The Arctic This Week: 3 October - 9 October 2013

courtesy of Doris Friedrich
The Arctic This Week 2013:36
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Pressed for time as the days get shorter or the new semester begins?  We suggest you focus on the following pieces from last week’s news to make the best use of your time.

Start this week with CNN’s Jason Miks’ recent interview with Iceland’s President, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson. In addition to addressing the growing international interest in the Arctic and the need for a more comprehensive American approach to the region, the interview is timely as Grímsson also discusses the Arctic Circle, which Mr. Grímsson helped establish. The Arctic Circle will convene October 12-14 in Reykjavík, Iceland.

Next, we’d like to call your attention to a new book titled Environmental and Human Security in the Arctic that Routledge is calling “the first comprehensive exploration of why human security is relevant to the Arctic.” The book features sections on differing conceptions of security as well as environmental security, health security, and human security as it pertains to women and indigenous groups. The book is edited by academics from Norway’s University of Tromsø and Canada’s York University. 

In energy reads, see this fantastic article by Lohn Lippert for Bloomberg that explores how Alaska’s communities and oil industry are adapting to rapid changes in the environment and global energy markets. Lippert portrays Alaksa as a state heavily dependent on the oil industry, but also disproportionately impacted by a rapid changing climate.  Lippert’s article is accompanied by two short videos, one looking at how the village of Nome is dealing with climate change, and the second profiling Linc Energy’s efforts to open new oil fields on the North Slope.

In science news, read about how the town of Garnish, Newfoundland, Canada, approaches caribou conservation. The town “adopted” a friendly yearling caribou that has hung around the community since early summer. The article includes a short video of the fearless caribou “Buddy” playing with the town’s dogs (CBC).

Moving on to military news, an article from Russia Beyond the Headlines presents an optimistic perspective on Russian-NATO cooperation, focusing specifically on the recently concluded Vigilant Skies exercise.

In the business section, an article on Shipwreckology offers a rather unconventional view on Arctic shipping. As unlikely as it might seem at first, ghost ships actually do exist! Some ships abandoned by their crew in the harsh Arctic ice may still be drifting around the Arctic.

Finally in infrastructure news, Eye on the Arctic spoke with John Higginbotham, senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, about the recently-released Barents Transport Plan and its applicability as a potential model for North America’s Beaufort Region.


Navigating the political scene this week, it makes sense to divide things into two categories: Russia-related news and non-Russia-related news. Be it related to Greenpeace or Mr. Putin’s recent Arctic proclamations, Russian stories dominated the news.

While we’ve neatly filed the recent Greenpeace stories under the “Energy” heading in recent weeks, things have taken on a decidedly political, more international character of late. After jailing twenty-eight activists and two journalists onboard the Arctic Sunrise when it was seized by the Coast Guard on September 19 (Aljazeera), Russian authorities formally charged thirteen Greenpeace activists and a freelance videographer with piracy on October 2nd (BBC, Upstream,, and O Globo, in Portuguese). Bellona and The Sydney Morning Herald reported that all thirty have now been charged of the crime. For more on the “piracy” classification, which Mr. Putin implicitly discredited in a statement on September 25 (Sydney Morning Herald), check out these articles from The Conversation and Radio Free Europe.

Protests were held in British cities and around the world on Saturday in support of the “Arctic 30,” with famous Britons such as Vivienne Westwood and Jude Law responding to Greenpeace’s call for “global solidarity” with the activists (The Guardian, BBC, Radio Free Europe).

Following Russia’s failure to respond to Dutch demands for an explanation as to why the Dutch-flagged Arctic Sunrise had been seized by Russia’s coast guard (, the Netherlands initiated legal proceedings against Russia, applying to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (BBC,, Huffington Post, RT). Brushing off the Dutch actions, Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Alexei Meshkov maintained that considering Russian officials had asked the Netherlands repeatedly to put a stop to the activities of the Greenpeace vessel, “we have by far more questions to ask Holland than they may have to ask us” (VOR, RT, The Star, The Moscow Times).

Several other countries have also been involved in the arrests. The United Kingdom’s foreign secretary raised concerns over the welfare of the six arrested British citizens (The Independent), the Ukrainian foreign minister is seeking to appeal the arrest of the ship’s Ukrainian cook (, and Australian diplomats visited jailed activist Colin Russell ( Denmark, reports Arctic-Info (in Russian), does not plan to exert political pressure, hoping that “non-interference” will best ensure the speedy release of the activists.

Commenting on the issue, many took the opportunity to weigh in, making some good (and some not so good) points. The first I’d like to point out comes from the new outlet The Arctic Journal, which posted a nice opinion piece by Mikå Mered. The author calls Russia’s response “perfectly predictable,” questioning Greenpeace’s “life-threatening publicity stunt” and the organization’s Arctic mandate, especially considering that more legitimate stakeholders such as indigenous groups “collectively reject Greenpeace’s questionable use of the indigenous voice as a front for its own campaign.” While the organization’s antics may not be “terrorist-level action,” as the American student newspaper Central Florida Future has put it, it is even more unhelpful to dub the events “the first shots in the ‘Arctic Wars’” as Richard Lourie has in The Moscow Times. Beyond Lourie’s gripping first line, however, is an important point: Russia sees the Arctic as a sort of “last stand.” The Global Post and Voice of America News argued along similar lines, commenting that Russia is “playing hardball with Greenpeace” as another way of “flexing its muscles” in the Arctic Ocean. Foreign Policy calls Russia’s piracy charges an “ominous precedent,” yet apparently 60 per cent of Russians approve of the accusations, believing the government measures to be an “appropriate” response (Johnson’s Russia List).

Moving on to the next big piece of Russian-related news, President Putin pledged on Thursday that Russia would increase its Arctic presence, restoring its military base on the New Siberian Islands and continuing its Arctic cleanup program (The Washington Post, The Brics Post, Itar-Tass, USA Today, ABC News). Putin also reaffirmed the Arctic’s position as “an integral part of the Russian Federation,” rejecting the suggestion that the territory be passed to international jurisdiction and calling Sergei Medvedev a “nutball” when he thought he was out of earshot (RIAN, BN, and AIR, in Russian). Medvedev, a professor of political science at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, suggested the Arctic be declared an international reserve (,, in Russian). Russia’s Liberal Democratic Party is demanding the immediate dismissal of the professor for his “ugly” statements, which Mr. Putin deemed “unpatriotic” (AIR, in Russian).

Moving to other news, the federal government shutdown in the U.S. is affecting several agencies that deal with Arctic or Alaskan issues, including the National Park Service, the Alaska National Guard, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency. Alaska Dispatch published an article last week describing how the shutdown affects Alaska, one result being the closure of refuge lands managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. These closures angered Alaskan Governor Sean Parnell, who called Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell to express his disapproval (FNM). In other news, Petroleum News interviewed Bob Herron on the importance of Alaskan involvement in Arctic policy, a committee met to discuss legislation proposing to arm Alaskan public safety officers (Arctic Sounder), and municipalities across Alaska held elections last week (a summary of the results is available via Alaska Dispatch).

This week was light on Canadian news, with environment minister Leona Aglukkaq emphasizing Arctic social issues over “debatable” Arctic warming in a television interview ( and Yellowknife expressing concern that the city will be underrepresented in the Legislative Assembly (NJ). November’s upcoming elections in Nunavut prompted articles on a close race to come in the new constituency of Aivilik (CBC) and Duncan Cunningham’s candidacy in Apex (NN). One rather unusual news story is Diane Francis’s recent “thought experiment” on a Canadian-American union, outlined in her new book Merger of the Century. Foreign Policy summarized “The Case for Canamerica” (but, really, shouldn’t it be Americanada?) and Eye on the Artic interviewed Ms. Francis to find out the Arctic implications of a merger, if you’re interested.


Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov considers Russia’s engagement with Asia a “precondition” for economic growth in Siberia (The Siberian Times). / Sheldon Bart revisits Vilhjalmur Stefansson’s twentieth-century classification of the Arctic as the “new Mediterranean” for Human Events. / Baltic environmental ministers agreed to curb phosphorus and nitrogen shipping emissions in Copenhagen last week (EOTA). / Sweden’s Centre Party adopted a new environmental program focusing on renewable energy (EOTA). / The October issue of Current History features an article by Pavel K. Baev, titled “Russia’s Arctic Ambitions and Anxieties.” / South Korea, now an Arctic Council permanent observer, is leading a project in the Beaufort Sea, the Canada-Korea-USA Beaufort Sea Geoscience Research Survey (AD).


An interesting discussion worth following on the Guardian’s website looks at the environmental impacts of oil and gas exploration in the Arctic.


While not a member of the European Union, Norway’s economy is tightly tied to the EU’s, particularly when it comes to energy exports. While Norway could provide for Europe’s energy needs for the foreseeable future, the rise of shale gas and the return of cheap coal has made some in Norway a bit nervous about the direction EU’s energy markets are trending (AJ). While Norway is still struggling to get a new carbon sequestration project underway at Mongstad, Canada has launched a comparable project on a shorter timeline and with a smaller price tag (AB). Meanwhile, representatives from Ghana, a country which is just beginning to tap offshore oil fields, travelled to Norway to study that country’s oil and gas sector as a model of good management (

The Arctic University of Norway in Tromsø has established a Centre for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Environment and Climate to research the energy potential of this new resource and the environmental impacts of gas hydrate exploitation (


Shell CEO Peter Voser is unsure when the company will return to work in Alaska’s Arctic (The Hill). In spite of Shell’s uncertainty, the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is moving ahead with plans for a lease sale in the Chukchi Sea in 2016 and has called on industry to nominate promising areas for future lease offerings (OGJ).

In onshore news, the Bureau of Land Management will be accepting bids for 408 lease tracts in the National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska until November 4th (PN). The Bristol Bay Native Corporation has acquired Peak Oilfield Services, a major oilfield support company active on Alaska’s North Slope (ADN). BP has abandoned plans to develop the near offshore Liberty field with remote extended-reach drilling from onshore in favor of conventional drilling from a gravel island which will be built above the site (PN). Linc Energy looks to continue where it left off last winter at the Umiat prospect and is planning to drill two new wells there this winter to test horizontal drilling techniques (PN). Linc’s travails at Umiat are featured as a case study in a great article by Lohn Lippert for Bloomberg that explores how Alaska’s oil industry attempts to adapt to rapid changes in the environment and markets.

Furloughed federal workers in Alaska has reason to thank the state this week as this year’s Permanent Fund Dividends, totaling USD 900 per resident, were distributed last week just as the federal government shutdown due to budget battles in Washington, DC (AD).

Three weeks of public hearings over who should expand natural gas utilities in Fairbanks ended with some fireworks as rivals Fairbanks Natural Gas and the Interior Gas Utility descended into name-calling as they each made their final cases (FNM). The Fairbanks Borough Assembly also conducted a hearing with state regulators regarding controversial new state air quality rules aimed at cleaning up the city’s notoriously bad winter air.  The biggest sticking point is the state’s plan to limit wood burning during periods of poor air quality (FNM).

Though Alaska has a reputation as an oil and gas province, many communities are looking for ways to break their dependence on fossil fuels by exploring alternatives (PN). Southcentral Alaska’s fate, however, is still tightly tied to natural gas, and many in the region were heartened this week by announcements of new discoveries in Cook Inlet that will help alleviate a projected gas shortage there (PN).


While we often speak of Russia’s offshore industry as technology-poor, this article in the NY Times takes a look at Russia’s long history of technological innovation in the Arctic that is now being harnessed in the service of Arctic oil and gas exploration by the likes of Rosneft and Gazprom. Also worth a read in the Times this week is the difficult straits that the global oil majors find themselves in these days, caught between “resource nationalism,” aggressive small oil companies and changing market forces brought about by shale oil and gas (NYT).

In the continuing row over Greenpeace’s recent protests in the Russian Arctic, Gazprom has, unsurprisingly, spoken up in support of Moscow’s strong-arm tactics against the environmental group (BBC). Not that Gazprom isn’t concerned about its environmental image – in fact, CEO Alexy Miller declared 2013 the “Year of Ecology” for the oil and gas giant, touting Gazprom’s new technologies that will lessen the impact of oil and gas exploration (Press Release). Gazprom has also taken issue with comparisons of its work in the Prirazlomnaya field to the Gulf of Mexico, citing significant differences between operations in the two offshore provinces (AIR, Russian). Undeterred by the international flap, Gazprom says work at Prirazlomnoye is on schedule (Reuters) and that it is pushing ahead with plans to expand its Arctic operations to the nearby Dolginskoye field in the Pechora Sea (AIR, Russian).

Kvaerner, a Norwegian company specializing in marine concrete structures, has opened an office in Moscow with an eye towards expanding oil and gas operations in Russia’s Arctic regions (Press Release).

Rosneft is moving ahead with its acquisition of a shipyard near Murmansk that will serve as a base for oil and gas exploration in the region (AIR, Russian). The Yamal region will be the focus of an upcoming conference in Moscow (AIR, Russian) while both Pakistani (AIR – Russian) and Indian (India Times) energy firms are eyeing the Yamal LNG project as a potential source of gas. General Electric won a USD 600 million contract to supply turbines and compressors to support the Yamal project (

Yakutia has succeeded in locating and removing all 75 nuclear-powered navigational aids that have been in use along the Northern Sea Route since the 1970s (AIR, Russian). Russian state-owned Rosenergoatom, meanwhile, has installed two nuclear reactors on a new ship that will became a floating power station destined for the Arctic Chukotka Peninsula (BO).


Two articles this week focused on Iceland’s eagerness to open up its offshore waters to oil and gas exploration.  A short article in the Arctic Journal looks at some of the steps Iceland has taken recently in the oil and gas sector.  A longer article in the New York Times aims to unpack the motivations behind Iceland’s seemingly sudden conversion to fossil fuels and their recent embrace of China.


A seasonal bloom of jellyfish clogged the intake valves on the cooling system of Sweden’s Oskarshamn nuclear reactor, causing the plant to shut down until the mess could be cleaned out (EOTA).


A decision by the town of Norman Wells, NWT, to sign a new agreement with Imperial Oil over gas supplies that also raises rates for businesses by 138 per cent has business leaders in the town more than a bit concerned (NJ). Norman Wells won’t be seeing the usual levels of oil and gas work this winter as Husky has announced it will have to cancel planned work on two wells in the Canol shale this coming season due to problems building an access road to the site this summer (NJ). Growing interest in the Canol shale oil play has caused an uptick in business along the Mackenzie River as a new shipping company has brought in four new vessels this year to work the river during the summer (NJ).

In northeast Alberta, provincial regulators have ordered Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. to go to some rather extraordinary lengths to clean up a continuing bitumen leak underneath a small lake.  The exact cause of the leak has yet to be determined (NJ).

Japan and Canada are developing deeper relationships to try to speed development of an LNG project for western Canada to supply Japan’s demand for more energy sources (PN). Meanwhile, India is considering investing to the Energy East Pipeline that would carry Alberta crude to Canada’s Atlantic coast (


Climate, fire and ice

The new report of the first IPCC Working Group confirms that, with a probability of 95 to 100%, human activities have caused most of the global warming since 1950. In addition, it re-emphasizes the urgent need for action (Marine Insight). The 5th assessment report “Climate Change 2013 – The Physical Science Basis” is available on the IPCC’s website. For an analysis of Russia’s, the U.S.’ and the United Nation’s potential role, read Arthur I. Cyr’s comment (The Reporter).

Further, Jeffries, Overland and Perovich acknowledge what has become quite clear from the news in the past weeks: the Arctic has, climatically speaking, “shifted to a new normal.” The new trends are thinning sea ice, greening tundra, and thawing permafrost among others (PT). However, despite being a major factor in global warming, permafrost effects were not factored in in the models used in the IPCC report (Weather).

Concerning resent temperatures in the Arctic, Finish Lapland this September recorded the highest average temperature in 50 years (Finland Times). In the Northwest Territories in Canada, the staff at Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) are still on alert for new fires in high risk areas. In the past two weeks alone, four wildfires were triggered by people. The danger is particularly high now that the hunting season has begun (NJ).

North of Siberia, researchers of the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) together with South Korean scientists discovered traces of large ice sheets from the Pleistocene Epoch. This demonstrates for the first time that within the past 800,000 years, ice sheets thicker than 1km formed in the Arctic Ocean (AWI). The results were published in Nature Geoscience.

Flora and fauna

As reported two weeks ago, due to the warming of the Arctic and the resulting lack of sea ice on which walrus usually rest or warm themselves, thousands of the animals are currently hauling out on a remote island in the Chukchi Sea west of Alaska. This brings with it the danger of stampedes or the spread of diseases, which could kill a large number of walrus (NG). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service immediately took steps to reduce the danger for the herd by keeping people and planes at a safe distance (HP). You can find a bigger picture of the walrus haul-out here (NOAA).

On land, it’s all about caribou this week. Scientists of the Penn State University recently published a study linking the melting of the Arctic sea ice with fewer calf births and their higher mortality rate in Greenland. The melting sea ice leads to an earlier start of the plant growth season, which however is not matched by a change in the timing of the caribou calving season (Penn State). You can read the abstract of the original article by Jeffrey Kerby and Eric Post at Nature. In Canada, the Ungava Caribou Aboriginal Roundtable, established earlier this year to address the decline of the local caribou population, met to discuss caribou conservation in Labrador and northern Quebec (NN). The town of Garnish in Newfoundland, Canada, has taken another approach to caribou conservation and “adopted” a friendly yearling caribou, which has hung around the community since early summer. However, the caribou named “Buddy” will soon set off to live in the Salmonier Nature Park. Watch a short video of the fearless “Buddy” playing with local dogs (CBC).

A more hostile relationship appears to exist between All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) drivers north of Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, and the area’s wildlife. Local residents blame the ATV traffic for the large scale disappearance of wild animals, such as reindeer and muskox (KNR, in Danish).

In Canada, Gregory Logan was convicted for narwhal tusk smuggling after he helped to export 250 narwhal tusks from Canada to the U.S. He was fined CAD 385,000, a record under wildlife protection laws, and received an eight-month community sentence, including four months of house arrest. Logan’s wife and two American tusk dealers were also charged (NN).

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to list as endangered the rufa red knot, a bird that travels from the southern tip of Argentina to the Canadian arctic every spring and back each fall. That’s an impressive journey of 9,300 miles (15,000km) (Courthouse News)! In Greenland, the Institute of Natural Resources recommends the complete protection of the guillemot, whose numbers registered a sharp decline since circa 1990 (KNR, in Danish).


South of Trondheim in Norway, scientists from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology discovered a bow dated to 1,800 years BC and several arrows, the oldest of which is estimated to be 5,400 years old. Despite the benefit for archeologists, the melting of the ancient snow resulting in the exposure of artifacts is likely to result in their decomposition (AJ). Similar problems already challenge archeologists in Alaska, where a grouping of sod houses and artifacts were uncovered by violent storms last year. The site has now been conscientiously secured against Arctic fall storms and winter weather so that the excavation can continue next summer (AD).


Denmark wants India to set up a research base in Greenland and to enhance research cooperation (TOI). / The Global Dryas Project, supported by INTERACT, examines the ecosystem services of the Arctic using the example of the pollination of Dryas (Avens), a type of perennial dwarf shrub (EU).



On the heels of re-establishing a permanent military presence in the region, Russian President Vladimir Putin has pledged to further expand Russia’s presence in the Arctic at a meeting of United Russia activists. Putin rejected any notion of the Arctic being placed under the jurisdiction of the international community, describing it as “an unalienable part of the Russian Federation” (, EOTA). Putin also emphasized that beyond being a purely military installation, Russia’s base on the Novosibirsk Islands will host SAR teams and meteorologists (AIR).

A Russian team – led by a documentary filmmaker – is in Alaska searching for the wreckage of a Soviet bomber that disappeared during a 1937 flight. The bomber’s flight plan called for it to stop in Fairbanks before continuing to Chicago and New York, but the plane experienced catastrophic engine failure some 300 miles after crossing the North Pole (FNM).

United States

Acting Air Force Secretary Eric Fanning has announced that the 18th Aggressor Squadron will remain stationed at Eielson AFB, effectively reversing its planned move to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. The move was proposed by the 2005 BRAC Commission, but had encountered heavy resistance in Alaska due to its potentially devastating effects on the Fairbanks economy (KTUU, EOTA).


If you like Swedish scenery and/or fast planes, check out this video from AiirSource’s YouTube account of Swedish Air Force Saab JAS 39 Gripens taking off.


An interesting article, though not necessarily Arctic related, looks at the impact that “resource nationalism” - efforts by national governments to extract higher profits from resource extraction - is having on Canada’s global mining industry (CMJ).


An article in Canadian Mining Journal looks at two successful mines in Canada’s north, the Raglan mine in Nunavik and the Éléonore mine in James Bay. In northern Quebec, Stornoway Diamond Corporation has completed a 97 km long road linking its Renard diamond mine to provincial roads and nearby mining communities.  Best of all, the project was completed two months ahead of schedule and under budget (CMJ). It’s rarely so easy across Canada’s north: another article in CMJ looks at the infrastructure challenges facing many of Canada’s mines. Quebec’s mines may also face some new challenges as amendments are being considered to the province’s mining act which would tighten environmental requirements and enforce increased financial transparency (NN).

In the Northwest Territories, two new mining projects are facing some unexpected challenges.  After clearing initial environmental review and negotiating benefit agreements with two First Nations groups, four additional aboriginal groups gave begun to raise concerns about the mines, demanding further review (AD). As the federal government works to clean-up and remediate the site of the Giant Mine near Yellowknife, NWT, new questions are being asked about whether any parts of the mine will be preserved for posterity.  Local residents seem ambivalent as the mine has a checkered past.  Nine men were murdered there during a strike in 1992 and today the mine holds 237,000 tons of toxic arsenic that will cost over CND 1 billion to remediate (AD). Further north, regulators are beginning to question the clean-up plan for Dominion Diamond Corporation’s Ekati mine, scheduled to close by 2019 (EOTA).

Next door in Yukon, Cantex Mine Development Corp. released exploration results from its North Rackla Project showing some promising areas of mineralization (North of 60). According to Yukon’s Minister of Energy, mines throughout the territory continue to provide an important revenue stream for Yukon communities (North of 60).


Norilsk Nickel is selling off its non-Russia assets in order to focus its efforts in the company’s mining projects in the Russian Arctic ( 

Russia’s largest diamond producer Alrosa, active in Yakutia’s diamond sector, will offer 16% of its shares in an auction this week (AIR, Russian).


The news last week that Anglo American is pulling out of the Pebble mine above Bristol Bay, AK, led many to speculate on the company’s motives and what the move says about the future of the controversial mining project.  Anglo American will be turning its back on over USD 542 million invested in the project over six years, and many suggested that the company’s move must have been due to continued controversy over the project.  Anglo American CEO Mark Cutifani denies the speculation in this article for Bloomberg saying that he believes the prospects for the mine are still good, though one has to wonder whether the company left holding the project, Northern Dynasty, has the assets and clout to carry the project forward.



Let’s start with a slightly different view on Arctic shipping. As unlikely as it might seem at first, ghost ships actually do exist! They might be, however, a little different than you imagine. They are not in the hands of an otherworldly crew. Nevertheless, some ships abandoned by their crew in the harsh Arctic sea can wander the Arctic Ocean for decades. The SS Baychimo for example was trapped in pack ice in 1931. After several failed rescue attempts, the crew left the ship. At one point, the ship broke free and continued her journey alone. The last – contested – sighting of the Baychimo was reported by Inuit in 1969 (Shipwreckology).

In the more conventional news this week, several trips along the Northern Sea Route were mentioned. Norway’s Arctic Aurora loaded with liquefied natural gas (LNG) is scheduled to arrive at the Futtsu LNG terminal in Japan on October 16 (Bloomberg). The bulk cargo ship Nordic Orion of Danish operator Nordic Bulk Carriers, with a cargo of 73,500 tons of coking coal, completed its voyage from Canada to Finland through the Northwest Passage (EL). Unsurprisingly perhaps, the trip almost failed because of insurance issues (G&M). And Stena Bulk’s tanker Stena Polaris, with a cargo of 44,000 tons of naphtha, is expected to arrive at the port of Yosu in South Korea on October 18 (ME). A short video by VOA News provides an overview of the potential and the challenges of the NSR, with short interviews revealing the contrasting perspectives of Russia, Iceland, theInuit Circumpolar Council, and shipping companies (VOA). And to make better use of the opening route, a new generation of Jumbo vessels has been introduced. The K-3000 ships are A1 Finnish/Swedish ice-class and have a lifting capacity of 3,000t (Jumbo).

The increasing shipping activity along the NSR particularly affects the shipping industry in the Arctic states. At the opening of the International Forum “Transport and Transit Potential,” Russia’s Deputy Minister of Transport Sergey Aristov reaffirmed Russia’s exclusive administration rights over the NSR (AIR, in Russian). Moreover, the Russian government strongly supports Russian icebreakers in the Arctic (AIR, in Russian). This is in stark contrast with developments in the Finnish shipping industry. After the announcement of the closure of the STX Finland shipyard in Rauma in September (YLE), Mauri Pekkarinen, member of the Economic Affairs Committee of the Finnish Parliament, appealed to the government to save the Arctic shipbuilding industry in Finland (AIR, in Russian).

Other business and economic news

During the Arctic Circle inauguration in Reykjavik, Iceland, October 12 to 14, a business forum under the Arctic Ocean Assembly will bring together government officials, business representatives, academia, and NGOs. The discussions will revolve around “Corporate Ocean Responsibility”, including businesses co-operation with the local communities in the Arctic as well as protection of the fragile environment (Golder).

The 8th annual conference of the University of the Arctic’s Thematic Network on Northern Food Security was held from September 29 to October 3 in Alaska (UArctic). The need for local food storage programs was underlined by Norma Kassi of the Yukon Territory’s Indigenous Collaboration Arctic Institute, who referred to a road shutdown in summer 2012, showing the community’s food dependency. The call for food security was echoed by many (AP).



Food security was a common topic in much of the health-related news this week. In Nunavut, Canada, the Qaujigiartiit Health Research Centre and the local branch of Nunavut Arctic College have joined forces to teach young people to appreciate local food sources (Huffington Post), UArctic recently held a Food Summit at the 8th Circumpolar Agricultural Conference, and a report issued this month by the Community Foundations of Canada found 57 percent of Nunavut’s families food insecure (NN). The report noted that food and food insecurity was “at the epicenter” of Canada’s social problems. Alaska Dispatch published an article on the challenges of growing food in the Artic, Artic-Info reported on a successful potato harvest in Eastern Russia’s Chukotka region, and Canadians in Pangnirtung are raising funds and support for geodesic greenhouse domes.

Moving on to other health news, eczema is reportedly on the rise in Inuit populations in both Canada and Greenland (EOTA), Ottawa’s Mamisarvik Healing Centre is due to lose funding from the Aboriginal Healing Foundation at the end of this year (NN), children have been huffing gasoline in the north of Canada’s Newfoundland and Labrador province(AD), and Democratic state senators in Alaska are pushing for the release of a new report on Medicaid expansion (ADN).


Only one story falls under the “education” category this week. Next month (November 14-17), the second Arctic educational forum, “The new generation of the Arctic – affordable quality education,” will be held in Salekhard, Russia (AIR, in Russian).


Search-related stories were one noticeable theme in this week’s society news. CBC and Yahoo! published stories on the search for the remnants of Sir John Franklin’s Arctic exhibition, Russians searched for the wreckage of a 1930s Soviet bomber in Alaska (ADN), and the “Maud Returns Home” project visited Iqaluit to meet with the Canadian Coast Guard (NN).

Nunatsiaq News covered several other society stories this week: the European Court of Justice ruled on October 3 maintaining the inadmissibility of an appeal on the EU’s seal ban, Carrefour Nunavut helped Nunavut Tourism update their website for French speakers, young whalers in western Nunavut killed their first bowhead whale, and social housing tenants across Nunavik protested Kativik Municipal Housing Bureau’s recent rent hikes and eviction (this story was also covered by CBC News). In Yellowknife, the city held a well-attended public safety meeting which addressed the problem of sexual assault on Frame Lake Trail and around the city (CBC) and Yellowknifers assembled for the first Northwest Territories “Walk for Reconciliation,” honoring residential school survivors (NJ). Northern Journal also features another story about the “culture shock” of growing up in a residential school.

Alaska Dispatch and the Anchorage Daily News published stories related to climate change, and Fairbanks’ firefighters are now responding to intoxication calls while the city’s women are hoping to start an NRA shooting club (FNM). In unrelated societal news, Arctic Journal published a piece on traditional versus modern definitions of “indigenous,” the Carnival Legend cruise liner will stop in Greenland for the first time (IceNews), and the Working Group of Indigenous Peoples is once again up and running (BO).


Starting off the cultural news with film, The Straight published a review of John Walker’s documentary “Arctic Defenders,” calling it “a clear-eyed love letter to Inuit culture,” while Yahoo! reported on the increasing trend of shooting Hollywood films in Iceland. Moving on to two-dimensional art, artists in Yellowknife reimagined the city’s downtown in a project called “This City” (NJ), Russian students traveled to Norway for the “Peace Painting” project (UArctic), and a traveling art showcase called “Nordic Light” promises a unique opportunity for creative teenagers in Nordic countries (Arctic Journal). 

Other culture-related news includes the release of a new album by Nunavut band Nancy Mike and the Jerry Cans (NN), a RUB 3 million grant for cultural development in Yakut village (AIR, in Russian), and the conclusion of a three week-long visit by scientists examining scared places in Russia’s Yamal Nenets region (AIR, in Russian).



Flights between Iqaluit, Nunavut and Nuuk, Greenland concluded for the 2013 season on September 27, with traffic down from the previous year (AD). Consequently, Eye on the Arctic reports that Air Greenland will reduce the number of flights next year.


Plans have been announced to provide LED street-lighting for the polar village Tixi-3 starting mid-November. The village is home to some 500 people (AIR).

Vladimir Bulavin, President Putin’s envoy in the Northwest Federal District, has written to Russian Minister of Transportation Maxim Sokolov urging support for the completion of the Naryan-Mar-Usinsk road. The road will transit the Republic of Komi and the Nenets Autonomous Okrug. The road was initially begun in 1989; authorities expect construction to be completed by 2018 (AIR).

United States

The effects of the government shutdown are extending to Alaska. With workers at the NTSB Alaska office furloughed until the crisis is resolved, a planned seminar between federal and state safety regulators, business leaders, air cargo carriers, and aviators has been cancelled; the NTSB hopes to reschedule the seminar for a later date (AD).


United States

Plenty of sports news out of Fairbanks this week: the Special Olympics honored the Alaska Nanooks hockey team on October 4 for its contributions to the Special Olympics (FNM); the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race will be hosting multiple events in Fairbanks the next few weeks, including an event for “aspiring mushers” (FNM); and high school rifle season is officially underway (FNM).


The Olympic torch for the 2014 Sochi Games was exhibited in Murmansk on October 3 (AIR). The relay officially kicked off on October 7, starting the longest torch relay in Olympic history (BBC).


Kuujjuaq’s fourth annual gold tournament has wrapped up (NN).


Photographer Sacha de Boer will speak about the challenges of extreme cold in the Arctic (both for photographers and residents alike) at Leiden’s National Museum of Ethnology this Sunday, October 14.

Two collections of wildlife photos are available this week for your viewing pleasure, one of polar bears from Shutterstock user “chbaum,” and another of wildlife in Alaska’s Denali National Park (Alaska Dispatch). Another interesting site to visit is Google Map’s “Explore the Canadian Arctic,” which features virtual tours and beautiful videos of Iqaluit, Canada.

Moving on to individual shots, photos of the Northern Lights dominated this week, in what photographer Clare Kines called “the most impressive display of Northern Lights since I've arrived in Arctic Bay 14 years ago.” He snapped two other photos of the lights, titled “Best viewed with awe” and “King’s Crown,” plus a starry sky-scape, all of which are sure to delight. For twitter images, we have some funny ones, from Matt McKean and Nataliya Bondareva, as well as more Northern Lights from user swedishlapland and Alaska’s North Slope from Scars & Superheroes. Arni_colorado contributed another funny one of a dog behind the wheel in Longyearbyen. That and this photo of cadets in Arctic Bay from Nunatsiaq News round out this week’s image haul.


A hungry bear, probably trying to pack on some additional calories before hibernation, broke into a house in Siberia, ate the homeowners fresh pot of borscht, then fled when the authorities arrived (RIAN). Bear eats borscht and leaves. The feds are suing four Fairbanks, AK, headshops that were the target of recent raids to nab dealers of synthetic marijuana.  While the shops will apparently not be charged with any crimes as the particular strain they were selling is technically not illegal, the DEA is a bit reluctant to return the loot and would like to keep its hands on it as part of a civil forfeiture case (FNM). New times sound suspiciously like old times in Russia – the Federal Prison Service ships planeloads of prisoners to Siberia for hard labor (Moscow Times).  There were impressive displays of northern lights across Finland this week (EOTA).

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)
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)