The Arctic This Week: 14 November to 21 November

With kind permission of Clare Kines
The Arctic This Week 2013: 41

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After two weeks without TATW, we are now back with a full issue of Arctic updates. Let’s start with a brief overview of key articles from this week!

Canadian legal scholar Michael Byers published a feature for Global Brief. His article, “Great Powers Shall Not in the Arctic Clash,” begins by contrasting the recent “showdown” between Russia and the West over Syria with “the deep cooperative logic” governing today’s Arctic. Commenting on his country’s role in the Arctic, he states that Canada may have been instrumental in the creation of the Arctic Council in 1996, but nowadays the importance of the Arctic to Canada is “based almost entirely on geography.”

Moving on to economic issues, in “The European trade deal and Canada’s four-point game,” Irvin Studin discusses Canada’s Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with the European Union (G&M). Studin suggests that the agreement should be seen as “one part of a four-part strategic game for Canada” that focuses on America, China, Russia and Europe (he calls this “ACRE”). While Studin’s assessment of Arctic politics may be too simplistic, overemphasizing Canadian sovereignty of the Northwest Passage and the need to minimize “a Russian resort to force,” his take on the wider foreign policy surrounding CETA is an interesting one.

In energy reads, see this short and informative article by Tony Roulstone on Russia’s new floating nuclear power stations that are currently under construction. Roulstone points out the checkered safety record of Russian marine reactors and describes some of the challenges of making nuclear power generation practical and safe at a smaller scale (The Conversation). Next, see this article from EENews that explores Statoil’s recent discoveries off Newfoundland that have raised the company’s profile in the region. Once a minor player in eastern Canada, Statoil is poised to become a major producer with these new finds. The Norwegian company has other motives for prioritizing work in the region: company officials say the seasonal presence of ice floes provides a good environment for developing new technologies for use in harsher Arctic environments.

Moving on to shipping news, Malte Humpert of The Arctic Institute analyses the inflated expectations of an Arctic shipping boom in his newly released report “The Future of Arctic Shipping - A New Silk Road for China?” (TAI)

In military news, the U.S. European Command is taking an increasingly active role in examining the United States’ interests in the Arctic and in building working relationships with other Arctic nations. Likewise, EUCOM is working closely with USNORTHCOM, with the former responsible for maintaining partnerships with Arctic nations and the latter for guarding the United States’ Arctic borders. Within the next year, EUCOM plans to co-sponsor an SAR tabletop exercise with USNORTHCOM (

Meanwhile, Russia is developing a new satellite network specifically for use in the Arctic. The new constellation – Arktika – is designed to fill gaps in current satellites which are positioned over the equator. A proposed pair of satellites – Arktika-M – would be dedicated to meteorology and emergency communications, while others would be for commercial use (Arktika-MS) and remote-sensing tasks (Arktika-R) (RussianSpaceWeb).

And to wrap up the reads of the week, a researcher with the University of Windsor has finally identified the “mystery fish” caught in the Nunavut waters as a "long-nosed chimaera." The rarely caught species is related to sharks and stingrays. Get a glimpse of this interesting fish (CBC)!


United States

Two U.S. Senators from the lower forty-eight, Maria Cantwell and Mark Kirk, introduced legislation on November 13 to protect 1.6 million acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as wilderness (The Hill). The bipartisan bill targets the refuge’s coastal plain, the last remaining part of the refuge without a wilderness designation ( Cindy Shogan, executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League, said in a press release that she considered the two senators to be longtime champions of the Arctic Refuge, and that their bill was a recognition “that some places are just too special to drill for oil.”

In related news, Outside Magazine published a piece on Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, and Alaska Dispatch’s Craig Medred discussed Senator Tom Coburn’s new report on the National Park Service in “Parked.

Elsewhere in Washington last week, Norwegian foreign minister Børge Brende delivered a speech on the Arctic at American University’s Washington College of Law on Thursday. The text of Minister Brende’s speech is available on the website of the Norwegian embassy, and you can watch his speech on American University’s website.


A top story on the Canadian political scene this week was Peter Taptuna’s selection as Nunavut’s premier. Deputy Premier under Eva Aariak’s administration, Taptuna was selected by the newly elected legislature over former premier Paul Okalik and veteran politician Paul Quassa (CTV News).

The New Democratic Party appointed Western Arctic MP Dennis Bevington as the official opposition critic for the Arctic Council, a new role that Mr. Bevington sees as “recognition of how important the Arctic is” (NN). Bevington is also the official opposition critic for the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency.

In the Northwest Territories, the Canadian government is still negotiating with other First Nations before it signs the Métis Nation agreement-in-principle (NJ), MLAs chose a plan to redraw the territory’s electoral boundaries (NJ), and activists celebrated the one year anniversary of the start of the “Idle No More” movement (NJ). Stephanie Irlbacher-Fox also published an extensive piece on what the territory will do with its resource revenue come April 2014 (Northern Public Affairs).


Iceland opened a Consulate General’s office in Nuuk, Greenland. Iceland’s Foreign Minister Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson and Greenland’s Premier Aleqa Hammond also signed a joint declaration that will pave the way for closer cooperation between the two countries (AJ). Iceland will take over the presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers in January (AJ).


The Finnish government has appointed an advisory board to coordinate Finnish activities in the Arctic and implement its recent Arctic strategy. The new Arctic Advisory Board has a two-year mandate and will be chaired by Olli-Pekka Heinonen (Finnbay).


An interesting mix of news stories found themselves in the Russian category this week. Blogger Mia Bennett addressed Russian explorer Artur Chilingarov’s second symbolic trip to the North Pole (Foreign Policy Blogs). The “Arctic 30” were transported to pre-trial detention centers in St. Petersburg (The Guardian), and President Putin told a South Korean news outlet that Russia seeks investment from Seoul to revive shipbuilding in its Far East (VOR). The Russian International Affairs Council recently published a piece on South Korea’s Arctic interests (“South Korea Is Driven to the Arctic by National Pride and Business Opportunities”), which features an interview with Dong-min Jin, head of polar logistics at the Korean Polar Research Institute.

While sailing to the North Pole with the Olympic torch symbolizes unity in comparison to Chilingarov’s notorious flag-planting expedition in 2007, Russia has boycotted the Netherlands’ case against it at the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea and continues to clash with other governments over the arrests of the Arctic 30 (Deutsche Welle). Greenpeace activists continued to agitate for their release, demonstrating at the ongoing UN Climate Change Conference in Warsaw (NYT). A new poll from the VTsIOM public opinion research center found that around sixty percent of Russians believe the criminal charges against the activists are appropriate (VOR).

The Arctic and Beyond

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida held talks with ministers from the Baltic and Nordic countries at the two-day Asia-Europe Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (ASEM) in Gurgaon, India last week. Mr. Kishida said his country shared the North European and Baltic countries’ principles of sustainability and said his government intends “to make efforts in the area of environmental protection in particular” (Japan Times).

If you’re looking for an analysis of various countries interests in the Arctic, Royal Holloway’s Duncan Depledge published an article on the UK’s Arctic interests in the November issue of International Affairs; and Arthur Guschin discussed China’s “prudent long game” in the Arctic for The Diplomat.


The International Energy Agency released its yearly World Energy Report (abstract available here; full text here for fee) in which it poured some cold water on the hype over speculation on the “race” to exploit Arctic resources. The report concludes that high costs and environmental risks will stifle exploration, and projects that the entire region will only be producing 200,000 barrels of oil a day by 2035 (AIR, Russian).


As a counterpoint to the IEA report, three articles this week touch on Russia’s rush to exploit the resources of its Arctic territories. First, Michael Byers recites the laundry list of indicators that shows how Russia is fast outstripping Canada in Arctic development, including a rather surprising figure that 20% of Russia’s GDP is generated in the Arctic (Open Canada). Then, Maria Karnaukh explores the reasons why Russia is far ahead of other countries in investing in Arctic oil and gas development for the Russia and India Report. The final article shows how exploration in Arctic regions by Norway (no slouch, in this regard) is overshadowed by huge projects and investment in Russia (AB).

Russia’s commission responsible for monitoring foreign investment is considering the offer by the China National Petroleum Company to purchase a 20% stake in the Yamal LNG project from the independent Russian gas company Novatek (AIR, Russian). Novatek will also be rapidly expanding its crude oil production over the coming years based on new fields in development in Nenets (RIAN). In other Yamal news, a Siemens subsidiary was fined USD 11 million for paying bribes to obtain contracts to supply power generation equipment to the project between 2004 and 2006 (ABC).

An ‘auction’ to settle competing claims between Rosneft and Lukoil to an exploration block near the Laptev Sea in the Russian Arctic will have to wait until next year (AIR, Russia). Rosneft, meanwhile, inked a deal with Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding to develop an industrial cluster in Russia’s Far East. The installation will likely play a role in provisioning ships and equipment for exploration and transportation in the Northern Pacific and in Russia’s Arctic (Press Release, NGE). Rosneft hopes to transport a portion of the oil from its Vankor field in Eastern Siberia through a new oil terminal at the mouth of the Yanisey River and thence on the Northern Sea Route (BO, PortNews). Rosneft also signed a deal with PetroVietnam, giving the Vietnamese company access to exploration blocks in the Pechora Sea (Upstream).

While Gazprom’s exports to Europe have been down since 2008, the company announced a surprising 15.6% jump in sales to Europe over the first half of this year (WSJ).

Recent seismic work in a poorly explored section of the Barents and Kara Seas that is ice-covered for most of the year revealed a complex system of depositional basins that hold promise for oil and gas exploration (Offshore).


While most agree that the center of gravity of Norway’s oil and gas industry will shift to the Arctic by 2030, there is some disagreement on problems that may be associated with developing resources close to the Russian border in the Barents Sea. Some say that proximity to the Russian border won’t be a problem (BO) while others say that major companies may be reluctant to assume the risk of moving into field that might raise delicate political questions (BO, AIR, Russian).

In a somewhat surprising development, Norway’s petroleum ministry is considering joining the China National Offshore Oil Company to explore for oil near Iceland. Relations between the two countries have been icy since the Nobel Committee awarded the 2010 Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo (Reuters, OilPrice).


The last of Brad Keithley’s series on the economics of Alaska oil appeared in Alaska Business Monthly and is worth a read. Keithley follows up on the previous installments and makes a case for why Alaska should take a more proactive role in driving oil and gas development and take lessons from Norway’s system of state investment in the petroleum sector (ABM). However, the state’s role in developing a North Slope natural gas pipeline does not instill much confidence that it can be a constructive force in the industry. A former Alaska Department of Natural Resources commissioner discussed how hundreds of millions of state dollars have been wasted on studies for several competing projects to bring North Slope gas to market, with little to show for it (AD).

Cindy Shogan of the Alaska Wilderness League was nonplussed by Shell’s announcement that it would move ahead with its exploration campaign in the Chukchi Sea in 2014 (HP). See this article in the Arctic Journal for one Greenpeace activist’s perspective on battling to stop Shell’s Arctic drilling campaign. For some, Shell’s continued exploration in the Arctic is “asking for disaster” (Center for Biological Diversity).


A recent study looked at the growing problem of drilling waste, once thought to be permanently entombed in permafrost thawing, that is now leaching into rivers and lakes in Canada’s Arctic Mackenzie Delta (EOTA). The full report can be accessed here.

Six new participants have completed the Arctic Energy Alliance’s wood energy training program in Fort Simpson, NWT, which teaches the basics of the installation and inspection of wood energy appliances (NJ).


Crown Princess Victoria visited the massive wind farm under construction in Markbydgen in northern Sweden this week. When completed, the facility will boast 1101 turbines that will satisfy 8% of the country’s energy needs (BO).



If you have some time, let’s start with the video clip of a great lecture by Peter Lemke of the Alfred Wegener Institute on “Polar Regions under Climate Change,” that provides a great overview on the topic (IIASA).

The World Meteorological Organization stated that the year 2013 is on course for being ranked among the top 10 warmest years on record (NN). The low Arctic sea ice cover observed in October appears to fit the pattern (NN). Kevin Cowtan of the University of York and Robert Way discovered that the observational data on which climate records are based exclude the Polar Regions and parts of Africa and thus cover only 84% of the planet. The reconstruction of the “missing” temperatures casts doubt on the hypothesis that global warming has slowed over the last decade and estimates that the Arctic is warming at about eight times the pace of the rest of the planet (SD).

Paul Nicklen, a National Geographic photographer from Baffin Island, northern Canada, gave his talk “Polar Obsessions” last week in Toronto. He warns that the dramatic changes taking place in the warming Arctic are a “wake-up call” and “will eventually lead to the demise of humans” (RCI). Also read this interview with Nicklen and have a look at some of his great pictures (CBC).

A recent World Wildlife Foundation-sponsored paper published in the journal Marine Policy explains that 60% of whale habitat in the Arctic overlaps with areas of Arctic oil and gas development and shipping interests (NN). Also concerned with the impact of human development on the Arctic, a study conducted near Cape Dorset in Canada’s Nunavut discovered a range of contaminants such as flame retardants, mercury, and chlorine in the glaucous gull population. Usually found in animals from industrialized areas, the volatile compounds can reach the Arctic through the atmosphere as well as ocean currents (EOTA). Jonathan Verreault, a professor at Université du Québec à Montréal links 90% of the contaminants to China (NN). What is more, research from Queen’s University shows that colder temperatures increase biomagnification in Arctic food chains because of the relatively slow metabolism and growth rate for Arctic aquatic life compared to life in warmer climates. The Arctic ecosystems may thus be most at risk of pollution from contaminants such as mercury (Kingston Herald). Similarly, a study from the Norwegian Framsenteret found high levels of chlorinated paraffins in the animals around Svalbard. Geir Wing Gabrielsen, section leader for environmental pollutants at the Norwegian Polar Institute, added that new environmental toxins are constantly being discovered (NRK, in Norwegian). In Europe, the EU-funded project ECLIPSE shows the significance of gas flaring and residential combustion as the largest source of black carbon pollution in the Arctic (EU).

Another issue highlighted in the news this week is the rapid pace of ocean acidification driven by carbon dioxide emissions (BBC). The report is based on research presented at the Third Symposium on the Ocean in a High-CO2 World in September 2012 and acknowledges an increase in acidity of 26% since the industrial revolution. By 2100, the acidification could increase by 170%, with an enormous effect on ecosystems. The report is available on the website of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme IGBP (IGBP).

In an article in the journal Global Change Biology, Sloan et al. demonstrate that “leaf and fine root carbon stocks and turnover are coupled across Arctic ecosystems”. They looked at eight plant communities and concluded that above and below-ground plant carbon dynamics are closely linked (GCB).

Aleksander Frolov, head of Russia’s Agency on Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring, stated that global warming will have a greater impact on Russia than any other country (BO).

Flora and fauna

Polar bears were very prominent in the news this week. While the Nunavut government prepares to release its Baffin Bay (north-eastern Canada) population estimate after three years of fieldwork, many locals say that polar bears are aplenty (AD). The Nunavut community of Arviat is testing a method to keep hungry polar bears away. The town has set up “diversionary feeding stations” away from populated areas that keep the bears busy as they try to get at the meat locked inside the stations or wrapped in steel mesh (CBC). This comes as scientists warn of increasing polar bear attacks (CC). To help them study the effects of climate change on polar bears, researchers are experimenting with data obtained from crowd-sourced webcams in Canada’s Wapusk National Park (ADN). You can watch the polar bear webcams here. Further south, Manitoba loosened its rules on polar bear captivity to allow keeping bears in captivity that have attacked humans instead of putting them down. However, critics such as Zoocheck’s executive director Rob Laidlaw warn that polar bears are very ill suited to captivity (CBC).

Expeditions & research blogs

The website documenting the trip of the R/V Lance, a Norwegian research vessel on a mission to study the warming Arctic, provides a good mixture of videos, podcasts, pictures and articles to give insights into the voyage (WHOI).

While embarked on the Tara Oceans Polar Circle expedition, the research vessel Tara was in the port of Québec last week (Takuvik).


The Research Council of Norway awarded the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research 25 million kroner (3 million EUR or 4 million USD) for research on the Arctic Ocean ecosystem (IMR, in Norwegian). / The U.S. National Science Foundation recently awarded the first round of grants as part of the Arctic Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability (ArcSEES) program (NSF).Aleksander Frolov, head of Russia’s Agency on Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring, stated that global warming will have the greatest impact on Russia (BO).
The Research Council of Norway awarded the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research 25 million kroner (3 million EUR or 4 million USD) for research on the Arctic Ocean ecosystem (IMR, in Norwegian).  The U.S. National Science Foundation recently awarded the first round of grants as part of the Arctic Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability (ArcSEES) program (NSF).

United States

The United States Navy is planning to hold submarine exercises in the Arctic in Spring 2014. American submarines continue to patrol the Arctic, though with much less frequency than they did during the Cold War (WaPo, WTNH, and AP). There remains, however, some uncertainty around how the exercises may be affected by budget cuts (BO).

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has completed a mission in the U.S. Arctic aimed at collecting atmospheric data. NOAA ran flights out of Eielson AFB using a specially modified P-3 Aircraft (Eielson). For more on the flights, check out this video from Eielson’s YouTube account.

Alaska State Troopers have successfully rescued two hikers from Hatcher Pass after they became snowed in by approximately three feet of snowfall within 24 hours (AD). Elsewhere in Alaska, 22 crew members have been rescued from a fishing vessel that lost power in the Bering Strait (AD). Meanwhile, the crab boat F/V Arctic Hunter remains adrift near Unalaska, with salvage crews unable to reach the ship (


From the Northern Journal comes a profile of Canada’s Joint Task Force North, the branch of the Canadian Forces responsible for the High North. Meanwhile, Canada’s parliamentary budget office has used an access-to-information request to obtain information related to the procurement of six to eight arctic patrol ships; the documents are available via Global News.


From IFS comes a new paper focusing on the role of the United Kingdom in the Arctic, with a focus on how the UK can engage with regional partners to ensure security in the region (IFS).

The commander of the Finnish Defense Forces has called for cooperation in the Arctic, expressing optimism that military activities in the region could be minimized (CRI).

Denmark’s Arctic Command has met with representatives of the cruise industry to examine ways in which safety could be improved in the Arctic cruise industry (AJ).


Russia has postponed all further trials of the troubled SLBM Bulava system until 2014. Meanwhile, the second Borey-class nuclear submarine is expected to be delivered to the Russian Navy by the end of the year (BO). In other procurement news, the Russian Ministry of Defense has announced the construction of a new series of ice-capable patrol vessels for use in the Arctic (BO), and a new Admiral Gorshkov-class frigate is also in the pipeline (BO).

An Arctic SAR center in Dudinka is nearing completion. The center will be inaugurated in January, if all goes according to schedule (AIR, Russian).



Public hearings have been scheduled to review the application for a proposed rare earth minerals mine near Killavaat Alannguat in southern Greenland. Hearings will be held around southern Greenland and in the capital, Nuuk (AJ). Participants in the first public hearing had questions about staff training, energy consumption and environmental impacts of the new mine (KNR, Danish).

The issue of uranium mining continues to be a divisive one in Greenland. In the wake of the recent historic vote to end Greenland’s uranium mining moratorium, Prime Minister Aleeqa Hammond is pushing back against opponents of the measure, both in Greenland and in Denmark, who say that the final word on the mining of this strategic resource rests with authorities in Copenhagen (AJ). Mikå Mered sees Greenland’s shift on uranium as an example of “strategic hedging” as Greenland attempts to establish its independence by staking out a place in the strategic trade of uranium (HP, French).


We’ve written frequently about how global commodity prices have put the squeeze on mining operations across the Arctic. This week, we’d like to point you to this article from CBC that looks at how some enterprising prospectors in Yukon are trying to leverage new technologies to lower the costs of exploration and revive enthusiasm in the region’s mining industry.

The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation won a delay in the regulatory review of a planned expansion of the Jackpine open pit tar sands mine in northern Alberta (NJ).

Avalon Rare Metal’s Nechalacho rare earth mine project in the Northwest Territories cleared a major hurdle last week when it won approval from federal regulators. The project now moves onto the final permits and impact agreements with neighboring First Nations (NJ). Further delays and cost overruns may be in the future for the cleanup program at the Giant Mine in Yellowknife. The Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board submitted 27 mandatory recommendations to the project which could delay the cleanup by several years and add hundreds of millions of dollars to the final cost (NJ).

Further south, fish in the Athabasca River are being negatively impacted by coal mine tailings that spilled into the watershed on 31 October (NJ).


Mining company Norilsk Nickel is lobbying for changes in Russia’s mining laws that would streamline exploration and permitting, and help ensure that companies that invest heavily in exploration can get production permits without having to go through an open auction (AIR, Russian). Norilsk Nickel, incidentally, is planning to ramp up its exploration program in Russia’s Arctic over the next five years (AIR, Russian). Gold production is up 20% this year from last in the Far Eastern region of Chukotka (AIR, Russian).


Plummeting commodities prices have pushed the Talvivaara mine to the brink of bankruptcy. The company is going through a court-supervised overhaul but is still having difficulty marshaling sufficient financing (Reuters). If the company has to go into bankruptcy, 1600 mining jobs in Finland could be at risk (EOTA).


A decision by the Swedish government to grant a mining concession in an area of traditional use by Sámi reindeer herders has led Sámi communities in northern Sweden to bring their case against mining to the UN Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination (BO). For some perspective on the mining conflict in northern Sweden, see this video documentary that profiles the campaign by mining opponents to resist development in the remote region.



A researcher with the University of Windsor has finally identified the “mystery fish” caught in Nunavut waters as a "long-nosed chimaera." The rarely caught species is related to sharks and stingrays. Get a glimpse of that interesting fish (CBC)!
A researcher with the University of Windsor has finally identified the “mystery fish” caught in Nunavut waters as a "long-nosed chimaera". The species, which is rarely caught, is related to sharks and stingrays. Get a glimpse of this interesting fish (CBC)!

After the struggles of the last years, winter fishing on the Great Slave Lake, NWT Canada, has experienced a rebound this year, with an increase of 25 per cent from last year’s harvest. The recently released NWT Economic Opportunities Strategy should also support the winter fishing industry (NJ).After the struggles of the last years, the winter fishing from the Great Slave Lake, NWT Canada, experiences a rebound this year, with an increase of 25 per cent from last year’s harvest. The recently released NWT Economic Opportunities Strategy should also support the winter fishing industry (NJ).


In an article titled “Unconventional wisdom on Arctic shipping,” Antoine Kedzierski, policy officer at the Brussels-based NGO Transport & Environment, explains what is behind some often cited statements about Arctic shipping (S4S).

David Snider reports on the Korean perspective from the Busan International Port Conference (S&B) and Charlie Bartlett looks at the importance of Arctic shipping for Russia (STG). At the second International Conference on the “Northern Sea Route” in St. Petersburg, the head of the NSR Administration, Alexander Olszewski, forecast a decline in the volume of transit traffic in 2013, mainly due to competition from the Northwest Passage, Canada (AIR, in Russian).
In an article titled “Unconventional wisdom on Arctic shipping”, Antoine Kedzierski, policy officer at the Brussels-based NGO Transport & Environment, explains what is behind some often cited statements about Arctic shipping (S4S).With a focus on China, Malte Humpert of The Arctic Institute analyzes the expectations of an Arctic shipping boom in his newly released report “The Future of Arctic Shipping - A New Silk Road for China?” (TAI) In the meantime, David Snider reports on the Korean perspective from the Busan International Port Conference (S&B), and Charlie Bartlett looks at the importance of Arctic shipping for Russia (STG). At the second International Conference on the “Northern Sea Route” in St. Petersburg, the head of the NSR Administration, Alexander Olszewski, forecasts a decline in the volume of transit traffic in 2013, mainly due to competition from the Northwest Passage (AIR, in Russian).
Even more news on Russia’s shipping industry: the Federal Property Management Agency announced an auction for the government’s stakes in Murmansk Shipping Company OJSC and the Northern Shipping Company OJSC on December 6. The deadline for bidding was this Monday, November 18 (PN). Currently the only country with nuclear-powered icebreakers, Russia has started building the largest icebreaker capable of navigating the Arctic. The 173m ship, 14 metres longer and 4 meters wider than the current largest icebreaker, is expected to be named Arctic. It is being built in St. Petersburg and will presumably be finished by 2017 (AJ). In addition, Rosneft, Gazprombank, GFR and Daewoo signed a memorandum to establish a centre of shipbuilding in Russia (AIR, in Russian). The Russian FESCO Transportation Group has completed its navigation season for this year. The season lasted for 111 days, which is six days longer than in the previous year (PN). Vyborg Shipyard won the tender for the construction of the 12 MW icebreaker and heavy icebreaking tug Yamal LNG. The ship is projected to be completed in 2016 (RIA, in Russian).



The Alaska Section of Epidemiology recently released a study that found that suicide rates increased by eighteen percent for every five degree increase in latitude in the North (AD). The residents of Alberta are frustrated that they are unable to access health services in the neighboring Northwest Territories (NJ). Anubha Momin of the Go Girl Travel Network highlighted Nunavut’s country food as “the original raw food diet.” Lastly, Ottawa’s Canadian Museum of Nature announced that “Edible Arctic” will be the theme of next year’s northern exhibition (NN).


Finland’s Aalto University is strengthening technological research in the Arctic (Yrittäjät, in Finnish). Meanwhile, the Government of the Northwest Territories has promised a “massive overhaul” of its education system (NJ), and Sahtu MLA Norman Yakeleya is agitating for a new institute of training and technology to be established to prepare Sahtu residents for oil and gas-related employment opportunities (NJ).


Starting with the more unfortunate news, western Alaska was hit by a severe storm the weekend of November 9 -10 that devastated parts of the region and caused severe flooding and damage (ADN, AD). To the east of the continent, in Nunavut, poverty and inequality appear to be rising (EOTA).

In Anchorage, Alaska, thirteen Yup'ik fishermen are appealing their illegal fishing convictions. The fishermen claim that the state imposed tight restrictions on king salmon fishing without considering their spiritual right to fish (FNM). In Murmansk, Russia, authorities have sent the criminal case against blogger Aleksander Serebryanikov back to investigators, as there is not currently enough evidence to convict him of extremism (BO).

In other societal news, “Eco-youths” from all over the Barents region teamed up in Arkhangelsk, Russia this fall (BO); and in Canada’s Northwest Territories, a new mentorship program hopes to connect the region’s writers, granting the territory’s aspiring writers access to prestigious mentors via email (NJ). On November 13, the Canadian Polar Commission gave Gérard Duhaime this year’s Northern Science Award for socio-economic research (NN), and Parks Canada is releasing a book on its search for the HMS Investigator this week (EOTA).


This week’s batch of cultural news focused almost exclusively on events, exhibitions and festivals. The Explorers Club in New York City is holding its Second Annual Explorers Club Polar Film Festival on November 23, the Gwich’in Steering Committee will host the Wild & Scenic Film Festival in Fairbanks on December 7, and parts of Nuka Godtfredsen’s graphic novel depicting life for Greenland’s early settlers are on display at the Anchorage Museum (ADN).

Many are angered over the Greenlandic government’s decision to cut funding for its national theatre (AJ), Fairbanks’ Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center hosted an event celebrating traditional fiddle music (FNM), and the New York Times reviewed the film “People of a Feather,” a film about the Arctic ecosystem.


The Canadian federal government is hoping to attract partners – both foreign governments and private industry – for a proposed satellite system to improve forecasting and communications in the Arctic. The Polar Communications and Weather Project was initially designed as a joint project between the Canadian Space Agency, Environment Canada, and the Department of National Defense, but budgetary constraints have forced the government to look for partners to continue developing the project (The Star).

The Norwegian Tschudi Shipping Company is “exploring the possibility” of building a deepwater port in Western Alaska, “a move that could transform the economic face of Western Alaska.” The proposed port would allow Alaska to gain more revenues from the increase in shipping coming through the Bering Strait. Previously, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had identified Nome, Port Clarence, and Cape Darby as possible locations for a deepwater port in Alaska. (KTVA, EOTA, AD).

United States

U.S. Customs and Border Protection will double the number of agents at Fairbanks International Airport. The move will allow for direct flights between Fairbanks and Dawson City, Yukon, and should expedite commercial and private air travel through the airport (SeattlePI).

Negotiations have broken down between telecommunications company GCI and Alaska NBC affiliate KTUU, leaving some 22 communities – including Bethel, Kodiak, Nome, Unalaska, and Valdez – without access to KTUU (FNM).


The first ice river crossings in northern Krasnoyarsk region will begin in late November or early December, as soon as ice on the Evenki and Taimyr rivers reaches about 50 cm. The ice is currently about 30 cm thick (AIR). Similarly, in Yakutia the first winter roads are beginning to open, with the winter road along the Yana river expected to open in January once the ice reaches a thickness of 60 cm (AIR).

Traffic through the Nenets port of Naryan-Mar is expected to increase by about 50%, to more than 200,000 tons per year (AIR).

If you’re interested in investing in Murmansk, check out this review of the retail property market from Barents Nova.



The Alaska Dispatch examines Russia’s Olympic Torch ceremony vis-à-vis the Arctic, with particular attention paid to both the showcasing of Russia’s abilities in the region and the lack of indigenous participation (AD).


Check out this account – replete with stunning photography – of kayaking through Greenland’s pristine fjords (ThePlanetD).

Bicyclist Tom Allen reflects on a recently completed trip though Lapland (

United States

Kristin Gates has become the first woman to cross the Brooks Range solo, completing a roughly 1,000-mile journey from the border of Yukon to the sea. She hiked about two-thirds of the journey, and paddled some 300 miles (Colby Magazine).

National Geographic Radio interviews a couple who kayaked from Minnesota to the Arctic Ocean – and remained married.


In this week’s flickr haul we have A Blustery Evening on Kluane Lake by Keith Williams, On Top Of The World by Dave Brosha, and Big Fox Lake Freezing Over by Mikofox. On twitter, users posted early sunsets (GreatCanadianTravel), night time in Repulse Bay (kathxjohnson), the world’s northernmost church in Finland (korpijaakko), and user Gerry van der Walt captured shots of a polar bear and a seal.

RIA Novosti posted two nice series this week. “The Edge of the Earth,” features the Islands of Russia’s Sakhalin Region, and “Life in the Arctic Circle,” features Naryan-Mar. The Daily Mail, too, published a cool collection of shots – a family of polar bears turned pale orange by the light at sunset in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Adventure Canada posted a photo essay called “The Greenland revelation.”

Booking is now available for May’s Svalbard Photo Safari 2014 via

This week’s videos include the trailer for North of the Sun, which is also available to buy or rent on vimeo, as well as “Polar Forces: universe of an iceberg,” (also on vimeo) and a Weather Channel video called “Welcome to the Arctic!”


In the grab bag this week, a requirement for an ice hotel in Sweden to install fire alarms has some people clamoring about government regulation run amok (ABC). Strange weather has been on display across the Arctic as fall has lingered in some areas longer than usual. In Siberia, warm temperatures have led to bears delaying hibernation, and ostriches, which we believe are not native to the region and so might be a bit confused already, are starting their spring mating season (ST). October was incredibly warm and wet in Alaska. In fact, average temperatures were 8.8 degrees Fahrenheit above the average and precipitation was 75% above the norm (NOAA). The warm weather led to Fairbanks’ close brush with a rare snowless Halloween, though winter came back with a vengeance last week when an abnormally strong winter storm brought high winds, freezing rain and snow to the city (FNM). The storm tore down trees and cut off power to 13,000 homes and businesses in the city. The local utilities have struggled to get everyone back online was cold weather closes in (FNM). This is the same storm that lashed coastal communities along the Bering Sea, leading to widespread flooding and destruction (AD). In response, Alaska Governor Sean Parnell declared state disasters along the western coast (KTVA) and in Fairbanks (ADN).

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)