Pyramiden was abandoned in 1998. The town’s population, then somewhere around 300 people, was given four months to leave, and they left behind everything non-essential. Walking through those buildings, it felt as if some vague poisonous gas had swept through and killed everyone in a matter of minutes. There were signs of life everywhere—trays still on tables, rolls of film in the projection booth, musical instruments strewn about—alongside the inescapable fact of decay and abandonment. In the gymnasiums lay sports equipment that would never again be used, books that would never again be read. The world’s northernmost swimming pool is now empty; the world’s northernmost grand piano now badly out of tune. The triumphant gaze of Soviet monuments now look out over nothing but emptiness. The rise and fall of Pyramiden, a Russian mining town located in the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard.
Beginning in 1920, Robert J. Flaherty spent a year in the Canadian Arctic (Port Harrison in Northern Quebec) documenting the daily struggles of an Inuk man named Nanook. The resulting feature-length film, an American silent documentary with elements of docudrama, was the first of its kind, in a style that would eventually become known as "salvage ethnography." Nanook of the North: A Story Of Life and Love In the Actual Arctic (1922) [more inside]
In 2012, the UN said that Denmark was the happiest place on earth. This year, Denmark returned to the UN with some nice Danish pastries, and a territorial claim to the North Pole based on its relationship with Greenland, a Danish autonomous territory. [more inside]
Vyacheslav Korotki is a man of extreme solitude. He is a trained polyarnik, a specialist in the polar north, a meteorologist.
Ignoring the Arctic Methane Monster: Royal Society Goes Dark on Arctic Observational Science. "The exclusion also highlights a large and what appears to be growing rift between those who observe the Arctic system and some that model it. Concern for larger carbon release from the Arctic system appears to be steadily rising among Arctic observational specialists, while some modelers appear to have retreated into silos in an attempt to defend previous understandings that were based on earlier work." [more inside]
In recent days, news stories have emerged about a wilderness expedition company, Amaruk, rejecting an applicant due to her religious beliefs and affiliation with a restrictive Christian evangelical school. [more inside]
Between the Lines: tracing the controversial history and recent revival of Inuit facial tattoos.
One of the Franklin Expedition ships has been found. The Franklin Expedition set off to find the fabled Northwest Passage in 1845. [more inside]
The Challenge of Celebrating Ramadan in the Land of the Midnight Sun "Six years ago, Sandra Maryam Moe and the sheikh spent months exchanging emails. Is it allowed to eat and drink even though it isn't yet dark outside, Moe wanted to know? And if it is, when does the daily fasting period begin and end? When are the prayer times? Moe described in detail the dilemma facing her community and the sheikh sent her question after question. He too was wary of becoming the originator of a new practice."
Over the past three decades, a Canadian archaeologist found compelling evidence of a Norse settlement in the Canadian Arctic. Then she was fired. [more inside]
The Ket from the Lake Munduiskoye (2008, 30 min.) The Ket people are an indigenous group in central Siberia whose population has numbered less than two thousand during the past century. Although mostly assimilated into the dominant Russian culture at this point, a couple hundred of them are still able to speak the Ket language, the last remaining member of the Yeniseian language group. Recent scholarship has proposed a link between Ket and some Native American language groups.
On 10 April 1815, Tambora produced the largest eruption known on the planet during the past 10,000 years. As described in Gillen D'Arcy Wood's new book, the explosion was only the first dose of Tambora's destructive power. In terms of its enduring presence in folklore, as well as its status in the scientific literature, 1816’s cold summer was the most significant meteorological event of the nineteenth century. After the tsunami and famine came cholera, opium, and failed Arctic expeditions. [more inside]
This documentary pokes fun at the ways in which Inuit people have been treated as “exotic” documentary subjects by turning the lens onto the strange behaviours of Qallunaat (the Inuit word for white people). The term refers less to skin colour than to a certain state of mind: Qallunaat greet each other with inane salutations, repress natural bodily functions, complain about being cold, and want to dominate the world. Their odd dating habits, unsuccessful attempts at Arctic exploration, overbearing bureaucrats and police, and obsession with owning property are curious indeed. A collaboration between filmmaker Mark Sandiford and Inuit writer and satirist Zebedee Nungak, Qallunaat! brings the documentary form to an unexpected place in which oppression, history, and comedy collide.Qallunaat! Why White People Are Funny
As part of a Globe and Mail series on the North exploring Canada's last frontier, writer Ian Brown and photojournalist Peter Power learn that the High Arctic, touted as Canada’s future, is like nothing any southerner expects. [more inside]
Declassified Spy Outpost Lurks on the Dark Side of the Earth Canadian Forces Station Alert is "the most northerly, permanently inhabited location in the world, located only 817 kilometres from the geographic North Pole." On Assignment At CFS Alert. CFS Alert (Part 1). [more inside]
We tend to think now of scurvy as mainly a punch line, if anything—“scurvy-ridden rats” is the kind of popular pirate epithet that appears in even the most G-rated family fare. Partly this is because now, fully understanding its mechanism, it seems a particularly ridiculous problem. But ask anyone who's suffered from it: it is a singularly horrid and terrible way to die.- The Spoil of Mariners, Colin Dickey, Lapham's Quarterly.
A new article in Nature warns that "the costs of a melting Arctic will be huge", thanks in part to the likely release of "a 50-gigatonne (Gt) reservoir of methane, stored in the form of hydrates" beneath the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, "either steadily over 50 years or suddenly". An abrupt release is "highly possible at any time", says Natalia Shakhova of the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, who has observed plumes of methane up to a kilometre wide bubbling to the surface in the area. [more inside]
Imaging The Arctic: "In Spring 2013, based out of the small settlements of Niaqornat and Kullorsuaq, expeditionary artist Maria Coryell-Martin will accompany scientist Dr. Kristin Laidre onto the pack ice of Baffin Bay." They are keeping an online field journal detailing Dr. Laidre's study of the effects of sea-ice loss on narwhals and polar bears, with Maria Coryell-Martin's illustrations accompanying field notes.
They had to be fully autonomous, because they were situated hundreds and hundreds miles aways from any populated areas. After reviewing different ideas on how to make them work for a years without service and any external power supply, Soviet engineers decided to implement atomic energy to power up those structures. So, special lightweight small atomic reactors were produced in limited series to be delivered to the Polar Circle lands and to be installed on the lighthouses.
Anyone familiar with the contemporary Russian humorous folklore (jokelore, or in Russian anekdoty) knows that one of the most popular series of such jokes revolves around the Chukchis, the native people of Chukotka, the most remote northeast corner of Russia. These jokes, especially popular in 1990s and 2000s, fit the international genre of ethnic stupidity jokes . . .
While the 2007 IPCC report showed Arctic sea-ice still present in 2100, it is now an unfolding "global disaster" according to Cambridge Professor Peter Wadhams. Climate Code Red summarizes the science, saying the sea-ice is "in a 'death spiral' and likely to be gone in summer within a few years" ... "The sea-ice volume is now down to just one-fifth of what it was in 1979", and paints a newly emerging, rapidly worsening climate picture, urging climate scientists to sound the alarm on new data showing a world on the brink of dramatic tipping points, far sooner than anyone anticipated
Several measures of Arctic ice cover have hit record lows. Melting usually continues into September, so this year’s minimum should be below the 2007 record. The rate of melting far exceeds that predicted by most models. Predictions of when the Arctic might be entirely ice-free at the summer minimum are being brought sharply forwards.
In light of today's news that one of two Shell ships slated to drill exploratory oil wells in the Arctic waters of Alaska's Chukchi and Beaufort Seas had slipped its moorings and was headed towards Dutch Harbor, in Alaska's Aleutian Islands... check out a collaboration between the Yes Men and Greenpeace that's been online since June: arcticready.com (Twitter) -- an elaborate site spoofing Royal Dutch Shell Plc, who have uh... promised not to sue.
"It fits with what we would expect as a result of the rapid change in Arctic habitat." The stuff of science fiction is becoming increasingly the stuff of science fact. And now, it seems, you can crack open a white Coke (if you can stomach the campaign) and watch it all from the comfort of your couch. [more inside]
Iceland eyes loonie, Canada ready to talk. Iceland, still reeling from the aftershocks of the devastating collapse of its banks in 2008, is looking longingly to the loonie as the salvation from wild economic gyrations and suffocating capital controls.... The Canadian government says it’s open to discussing the idea. [more inside]
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has released its 2011 Arctic Report Card. Persistent warming has caused dramatic changes in the Arctic Ocean and the ecosystem it supports. Ocean changes include reduced sea ice and freshening of the upper ocean, and impacts such as increased biological productivity at the base of the food chain and loss of habit for walrus and polar bears. [more inside]
The Midnight Sun is a natural phenomenon that occurs in the summer months near the Arctic and Antarctic Circles, where the sun remains visible at the local midnight. This short, time lapse film was shot in June 2011 over 17 days and incorporates 38,000 images. The photographer/videographer traveled over 2,900 miles throughout Iceland. Midnight Sun (SL-vimeo, via) [more inside]
High Arctic Relocation. In the 1950s several Inuit families were relocated from the relatively balmy Inukjuak, in northern Quebec, to settlements in what are now called Grise Fiord and Resolute in the far north of Canada with few resources to survive the extremely harsh climate. [more inside]
First Air flight 6560 crashed yesterday in Canada's High Arctic. Fifteen passengers were on board, including four crew and eleven passengers. All the crew members were killed in the crash, while three pasengers survived. The plane crashed five miles from the airport in Resolute. Rescue efforts began immediately, as hundreds of military personnel were in Resolute participating in the annual Arctic military exercise Operation Nanook, an operation which includes an exercise in which military personnel respond to a mock air disaster. As a result, military helicopters, medical personnel, Canadian Coast Guard, and local fire and medical crews were on site and ready to respond immediately.
Russia is expected within months to claim to the United Nations its right to annex about 380,000 square miles of the Arctic.
The Arctic Light: filmed between 29th April and 10th May 2011 in the Arctic, on the archipelago Lofoten in Norway. SLVimeo; 3.22 [more inside]
Warfare: An advancing front - "The US is engaged in increasingly sophisticated warfare, fusing intelligence services and military specialists" [more inside]
The Trials of Nunavut: Has Canada created a northern Haiti? Despite hundreds of millions of dollars a year spent via Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, the Nunavut government, and many other federal agencies, we have the following situation: [more inside]
"A group of Inuit experts, community researchers, and university researchers, have worked together over the past several years to document specialized Inuit knowledge about sea ice." [more inside]
"Snowball Cam has no visible moving parts but [is] able to roll across most terrains, even up hill." A new generation of spycams - very mobile spycams - have been prowling the northern arctic islands of Norway for an upcoming BBC TV program on polar bears. Bilzzard Cam has two electric motors that propel it across the snow - on skis - at speeds up to 40 mph. When threatened by the bears, it releases the onboard decoy device - the Snowball Cam - seen in action here.
The 2010 Glastonbury Festival begins on the 23rd June at Worthy Farm in the village of Pilton, Somerset. [more inside]
Climate change could be accelerated by 'methane time bomb' Atmospheric methane levels began rising in 2007, when an Arctic heatwave caused sea ice to shrink significantly. Now new preliminary results suggest levels have continued to rise through 2008 and 2009. The new figures [were] disclosed [earlier this week] at the start of a two-day conference on greenhouse gases at the Royal Society in London. (more here; via).
National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen (previously) relates the harrowing tale of a sweet, insistent, and ferocious lunchmate (note - clip begins with a dramatic drumbeat, mind your speakers) [more inside]
For hundreds of years, mariners have dreamed of an Arctic shortcut that would allow them to speed trade between Asia and the West. Two German ships are poised to complete that transit for the first time, aided by the retreat of Arctic ice that scientists have linked to global warming. Arctic Shortcut Beckons Shippers as Ice Thaws.
"I filled my water bottles , fuel bottle and ate some snacks. I reset my altimeter to 1300ft and started shortly past 2pm. The first sign stated 'Eagle Plains 363, Inuvik 735'. The distances were measured in kilometers with green km posts every 2km along the road. A few kilometers down the road, I crossed an old fire burn area with dead trees still standing. The sun was shining and I was eager to get started on the road. The gravel was occasionally soft as the road slowly climbed along the valley." An enterprising man relates his journey up the Dempster Highway on bicycle. [more inside]
Freeze Frame a new collection of over 20,000 photographs of British and international polar explorations from 1845-1960, from the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge. [more inside]
We're on the road to nowhere and when we get to the end of this road, nowhere is exactly where this expedition begins. Only 22 people have ever skiied unsupported to the North Pole, none of them American. Starting today, John Huston and Tyler Fish hope to become the first. If all goes according to plan, they will reach the North Pole in 55 days. They will be blogging from the ice. [more inside]
“With this road, safety comes first all the time, and Ice Road Truckers just made a mockery of everything we do.” One journalist’s experience on the frozen road in the Northwest Territories. Made famous by a TV show, the road now sees less use in part due to a decline in demand for the NWT’s non-blood diamonds.
Fridtjof Nansen's Polar Saga. Part One: 1,000 Days in the Ice "It was an outlandish idea: freeze a ship in the Arctic Ocean and ride the drifting ice across the North Pole." Part Two: Chasing Nansen's Ghost. "Two adventurers set out across the Arctic in the footsteps of Norway's pioneering polar explorer."
Ice:A Victorian Romance, is an exhibition of fifty-five rare books and journals, with lovely illustrations. [more inside]