Visit of giant cruise ship will bring money and tourists to the Northwest Passage, but fears grow for the area’s people and its ecosystem
Robin McKie, Observer science editor, 21 August 2016
In a few days, one of the world’s largest cruise ships, the Crystal Serenity, will visit the tiny Inuit village of Ulukhaktok in northern Canada. Hundreds of passengers will be ferried to the little community, more than doubling its population of around 400. The Serenity will then raise anchor and head through the Northwest Passage to visit several more Inuit settlements before sailing to Greenland and finally New York.
It will be a massive undertaking, representing an almost tenfold increase in passenger numbers taken through the Arctic on a single vessel – and it has triggered considerable controversy among Arctic experts. Inuit leaders fear that visits by giant cruise ships could overwhelm fragile communities, while others warn that the Arctic ecosystem, already suffering the effects of global warming, could be seriously damaged.
“This is extinction tourism,” said international law expert Professor Michael Byers, of the University of British Columbia. “Making this trip has only become possible because carbon emissions have so warmed the atmosphere that Arctic sea ice in summer is disappearing. The terrible irony is that this ship – which even has a helicopter for sightseeing and a huge staff-to-passenger ratio – has an enormous carbon footprint that is only going to make things even worse in the Arctic.”
A Soviet-era SS-19 intercontinental ballistic missile is set to crash in Canada’s Arctic, with some highly toxic fuel on board.
Michael Byers, National Post, 19 May 2016
The missile, modified to boost a satellite into orbit, will be launched from Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia in early June. Minutes later, the first stage of the missile will plummet into the Barents Sea north of Norway. Shortly thereafter, the second stage of the missile will fall into Baffin Bay, just east of Canada’s Ellesmere Island.
That second stage could have hundreds of litres of leftover fuel on board. Rockets used for satellite launches rarely consume all their fuel because they are shut down by onboard computers once the desired speed and altitude are achieved.
The fuel used to power SS-19s is unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine (hydrazine). A stable compound used to fuel missiles and power the thrusters used for manoeuvring satellites in space, hydrazine is so toxic that technicians wear pressurized hazmat suits when working with it. On contact with air, hydrazine degrades into another, even more toxic compound: nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA).
Inuit worry about waning sea ice and rising ship traffic in the Northwest Passage
By Leyland Cecco in Iqaluit, Canada, for Al Jazeera America
December 6, 2015
Flowing deeply between ice and rock, the waters of the high Canadian Arctic have been unforgiving for centuries to those who dreamed of a quicker trade route between Asia and Europe.
Expeditions to find the fabled Northwest Passage usually ended in failure, if not death. Perhaps the most infamous was British explorer John Franklin's fourth attempt, launched in 1845, whose crew was stranded for years and, it’s rumored, succumbed to cannibalism.
“The South has always been fascinated with the North and had a great imagination about it,” says Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory, an Inuk poet of Greenlandic and Canadian heritage.
This imagination somehow failed to account for the people who actually lived on the land, ice and water that separated the two continents.
“The middle part was seen as this inconvenient emptiness,” says Williamson Bathory.
While the thick sea ice blanketing the region for much of the year frustrated traders, it long served as a bridge for the Inuit, connecting them to neighboring communities and hunting locations inaccessible during warmer months.
A faded, wind-torn Danish flag is mounted on the wall in the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Raised on Hans Island by Danish troops, the flag was later taken down by Canadian soldiers — and mailed back to Copenhagen.
The country’s military is having trouble coming up with enough money to buy new rifles to replace the 60-year-old guns used in the Arctic by the Canadian Rangers.
Although Prime Minister Stephen Harper highlighted the work performed by the Rangers when he joined them in Nunavut in August for target practice with their aging Lee Enfield rifles, even that high level of interest is not enough to move the $10-million replacement project quickly forward, say military sources.
Some 5,000, mostly aboriginal reservists keep watch over Canada's Arctic
Sean Davidson, CBC News, 7 September 2013
Imagine maintaining a military presence over roughly four million square kilometres of exceedingly harsh terrain using the residents of just one small town — a place like Smithers, B.C., for instance, which boasts a little more than 5,000 people.
That's the tricky thing about keeping "boots on the ground" in Canada's Arctic, where the Canadian Rangers have, since 1947, been patrolling the front lines.
Crime has doubled in Nunavut since the territory was founded 12 years ago this week, raising a critical question: Is Nunavut a failure of Canadian nation building? And if so, what must be done for history’s scars to heal?
Inside the dead man's house, Elisapee Qaumagiaq fell silent. She let the walls speak for her.
Someone had plunged his knuckles through the hallway drywall again and again and again, from the kitchen all the way down to the bedrooms. The blood had been washed away, but the tale of murder, outlined in felt-pen evidence markings, swirled beneath Ms. Qaumagiaq's snow boots.
Map of the North Warning System. Photograph by: Postmedia News, Canadian Military Journal/Department of Defence
BY ANDREW MAYEDA, POSTMEDIA NEWS JANUARY 13, 2011
OTTAWA — The Harper government has put on hold its search for bidders to operate and maintain the chain of early-warning radars that guards against foreign incursions into Canadian and U.S. airspace in the Far North, Postmedia News has learned.
The North Warning System, a chain of 47 unmanned radars that lines the Arctic coast from Alaska to Labrador, is operated and maintained by Nasittuq Corp. under a 10-year, $624-million contract that ends Sept. 30 this year.
Ottawa - WHEN in the Arctic, you should at least treat your host well. Royal Dutch Shell, an oil giant, had to learn this the hard way when planning to drill exploration wells in the Beaufort Sea off Alaska a couple of years ago. The firm had spent $84m on offshore leases and had satisfied regulators. But it failed to win over the Inupiat, an Inuit group. They worried that icebreakers and drill ships would hurt the bowhead whales on which they depend. Their leaders and environmental groups sued American regulators for not following a 1970 law on environmental impacts. This allowed them to wrest a number of concessions from Shell, including a commitment to stop all offshore operations during the bowhead migration and hunt, should drilling ever proceed.