The Arctic This Week: 24 February – 3 March, 2014

Courtesy of ilovegreenland on flickr
The Arctic This Week 2014:9

Welcome and thanks for joining us this week! Well, you know what they say about March: in like a lion, out like a lamb. Those of you on the east coast of North America are certainly hoping this is true as yet another round of Arctic air has descended on the region. Meanwhile, the Iditarod sled dog race has been plagued by warm temperatures and sparse snow this year. Strange winter, indeed. Wherever you are, we hope that you find TATW interesting and entertaining to read. If you’re not a subscriber yet, you can sign up here. You can find the PDF version here.

As always, all editorial choices, opinions and any mistakes are the authors’ own. To comment, to point out an error or to request a back issue, feel free to contact 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.


A post by Mia Bennett, “Unrest in the West: What does Ukraine mean for Russian Arctic gas development?”, provides an interesting take on the recent developments in Ukraine. Bennett argues that while the unrest doesn’t mean Russia will be less likely to develop its northern gas fields, Russia will be “even more likely to look east for importers of its gas” in China, Japan and South Korea.

We would all be well-served by a close reading of Greenpeace’s recent report Frozen Future: Shell’s Ongoing Gamble in the US Arctic. While Greenpeace’s agenda in regards to Arctic drilling is clear, their research in this report is comprehensive and impeccable. Far from being a position piece, this report clearly describes the economic, regulatory and environmental risks Shell faces with its currently paused Arctic exploration campaign.

The top piece of military news this week was the release of the U.S. Navy’s Arctic Roadmap for 2014-2030.  The conservative roadmap shows the Navy seeking to operationalize recent White House and Department of Defense strategic guidance on the Arctic. 

On a lighter note, see this in-depth series in The Irish Times that chronicles Charlie Bird’s travels in the Canadian Arctic. The collection of interactive features, videos and stories is an informative take on life in the Arctic from an outsider’s perspective.

When it comes to wildlife this week, nothing beats this short video by Luftfoto Finnmark that gives a bird’s eye view of reindeer herding. The patterns drawn by the moving animals are spectacular and demonstrate how we can find art in everyday life (Luftfoto Finnmark).

Last week in Nuuk, Greenland, the five Arctic coastal states discussed the implications for fishing of an increasingly ice-free Arctic Ocean. Although they did not agree on a complete moratorium on commercial fishing, measures are to be taken to deter unregulated fishing while the sustainability of the ecosystem is assessed in detail (Nunatsiaq Online).

In infrastructure news, an article in the Arctic Journal bemoans the latest delay to the Alaska Regional Ports Study from the US Army Corps of Engineers. The authors worry that while the United States pontificates, other countries are moving forward with developing their Arctic infrastructures.


The Arctic, diplomacy, Ukraine, and the East

While last week’s Arctic-related diplomatic news highlighted the U.S.’s new Arctic representative (EOTA), Russia’s continental shelf claims (VOR), and Canada’s U.S. ambassador’s comments on polar bear intelligence (Examiner), the intensifying situation in Ukraine (NYT) tested the bounds of diplomacy among Arctic countries this week. Canada recalled Ottawa’s ambassador to Moscow (G&M), U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry headed to Kiev (International Business Times), and the EU (The Telegraph), NATO, and Norway condemned Russia’s military escalation in Crimea ( And in Russia’s Arctic, Murmansk mayor Aleksey Veller indicated his support to Sevastopol’s new pro-Russian mayor, Russian citizen Alexey Chalov (BO). For some analysis of the implications of the situation in Ukraine for Russia’s Arctic gas development, see Mia Bennett’s blog Cryopolitics. Ms. Bennett argues that the developments in Ukraine mean “Moscow will try even more to win Asian customers in order to reduce its dependence on the west.”

Icelanders seek referendum on EU ascension

In response to the Icelandic government’s recent announcement that it was dropping its bid to join the European Union, thousands of protesters assembled in Reykjavik in protest and over 30,000 Icelanders signed a petition demanding a referendum on EU ascension (Business Standard). The Arctic Journal called the protests “more of a family gathering than a Kiev-style revolt,” and stressed that the majority of Icelanders do not support ascension. Arctic-Info similarly maintained that it was the government’s decision to drop its bid without holding a referendum, rather than the lost potential for EU membership, that angered most of the protestors (AIR, in Russian).

Ice and resources: the Arctic as a new “scenario geopolitico” (Geopolitica, in Italian).

Olsvig welcomes meeting with Arctic colleagues (KNR, in Danish).
New report criticizes Greenland on sustainability (KNR, in Danish).
Associate Professor: Hammond has turned up the independence rhetoric (KNR, in Danish).

United States


Moscow hosts first Arctic investment summit (AIR, in Russian).


An article in International Environmental Agreements from Coco C. A. Smits, Jan P. M. van Tatenhove,
And Judith van Leeuwen explores issues of authority and governance in relation to the development of Greenland’s oil and gas sector.

Ukraine reverberates through the Arctic

The rapidly unfolding events in Ukraine and souring relations between Russia and the west have reverberated through the world of Arctic energy. After Western powers considered levelling sanctions against Moscow, Rosneft’s share price dropped 4.1 percent and in the blink of an eye BP, which owns a 20% stake in Rosneft, lost USD 4.3 billion in market value (Bloomberg). In some tone-deaf analysis, energy analysts predicted that the Ukraine crisis is a fantastic situation for Statoil. If Russia cuts off gas supplies due to the crisis, prices will skyrocket and Statoil will be able to cash in by increasing supplies to Europe (AB, in Norwegian).

Norwegian politicians are looking to sell off coal-related investments from the country’s sovereign wealth fund while a new coal mine is being opened on Svalbard, a fact that some have pointed out as a bit of a contradiction (BO). No one seems bothered by the fact that the sovereign wealth fund is based on fossil fuel revenues, even if they are of the less polluting oil and gas variety. A Greenpeace representative called the move “a desperate act to try to maintain Norwegian activity that they believe is necessary to maintain sovereignty” over the remote Island with around 2,500 residents (Bloomberg). Meanwhile Norway’s central bank said it may have to divorce itself from the sovereign wealth fund as the fund has grown too large for the bank to oversee (Bloomberg). What an enviable problem to have!

Employees of the government of the Northwest Territories complain that they are being pressured not to sign a petition that seeks to require all future fracking applications be subjected to an environmental assessment (NJ). ConocoPhillips, meanwhile, has announced that it wishes to expand its fracking operations at the Sahtu site in the NWT (CBC).

The Alaska Permanent Fund reached a new record value of USD 50 million this week (FNM), while news broke that the fund, based on revenues from North Slope oil, was investing heavily in North Dakota shale oil. It seems that the Permanent Fund sees potential in unconventional oil while Alaska’s oil production continues to decline (AD).

An audit by Miller and Lents, Ltd., showed that Russian independent oil company Bashneft holds 2045.3 million barrels of oil equivalent in reserve (AIR, in Russian). Novatek, another Russian independent, is profiting from a zero tax rate recently applied to areas of Northern Russia above the 65th parallel. According to Novatek’s Chairman Leonid Michelson, the tax cut has allowed them to develop small, marginal fields that would normally not be profitable and increase their production in the Yamal by 50% (AIR, in Russian). Gazprom, meanwhile, announced that it was relocating its main offshore exploration subsidiary from Murmansk to Sakhalin on Russia’s Pacific coast, signaling an important shift in activity towards the Asian market (BO).


It’s polar bear time!

In Nunavut, Canada, it is now possible to track polar bear through satellite monitoring with a team of researchers counting the bears on the high-resolution images obtained by satellite. This has the advantage of being less intrusive for the animals than for instance aerial surveys using helicopters (NN, Montreal Gazette). This would also prevent the negative consequences of research and handling of the bears as Kelsey Eliasson describes (Polar Bear Science). To get even closer to the polar bears, Google is using its Street View technology in the polar bear capital, Canada‘s Churchill, Manitoba, to look out for bears. Trekker cameras can be placed on bikes, boats, backpacks and dog sleds (G&M). To follow the ‘hunt’, click here (Google Street View).

And in a different take on polar bears, a very interesting article explores the effect media has on our views of the world. Nature photographer Norbert Rosing took pictures of a polar bear playing with a dog in 1991. Whereas these pictures were heavily criticized when first released because of the assumption that the dog was used as bait, the media reports of climate change‘s effect on the polar bear population had completely reversed public opinion 10 years later (NPR).

Arctic Biodiversity Assessment released

The Arctic Biodiversity Assessment (ABA), released by Arctic Council at the May 2013 Ministerial meeting in Kiruna, Sweden, is now available (Arctic Council). It concludes that Arctic biodiversity is under serious threat from man-made climate change (Space Daily). You can download the reports here.
Contributing to global biodiversity, birthday gifts have arrived in Svalbard for the Global Seed Vault’s 10th anniversary. The Vault was designed to secure crop and food diversity and has received 20,000 new seed samples from around the world (EOTA). You can read more on the ‘doomsday vault’ on BBC.

Whales in the Arctic

The melting of the Arctic sea ice has enabled some subarctic whale species to expand their territory into the newly ice-free waters of the High Arctic. The decreasing ice coverage and thickness further facilitates shipping in the region, leading to a ‘competition’ for space (UPI, News Discovery).

The state of Alaska has filed a petition to have the humpback whale removed from the list of endangered species under the federal Endangered Species Act, arguing that the central North Pacific whales constitute a distinct population. Other humpback whale populations would therefore still remain categorized as endangered (NM). In the meantime Manitoba, Canada, seeks to minimize the impact of increased shipping activity on its beluga whale summer guests in the Hudson Bay (CBC).

Mantle Methane (Arctic News).
The Snowman Cometh (One Earth).

Flora and fauna



U.S. Navy Releases Updated Arctic Roadmap

Following on the heels of the May 2013 National Strategy for the Arctic and the November 2013 Department of Defense Arctic Strategy, the United States Navy has released its much-anticipated Arctic Roadmap for 2014-2030. The roadmap lays out steps to be taken to operationalize the national and DoD strategies in the naval sphere, and “provides guidance necessary to prepare the Navy to respond effectively to future Arctic Region contingencies, delineates the Navy’s leadership role, and articulates the Navy’s support to achieve national priorities in the region.” Rear Admiral Jonathan White, Oceanographer and Navigator of the Navy, noted that while the Navy does not anticipate “war-fighting” in the region in the immediate future, the roadmap is important for delineating how capabilities can be improved such that the Navy is prepared for all contingencies (Reuters). The Roadmap calls upon assessments from “an interagency team of Arctic experts from various Navy offices, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Ice Center, the U.S. Coast Guard, and academia” (OC, Nature, and Marine Insight).

U.S. Marines to Participate in Exercise Cold Response 2014

Exercise Cold Response 2014 will kick off on 10 March, bringing together some 15,000 troops in Norway from Europe, Canada, and the United States. Among the participants are about 440 Camp Leujeune-based Marines, including the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines and the Ragnarok Company, 2nd Supply Battalion. In preparation, the units have undergone cold weather training at the Mountain Warfare Training Center during January and February (Marine Corps Times and Marforeur). DVIDS has an impressive collection of photos documenting the units’ preparations.

Arctic Weather a Bit Too Brisk for British Troops

Much to the amusement of their Scandinavian counterparts, British soldiers have reportedly been held out of exercises underway at the Allied Training Centre in Porsangmoen, Norway, because of “health and safety” rules prohibiting them from leaving barracks if the temperature outside is too cold (The Local). Somewhat counterintuitively, Spanish and Italian troops are continuing to take part in the exercises unhindered by any cold-weather restrictions (NY Daily News).

United States
UT San Diego has an extensive and far-ranging interview with CNO Adm. Jonathan Greenert; among other topics, Adm. Greenert briefly touches on the Navy’s growing role in the Arctic.

Some 80% of respondents to an poll believe that Russia needs to increase its presence in the Arctic. The naval exercises Northern Eagle 2014 will be held in April, and will include ships and aircraft from Russia, Norway, and the United States (AIR, in Russian).
Putin’s Arctic Chimera (

The Danish military’s decision to consolidate Greenland Command in Grønnedal into the new Arctic Command in Nuuk has resulted in a rather pricey – and somewhat unexpected – environmental cleanup bill (Ingeniøren, in Norwegian).



Norwegian mining company Nussir has broken the Norwegian depth record for hard rock drilling on the way towards discovering extensive copper deposits in Finnmark that could be exploited for decades to come (NORA Region Trends).

A new mining strategy in Nunavik seeks to double the number of Nunavimmiut employed in the mining industry over the next two years with a particular focus on hiring and retaining women and youth (NN). Next door in Nunavut, Peregrine Diamonds Ltd. reported promising results from exploration work at their Chidliak diamond site on Baffin Island (NN). To the west, the Yellowknives Dene First Nation signed an impact benefit agreement with De Beers to cover the Gahcho Kue diamond mine in the Northwest Territories (NJ).


The government of Greenland has approved the application of True North Gems for a ruby mine in Qeqetarsuatsiaat (KNR, in Danish).

The government of the far eastern Chukotka Autonomous District has pledged support to the Australian mining company TIG as it seeks to develop large coal deposits near the Bering Sea. The pledge of support will also be accompanied by direct investment in the project by the Russian government through the Russian Direct Investment Fund (AIR, in Russian).


Seminar: Arctic Shipping & Offshore Operations (Den Haag, April 16) (Scheepsbouw Nederland).


Other business and economic news
City, invest in thyself (Anchorage, Alaska) (AJ).
The fur that wants to come in from the cold (Greenland - Denmark) (AJ).


Language revitalization in Nunavut and across the Arctic

Nunavut, Canada held its annual Inuit language celebration last month (EOTA). At the circumpolar level, the Arctic Council also hopes to encourage language revitalization. Its Arctic Languages Vitality Project partners with the Arctic Council’s six indigenous peoples organizations to promote indigenous language revitalization. Part of the project includes promoting music in Arctic languages on YouTube. In other language-related news, a new Apple app, “Naqinnerit,” helps teach users Greenlandic (AJ).

Canadians and Finns crack down on Alcohol

Three Nunavut hamlets, Arviat, Chesterfield Inlet, and Kugluktuk, voted last week to maintain their communities’ restrictions on alcohol imports (EOTA, NN). In Finland, the President is expected to give the go-ahead to proposed amendments tightening Finland’s restrictions on alcohol-related advertisement in public places (AD).





Winter Roads to open despite delays; restrictions criticized, then delayed

The opening of the winter road to Old Crow was postponed due to weather delays (EOTA), but is now officially open for business (YN). Meanwhile, after local truckers complained about restrictions on NWT’s Sahtu winter road (CBC), officials relented and postponed the restrictions after temperatures dropped (CBC).


Environmental damage reduction strategies studied for construction of Sabetta port (AIR, in Russian).

United States


2014 Iditarod sled dog race underway

Amidst a “party atmosphere,” the 2014 Iditarod race began this weekend in Anchorage, AK, and was officially re-started in Willow, despite concerns that warm weather would force the re-start to move to Fairbanks (FNM). Some sixty-nine mushers – each with a sixteen-dog team – will traverse 1,000 miles, braving “two mountain ranges, dangerous wilderness and the wind-whipped Bering Sea Coast (FNM).” Despite warm temperatures and sub-optimal trail conditions, Alaska Dispatch reports that the mushers made a fast start towards Nome. For a sense of what training is like – and why mushers keep coming back year after year – check out this video of four-time champion musher Jeff King from Alaska Dispatch. Finally, in interesting Iditarod-related news, researchers are studying how Iditarod dogs – famous for their steely stamina and fierce loyalty (EOTA)– might provide insights into training bomb-detection canines for the military (AD).


Rovaniemi is gearing up to host the 2014 Winter Swimming World Championship, which will feature some 1200 participants from 33 countries (BO).

United States

Yakutia is studying the feasibility of building the world’s only “underground ski tunnel” in an ice cave (AIR, in Russian).


One of our favorite photographers, Clare Kines, posted “Nestled” and “Dusky Aurora” on flickr this week. The Arctic Council posted a shot of Svalbard taken by Kristin Nymark Heggland and submitted for the Arctic Council’s photography contest. On Instagram, users posted a beautiful shot of Tromsø (jamer2k41), an Arctic sunset in Inuvik (ecojackiejo), a “perfect storm” on the way to Svalbard (mvpgeo), a post-hike “selfie” taken in Nunatsiavut (markbasterfield), and a black and while sled dog shot (nofiltersri). The twitpics of the week include sled dogs at work and a sleepy dog after a full day of travel (alexhibbert), frozen Pelly Bay (Happy_Wanderer2), and an Iqaluit sunset (bronfair). For more Iditarod-related pics, see Alaska Dispatch.

In photo-related news, Inuvik, NWT hosted its first Arctic Image Festival last week (NJ), and the winners of The Arctic and the Northern Sea Route photography contest were announced International Investment Summit of the Arctic in Moscow (AIR, in Russian).

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)