By Tom Fries The Arctic This Week – 7 July to 13 July 2012
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READS OF THE WEEK
Collecting, reading, sorting and interpreting the news each week is often rewarding; occasionally it’s a genuine pleasure. This was such a week. The volume of really eye-opening articles and top-notch writing was tough to absorb, and I hope you’ll take the time to read some of what’s been selected below.
It’s been an unbelievable week for photo essays. Most importantly, do not miss the jaw-dropping flickr stream of Alexander Semenov, covering undersea life in the White Sea. Follow that with: stunning photos of icebergs by Camille Seaman, as profiled in the New York Times; a series of ridiculously high-quality photos by Swedish photographers of Nordic nature; and a photo essay on Svalbard by Ole Jørgen Liodden. Then you might wish to watch a beautifully-filmed documentary about how Svalbard came to be the center of Arctic research (brainpickings.org).
On to written works. I enjoyed most Anthony Speca’s recent piece in Northern Public Affairs, which is written with style and conviction. He sees Greenpeace’s Save the Arctic campaign as a blunt, if well-motivated, instrument insensitive to actual northern interests and unlikely to ingratiate the organization with Arctic policymakers in the future. Also recommended is a wonderfully indignant editorial from Rear Admiral William L Shachte, Jr, former Department of Defense Representative for Ocean Policy Affairs, who points out that George Will and other commentators who opine on the wisdom or folly of the US joining UNCLOS could stand to know a good bit more about their subject (Post and Courier). Great letter.
Regarding the recent oil-strike negotiations in Norway, Matthew Hulbert in Forbes points out – and thank god someone did – that this is but one example of how “political risk has always been mis-priced in developed markets.” The elements of US policy that underlie all the legal suits and countersuits that are taking place regarding Shell’s plans to drill in US Arctic waters are covered succinctly in one place by Nicholas Cunningham this week on the Arctic Institute website, while the Pew Environment Group published a clear, concrete and comprehensive set of recommendations – with some simple infographics that make things much clearer – for what it would take to give America an adequate Arctic drilling policy.
On the science front, I missed this fun post on lamprey-collecting from the Canadian Museum of Nature last week, but it’s worth pointing to despite my tardiness. You’d also do well to explore the Endangered Languages Project, a Svalbard seed vault-style project for the world’s vanishing languages, which is helping to preserve several languages of communities north of the Arctic Circle.
BLOOD & TREASURE
I may never meet the poor soul who took the trouble to assemble a timeline of milestones in Canadian and Canada-related Arctic policy and events, but I hope s/he will enjoy a happy retirement on a private island somewhere in the tropics (U Calgary Center for Military and Strategic Studies). For those of us who need such a resource, a thank-you note is in order.
The Canadian government’s confirmation that seven Arctic ships are to be built in the years to come was not news, but the official “ribbon-cutting” ceremony for the first step of the process, which took place in the beautiful and historic city of Halifax, Nova Scotia this week, provided camera fodder for o.canada.com, canada.com and the Chronicle Herald. Irving Shipbuilding is certainly happy to have been awarded the lion’s share of the massive contract. In Canadian skies, proposals for unmanned drones are still getting people worked up on both sides of the issue (G&M).
In slightly less guns-‘n’-ammo news, Aboriginal Public Television Network will be broadcasting a six-part miniseries on Canadian Rangers, which are “local Aboriginal and Inuit men and women who patrol Canada’s far north” (themediamentor.wordpress.com).
Unfortunately, there were several occasions to test search-and-rescue capabilities in the Canadian north this week. A group of stranded boaters in the Mackenzie River Delta took a lesson from the Boy Scouts and signaled a passing plane with a mirror, after which the RCMP came to their rescue (CBC). Meanwhile hopes were slim for a 62 year old man who disappeared after his canoe flipped on the Yukon near Dawson City (CBC) and nonexistent for a 41 year old who disappeared while boating near Behchoko in the NWT and who cannot swim (CBC). In Nunavik, a freighter canoe with 2 adults and 6 children also went missing (CBC).
Moving across to the Barents, Russia’s cautious decommissioning of the ship Lepse, which is carrying spent nuclear fuel rods, has all eyes on Murmansk (BO). Norway’s announcement that it would like a better NATO footprint in the Arctic will certainly provide an excuse for more people to talk about how the Arctic will be absolutely bristling with tanks next week (BO), although the head of the Norwegian Barents Secretariat Rune Rafaelsen announced that “’high north - low tension’ is the slogan for the future developments up here in the Arctic.”
THE POLITICAL SCENE
Some in the West continue to hop up and down with anxiety about China’s Arctic intentions. The Xue Long made a brief stop in the Bering Sea this week to run some tests on its scientific equipment before heading further into the Northern Sea Route (Xinhua). This is China’s fifth Arctic expedition, and the scientists aboard will be making use of seven laboratories and more than 500 square meters of working space (Arctic Portal). Alaska Dispatch reports that other nations’ scientists have the privilege of joining the trip; the crew manifest includes 120 individuals from France, Denmark, Iceland and Taiwan in addition to mainland China.
Science continues to serve yeoman duty as a political football in Canada. The Kluane Lake Research Station, a joint US-Canada project in Yukon administered by the University of Calgary, has been granted a reprieve from 100% funding cuts until March 2013, but the station needs to work on finding new funding methods to support itself thereafter (EOTA). This and other such decisions are seen as a sort of frontal assault on science in Canada by the Harper government, and scientists responded with a macabre funeral march mourning the “death of evidence” in Ottawa on Tuesday (Guardian). The articles covering the march had no photos that I found, so I’m not sure whether a crowd turned up in the end – perhaps not. Both the CBC article and a blog post from o.canada.com cover the details of the cuts in good detail; they’re worth reading to educate yourself. The Harper government has responded to these critiques with the sort of bullet-list statement that one would expect – it doesn’t grab the attention, but is worth reading for balance. Across the pond, Karin Lochte at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany expressed her commitment to science-based Arctic policy in an opinion piece via Institute of the North.
Denials continue to come from Russia that any military helicopters are on their way to Syria aboard the Alaed, but the international community seems…shall we say, skeptical (RIAN). Russia also sent four warships on their way to the port city of Tartus, a Syrian port that the larger country has leased in the Mediterranean since 1971 (BO). What seems to me to be big news is the word that the Duma ratified Russia’s accession to the WTO, making it official. This renders the US’ 1974 Jackson-Vanik amendment inappropriate, and many are suggesting that the US approve permanent normal trade relations with Russia by removing the amendment (Reuters, RIAN). Russia meanwhile has passed a “foreign agent” law which changes for the worse the status of civil-society organizations that bring in funds from outside of Russia (Al Jazeera). The Orthodox Church – which of course pulls a great deal of money from overseas – requested that it be excluded from the law; at the time of this writing, such an exclusion looked like a certainty (BO).
Moving across the sea to the US, a wonderfully indignant editorial from Rear Admiral William L Shachte, Jr, former Department of Defense Representative for Ocean Policy Affairs, points out that many of us debating the wisdom or folly of the US joining UNCLOS hold a significant number of misconceptions on the topic (Post and Courier). It’s a great letter. Alaska senators Begich and Murkowski are meanwhile pressing the federal government to develop a comprehensive and holistic strategy to guide the country’s interests in the region (The Hill), while Julia Gourley, the US’ Senior Arctic Official, wrote a piece for Institute of the North reassuring readers that the US has an interest in keeping the Arctic cool and cooperative.
Alaska’s representatives in Washington did their work this week; Alaska Dispatch’s delightful and incredibly enlightening Fat Friday feature shows that, this week alone, $17mn of federal money was channeled to Alaskan organizations. Meanwhile, the state is blaming the federal government for its failure to properly close up shop at the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska (AD). At the state level, the prospect of reinstituting a Coastal Zone Management Program, which Alaska had from 1970-2011, is causing businesses to freak out and call up the specter of “job-killing bureaucracies,” which is about what one would expect (KTVA, KYUK).
The Nunavut government is undergoing a substantial reorganization (CBC) involving the amalgamation of several different social service entities under one roof. It’s getting mixed reviews (NN). Next door, municipal employees in Fort Smith, NT may be striking in the near future (CBC).
This week it seems necessary to add a subsection in which to place longer policy briefs, white papers and other publications that don’t yield to a one- or two-sentence summary and contextualization. I hope this will be useful for those of you whose engagement with Arctic policy warrants deeper interest in longer, more academically-minded pieces.
Kristofer Bergh at SIPRI has just released an in-depth analysis of the Arctic policies of the US in Canada, both in principle and in practice. Related research on Arctic geopolitics comes from from Jonas Grätz at the Center for Security Studies in Zurich, one of our readers. A lengthy piece from Alexei Fenenko at the Russian International Affairs Council makes what seems like a very aggressive assessment of Washington’s plans for the Arctic, while a much more measured piece from Valery Konyshev and Alexander Sergunin came out of the same organization. The latter takes a much more level-headed view of the possible relationship between Moscow and Washington in the North. The University of the Arctic also released its latest edition of Shared Voices, downloadable as a PDF, and a massive release of design ideas for Arctic architecture is also now available as a PDF (arcticperspective.org). It’s fascinating and a ton of fun to browse, but it is also 148 pages long. You’ve been warned.
It’s been an interesting week for the Norwegian oil sector. The identification of structural weaknesses on Talisman Energy’s YME platform in the Norwegian North Sea was the impetus for an evacuation of the facility (rigzone.com), while a water leak into the natural-gas dryers at Statoil’s Snøhvit LNG plant caused a shutdown of production from that platform (Reuters). As of this writing, no prediction as to the restarting of the plant had been made, and the potential impact on shipments was unclear (Reuters). A series of problems at Snøhvit in past years illustrates that this isn’t the easiest environment in which to produce LNG (BO).
On the personnel side, brinksmanship after the failure of pension talks led to a proposed lockout of Norway’s 6,515-person union of offshore workers, the OLF, which would have caused a loss to Statoil alone of approximately €69.3mn per day (france24.com), to say nothing of the other producers. The Norwegian government, which would have been a big loser in such an event, intervened on Tuesday, ordering the workers back to their jobs. This means that Norway’s National Wages Board is now responsible for continuing negotiations with the workers’ unions (Reuters). Matthew Hulbert in Forbes points out – and thank god someone did – that this is but one example of how “political risk has always been mis-priced in developed markets.” The article from Mr Hulbert pairs nicely with an article (in German) from the Neue Zürcher Zeitung pointing out that Norway’s ridiculously strong currency, which seems like a benefit from the country’s booming oil & gas sector, can have strongly negative consequences for other sectors of the economy. Contrast that with a misty-eyed rave review from canada.com of Norway’s ability to use the gobs of wealth it accumulates for the nation’s public good.
As far as transparency goes, at least, Statoil is top of the heap in Transparency International’s rankings of the world’s largest publicly-traded companies (BO). Competitor Gazprom came in 98th out of the 105 firms ranked by TI. Looking ahead to Statoil’s near-term future, the first assessment well on the Goliat field should be drilled in October this year, followed by a series of development wells in November (BO). The company has also recently locked down a NOK4bn contract for the world’s largest Spar platform with company Technip (BO).
Statoil of course famously partners with Gazprom on the chronically ailing Shtokman project. CEO of Shtokman Alexey Miller says that the company, which is getting better all the time at postponing “deadlines,” expects to have its talks on reorganization and other matters completed by autumn 2012 (WSJ/Interfax – subscription required). As Russia looks to expand its Arctic portfolio and the profitability of its hydrocarbons sector more generally, President Putin announced this week that the country’s strategic deposits would henceforth be sold at auction rather than tendered (RIAN). Should a foreign company, however, discover a (previously unrecognized?) strategic field, “it will have to sell at least a 50% interest in the project to a Russian entity to obtain rights to develop that field” (Platts). Arctic fields, which require both foreign expertise and foreign capital, are clearly one of the primary objects of such talk (france24.com).
The development of fields offshore from the Yamal peninsula will certainly be an important component of Russia’s hydrocarbon future, and a scientific expedition to that region is looking to examine the pitfalls of “technogenic accidents” (RusBizNews). Meanwhile Russia’s own inspectors have determined that the Prirazlomnoya platform is not ready for use because of defects (BN). For a great review of the several different Arctic-relevant issues that were discussed at the Next Generation Oil & Gas Summit Russia-CIS last week, spend some time with a detailed look from Rigzone.
In other major Russian news, Novatek is (probably – direct confirmation was not available as of this writing) making its first steps into the European market as a supplier for German utility EnBW. The deal is for 10 years, and the planned volume is 1.9bn cubic meters per year (Reuters, FT Deutschland). Lukoil is meanwhile trying to lure Norwegian customers across the Russia-Norway border by selling gas at 1/3 the price of Norwegian retail outlets (BO).
Moving to the US, Shell’s plans to begin exploratory drilling offshore in the Arctic this summer are being delayed by persistent issues with sea ice and with the condition of its cleanup barge the Arctic Challenger (Bloomberg). Several news outlets commented on the delayed permitting for the barge, pointing out that the current standards require that it be ready to withstand once-in-100-years storms (25-foot waves). Shell says such a standard is impossible to meet and is asking the standards to be relaxed to once-every-10-years (20-foot waves) (KUOW, KTOO). The company is also asking the EPA to slightly relax air-quality standards for its generator engines, which are not meeting standards for ammonia and nitrous oxide emissions (The Republic). The state of Alaska is itself meanwhile suing the EPA for exemption from the current emissions standards for ships travelling within a 200-mile range of Alaska’s coast (AD).
The lawsuits in the US go in both directions, with a coalition of environmental groups setting up their own lawsuits alleging that the Interior Department’s permitting process for Shell’s operations did not adequately consider protection for delicate species and ecosystems in the North (NYT blog). The president of the Audubon society added his voice to the effort. The lawsuit appears to be based on legislation passed shortly after the Exxon Valdez oil spill (LA Times). The fishing industry in Unalaska is meanwhile of mixed minds on the wisdom of Greenpeace’s campaign against Shell (alaskapublic.org), and Anthony Speca, writing with style and conviction in Northern Public Affairs, also sees Greenpeace’s campaign as a blunt instrument insensitive to actual northern interests and unlikely to endear the organization to Arctic policymakers in the future.
The elements of US policy that underlie all this legal back-and-forth are covered succinctly in one place by Nicholas Cunningham this week on the Arctic Institute website, while the Pew Environment Group published a clear, concrete and comprehensive set of recommendations – with some simple infographics that make things much clearer – for what it would take to give America an adequate Arctic drilling policy. One point of difficulty clearly illustrated by Pew is that the distance from proposed support facilities to the drilling sites themselves is massive. This point was highlighted this week by the announcement that Port Adak in the Aleutian Islands is now planned as a support facility for North Slope drilling (petroleumnews.com); go ahead and Google-map it. Shannyn Moore meanwhile published an open letter to President Obama regarding his administration’s willingness to permit Arctic drilling that manages to chide without hectoring. Oft-retweeted, it’s both popular and well written (ADN).
Shell isn’t the only company working in America’s Arctic waters; BP decided to put the brakes on its Liberty project in the Beaufort Sea as a result of “cost overruns and technical setbacks” (HuffPo, Telegraph). It may continue the project at a later time and in a redesigned form. The WWF pointed to the announcement as evidence that net costs and risks for Arctic drilling are too high, when calculated accurately, for companies to stomach.
The Canadian government is extending exploration licenses in Canadian portions of the Beaufort (AD), while different parties within Canadian politics are jockeying in an amusing way to have the most broadly-acceptable and inoffensive position on development of Canada’s tar sands (Financial Post). In Nunavut, we should soon see environmental-impact results from an on-land spill that took place last year in Resolute (EOTA).
In weirder news, Ottawa will be underwriting a study into the potential ill effects of living close to wind farms (G&M, Toronto Sun). Renewable energy had a better week next door in Alaska; Senator Mark Begich reintroduced a bill directing NOAA to conduct research necessary to speed the development of ocean energy (Alaska Native News).
A court battle in Britain between oligarch Oleg Deripaska and Michael Cherney over a $1bn stake in Rusal is making headlines in the UK (BBC), while the Mary River iron project in Nunavut remained in the headlines thanks to jockeying between the Nunavut Impact Review Board and the Nunavut Marine Region Impact Review Board (NN). Everybody wants to have their say, understandably. Similarly, the people behind the Baffinland iron mine proposal in Nunavut are probably smacking their heads against a wall at the news that Nunavik Makivik Corporation in Québec is asking for an environmental review of its own, justified because the mine’s production will be shipped to market through Nunavik territory (EOTA).
Canada Coal’s claims that its proposed mine in Nunavut will cause no harm to fossil beds, Inuit hunting grounds, or anything else with an interest group are being met with some skepticism by Canada’s Green Party and others (Canada.com, Vancouver Sun), particularly in light of the cuts to recent environmental-research budgets in the North. Meanwhile, in the NWT, Fortune Minerals is bothered that the simple failure to book a meeting room in which to discuss the environmental impact review for their proposed cobalt-gold and bismuth mine has resulted in several months’ unexpected delay for the project (CBC). In the EU, a Finnish gold mine is enduring some fierce scrutiny after multiple reports of violations in its waste-disposal practices (EOTA), and in Alaska the proposed Pebble Mine project in Bristol Bay is getting national press thanks to Dan Rather (AD).
As a side note, this article in the NYTimes (registration required) on the rise of seabed mining does not specifically mention the Arctic, but I cannot help but think that it will end up relevant in the long run.
BUSINESS & INDUSTRY
The top headline in fishing news from around the circle was the release of text empowering the European Commission to ban imports to the EU of fish from overfished stocks (European Parliament). In this case, Iceland and the Faroe Islands are the unwritten but clearly intended targets. In Alaska, the Bristol Bay salmon fishery, which produces about half of the world’s supply of sockeye salmon (!!!) is setting up for an average year (EOTA), and a leak of ammonia on a processing ship near Unalaska meant that two workers were medevac’d to Anchorage, an additional 129 people were evacuated from the vessel, and a whole row of businesses along a nearby road was emptied (Bristol Bay Times). Meanwhile a project in Sweden is attempting to deal with the enormous problem of ghost nets in the Baltic Sea (EOTA).
The resurrection of the construction project to build the Murmansk Transport Hub appears to be proceeding well; let us see where the story goes from here (BN). Improvements to the passenger on- and off-loading infrastructure in Murmansk are also moving forward (BN). Meanwhile, Murmansk’s largest stevedore company has gotten a new chief, and the region’s transport minister seems to be unconvinced that there’s any real reason to pursue the development of a special economic zone for the port, a suggestion vetted earlier (BN).
In other miscellaneous business news, the Monchegorsk business park outside of Murmansk, envisioned as a hub for small- and mid-sized businesses in the region, looks as though it is heaving its last gasps (BN), and data from the European Space Agency’s Cryosat satellite is suddenly looking appealing to commercial investors as well (Reuters).
Sustaining northern communities that depend on supplies from the South isn’t easy, as highlighted by the problems two supply ships, including Nunavut Eastern Arctic Shipping’s MV Aivik, are having delivering a resupply shipment to Iqaluit. Winds have pushed enough ice into Frobisher Bay to make the task too difficult for the two accompanying icebreakers (NN, CBC, AD). In human terms, this appears to be more an inconvenience than a catastrophe.
Last week we pointed to the takeover of Astral Media by Bell in Canada, a move that obviously reduces competition in the Canadian telephone/internet/cable market. Permission for the takeover was given on the condition that Bell invest CAD$40mn in cash to help close the digital divide between South and North. The Globe and Mail came out with a strongly skeptical article suggesting that Bell may well live up to the letter of the law while ignoring its spirit. The article has drawn a lot of commentary from the peanut gallery.
The growing relevance of digital media even in remote northern communities is making itself felt; the Assembly of First Nations elections have been strongly influenced by social media and by the admirable new-ish Aboriginal Public Television Network (CBC), while the Endangered Languages Project, a Svalbard seed vault-style project for the world’s vanishing languages, is helping to preserve several languages of communities north of the Arctic Circle. It’s a great site; enjoy exploring it. At the Swedish-Finnish border meanwhile, a strongly bilingual past seems to be disappearing, due possibly in part to the famed “filter bubble” (BO).
Practical infrastructure matters cropped up this week as well as strong winds cut power in Tagish, YK (WS) and lightning did the same in Inuvik, NT (CBC). In transport infrastructure, continued heavy rains have been troubling the Dempster Highway (EOTA) and aviation safety is becoming fodder for politics, too; New Democrat Transport critic Olivia Chow dressed down the Conservative government for its perceived inaction on aviation safety (ndp.ca, hqyellowknife.com). To deal with these and other infrastructure issues, Canada’s federal and provincial-level northern politicians met to form a long-term action plan (NN).
Canada Day was an occasion for celebration but also for modest protests in Nunavut against a government that some in the North feel has left them behind (EOTA). This week is also home to Nunavut Day, 9 July, which was an occasion to reflect on the territory’s past successes and future challenges (NN, NN). Food security is one issue galvanizing people to protest, and a recent report from Canada’s environment department has suggested that increased harvesting of diverse “country food” species – e.g. muskoxen, snow geese – could help to mitigate a shortage of caribou (CBC). The best reporting on this comes, as is so often the case, from Nunatsiaq Online; it includes the news that “direct harvesting subsidies” in modest amounts are now available as well from the Country Food Distribution Program. Not all country food is safe, though – ringed-seal liver and beluga meat are both dangerous to women of childbearing age because of high mercury concentrations (NN).
In other miscellaneous social news, despite a decline in the unemployment rate in Yukon (CBC), a lack of jobs-training programs in the NWT is making the transition to work there more difficult for trades students (CBC). Also in Yukon, the RCMP made a noteworthy raid in Whitehorse that yielded drugs and weaponry (CBC). In Russia, continued vilification of gay people as dangerous to society (Seriously, people?) has solidified this week as a lawsuit against Facebook for alleged “flirting with sodomites” (care2.com). Meanwhile, laws against gay “propaganda” in Arkhangelsk are the subject of a new lawsuit against Russia in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg (BO).
Finally, it appears that even Bloomberg picked up on the news that Swedish prostitutes are now eligible for the same sick leave and parental leave benefits as other tax-paying Swedes.
ENVIRONMENT, SCIENCE and WILDLIFE
A good deal of general climate news came out this week, including a new poll (with a fairly broad margin of error) suggesting that – prepare yourself – a small majority of Americans now believe that climate change is a real thing (Politico). This week also heralded the announcement of the first major recorded ozone hole over the Arctic (NOAA). Such stories were complemented by news that the NWT is experiencing hottest-ever temperatures, in line with the East Coast of the US (CBC). You can also read about the dangers to wildlife and to human health from the thawing permafrost in Selawik, Alaska (EOTA), explore the many components of the increasing pace of ice-melt in the Arctic Ocean (Sam Carana’s blog), watch a beautifully-filmed documentary about how Svalbard came to be the center of Arctic research (brainpickings.org), or listen to an interview with “celebrity” Arctic photographer and conservationist Florian Schulz about his relationship to the Arctic (earthjustice.org).
A team of scientists preparing to go forth and conduct the next round of the Arctic Biodiversity Assessment gave an interview on APRN – listen here. In a small victory for Arctic biodiversity, a crop of critically endangered spoon-billed sandpiper chicks hatched for the first time in the UK at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (BBC). In contrast to the tough-to-breed sandpipers, gray whales are looking at a baby boom of sorts this year (KPBN). Belugas, the gray whales’ much smaller cousins, will meanwhile be the subject of a new study undertaken by Oceans North Canada, the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Manitoba Conservation (WFP). The beluga whale hunt near Nunavik has been closed for the season, as the established quota has been reached (NN).
Steven Amstrup, lead scientist of Polar Bears International, offered a thoughtful piece in Eye on the Arctic about his own view of the value of zoos in supporting wildlife conservation, while PBI itself published a really interesting article describing the ways in which sea ice is categorized according to how it serves – or doesn’t serve – polar bear populations. The ongoing argument over polar bear hunting in Canada was covered competently and comprehensively in the LA Times. On land in Yukon, two black bears have been or are going to be destroyed after getting too cozy with human habitation (WS). Meanwhile bison in the NWT are taking a tough hit from an anthrax outbreak. The disease occurs naturally in the region (CBC). The strange skin-lesion disease that’s been affecting pinnipeds in the Arctic is also a continued source of mystery, but a ring seal that has made his way south to Washington State may be the test case to help scientists identify the mystery illness (Squamish Chief).
I missed this fun post on lamprey-collecting from the Canadian Museum of Nature last week, but it’s worth pointing to despite my tardiness. It’s always a delight to read about the “dirty work” of the natural sciences. Of the other things that swim in the sea, pink salmon are apparently adapting to warming waters by migrating upstream earlier in the season (AD), and – in one of the coolest things I’ve seen since starting this weekly briefing – a marine biologist and photographer at the White Sea Biological Station has taken a stunning, gorgeous collection of photos of marine life in the Arctic (Wired).
For more specific science news, enjoy a recent paper on the melting of the Greenland ice sheet from Annals of Glaciology, learn about how the additional hours of summer sunlight in northern climates may help municipal waste-water treatment (CBC), enjoy nosing around the International Bathymetric Chart of the Arctic Ocean (NOAA – not new), or read the story of the successful extermination of rats from the eponymous Rat Island in the Aleutians (U of Alaska, Fairbanks). A piece from Alaska Dispatch on invasive species in Alaska’s urban areas is a delight, if only for the poetic lists of species’ names, while the enthusiasm of the researchers involved in studying the core sample that came out of the sediments of Siberia’s Lake El’gygytgyn comes through in a video interview (ADN).
The North may have been enjoying awesome Northern Lights this weekend as a result of the X-class flare that sent a coronal mass ejection heading towards earth on Thursday (AD). Perhaps this will be another opportunity for researchers in Finland to record further sounds from the aurora, a feat they accomplished earlier this month for the first time (EOTA).
Thanks to reader Hugh Keogh for pointing us to news of one of the largest landslides ever recorded in North America in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. The landslide covered a five-mile stretch of the glacier below (National Parks Traveler, AD).
THE SPORTING LIFE
In North American sports, the big news continues to be the gothic tragedy of the Mount Marathon race, which ended with one presumed death and one nasty fall (AD); previously-unreported trauma was announced late in the week as well (AD). In other grisly sports, MMA is returning to Yellowknife in 2012 (topmmanews.com). The Arctic Winter Games for 2014, taking place in Fairbanks, will probably be more civilized – see the just-announced full lineup of sports here (WS).
Across the ocean, the Children of Asia games are underway in Yakutia. The opening ceremony is covered by Russia & India Report, and reports later in the week showed Team Yakutia leading the field (VOR).
THE GRAB BAG
The most ridiculous tidbit of Arctic news continues to be the jet-ski adventurers crossing the Bering Strait and their issues with Russian immigration. Articles covered the saga this week in Alaska Dispatch, the New York Times, Fox 40, the Moscow Times and the Sacramento Bee. There was also buzz about a recent study of DNA that indicates multiple prehistoric migrations of humans across the Bering Strait to the US, not just one (Scientific American, AD).
I’m pumped about Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute’s new interactive timeline of Arctic exploration. Great job, guys!
A Canadian astronaut is training for future missions by exploring a crater on remote Victoria Island (CTV News).
Tourists can see the inside of a volcano in Iceland for longer than usual this year (IceNews), while people in Bethel, Alaska are just excited to have a movie theater arriving (EOTA). The Northwest Territories is meanwhile trying to promote itself as a location for filming with the launch of a new website, nwtfilm.com (Gov’t of NWT).
Learn more about Russia’s Yakutia region with this administrative map (yakutiatravel.com), read about the punishments meted out to Icelandic bankers in London after the small country’s nutty financial implosion (IceNews), listen to an interview with a 19 year-old Ghanaian girl accompanying Greenpeace on a trip to the Arctic (BBC / Sharon Hemans), and read an entertaining story of how one can keep an air marshal amused on a trans-Atlantic flight (gadling.com).
Russia Beyond the Headlines gamely tried to keep the Bering Strait tunnel in the press this week.
PHOTOS & VIDEOS
It’s been an unbelievable week for photo essays. Most importantly, do not miss the jaw-dropping flickr stream of Alexander Semenov, covering undersea life in the White Sea. Follow that with: stunning photos of icebergs by Camille Seaman, as profiled in the New York Times; a series of ridiculously high-quality photos of Nordic nature by several Swedish photographers; and a photo essay on Svalbard by Ole Jørgen Liodden.
Two other photo-essays, one from Greenpeace on Dutch Harbor and the industrialization of the Arctic and the other from Sari Pöyhönen on Murmansk (BO), are also worth a look.
There seems to be an unofficial competition going on for stellar Arctic bird photography, and we are the happy consumers of two lovely photos from flickr user DnV Photo, one great shot from flickr user kdee64, and six excellent portraits of Arctic birds from Clare Kines photography. Thanks to both for sharing their photos online!
Also enjoy these great photos of…
The Manicouagan Impact Crater in Quebec (Twitter, @USGS)
A massive hole in the ground dug by a grizzly in search of a ground squirrel snack (Twitter, @DenaliNPS)
An unidentified but gorgeous mountain scene (Twitter, @NatlParksPhotos)
A sunflower in a schoolyard in Yakutsk (Instagram, @yakutia)
The Arctic Ocean bathymetric map (Instagram, @wyman10)
An iceberg, complete with a resident, in Greenland (Instagram, @ivancoss)
The town of Sachs Harbour, NWT (flickr, jimbob_malone)
A swimming polar bear (Quark Expedition Photos, Facebook)
A brightly-colored houseboat on Great Slave Lake near Yellowknife (tinyhouseswoon.com)
A dramatic bird bath (Laura Dyer Photography)
Ice-fishing on the Inyali River in Yakutia, still frozen at this time of the year (eyakutia.com)
A skate park in Sisimiut, Greenland (500px, Mads Pihl), possibly tied in with a skate park initiative in the country (urbangreenland.wordpress.com)
You could also check out videos of massive icemelt washing out bridges on the Watson River in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland (YouTube, kasperbusk) or of loons heading to their nests in the Arctic (Vimeo, Clare Kines Photography).
Alaska Dispatch (AD)
Anchorage Daily News (ADN)
Barents Nova (BN)
Barents Observer (BO)
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