July 31, 2020
Virtual bird festivals, a luxury private icebreaker, and 120 years of the Whitehorse Star. Plus, is it raining in Iqaluit? Then the internet must be down. All in this week’s Up Here newsletter.
Learn about black guillemot (like this guy) and other Arctic avians in The Birds of Canada's Far North, a special guide in our new summer issue.


Well, I was all set for a trip this long weekend but that's been delayed. Not the worst timing as we're still putting the final touches on our new website, and starting production on the September/October issue of Up Here. Busy times. Anyway, it's Friday so let's get to the news...

Thanks for reading,
Jacob Boon 


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If you thought things were back to normal in the NWT now, two months since we've seen any cases of COVID-19, think again. The Yellowknife Geoscience Forum has been cancelled for the first time in 49 years. Probably a good ideas as a case of COVID was just confirmed at the Diavik diamond mine. (CKLB)

Elsewhere, the Sirmilik Bird Festival in Nunavut had to be held online and over the radio this year amid COVID fears. “Participants were invited to test their knowledge of local bird species through a bird brain trivia challenge… A platform named eBird was also created to help community members and visitors report their bird sightings.” (
Nunavut News)

If it’s raining in Iqaluit, the internet’s probably out. Cellphones, too. In fact, everything's probably down. “I am more than frustrated,” tweets former mayor Madeleine Redfern. “Absolutely every form of communication went down for hours. No internet. No landline. No cell service. No cable TV. Because rain.” (

And man has it been raining. This drizzly summer has come with pluses and minuses for Yukon farmers. Cooler weather has helped grow a bountiful crop of cabbage, but the humidity is also increasing rot and mould. (

Another drawback to a wet, humid summer? The mosquito population is unusually high, “and they aren’t physically distancing.” (

Peter Igupttaq Autut is this year’s winner of the Sally Manning Award for Indigenous Creative Non-Fiction. Here’s a write-up about Autut and his story, Winter in Chesterfield Inlet, from Eye On The Arctic. You can read Autut’s story in the current issue of Up Here, and online on our new website later next week. (

This Iñupiaq woman has become famous on TikTok for her videos showing everything from traditional Alaskan food to hunting. (

There are roughly 30 houses for the 80 people that make up the small community of Tthets’ek’ehdeli, where the Jean Marie River meets the Mackenzie. Building more homes seems a simple enough solution, but comes with a complex history of red tape. “We have been struggling with accommodations ever since we started living in communities. How is it that in 2020 we are still talking about it?” (

The Whitehorse Star marked 120 years of publishing this week. That’s a hell of a long time for any newspaper to be printing, let alone an independently-owned one in a remote market. Kudos, Whitehorse Star. (

Congrats also to Nunavut’s Inhabit Media, which will open a new storefront in Toronto on Mount Pleasant Road to sell its English- and Inuktitut-language books. Opening date TBD. (
Quill and Quire)

Lena Pederson was the first woman elected to the Northwest Territories’ legislative assembly back in 1970. Her husband, Red Pederson, also served two terms from 1983 to 1991. Grandson Calvin Pederson has just joined the family business after being elected as Kugluktuk’s newest MLA. (
Nunavut News)

The Yukon’s Gold Rush-era system for staking mineral claims unfairly gives prospectors the rights to First Nations’ land and private properties. Now, that system might be set for an overhaul. (
The Narwhal)

Mackenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Jeff Bezos, pledged this week to give away most of her multi-billion dollar fortune. It was big news that got lots of people talking and tagging Mackenzie Scott online. Only they were tagging the wrong person. See, there’s also another Mackenzie Scott—a CBC reporter in Inuvik. “Well, this is now my life,” she tweeted to her hundreds of new followers after her phone blew up with notifications. (
Crush your way through the Arctic on this luxury icebreaker.


Looking to ride out the pandemic in style? The world’s first private icebreaker yacht is available to rent at just $1.1 million a week. Russian oligarch Oleg Tinkov’s 253-foot vessel features five guest cabins, two helicopters, a submarine, and a private hospital. (NY Post)

“Beneath the frozen wastes of the Arctic, a three-way geopolitical tug-of-war is taking place over which country owns a ridge of undersea mountains. The winner will change maps forever.” (

Alaska’s vegetation is changing dramatically. (

“I’m heading to the Arctic thinking about death.” For a book project about 16th-century polar explorer William Barents, Andrea Pitzer needed to reach the remote Arctic island where he and his men met their end. She booked passage on an expeditionary boat out of Murmansk, just as tragedy struck her family. (
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