September 20, 2019
Climate strikes, Inuit board games, sourtoe cocktails, and disappearing boreal forest birds. All in this week’s newsletter.

Paul Nicklen took this pic showing the distorted perspective of a seal through the ice.


Our anniversary issue is finally here! It’s been a big labour of love (and also a lot of regular old labour) putting it together but you can check it out on newsstands now. The first two parts of our four-part Story of the North cover feature are also online at Editor Jessica Davey-Quantick also looks at six northern stories we’ve covered to death. Look for more articles online in coming weeks, or hit the subscribe button below and help us keep putting out northern journalism. On that subject, if you’re reading this and haven’t yet subscribed to the newsletter, consider it? Maybe tell a couple friends? For every 100 new subscribers, we draw a name who then wins a free one-year subscription to the print magazine.

As always, thanks for reading,
Jacob Boon 

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Welcome to the climate strike. Workers, students, and activists across the North (and across the world) took to the streets today for mass protests. It's all part of a week of climate action meant to fight for the survival of humanity. And it comes just as the American government offers up “
total access” to oil and gas companies looking to drill through the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The final environmental impact statement from America’s land management bureau on the ANWR was released this past week and the
news isn't good. It’s the “most aggressive” development scenario for the pristine wilderness lands, says lawyer and Vuntut Gwitchin member Kris Statnyk. Oil and gas leases can begin immediately along the coastal plain, which is home to polar bears and other threatened species, and also serves as the calving grounds for the Porcupine caribou herd.

Meanwhile, a new study commissioned by WWF Canada finds nearly half of Nunavut can be
powered by renewable energy, instead of relying on expensive and dirty diesel. Rankin Inlet, home to 3,000 people and consuming 10.5 million litres of diesel annually, is “ripe for a renewable project” says the report.
“By implementing a single 2.3-megawatt wind turbine and battery back-up, half of the diesel produced for electricity in this community could be displaced.” (Various)


Thomassie Mangiok loves board games almost as much as he loves the Inuit way of life. So he decided to put the two together. Nunami is a crowd-funded board game from the Nunavik entrepreneur where players work together to achieve a productive coexistence with nature. Mangiok has already secured a deal with an American company to mass-produce the game once his fundraising goal is met. (Canadian Press)

Celine Jaccard is the first woman to run Baffin Island’s 97-kilometre Askhayuk Pass in under 24 hours without stopping. Her preparation involved asking other marathon runners’ advice on what to eat. The answer was a lot of boiled potatoes with salt and butter. (CBC)

Once upon a midnight dreary, while Tanya Gruben pondered, weak and weary, over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—While she nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, as of someone gently rapping, rapping at her Inuvik home’s door. Quoth the raven “Nevermore.” (CBC)

Speaking of birds, a new study has found there are three billion fewer birds in Norther America than there were 50 years ago—a population decline of 29 per cent and an “overlooked biodiversity crisis.” Particularly hit hard are many of the migratory species that breed in Canada’s Arctic and boreal forest. (RCI)

Nick Griffith, the British man who donated his detached toe to Yukon’s Downtown Hotel earlier this year, will be in the territory next week to imbibe a sourtoe cocktail infused with his own severed digit. Pictures at the link, if you're into that sort of thing. (NY Post)

For anyone who can't make it to Cambridge Bay, Patterns of Change—an exhibition on the history of Inuinnait parkas—is now available to view online. The project involved elders recreating six historical parkas representing different stages of Inuinnait history, all the way from pre-contact to modern times. (Nunatsiaq)
The Inuvialuit Game Council has developed a Western Arctic Mariner’s Guide which features a series of large posters (see above) that can be mounted on the bridge of northern-traversing vessels to help crews identify important species to the Inuvialuit and choose wildlife-friendly routes. (RCI)

Missionary Ken Gaetz was gifted a special rifle from Hay River’s K'atl'odeeche First Nation nearly 70 years ago. Last weekend, Gaetz went back to Hay River and returned the symbol of friendship to the grandson of the man who first welcomed him. (CBC)

“What do you do when all your money was burnt up and everything you own is gone in less than 10 minutes?” In the dead of winter last year, Dwayne Kelly’s houseboat in Dawson City burned to ash. A few days later his mother died. He’s now rebuilding a life, and a home, one board and nail at a time. (Whitehorse Star)

It's a northern love story between Inuvik’s Eskimo Inn and the neighbouring Professional Building, which have been “touching for over a year.” Engineering firms are now trying to determine which of the two buildings is leaning on which. “There's no danger on our building in any shape or form,” says Jonathan Renko, director of Northview REIT's commercial division. “It's simply just touching.” (CBC)

Fishers in western Nunavut landed themselves a 1.8-metre salmon shark, which was caught in seal nets off of Kugluktuk. Marine scientists say the sharks don’t normally range so far north, meaning the salmon shark got lost or—given sightings of other sharks elsewhere in the Arctic—warming waters are expanding the predators’ habitat. (Nunatsiaq)

Yes, you can do DNA tests on sourdough starters. Ione Christensen sent her prized starter from her fridge in Whitehorse to Belgium to unlock some mysteries of the living 120-year-old family heirloom. Scientists found the yeasts inside were of the same genus as yeasts found in San Francisco sourdoughs, meaning the culture is potentially even older and may have originated in the California Gold Rush, 50 years before the Klondike's. (CBC)
Tourists flocking to Gullfoss waterfall in Iceland. (via Iceland Tourism)


The rise, and fall, of Iceland’s tourism miracle: “Life has changed for Icelanders as the country’s tourism industry faces a slump. While many are looking at the change as an opportunity to reassess their business, the widespread decline of tourism across the country presents intractable problems.” (Skift)

There's some furious debate about whether a functional knife can be fashioned out of frozen human feces. It’s an academic urban legend that goes back to an anthropologist’s account of an elderly Inuit man in the 1950s who, supposedly, succeeded in the grotesque craft. But a new study from Kent State University replicating the endeavour found the ‘blade’ failed to pierce pig flesh. Anthropologist Metin Eren admits, though, performing the tests in a room that was 10 degrees probably didn't help. (Arts Technica)

Blame the Vikings for the extinction of Iceland’s unique subspecies of walrus, which vanished in the 14th century, just 500 years after Norse settlers arrived. (New Scientist)

Finally, meet the tiny algae at ground zero of Greenland’s melting glaciers. “In 2019 our glaciers and ice sheets [are] already being darkened by dust, soot, and ash from our industrial world, which provides the perfect home for algae to flourish,” says biogeochemistry professor Alexandre Anesio. “As the organisms reproduce, they melt even more snow, which in turn allows them to proliferate again. So it’s like a cycle. A very bad one.” (Guardian)
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