December 19, 2019

It’s too cold for ice roads. Plus polar bear jail, fake Russian borders, caramelized Icelandic potatoes and holiday travel plans from Inuvik to Antarctica.

How lovely are these branches. Photo by Hannah Eden


Early newsletter this week as we slow things down in the office (and I head off for the airport). A reminder that there will be no newsletter next week, but I'll be back here on January 3 catching up on the news and previewing our January/February travel issue. In the meantime, glad tidings and safe travels to you and your kin. I'll see you all in the new year.

Happy holidays,

Jacob Boon 

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Yes, it’s really cold right now in the North. Too cold, in fact, for the ice roads. The extreme temperatures (Yellowknife has held steady around –40 degrees for the past week) play havoc with machinery and make working outside for extended periods unsafe, delaying important ice road construction. (CBC)

Still, there's a purpose to the coldness, says Dene elder Felix Lockhart: “It freezes up the ice, our mode of transportation over the area where we go hunting for caribou, or go trapping… Winter is with us. Every day we give thanks, our elders always had that—that feeling that there's a greater being than us.” (CBC)

How deep is Labrador’s snow? Scientists don’t know, and that’s a problem. Snow depth in northern Labrador used to be recorded with volunteers and measuring sticks, but now is largely done by unreliable automated systems that sometimes go years without uploading their data. (Globe and Mail)

Canada’s territories are home to some unexpected cycling gems, says the new issue of Canadian Cycling Magazine, which profiles the top categorized climbs in the North. Did you know Clara Hughes is the only woman recognized to have ridden up Iqaluit’s Niaqunngusiariaq Climb? (Canadian Cycling Magazine)

For the past 116 years, this disputed passageway off the Alaskan coast has spurred an unofficial border war between the United States and Canada. (BBC)
Whatever happened to the NWT legislature’s original polar bear hide? In 1985, someone stole the 10-foot hide that was mounted in Yellowknife's temporary legislative chambers. To this day, it’s never been recovered... (Up Here)

Nooks Lindell of Arviat travelled 140 kilometres to cut down a Christmas tree but forgot his saw. So he had two choices: pull it down with his snowmobile, or shoot it down with his rifle. “I had just bought a lot of bullets half price, so I was OK with the idea of shooting it down.” Lindell ended up with two trees for the price of 10 bullets, though neither really survived the bumpy journey home. (CBC)

In related news, live Christmas trees have once again come to Nunavut. Some 150 balsams were flown into Iqaluit this month. The average price at Northmart for an above-the-treeline tree is $135. (Nunatsiaq)

Polar bears are being sent to jail for their own good and, thankfully, recidivism rates are low. (Outside)

Goldman Sachs has backed out of funding any drilling projects in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Gwich’in leaders carried that win to Bay Street this past week, asking some of Canada’s biggest banks to pledge the same. (CBC)

Think your holiday travel schedule is rough? Andrew Jerome has five connecting flights to catch on his trip from Inuvik to Antarctica. The Gwich’in aircraft engineer will be spending the next two-and-a-half months modifying and upgrading a DC-3 used in surveying and cargo deliveries. (Cabin Radio)

The COP25 climate conference has ended in failure. Apparently, those countries gathered couldn’t come to a consensus on saving the future. The Inuit Circumpolar Council was not impressed: “Our ice is melting, our oceans are at risk, and our planet is on fire,” said international chair Dalee Sambo Dorough. Merry Christmas! (Nunatsiaq)

Santa Claus, or a regional variation, pictured on a business trip to Norway.


A new PBS documentary profiles the incredible life of Indigenous Alaskan mushing hero George Attla: “an icon of the dogsled world who dominated the sport while preserving a dying tradition.” There’s also a Q&A with Attla’s grand-nephew Joe Bifelt, who’s carrying on the family business. (PBS)

Ironically, Russia’s new floating nuclear plant will mainly be used for powering oil rigs. This and other interesting facts contained within “A Brief History of Tiny Nuclear Reactors.” (Popular Mechanics)

29 photos that show how climate change has ravaged the Arctic in the past decade. (Business Insider)

How old is Earth’s magnetic field? Ancient rocks from Greenland could hold the secret. (Sputnik News)

Smugglers built a fake Russian border post to trick migrant workers into thinking they’d been successfully escorted into Finland. (BBC)

Finally, end the year with an inside look at a classic Icelandic Christmas: smoked lamb, red cabbage, salt fish, and leaf bread. I also love this poor professional chef who was roasted by his siblings for not making the traditional caramelized potatoes the same way mom does. (Icelandic Naturally)
A caribou antler Christmas tree in Naujaat. (Photo by Trina Yank)
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