July 12, 2019
Don’t believe the hype about Ice Age worms coming back to life. Plus, counting tree rings, resurrecting the Caribou Hotel, and the hot new sport keeping dogs cool in Alaska.
Speaking of hot dogs, Star and Zack enjoy some treats on Nunavut Day in Iqaluit. Check out more photos that editor Beth Brown snapped of the celebration right here.


Still not fully recovered from a case of the flu that ruined my vacation last week. No lobster was had. Thanks to Jessica Davey-Quantick for filling in on the newsletter and Beth Brown for tackling social media. Let's get to the news!

As always, thanks for reading,
Jacob Boon 

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Municipal is supposed to be the most transparent level of government. Ask anyone who’s had to put up with big egos and fiery tempers at overlong city council meetings. It's not always pretty, but you get to see how the sausage is made (and how decisions affecting thousands are determined). Maybe not for much longer in Whitehorse.

The city is looking at
changing the nomenclature of its senior management meetings—currently open to the public—to a more informal designation of “gatherings.” That would allow media and residents to be barred from entry. The Yukon News isn’t having it.

“You are public servants paid for by the public dollar and the public should get to know your thought process,” reads an editorial. “Protecting the public’s right to know how its government is run is far more important than protecting the government’s preference to talk about these things in secret.”

Whitehorse punted the decision to later this summer, probably with the hope that fewer people will be paying attention by then.

Elsewhere in government transparency, online voting in the upcoming NWT election is a “
terrible idea” warns security experts. “When you talk to computer security people,” OpenNWT founder David Wasylciw tells CBC, “every single one of them says it’s a terrible idea. Everybody who does computer work says it’s a terrible idea.”

Nicole Latour, NWT chief electoral officer,
tells Cabin Radio the territory is too small to be the target of hackers, which is about the nonchalant level of info-security you’d expect from a place where medical records and SIN numbers are left on the side of the road.

“How much of a target are we? Do you think Russia, or China, or anybody wants to determine the outcome of our elections?”


The Moose Horn Pass caribou fence still stands. Courtesy Gary Beckhusen
The Moose Horn Pass caribou fence has stood for centuries, deep in the Tulít’a region of the Sahtu Settlement Area. Exactly how long, well, nobody was sure. So Gary Beckhusen tried to figure it out through the use of dendrochronology, AKA tree-ring dating. It took him years of data collecting and file management before he could even begin to start counting tree rings. Then, his computer crashed. (Up Here)

What was the cultural impact of Yellowknife losing its KFC? Anthropologist Audrey Giles was eager to find out. She and her team researched the loss of the capital’s beloved Kentucky Fried and published the results this past spring. “The emotional distress and outpouring of love for this place was, to me, really unusual,” says Giles. “That somebody is driving 1,400 kilometres, round trip, to get KFC—I mean, this to me really says there is something interesting going on here.” (Up Here)

Southern Canadian ignorance of the three territories is a long-running joke up North, but the misconceptions continue. A press release sent to CBC North last week promoted two new historic places in the Northwest Territories. “Problem is—they're in Yukon.” Canada Research Chair Ken Coates isn't surprised. “We've created this sort of distance from the North where it's almost like talking about the moon when you talk to southerners about the realities of the Canadian North.” (CBC)

Looks like the Caribou Hotel in Carcross is coming back to life. “Thirteen years after buying it, owners are hoping to be pouring pints within two weeks,” tweets CBC Yukon producer George Maratos. Great timing, as author John Firth has an upcoming book collecting stories of the historic hotel’s long history. Too long to recount here, but we're particularly charmed by Polly the parrot. (Various)

Folk On The Rocks is this weekend and editor Jessica Davey-Quantick has a look at five can't-miss acts. The annual music festival is a rite of passage for Yellowknifers young and old—especially the young. “There aren’t many festivals where kids are allowed to get up so close without being reprimanded or without concern for their safety,” writes Michele Culhane for Edge North on the “feral children” of Folk. “The size of our Northern festival is just right for kids.” (Various)
Folk On The Rocks dancing at last year's festival. Courtesy FOTR/Angela Gzowski

Yellowknife recyclables have been dumped into the landfill for the past two years, reports CBC. The Yellowknifer first broke this story after publishing photos of blue containers being emptied into the city's garbage heap. Blame the evaporating global market for scrap metals and plastics, says Mayor Rebecca Alty. The materials could be sold in the future, should economics change, which is why the recyclables are still being kept separated.

Some, anyway. A staff shortage over the past few weeks meant no one could operate the baler, causing recyclables to be disposed of with other unsorted landfill garbage. The public wasn’t informed about this operational change because, according to the mayor, it would have hurt their faith in the system. Councillor Konge
tells Cabin Radio, “At the end of the day, there’s lots of things people aren’t told.” Reassuring! (Various)

Added to the list of Northern golf courses is a new eight-hole in Fort Providence built by the town’s mayor. Danny Beaulieu tells Cabin Radio he’s “not a golfer, but he says he knows what a golf course looks like, and that’s all he needed.” Love the confidence, Danny. (Cabin Radio)

Film technicians from across the globe got a free trip through Nahanni National Park last month. The NWT film commission brought the group of producers, directors, and location managers on the tour to show off the territory’s scenic backdrops—and its overabundance of sunlight. “Really, we’ve got hours of magic hour which is that beautiful morning light and that evening light, before the sun sets, and it’s a really desired light by film productions,” commissioner Camilla MacEachern says. (My Yellowknife Now)

The Washington Post turned some heads this week with its story about ancient life awakening in thawing permafrost. “These ice age zombies range from simple bacteria to multicellular animals and their endurance is prompting scientists to revise their understanding of what it means to survive.” Included in the zombie horde is 200-year-old moss from Ellesmere Island, and 41,000-year-old worms from Siberia—by far the oldest living animal ever discovered. “OMG they thawed out a worm and it started wriggling and it is FORTY-ONE THOUSAND YEARS OLD,” is the general online reaction.

Ice Age ecologist Jacquelyn Gill was understandably incredulous reading about the worm’s rebirth, so she went to the research paper in question and came away less than impressed. The zombie worms were likely everyday nematodes that contaminated two out of over 300 samples. “Journalists should not be reporting this finding as a credible fact unless and until we get a lot more information.” (
Light, skin, bones, and dress. Courtesy @sevimaggie


Anyone feeling bad about climate change and dumping recyclables, don’t fret! You’re only doing what humanity has done for millennia. Research published from the National Academy of Science says humans have been polluting the Arctic with lead for the past 1,500 years. Levels of lead pollution in Arctic ice cores spiked 250-300 fold between the Early Middle Ages and the 1970s. “The rise could be explained by industrial processes like smelting silver to make coins from the Roman Empire to burning fossil fuels in more recent decades.” (Newsweek)

Governor Mike Dunleavy is making a mess of Alaska and “the state may never recover,” says The Guardian. The Koch brothers-backed Dunleavy just tried to force through unprecedented cuts to Alaska’s healthcare, education, arts, and climate change programs. “Dunleavy’s draconic budget will be devastating for the state of Alaska and will have negative consequences for the rest of the US and the world.” (The Guardian)

Elsewhere in bad ideas, the sand sifted out of melting ice in Greenland could be brought south (at extraordinary costs) to be used in concrete production, thereby increasing greenhouse gas emissions, causing more ice to melt and freeing up more sand to be used to make more concrete. We're really circling the drain here. (Brisbane Times)

There’s a new sport making a splash in Alaska: dog diving. And it's exactly what it sounds like. Throw a toy. Watch your pet go. Measure the distance jumped. Have fun. “Any breed, any breed can do it,” says organizer Shawn Lytle. “Any dog that has a little toy drive, or wants to jump in the water.” (KTUU)

The city of Yakutsk celebrates Siberia’s summer solstice with a giant open-air festival where 200,000 gather to feast on horsemeat, drink fermented mare’s milk, and folk dance the night away. Some very Midsommar photos at the link. (National Geographic)
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