The Arctic This Week

Welcome and thanks for joining us this week for another edition of TATW! 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 read the PDF version of TATW here.

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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.


To begin this week, get your audio and video fix with a selection of offerings from the think tank sphere. Brookings recently released a podcast on Governing a Changing Arctic, The Council on Foreign Relations posted a video of Icelandic president Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson addressing The Future of the Arctic, and an interview with Shella Biallas, a Foreign Service Officer at the US Embassy in Norway, is now available on our website. Take a look or have a listen.

The journal Polar Geography has recently published a special issue on local and traditional knowledge and data management in the Arctic. Being that our present scientific knowledge of the environment is incomplete and taking into account the immense logistic constraints to conventional scientific monitoring in the Arctic, integrating local and traditional knowledge is crucial. Read more about several different approaches to traditional knowledge in this month’s edition, available here.

Writing on The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, Iventa Cherneva examines what the appointment of former Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg as Secretary General of NATO will mean for the Arctic. Cherneva believes that Stoltenberg’s well-documented interest in and belief in the importance of the region could result in NATO beginning to play a larger role in security issues in the Arctic.

In business news, the small biotech company TFChem has patented this week an enhanced synthetic imitation of the “antifreeze proteins” (AFPs), a temperature stress-resistant molecule which helps fish in the Arctic survive in waters down to 28°F (-2°C). Instead of extracting the molecule from actual fishes, as is still the case in the industry today, they make it only from sugar. Good news not only for the cosmetics industry, which uses the molecule against oxidative stress involved in skin-aging, but also for the fish! (HP)

A recent report on U.S. Arctic Maritime infrastructure has been made public by the Government Accountability Office. According to GAO, the “report prioritized two broad categories to be addressed in the near term: information infrastructure, such as mapping and charting, and response services, such as search and rescue.”

Finally, in sports, further proof that the worst ideas make for the coolest videos: head on over to Alaska Dispatch to watch a skier get towed by an airplane across a snowfield in northern Alaska. How anyone came up with this idea – let alone successfully carried it out – is unclear, but the results are impressive.


Canada’s “principled stand”

The Canadian government made headlines last week by boycotting an Arctic Council meeting in Moscow, Russia (G&M, AD, CTV, CBC). Ottawa said in a press release that its decision to not attend the meeting constituted a “principled stand against Russia” in response to that country’s actions in Ukraine. In the press release, Leona Aglukkaq said Canada was “proud to show leadership on the world stage through its chairmanship of the Arctic Council” and would continue to support its work. Although Ottawa’s decision sends a clear signal to Russia, Canada chose to boycott a lower level, non-ministerial meeting (AJ), and at this point, Russian actions in Ukraine have left Arctic relations and the work of the council largely unscathed. For a Canadian perspective on the prospects for Arctic cooperation in light of recent events, see the Russian International Affairs Council’s recent interview with Rob Huebert.

The Arctic: Thaw with Conflict Potential (International Relations and Security Network).
Designing an Effective European Arctic Strategy (International Relations and Security Network).            
The Arctic: the other Russian front? (, in French).
Petition to join Alaska to Russia lacked votes, is removed from White House site (AIR, in Russian).
The Arctic: Profit-hunting ensures peace but threatens the population with disaster (Ræson, in Danish).

Russian Ecology Minister Sergei Donskoi said last week that Russia will submit a finalized claim to the UN this fall to extend Russia’s Arctic continental shelf (RIAN). The claim, which should be finalized by year’s end, includes a large portion of continental shelf beneath the Sea of Okhotsk (VOR). In March, the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf confirmed Russia’s petition to recognize the zone as Russian continental shelf, a decision which Donskoi said sets an “important precedent” for Russia (AIR, in Russian).
Vladimir Putin to hold Security Council meeting on Russia's policy in the Arctic (AIR, in Russian).

United States
The Alaska Legislature worked through Easter Sunday over the weekend, approving a USD 9.1 billion budget (AD) and extending into a 91st day to push ballot measures to raise the minimum wage and to legalize marijuana from August to the November (AD). Legislators planned a 92nd day on Tuesday in the hopes of reaching agreement on House Bill 278, the state’s omnibus education bill (FNM, AD).

The Nordics



First oil shipment from Russian offshore Arctic draws praise and condemnation

The first shipment of oil from Gazprom’s Prirazlomnoye platform in the Arctic Pechora Sea was sent on its way to market last week (Reuters, Moscow Times). President Vladimir Putin praised the development as a sign of Russia’s increasing investment in the extraction of the Arctic’s oil and gas resources (VOR). Putin presided over the event, making an appearance in a joint teleconference with Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller (AIR, in Russian, Press Release, AJ, RIAN). The Prirazlomnoye platform was, of course, the location the Greenpeace’s “Arctic 30” protest and has become a lightning rod for protests against Arctic oil and gas development more broadly (Blue and Green Tomorrow). In response, Greenpeace published “5 questions for Pres. Putin about Gazprom's first shipment of Arctic oil,” asking about Gazprom’s dismal environmental record and the heavy tax subsidies that were required to make the project feasible. While some see this event as “a new stage in the development of the Russian oil industry,” (Pravda, RIAN) others caution that Russia’s Arctic bonanza will not be as big as Moscow hopes, and that high costs and challenging conditions will continue to stall development of Russia’s Arctic oil and gas resources (OilPrice). John Sauven takes a sober look at the issue for The Guardian, drawing attention to the political and environmental consequences of our continued reliance on fossil fuels.

Alaska Legislature approves gas pipeline plan as 2014 session ends

The Alaska State Legislature concluded its 2014 session with marathon-length proceedings last week. Several issues of concern to the energy sector were addressed.  First, the Legislature approved Governor Sean Parnell’s current negotiations with oil companies over a North Slope gas pipeline and LNG export project (AD). The Legislature was not given much latitude to rewrite the terms for the proposed project and passed the plan without major amendments (FNM). The State of Alaska will take a 25% stake in the project, which will now move to preliminary engineering and cost refinement, and will collect taxes on the project in the form of natural gas.  In other energy related business, the Legislature approved a USD 30 million tax credit for two Alaska refineries after the closure of the Flint Hills refinery in Fairbanks put pressure on the states remaining oil processing facilities (AD), while also lining up USD 2 million for a woodstove buyback program in Fairbanks and USD 245 million for the replacement of University of Alaska Fairbanks’ aging heat and power plant (FNM).

Should Norway halt oil exploration along Russian border?

Chair of the Norwegian Parliament Stortinget’s Standing Committee on Energy and the Environment Ola Elvestuen this week called for the suspension of exploration in areas of the Barents Sea adjacent to the Russian border due to developments in Ukraine (BO). According to the 2010 agreement between Russia and Norway that settled the two countries’ maritime border in the Barents Sea, any oil and gas deposits that cross the border should be developed jointly, an arrangement which has become politically uncomfortable due to the crisis in Ukraine (DN, in Norwegian).  Conservatives in Norway have disputed the suspension (AB, in Norwegian).

Actor and activist Robert Redford added his voice to those opposing oil and gas exploration in the Arctic in this editorial for the Huffington Post.




Extractive Frontiers: The Arctic and Central Asia (Cryopolitics).


Incorporating traditional knowledge in science

The special issue of the journal Polar Geography on local and traditional knowledge and data management in the Arctic comprises several articles on previous and current projects and examples of how traditional knowledge can be used in scientific research. The article by Fidel et al. explores the important role of community knowledge, which can often detect local changes based on multigenerational knowledge. The change in walrus harvest locations bordering the Bering Sea, for instance, gives examples of adaptation strategies (Polar Geography). Bennett and Lantz outline participatory photography to document local observations. Digital photographs are combined with GPS data and interviews. The resulting visual and oral materials fit well with the Inuvialuit culture and traditions of the Mackenzie Delta Region, Northwest Canada (Polar Geography). A truly interdisciplinary article presents the observational framework and database design used to record, analyze and communicate sea ice observations which are based on, among other things, information on ice conditions, weather, ocean state, and animal behavior (Polar Geography).

Sanna Majaneva of the University of Helsinki and the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS) has studied the life of the Arctic ctenophore Mertensia ovum, or the Arctic comb jelly, of which we have little knowledge. The Arctic comb jelly can be found in the Baltic Sea and the Arctic. The identification of the species is difficult due to the specimens’ fragility and often inadequate description. A combination of photos of individual specimens with morphological and molecular identification methods provides a better result. A more accurate identification would also facilitate the evaluation of the jelly’s role in the ecosystem (Phys). You can find Majaneva’s dissertation here (University of Helsinki).

Snowy owls’ migration from the Arctic

A video from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology illustrates the reasons for snowy owls’ life-long journey. Each year, snowy owls travel vast distances in search of productive feeding areas. This also explains why recently they have been seen more frequently in the southern parts of the U.S. The abundance of lemmings last summer led to a drastic increase in the owl population, which however could not be sustained on the smaller amount of food left in winter. Therefore a great number of them moved south (Inquisitr).

Into the Maelstrom (summary) (AAAS Science Mag).

Flora and fauna
Biodiversity Arctic: Fauna (Expedition Hope).
The Generous Gulf (Gulf of St. Lawrence) and Photo of the Day: Ice Baby (NG).

Expeditions, conferences and research blogs
When will we reach 2°C? (Climate Lab Book)
The first bears (WWF – Thin Ice Blog).
Frontier Arctic ice studies under way (Kara-Winter-2014 Expedition) (Offshore).



United States


Several weeks ago, we reported on exercises that saw Russian airborne troops land on a floating polar ice station; now, courtesy of Business Insider, check out this impressive video of what the jump looked like to those participating in it.
Aviation units in Russia’s Northern Fleet have participated in anti-submarine exercises (AIR, in Russian).
Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu recently completed a trip to the Northern Fleet’s Severomorsk base, where he inspected the construction currently underway on a future Arctic base for Russian submarines (AIR, in Russian).

A Belgian tour guide and his group have been rescued after falling into a crevasse while hiking in Svalbard (Svalbard Posten, in Norwegian).
Film buffs should check out the Kickstarter campaign for the documentary The Sledge Patrol, which focuses on the little-known role of the Greenlandic theater in World War II.


Northern Regions Mining Summit to be held in Vancouver, BC

The Northern Regions Mining Summit is being organized by the Institute of the North and will be held 28-30 May, 2014, in Vancouver, BC.  The summit will focus on the social, economic and cultural impacts of mining in Alaska, Canada, and Greenland.  You can register on The Institute of the North’s website here and a draft agenda can be found here.





GAO offers sobering look at shipping prospects in US Arctic

The Government Accountability Office released a report containing its evaluation of the shipping prospect in the U.S. Arctic in the next few years. The report is not overly optimistic about the next 10 years, due to a lack of facilities and infrastructure, the “high operating costs, limited demand from tourists, uncertainties and setbacks in plans for offshore Arctic oil drilling.” What is more, only 1% of navigationally significant waters have been surveyed with modern technology. Sen. Lisa Murkowski stated that she disagrees with the report’s assessment that the commercial maritime activity in Arctic waters off Alaska will likely be limited in the next decade (AD).

News bits from the Adam Smith Conference “Russian Arctic Oil and Gas”

At the Adam Smith Conference “Russian Arctic Oil and Gas”, which took place on April 15 and 16 in Moscow, Vice-President of Rosneft Andrey Shishkin said that Rosneft needed 300 support vessels for the development of the license areas in the Kara Sea. The start of the drilling in the Kara Sea (Universitetskaya field), which will require “an absolutely different approach”, is scheduled for August (Port News). First results should be obtained in November this year (Port News). Other news bits offered at the conference revealed the conceptual design for Arctic class LNG-powered vessel developed by Damen shipyard group (Port News) and the new record high for cargo transit via the NSR in 2013 (Platts).

Some drag the line a little longer than others (ice fishing) (Finnmark Dagblad, in Norwegian).

Near ice-breaking deal (Russia) (BO).

Other business and economic news







United States


The vice-president of Rosneft has stated that he believes current infrastructure on the Northern Sea Route is insufficient for the transportation of oil (AIR, in Russian).
Yamal winter road closed (AIR, in Russian).


United States
Head over to Vimeo to check out this video featuring some excellent shots from the Arguk Expedition of pristine Alaskan wilderness.


The evacuation of a youth expedition to the North Pole has been postponed due to inclement weather (AIR, in Russian).

Check out the Northern Exposure Blog, documenting a hiking expedition across Svalbard.


Sunsets dominated flickr this week, with Rachel Messier posting an Iqaluit Sunset, Sophia Granchinho posting Sunset in Baker Lake, and Mikofox posting Nighttime Colors (though this one’s not quite a sunset). On twitter, The Arctic March posted three cheery expeditions-goers, Clare Kines tweeted an Inuit mother and her child, Finding True North tweeted ice crystals in Nunavut, and Vasily Matveev tweeted “Skysurfers in Polar Town.” Also check out dueling narwhals, snow-covered Svalbard and more snow-covered Svalbard, midnight sun, and sunset through a photographer’s eye, all on Instagram. Also check out Alaska Dispatch’s blood moon photos, as well as some cool videos: “Home Ground” by James Aiken and “The Reindeer Are Coming” by the International Center for Reindeer Husbandry.

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)

courtesy of ilovegreenland on