Tag Archives: Arctic

The value of the sober second thought

Sober second thought on Arctic patrol ships by Senator Colin Kenny

Regardless of whether we end up with one ship, or eight, these ships are wrong for Canada. They are being built so the Canadian Navy can patrol our Arctic waters. The Navy hasn’t patrolled our Arctic waters for more than half a century, and with good reason: There is no military threat there. Sovereignty issues will be decided by international organizations and negotiations. Nobody is going to start a war in the Arctic.

The Canadian Coast Guard patrols our Arctic waters with icebreakers that are in dire need of replacing. The patrol vessels won’t be able to break anything more than summer ice. They will be useless in the Arctic in the winter, so they will be shipped to Canada’s East and West Coasts, where they won’t be able to do much more good, because they will be slower than most fishing vessels, will have guns that will be too small for full-scale combat and will have no mine-sweeping capacity.

Which brings us to the many ships the Canadian Navy actually needs: minesweepers, destroyers and frigates. The navy is staggering along with two antique destroyers, 12 frigates passing their mid-lives and, at last count, one fully operational submarine. Navy documents show that even this tiny fleet will be diminished over the next decade. Many frigates are unavailable during refit and the destroyers will become so old that maintenance costs will become prohibitive.

This probably won’t change many minds in Ottawa but it is nice that we have some senators like Colin Kenny holding the government to account on policy issues.

Living on Ice

What it takes for Ben Saunders to ski from the Northwest Territories to the North Pole.

For some of us, this was the first we heard of the record breaking explorer back in 2008.

This was last summer.

This is from his stop at Resolute Bay.

Trainings on the Isle of Skye

This summer is a trek south. He is using Basecamp from 37 Signals the 1,800-mile Scott 2012 Expedition.  It will complete Captain Scott’s ill-fated journey to the South Pole 100 years ago.

Heck of a life. Glad he shares it with us.


Svalbard is an archipelago high within the Arctic Circle. The largest of its islands is called Spitsbergen, meaning “pointed mountains.” In 1920 a treaty known as the Svalbard Act was signed by several nations recognizing Norwegian sovereignty over the islands, and declaring the whole region a demilitarized zone. This is a short film about how Svalbard, over the course of recent history, became increasingly linked to developments in climate science, and climate change.

Can Canada assert its sovereignty over the Arctic

Especially when we can’t even get a handle on some of the worst social issues in the country?

Iqaluit Mayor Madeleine Redfern has two Twitter accounts on which she chronicles the ups and downs of the Nunavut capital.

On the plus side of her online ledger is the recent catch of a 70-tonne bowhead whale by local hunters and the first visit north by Governor-General David Johnston.

On the other side are the territory’s lamentable schooling levels and a stream of suicides, including a young man who took his life just days after his girlfriend killed herself.

It goes on to say

Tangible improvements are difficult to highlight, but there is more training available for northerners to take advantage of employment in newly opened mining projects. Two dozen young aboriginals also signed up for a summer boot camp this year to give them a taste of the soldiering life.

But education remains the biggest roadblock to northern prosperity — and also to Canadian sovereignty over the Arctic, Inuit leaders insist.

“If we have strong, educated, engaged northerners who are part of managing the north — which includes the resources and asserting sovereignty through living in strong, vibrant communities — then we all benefit,” Mayor Redfern noted in a Twitter posting.

“It’s very difficult for any other countries to be able to assert those claims when we are active participants in those discussions.”

Record Low Arctic Sea Ice Extent for January

Record Low Arctic Sea Ice Extent for January


During the Northern Hemisphere winter of 2010–2011, unusually cold temperatures and heavy snowstorms plagued North America and Europe, while conditions were unusually warm farther north. Now the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) has reported that Arctic sea ice was at its lowest extent ever recorded for January (since satellite records began).

Why is it like this?

NSIDC offered two possible explanations. One reason is the Arctic Oscillation (AO), a seesaw pattern of differences in atmospheric pressure. In “positive” mode, the AO includes high pressure over the mid-latitudes and low pressure over the Arctic, setting up wind patterns that trap cold air in the far North. In “negative” mode, air pressure isn’t quite as low over the Arctic and isn’t quite as high over the mid-latitudes. This enables cold air to creep south and relatively warm air to move north.

The AO was in negative mode in December 2010 and January 2011,according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). At mid-latitudes, the negative mode resulted in extremely cold temperatures and heavy snow in Europe and North America. At the same time, warm air over the Arctic impeded sea ice growth. NOAA has forecast that the AO should return to positive mode in February 2011, but for how long was unclear.

Another factor in the low Arctic sea ice extent, NSIDC explained, could be that the areas of open ocean were still releasing heat to the atmosphere. Due to its bright appearance, sea ice reflects most of the Sun’s light and heat back into space. Dark ocean water, by contrast, absorbs most of that energy and reinforces the melting process.


BP to drill in the Arctic

I know environmental groups are upset but with BP’s recent safety record, why worry?  Oh right.

The Arctic is to become the "new environmental battleground", campaigners warned yesterday after BP announced plans to drill in one of the last great unspoilt wildernesses on earth.

Greenpeace and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) have vowed to confront BP’s American boss, Bob Dudley, over the agreement with the Russian state-owned oil giant Rosneft to explore the Kara Sea, north of Siberia. The British energy firm was branded the world’s "environmental villain number one" by Friends of the Earth (FoE) yesterday in response to its move to exploit potential oil reserves in the remote waters.

Environmentalists are dismayed that BP, which announced the deal on Friday night, has decided to set up rigs in an area of great biodiversity and treacherous weather conditions. The region is one of the few remaining havens left for a number of endangered species, including polar bears, walruses and beluga whales. And while the waters of the Kara Sea are relatively unexplored, they are known to house key fish species such as halibut, capelin and Arctic cod.

Nuclear powered drilling ships?

From the Independent

The Rosneft drilling "blocks" are in the Kara Sea, where, according to a 2008 Bellona report, nuclear-powered underwater drilling ships are to be deployed sometime soon, as well as floating nuclear power plants. And why is so much of the Russian Arctic closed to foreigners? Who is hiding what? On the Domodedovo plane back from Anadyr to Moscow, I sat next to a geochemist who had been working on a research vessel scouting the Barents Sea for potential drilling sites. When I asked if safety procedures were policed, he rolled his eyes and ordered another drink.

Ben Saunders on Vimeo

I was checking out Ben Saunders blog today and saw this great video profile on his site.  Here is a list of his expeditions, both the successful ones and the ones where he didn’t make it.  Ben is currently preparing for three expeditions between 2010 and 2012: solo and unsupported speed record attempts on both Poles and the 2011/12 Scott Antarctic Expedition, the first return journey to the South Pole on foot, and the longest unsupported polar journey in history. Ben and his team mate Alastair Humphreys depart for Antarctica in late October 2011.