The Arctic This Week: 10 March - 17 March, 2014

courtesy of ilovegreenland on flickr
The Arctic This Week 2014:11

Welcome and thanks for joining us this week! We hope that you find TATW interesting and entertaining to read. If you’re not a subscriber yet, you can sign up here. The PDF version will be available later today 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 us directly. Anything that we missed? Please feel free to share material with us if you think it deserves inclusion in TATW.


The Arctic Institute maintains and provides access to a list of Arctic-themed conferences, workshops, and events. You can access the list by clicking on the following link:

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


In political reads, we recommend two pieces on European Union policy in the Arctic by The Arctic Institute’s own Andreas Raspotnik and Andreas Østhagen.  The two pieces, which can be found hereand here, explore the European Parliament’s recent non-binding resolution on the Arctic, and what it can tell us more broadly about the evolution of the EU’s Arctic policy. 

If you are not yet familiar with it, spend some time today learning more about the research program Arctic-FROST(Frontiers of Sustainability).  The program, led by the University of Northern Iowa and run by Dr. Andrey Petrov of the Geography Department, examines Arctic resources, societies, environments and developments in the changing North. Its goal is to understand Arctic communities and the effect of climate change on their lifestyle, and to find ways to support their sustainable development. The National Science Foundation has awarded a grant of USD 750,000 for the five-year project. An article in Iowa Science Interface interviews Dr. Petrov and provides a good background on the program and its goals.

In energy reads, a Greenpeace-commissioned report from the Danish consultancy Ramboll asks if there is a future for Greenland without Arctic oil while exploring alternative scenarios for Greenland’s economic development (KNR, in Danish).

In security reads, spend some time exploring this interesting publication from the German think tank Adelphi titled “Environment, Climate Change and Security in the Arctic.” The report, which grew out of a workshop of Arctic security experts held in Copenhagen in February of last year, analyzes four different potential scenarios for the Arctic in 2060, based on varying degrees of international cooperation and varying effects of climate change in the region.

There are several worthwhile items this week addressing the 5th Arctic Business Forum that was held last week in Rovaniemi, Finland. The forum concluded with renewed commitments to coordination among the Arctic states, especially as they see themselves confronted by the Crimea crisis, which was discussed as one of the major challenges to investment in the North. (Finland Times). A video at Barents Observer – originally presented at the Arctic Business Forum – examines how new railroads could link the inland Barents Region to Asian markets via Arctic shipping routes. For more on the subject, head over to Arctic Journal’sanalysis of the potential project.

Finally in sports news, get all the details of Dallas Seavey’s victory at the 2014 Iditarod; Seavey also won the race in 2012. Alaska Dispatch and Anchorage Daily News have full coverage and great photos of the event, from start to finish.


European Parliament issues third Arctic resolution

As last week’s issue hit the presses (so to speak), the European Parliament (EP) adopted an Arctic “strategy” in the form of a non-binding resolution. The resolution, the EP’s third on Arctic issues (the previous two were issued in 2008and in 2011), further develops Europe’s Arctic policy and seeks to solidify the EP’s significance as an Arctic stakeholder. The resolution, which in part encourages the development of a network of conservation areas in the Arctic and the protection of the high seas around the North Pole, drew considerable attention from the media this week (AD, Buzz Feed,NN). According to Andreas Raspotnik and Andreas Østhagen, however, the EP resolution should be seen as a continuation of previous EP Arctic policies, rather than a direct challenge to the Arctic Council in line with Greenpeace’s Arctic campaign, as the Arctic Journal and Greenpeacehave respectively interpreted it (The Arctic Institute). An article in the Maritime Executive echoes this view, stressing the non-binding nature of the resolution, which “can’t be really considered as a strong political move towards hard environmental protection as such.” For more from TAI on the European Parliament and the Arctic, see “From Seal Ban to Svalbard” and “To Svalbard and Beyond.”

UN recognizes the Sea of Okhotsk as Russian continental shelf

On Friday, the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf recognized the Sea of Okhotsk enclave as Russian continental shelf (RT), sending a formal certificate to that effect to Russia’s Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment. Sergei Donskoy, Russia’s natural resources minister, said Saturday that the decision marked “an accomplished event” for Russia, marking “the first step to our Arctic claim, which will be drafted in the near future” (RIAN).

Once again, the situation in Crimea continued to make Arctic-related headlines this week. Eye on the Arctic posted some interesting pieces on this topic, including “Russia’s Ukraine moves not yet spilling into Arctic Council,” “Nordics rethink security after Ukraine crisis,” and “Finland-Russia Society leader says relations between the countries strong” (AD). Robert Murray also published a piece in the Arctic Journal challenging an earlier article by Kevin McGwin that suggested conflict in Ukraine will have little impact on relations among Arctic states.


Elections news dominated the domestic Canadian political scene this week. MLAs in the Northwest Territories voted to extend their terms (NJ), the Lutselk'e First Nation held elections for a new chief (CBC), and Tom Mulcair was in Whitehorse last week “road-testing” his 2015 campaign speech (YN). Two Nunavik residents also plan to contest Luc Ferland for Uvanga’s NMA seat in next month’s election (NN), a race that is said to be focused heavily on housing issues (CBC).

United States



Who amongst us, perhaps fueled by too many cups of coffee or some other beverage, has not wanted to lash at the empty language and platitudes we sometimes employ to speak about the Arctic?  This week, Dave Walsh aimed his sights at the often intoned but poorly understood “sustainable management” in a blog post at Cold Reality. 

Several Russian companies move ahead with Arctic exploration

Gazprom is moving ahead with exploration on several fronts, finalizing a socio-economic benefit agreement with the Lensky district in Yakutia (AIR, in Russian) and announcing that it will begin drilling at the Dolginskoye field in the Pechora Sea by May of this year (AIR, in Russian). Rosneft, meanwhile, held hearings regarding its plans for seismic exploration in the Chukchi Sea (AIR, in Russian). Lukoil is also looking to up its Arctic game over the coming years (BO). All three companies will be happy to hear that Moscow has extended tax subsidies for oil and gas companies working in the Yamal region (AIR, in Russian), where Gazprom has invested over RUB 15 billion developing the Novoportovskoye gas field (AIR, in Russian). The state-owned geological exploration interest Rosgeologia wants to get in on the action, as well, announcing a plan to begin a campaign of exploratory drilling across Russia’s Arctic shelf (AIR, in Russian).

Alaska pipeline politics

The Alaska senate modified Governor Sean Parnell’s plan for a North Slope gas pipeline, most notably by adding language to bar state commissioners tasked with negotiating deals with private companies from seeking employment with any of the involved companies for three years after leaving state service (FNM). Parnell was rebuffed on another front as his nominee to serve on the State Assessment Review Board withdrew his name from consideration in the face of opposition in the legislature (FNM). Parnell has quibbled with the legislature and its requirements for appointees to the board which oversees the tax value of the Trans-Alaska pipeline (FNM).

Greenpeace asks if there is a future for Greenland without Arctic oil as it rolls out a report it commissioned from Danish consultancy Ramboll concerning possible economic futures for Greenland (KNR, in Danish).

For those who read Russian or who care to navigate Google Translate, an interesting and detailed article in Rossiyskaya Gazeta looks at technological advances that are enabling Russian energy operations in the Arctic, comparing that effort, with a bit of hyperbole, to the exploration of outer space.





The Arctic’s T rex

The remains of a Nanuqsaurus hoglundi, a newly discovered species of a pygmy tyrannosaur related to T rex, were found in Alaska. It probably inhabited the ancient Arctic island of Laramidia 70m years ago. Get the whole picture by watching a video clip of s 3D computer model of the new dinosaur (Guardian).

Big on sustainability

Last week, the 4th European Marine Board Forum discussed changes in Arctic Ocean ecosystems and identified possible “2050” scenarios for Arctic Change. Its aim was to promote a sustainable ecosystem-based management system for the Arctic Ocean (Marine Board). The Russian Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, JSC VTB Bank and the Nordic Environment Finance Corporation NEFCO have signed agreements enabling the start-up of environmental projects in the Arctic region financed by the Arctic Council Project Support Instrument (PSI) (NEFCO). The initiative became operational on March 12 (Arctic Council) and will invest in projects that cut waste and prevent and mitigate pollution in the Arctic (Blue & Green Tomorrow). The Nordic Council of Ministers followed suit on sustainability by releasing its strategy for sustainable development in the Nordic region. It determines its objectives up to 2025 regarding the Nordic welfare model, viable ecosystems, the changing climate, the sustainable use of the earth’s resources, in addition to education, research and innovation (Nordic Council of Ministers). As a follow-up to the strategy report, the Theme Session in Akureyri, Iceland, on 7 and 8 April will discuss the sustainable exploitation of natural resources (Norden).


Flora and fauna

Expeditions & research blogs



Russia flexes Arctic muscles as relations with West deteriorate

As relations between Russia and the USA/EU continue to degrade over Crimea and Ukraine, ramifications are being felt across the Arctic region, with the United States planning to pull out of both the Northern Eagle and FRUKUS naval exercises (BO). Likewise, Canada’s “decision to freeze military relations with Russia” has made it increasingly unlikely that the upcoming meeting of the Northern Chiefs of Defense, as well as a visit by Russian General Valery Gerasimov to Canada, will proceed as planned. Also in danger of cancellation are the Maritime Security Challenges Conference, Russian participation in Operation NANOOK, and the Vigilant Eagle military exercises (Embassy).
Meanwhile, the increased pace of Russian military activity in the region continues unabated. Four Tu-95MS strategic bombers recently completed a 24-hour patrol over the Arctic (VOR, Miragec14, Itar-Tass, RIAN, and GP Arctic Watch), and some 350 troops from the 98th Ivanovo division carried out airborne exercises over the New Siberian Islands archipelago, landing on Kotleny Island (VOR, Itar-Tass, and AIR– in Russian). Russia also announced this week that the planned reopening of an old military base in Alakurtti would result in the stationing of some 3000 signals intelligence troops roughly 50km from the Finish border (BO, Yle, and AIR), and that it planned to begin the deployment of unmanned patrol airships to the region by 2016 (Janesand BO). Neither the region nor Russia’s interests in it should be taken lightly by the USA, argue David Slayton and Mark Rosen on, in an op-ed calling for an increased and more muscular US presence in the region.

United States
Check out Marine Forces Europe’s Flickrpage to see some great shots from the Cold Response 14 exercises in Norway.


Joint Russian-Norwegian SAR exercise Barents 2014 to take place in June (AIR, in Russian).



Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation pushes back against GNWT, mining companies

In the Northwest Territories, tensions are rising between the NWT government and the Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation as the former pushes for the Territories’ First Nations to sign onto devolution and profit-sharing agreements.  Chief Dora Enzoe of the Lutsel K’e Dene has accused the government of the NWT of trying to strong-arm them into signing the agreement even though they think they are entitled to a greater share of revenues than is being offered (NJ). The Lutsel K’e Dene have also blamed the diamond industry of contributing to drugs and crime in its communities and called on mining companies to be more proactive in helping solve these social problems (NJ).

In Chukotka, preparing for the transportation of coal to Anadyr Estuary (AIR, in Russian).                 


Research that stinks: using bacteria to clean up old mines (YN).                 



Safety and Shipping review 2014

Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS) mapped the maritime safety and losses suffered in the shipping industry in 2013. There were 94 losses, which represents a 20% decline from last year‘s number. The report (Allianz) lists “mega ships”, the Arctic, different piracy models and new fuels as new insurance risks (NYT).



Other business and economic news


Writing the Arctic

An article in The Economist on Arctic writing, titled “Snowy waste,” describes Svalbard’s slightly non-literary seductiveness and “total lack of existential angst.” On the longer side of things, author Bern Will Brown has published End-of-Earth People: The Arctic Sahtu Dene, the culmination of a 60-year effort (NJ), and CTV interviewed S.L. Osborne, author of In the Shadow of the Pole: An early history of Arctic expeditions, 1871-1912.






The completion of a fiber optic line between Nadym and Salekhard is scheduled for April 2014 (AIR, in Russian). Residents of Pevek are expressing concerns about a lack of drinking water after an accident at the Paveksky dam (AIR, in Russian).

United States




Arctic Winter Games Underway
The 2014 Arctic Winter Games are underway in Fairbanks, AK (CBC). For full coverage and to follow along, check out the official website of the 2014 Arctic Winter Games and Arctic Journal’s coverage.





If you’re a climbing enthusiast – or just curious, and not afraid of heights – check out this crazy photo from Instagramof “three climbers suspended off a 4,000 ft. vertical cliff in the Arctic.”


On flickr this week, check out this cool license plate posted by Vincent Demers, the panoramic “The Road is Gold” posted by Kirsten Olesen and another by Mikofox, “Arctic Calm” by Dave Brosha, and “Polar lights on Wrangel Island” posted by the Arctic Council and shot by Alexander Gruzdev. Also check out this cool Arctic photo collection by erickchiu. On twitter, Grant Berg, Henrik Jensen, Philippe Morin and Paul Loewenposted twitpics. Instagram users posted cold weather gear, a snowy drive in Barrow, the Mackenzie mountain range, snow in Nunavut, a bird flying over Havoysund, and a Norwegian snow plow. Also check out this shot of frozen tidal waves on the Koksoak River (Aurora) and “Heaven & Earth”(500px). This week’s photo collections include “Culture captured at inaugural Arctic Image Festival” and “Inuvik youth win photo awards,” both from Northern Journal, as well as “Where icebergs are born” (Sime Photo).

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)