is a USD 150 million state bond package to subsidize the expansion of facilities and infrastructure to serve this part of the city (FNM). The Delta Wind Farm southeast of Fairbanks has added a 10th turbine, bringing the farm’s total capacity to 2 megawatts (FNM).

Governor Sean Parnell appointed seven new individuals to the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation’s board of directors (FNM). The corporation’s mandate is to develop a natural gas pipeline to bring affordable North Slope gas to South Central Alaska communities.

Exercise Arctic Shield 2013 provided an opportunity for the Coast Guard Research and Development Center to test Arctic-specific oil spill response technologies and conduct a simulated oil spill recovery in cooperation with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the University of Alaska – Fairbanks (Marine Link). NOAA highlighted the work of one of its mapping specialists whose role during the exercise was to manage a new GIS-based mapping and planning tool called the Environmental Response Management Application (NOAA). The USCG released several photos from the exercise.

ConocoPhillips has filed notice of staking forms with the Bureau of Land Management expressing its intent to drill four new wells in the National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska (PN). The filing is a routine matter and does not mean ConocoPhillips has yet committed to drilling the wells.

With news that the repeal of the state’s new oil tax regime will be put to a voter referendum in 2014 has opponents of the recent tax cuts already planning on how they’ll replace the state’s oil and gas tax laws should they be rejected by voters. One of the new law’s most vocal critics, Democratic State Senator Hollis French, lays out in an interview with Petroleum News what he says would be some sensible reforms to Alaska’s tax regime, including ways to cap progressivity and encourage development of new fields.

The decision of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation to not invite conservation groups to the upcoming Arctic/Cold Regions Oil Pipeline Conference has not made the state any new friends in the environmental community (AD).

Norwegian exploration company TGS-Nopec has begun 2D seismic surveys in the Chukchi Sea this year that will cover a total of approximately 8,000 km2 (Reuters).


Natural Gas Europe provided a short primer from Danish law firm Plesner on the status of natural resource exploration in Greenland, worth a read if you’re looking for a good background on the topic (NGE).



To start with, have a look at the Atlas of Community-Based Monitoring in a Changing Arctic. The website gives a good first overview of the different social and environmental monitoring projects and the data available from community observations across the Arctic. Also tracking changes in the Arctic environment, the National Snow and Ice Date Center provides daily updated information on the sea ice extent (NSIDC). In Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard, a new observatory is anticipated to be operational within five years and is poised to play a key role in enhancing the global climate-monitoring network (NRK, in Norwegian).

Global warming? Or global cooling? There seems to be some confusion in the media this week. David Rose of the Daily Mail (DM) and Hayley Dixon at the Telegraph (Telegraph) point to the growth of the Arctic ice cap this year as opposed to last year as a sign of “global cooling.” John Abraham and Dana Nuccitelli take the authors to task for their articles’ “focus on short-term noise”, while ignoring “the rapid long-term Arctic sea ice death spiral.” Abraham and Nuccitelli’s article provides insight into the different perspectives on sea ice decline and climate change, illustrated by animated graphs demonstrating the differences in how skeptics and realists view the data (Guardian). Alex DeMarban discusses some details of this row and assesses where the Mail and Telegraph’s analysis has gone wrong (AD). Geoffrey Lean eventually rectifies the story for the Telegraph and acknowledges that both the Arctic and Antarctic ice are still melting (Telegraph). The debate also led the Met Office, the National Weather Service for the UK, to emphasize year-to-year variability of sea ice and the longer-term trend of Arctic ice and explain how this relates to the current news stories (Met Office). BBC’s Jonathan Amos notes that sea ice volume allows for a better assessment of the changes in the Arctic than sea ice extent. And as new data from the European Space Agency’s CryoSat satellite shows, the trend of Arctic sea ice volume decline continues in 2013. (BBC). In Greenland, mathematician David Holland of New York University strives to contribute to the body of knowledge on current ice conditions and changes. He examines what happens when warm water currents meet ice sheets and the implications for sea level rise. Watch this short video to find out more (Phys). As reported last week, drones are increasingly being deployed to study ice sheets in the Arctic. Around two dozen universities and research centers have already registered as drone operators. Nevertheless, regulation is still lagging behind (CC). Still can’t get enough ice? Then you will definitely enjoy this website on sea ice graphs.

Looking at the consequences of the decline in ice cover, Skip Walker and Uma Bhatt clearly contrast their observations of the “browning” of some Arctic regions with reports from past weeks on a “greening” Arctic. Indeed, Walker and Bhatt conclude that the picture beginning to emerge is not a simple linear relationship of less ice leading to more vegetation as some plant life on land actually needs year round ice to thrive (EOTA). Some algae and bacteria also thrive in the ice, using gel-like substances to protect themselves from extreme temperatures in the icy conditions. These sticky masses of algae and bacteria appear to affect how carbon travels in the ocean: as ice melts the clumps of organic material sink quickly, taking carbon from the surface waters to the sea floor (SD). This is related to new findings by Robbins et al. that suggest that marine surface waters are being acidified due to their absorption of carbon dioxide. What is more, the Arctic Ocean is expected to suffer from an accelerated pace of acidification (Plos One). Even worse, surface waters previously covered by sea ice are now in contact with the atmosphere, which significantly exacerbates their acidification (USGS). To monitor acidification in the Arctic, NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in partnership with the Marine Research Institute in Iceland deployed its first high-latitude buoy, equipped with pH, temperature, salinity, and oxygen sensors, north of Iceland (NOAA).

Flora and fauna

A study by US Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Eric Regehr states that despite the high rates of ice loss in the Chukchi Sea, the polar bear population remains healthy, with individuals maintaining their size and body condition. Off Alaska’s north coast, the story is different. Because of a less productive ecosystem, polar bears living off Alaska are not in such good shape (AP). In spite of this, around 20 polar bears gathered to feast on the remains of a whale in the northeastern Alaska community of Kaktovik (AD). And if you find that you are the potential meal instead of a whale, try punching the bear with your fist as Jason Lauesen did when a grizzly invaded his tent while camping at the Sourdough Campground on the Richardson Highway, Alaska. While the bear spray failed to impress, yelling might have contributed to the bear’s retreat (NM). Another rather unconventional method was championed by Garett Kolsun in Churchill, who used his cellphone in a desperate bid to defend himself from a polar bear. The screen light distracted the bear long enough for Kolsun to escape. To be safe, avoid walking in the dark at this time of the year. If you can’t avoid it, make sure to carry a cellphone (EOTA).

In northwest Alaska, a four-year long study of adult female muskox using radio-tracking collars revealed that the animals, viewed until now as sedentary, actually travel hundreds of miles (AD).


Welcome the new APECS director, Dr. Gerlis Fugmann (APECS)!

A team from the Wageningen University, the University of Groningen and the University of Amsterdam won the Public Award of the annual Academic Award 2012, which entailed a camera team of the Dutch television program "Labyrint" following them on their expedition to Edgeøya, Svalbard, this summer to report on their research. Their research focuses on bird migration routes, the role of science in political discussions, the quality of the seafloor around oil and gas platforms, and ballast water treatment (Wageningen UR).

Besides TV broadcasting, Twitter can help to raise the level of awareness about your research. Using it to connect with other researchers during the publication process furthers interdisciplinary cooperation and facilitates the communication of scientific results to a large audience, increasing their impact (SD).


United States

Thanks to a keen-eyed local pilot and the efforts of a group of local residents, an 81-year-old Nome resident has been rescued from Safety Sound, AK, after a SAR mission to rescue him was botched due to an apparent breakdown in communications. The elderly man was spotted by a pilot and his status relayed to Alaska State Troopers and the Nome Volunteer Fire Department, but for reasons still unclear no rescue attempt was made for days (EOTA).

It has been a busy – and grizzly – year for SAR in the 49th state; while plane crashes in Alaska are down to 85 from last year’s total of 98, fatalities have increased more than threefold from 2012 to 2013 (EOTA). On the bright side, help for SAR teams in Alaska is coming from a totally unexpected source: Alaska Dispatch reports on a heartwarming story about a Valdez man who, upon learning he was going to have his leg amputated, arranged to have the limb shipped to Alaska for Alaska Search and Rescue Dogs to use in training exercises.


Russia continues to build up its military presence in the Arctic. Following the completion of the Pyotr Velikiy’s voyage through the Northern Sea Route, Russia has announced the beginning of regular naval patrols through Arctic shipping lanes in its territory. The move marks the re-establishment of a permanent Russian military presence in the Arctic, according to First Deputy Defense Minister Arkady Bakhin. Bakhin also announced plans to upgrade an airfield on the Novossibirsk Islands (NYT, ITAR-TASS, InSerbia, RIAN, and MT). Similarly, two Tupolev-95MS strategic bombers returned last week from an eighteen-hour patrol over the Norwegian Sea. Russian officials stressed that all patrols were “performed in strict compliance with the international rules of using airspace over neutral waters” (Itar-Tass).

In slightly less-glamorous Russian naval news, state trials of two brand new Borey-class submarines have been halted after a failed test launch of a Bulava-class Submarine-launched Ballistic Missle. For the Bulava – a system plagued by difficulties – it’s a case of out-with-the-new-and-in-with-the-old, as the next test launches will be carried out from a nearly forty-year-old Typhoon class submarine (BO).

Finally, four people have been rescued near Tiksi in the Sakha Republic after their crashed boat was found abandoned (AIR, in Russian).


Canada is moving forward with the Radarsat Constellation Mission (RCM) maritime surveillance satellite project. The RCM will monitor shipping in Canada’s Arctic, both through synthetic aperture radar able to detect ships 25 meters in length in various weather conditions, and through a package that will allow it to identify Automatic Identification System beacons from space (UPI and Stratrisks).

Three men were killed after a helicopter operating with the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Amundsen crashed into the Arctic Ocean. The helicopter was performing routine reconnaissance on ice in the area as part of the Amundsen’s research mission, and authorities are unclear as to the causes of the accident, which the Transportation Safety Board is currently investigating. The tragedy has brought condolences from everyone from the Prime Minister’s office to the local communities (CBC, EOTA, WFP, ITK, and Yahoo News Canada). The first task in the investigation will be retrieving the helicopter, which is currently under 450 meters of water north of Banks Island, and the Amundsen’s crew is hoping to carry out the recovery themselves (CBC).

Finally, Canadian soldiers have wrapped up a SAR training mission hosted by Denmark near Ella Island. The exercise simulated a scenario involving Canada, the United States, Denmark, and Iceland (NN).


A large NORDEFCO air exercise is underway, with forces from Finland, Norway, Sweden, Great Britain, and the United States participating (the latter two in an advisory and training role) (BO). If you like fast planes and beautiful scenery, check out this photo from Gripen News’ Twitter account showing the arrival of several U.S. F-15’s to Bodø, Norway, for the exercise.

The Danish state auditor Rigsrevisionen has issued a report criticizing the military for failing to meet its obligations in the Arctic. The report specifically takes issue with the military’s lack of enforcement of environmental regulations, and finds Denmark’s Arctic SAR capabilities to be “below par” (Copenhagen Post). For those who can read Danish, the full report is available online.



The Diavik diamond mine’s four new wind turbines are up and supplying up to 50% of the mine’s electricity needs on a daily basis, reducing dependence on diesel fuel (CBC).

The Canadian mining industry scored a legislative victory this week as Ottawa passed amendments to the Foreign Affiliates Dumping rules which industry representatives said endangered Canada’s global competitiveness (North of 60).

Atac Resources announced promising results from 12 boreholes at its Rackla site in central Yukon (CMJ). Goldstrike Resources announced that it has located three separate gold deposits in its Plateau South project south of the Hess River in southern Yukon (CMJ).

Kivalliq Energy Corp. released metallurgical and assay results from its Angilak uranium prospect in Nunavut this week (North of 60).

Peregrine Diamonds Ltd. Provided updates on its summer exploration activities at its Chidliak Project on Baffin Island, including the discovery of three new potentially diamond-bearing kimberlite formations (North of 60).

Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. announced this week it will go ahead with its planned iron mine at Mary River on Baffin Island after reaching benefit and lease agreements with the Qikiqtani Inuit Association last week (NN).


Freegold Ventures reported results from three boreholes drilled in the Dolphin deposit north of Fairbanks. The results showed several promising horizons with some intervals containing coarse, visible gold (North of 60).

Anglo American PLC has announced its withdrawal from the controversial Pebble copper-gold deposit above Bristol Bay, leaving Canadian Northern Dynasty Minerals in sole ownership of the project (CMJ).


Demonstrators in Greenland protested in Nuuk this week as Greenland’s government debated lifting the country’s ban on uranium mining (NN). Denmark has long opposed exporting uranium from Greenland, but the autonomous government of Greenland has pushed increasingly for control over its resource portfolio and the issue of uranium has arisen as a key sticking point between the two governments. While a decision is not expected until October, a legal report from the Danish law firm Lett released this week concluded that Greenland has the legal right to export uranium without consulting Copenhagen, adding further fuel to the debate (Politiken, in Danish).


The Board of Directors of Norilsk Nickel has approved the company’s medium-term strategy which includes a significant shift of resources to the Taimyr Peninsula, where the company has already discovered significant platinum deposits (AIR, in Russian).



Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Kodiak, Alaska, fear that Alaska’s king crabs may fall victim to ocean acidification (see details in the climate section above). The problem could furthermore affect snow crabs, another important catch for the fisheries industry, though so far little is known about how they might react to the changes (FNM).


Cosco’s Yong Sheng, hailed as the first Chinese cargo ship to transit the Arctic, has arrived at its destination, Rotterdam (SSN). After this success, COSCO Dalian shipyard has been assigned the contract for building two Module Carrier Class ships for the transportation of ultra-large and heavy modular cargoes for the Dutch company BigRoll Shipping (BigRoll Shipping), with an option for two additional vessels. The construction is set to start in May and August 2015 (AIR, in Russian).

Also South Korea appears to be inspired by the Yong Sheng’s trip. The South Korean logistics company Hyundai Glovis announced its cooperation with Stena Bulk to work on a long-term shipping strategy focusing on the Northern Sea Route (NSR) (gCaptain). On 15 September, a pilot service on the NSR was launched with the Stena Polaris departing from Ust Luga in the Gulf of Finland. South Korea also looks to Russia for cooperation on natural resource development in the Arctic, and is considering building its second icebreaker (GP).

In Helsinki, the first asymmetrical design for an icebreaker is being developed, enabling the ship to act as an icebreaker while also cleaning up oil spills. In contrast to conventional icebreakers, which cannot clear the way for big cargo ships on their own, the Oblique Icebreaker NB 508 by Arctech will be able to travel sideways through the ice, thereby cutting a wider channel (BBC). Meanwhile, Finland and Russia are about to reach an inter-governmental agreement on the supply of icebreakers for Russian waters. While the deal could get approved this fall, the necessary regulations could take more time to develop (AD). Eugene Apollonov, Deputy General Director of the Krylovskiy State Scientific Center also states that Russia plans to commission a draft nuclear icebreaker with a capacity of 110 MW, compared to 60 MW of the nuclear icebreakers currently under construction, which were commissioned in 2012 (AIR, in Russian). Further west, state officials from Maine are in Reykjavik to talk about closer shipping links with the board of directors of the Icelandic shipping company Eimskip. While Maine encourages Eimskip to continue investing in Portland, Eimskip requires infrastructure improvements around Portland's historic cargo port and progress regarding the U.S. policy on Arctic development issues (PH). To the north, the Mary River iron project on north Baffin Island has already set off a “shipping boom” at the port of Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, QC, on the St. Lawrence Seaway (NN).

On a less positive note, the Russian tanker Nordvik, which collided with an ice floe in the Matisen Strait along the Taimyr Peninsula last week is on its way to Murmansk, accompanied by two nuclear-powered icebreakers. The diesel oil that the ship carried was reloaded on the tanker Boris Vilkitsky and no leakage is reported. Russian authorities claim that the Nordvik violated the permit given by the NSR administration and had entered medium ice conditions without being escorted by an icebreaker as prescribed (BO). Trude Pettersen of the Barents Observer was particularly puzzled that the Nordvik had to wait for assistance while the Russian missile cruiser Petr Veliky benefited from four nuclear-powered icebreakers on its trip along the NSR (BO). Carey Restino of Alaska Dispatch analyses the patchy media coverage on the wreckage and views the incident as a “wake-up call for Arctic nations” (AD).

Hinting at the lack of environmental regulation, an article in the Post and Courier indicates that the growing shipping traffic along the NSR will lead to a greater amount of soot deposited on the Arctic ice, further accelerating Arctic ice melt (Post and Courier). Despite the recebt explosion of optimism around Arctic shipping and worries surrounding the increased level of shipping activity in the Arctic, Kathrin Keil and Andreas Raspotnik of The Arctic Institute warn that the NSR is still only of “limited geo-economic importance.” Read their detailed analysis here (TAI).

Other business and economic news

In the business news this week, Mia Bennett contemplates the commodification of resources in the Arctic. Even though ice – in the form of permafrost – could become the Arctic’s most precious asset as a carbon sink, Bennett views the Arctic’s unique landscape, including the northern lights, as its single most important resource, and one that will resist commodification (AD). In a similar vein, recognizing the Finnish landscape’s potential for tourism, researchers at the University of Eastern Finland argue that visa freedom for Russian tourists would boost Finland’s economy and result in the creation of “thousands of jobs” (EOTA).

The company Spaceport Sweden is eyeing Sweden’s national Esrange Space Centre outside Kiruna for space tourism shuttle launches, a plan that is however hindered by setbacks in developing space vehicles. In the meantime, the Space Centre could be used as Europe’s first satellite launch station. (AD).


Weight-related issues dominated health news this week, with YLE News reporting “Finns take the cake as fattest Nordic nation” and the Alaska Alliance for Healthy Kids holding a summit on childhood obesity in Anchorage this week (FNM). In other health-related news, a new health facility is officially open on the Hay River Reserve (NJ), the newly-named Fairbanks Community Mental Health Services has had to cut around twenty personnel (FNM), and the U.S. Congress will hold a hearing on subsistence food security for Alaska Natives this week (FNM).

Only one item fell under the “education” heading this week: Nordpil updated two diagrams cleverly depicting exchanges in the University of the Arctic North2North student mobility program. The diagrams are visible via the Nordpil website.

A group of Russian and American “enthusiasts” appear to be close to locating the wreckage of the first cargo-passenger flight from Moscow to Alaska in 1937 (RIAN). As part of the Assessing Arctic Futures project, Ekaterina Kalemeneva presented on changes in urban planning in the Soviet Arctic in the 1960s, also touching on Soviet-era history (Arctic Futures). In other societal news, Quebec Premier Pauline Marois announced that a new group consisting of officials from Nunavik and Quebec City plan to coordinate a joint approach to tackling Nunavik’s social problems (NN).

For cultural news, New York artist David Pettibone has set up shop in Barrow and is conducting painting seminars with local children while working on a series of paintings depicting the whale hunt (Arctic Sounder), Inuvik’s Arctic Market wrapped up after “a successful and profitable first season” (NJ), and the Japan Times did a piece on reindeer herding in Russia’s Far East.



If the Financial Post’s article on the Inuvik-Tuk Highway intrigued you, there are several articles this week thay focus on the highway, in particular the role of local communities vis-à-vis the project (AD, NJ, and EOTA).

There were two big pieces of news this week on the Canadian Arctic Aviation front. First, talks have resumed between Canadian North and the union representing some of its employees with an aim towards avoiding a potential strike (EOTA). Second, Icelandair announced that direct flights from Edmonton to Reykjavik will begin in March (EOTA).

United States

Not to be outdone by the Canadians, the U.S. Department of Transportation has approved $2.2 million towards improving roads near Alakanuk, AK (EOTA). Conversely, the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly has unanimously voted to dissolve two road service areas (FNM).


The Murmansk region is looking to become a hub of Arctic tourism with its “Arctic Harbor” project. Among other initiatives, it will aim to ensure that Murmansk can accommodate cruise ships (AIR).


EOTA looks at the Esrange Space Center with an eye towards its potential future use.


United States

A big-game hunting trip went terribly awry when a Rhode Island man, after shooting a grizzly bear in Alaska, was attacked and mauled by the angry animal. He is expected to survive (AD).

Meanwhile, Fairbanks continues to ramp up enthusiasm in the run-up to the Arctic Winter Games with some help from World Cup Skier Holly Brooks (FNM).

Kristin Gates, 26, has become the first woman to solo hike across the Brooks Range, a feat which took six weeks and traversed some 1000 miles (Arctic Sounder).


Yukon News reports on ongoing – and last-ditch – efforts to keep the Mount Sima ski hill open for the winter. Also from the Yukon, the local school system is opening its first-ever “sports school”; students will take academic courses for half the day and engage in sports for the second half (CBC).

A long-distance runner is planning a 3000+ kilometer run from Vancouver to Inuvik next year (NJ).


The Olympic torch is going to the North Pole. The torch will begin its journey to Russia in anticipation of the Sochi Winter Games on October 7, where it will be flown to Murmansk. Thenceforth, it will board the nuclear icebreaker 50 Years of Victory, where it will be lit and, apparently, carried to the North Pole. Its Arctic voyage will be one of the first stops on its route around Russia prior to the games (AIR).


Artist Zaria Forman has produced a series of almost photo-like drawings depicting Greenlandic ice, part of a project the artist hopes will raise awareness of the impacts of climate change. You can view her “Greenland 2012” drawings via My Modern Met. Another beautiful series of images is available on Hike Bike Travel, chronicling backpacking on Baffin Island, and the University of Glasgow posted a series of Arctic photos taken by Elis Nilsson in the 1890s.

This week’s Flickr haul features three stunning photos from Clare Kines: “The fog above, the clouds below,” “Prime Ministerial” and “Stranded” as well as a shot of high bush cranberry from Bruce McKay dubbed “The Colors of Fall” and a stunning black-and-white of an Arctic fox by Paul Aningat.

The Twitter crowd posted twitpics of colorful houses in Longyearbyen (The Culture Map), polar bears in Coningham Bay (Ray Jayawardhana), Narwhals (Carlos Gavina) and the beautiful weather in Tromsø (Nigel Pickover), while Instagram enthusiast “arni_colorado” captured Hansbreen Glacier, a polar bear-proofed cabin and the Polish Polar Station. Also on Instagram you’ll find two very distinct photos of Arctic rocks from skejtaceksiky and ole_gunnar as well as a shot of gorgeous turquoise Svalbard waters from ktmillerphoto. The U.S. Department of the Interior even posted close-up footage of polar bears taken by Secretary Jewell while visiting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Dave Walsh’s solo exhibition, “The Arctic: Another World?” opens at the Bibliothèque de Laeken in Brussels at the end of the month.


In the grab bag this week, start with this profile of Fairbanks, AK, resident and noted mosquito hunter Stu Pechek, who captured a whopping 6.2 ounces of mosquitos this year. For those of you not familiar with how much a mosquito weighs (and they do come larger in Alaska) that amounts to around 30,000 individual mosquitos (AD).

In this week’s installment of the Arctic-as-corporate-free-for-all, see this article in Slate, the title of which says it all: Pirates of Colder Meridians. Perhaps this is the next installment of Pirates of the Caribbean?

Moving on, Mia Bennett provides a mediation on the urgent need to quantify to value of natural phenomenon, increasingly to “save them” in the face of the global resource economy. It is this trend that has given us a UN program to assign monetary value to forests based on their ability to store atmospheric carbon and, Bennett argues, the current trend to put a price on all things natural (FP).

Baby monkey in the Arctic! The northernmost zoo in Russia and (?) the world in Novy Urengoy witnessed the birth of a baby monkey last week (AIR, in Russian).

If you’re anything like me, you probably come across stories every week of a new expedition in the Arctic, be it by paddleboard, rowboat, jet ski, regular ski, kiteboard, etc., and wonder where do these guys and gals come up with the money for this stuff? This is often followed by the question: how can I find someone to pay me to paddle/swim/drift across the Arctic for three months? Well, polar expedition leader Alex Hibbert answers all of these questions and more in an entertaining post that tells you everything you need to know to get into the Arctic expedition business.

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Financial Times (FT)
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