May 17, 2019
Auroras light up social media, a houseboat burns in Yellowknife Bay, and rescuing baby muskox. Plus, what killed the Yukon's giant beavers?
Pangnirtung, lit up. CREDIT MICHAEL H. DAVIES


Very little news this week from the office. The June issue of Up Here should be coming back from the printer soon. Editorial is finishing off the July/August issue and then we're straight into September's 35th anniversary

I'll use this space, then, to beseech you reader to write some letters to the editor. Anything about Up Here you love, hate or want to see implemented? Tell us! We really value your feedback! Later this year we'll potentially be launching a reader survey (the first in three years) to try and get a better understanding of our subscribers and what they'd like in the magazine. In the meantime, send those thoughts to

As always, thanks for reading,
Jacob Boon



It’s decidedly spring, inching towards summer, which means we're approaching 24-hours of sunlight. The sun is currently in the quiet phase of its 11-year solar cycle, but there was some awfully high solar activity this week. The result? Northern lights visible across Canada.

Naturally, everybody took pictures. Do you think the aurora look better in photographs? The New Yorker’s James Lasdun wonders why on his trip, “
Chasing The Aurora Borealis.” Not only do long exposures help cameras create more vivid images out of the magnetic energy ribbons, but the pictures are automatically sharpened by the high-contrast settings on social media platforms—and then further bolstered by our backlit screens. 

“I asked Montes what role social media had played in northern-lights tourism, and he gave an exasperated laugh. The Ivalo hotel [in Finland] was constantly being approached by YouTubers and Instagram influencers who offered publicity in return for free accommodations...‘We just had two of them staying, with five hundred thousand followers each. They wanted free rooms—free everything.’”

Even the best photo wouldn’t capture the auroras writhing, snake-like movements as they dance across a momentous black canvas. You’d also
miss out on the sounds. The lights produce low-frequency radio signals creating an array of inhuman pops and sizzles when picked up by receivers. Then again, the actual sound of the northern lights is probably something closer to “Oh my god!
A baby muskox was reunited with its family thanks to some aerial drone surveillance by Gahcho Kué mine workers. The calf was found during maintenance work on a water line, alone and with its umbilical cord still attached. The mining crew was able to locate the baby’s family a couple of kilometres away by using a surveillance drone. "What they did was bundle it up, got some snow machines and a sled and went out and used the drone again to try to track down where the group was…One of the adults in the group then came over to the calf and started licking its face and nuzzling it and then they all moved off as one unit afterward.” Aww. (CBC)

The Whitehorse trolley: Money pit with dubious historical value or “force multiplier” for downtown businesses? Journalist Lori Fox and small-business owner Erik Miller duke it out in CBC’s opinion columns. The Yukon government has sunk $5.5 million on the trolley car since buying it from Portugal in 1999, writes Fox, subsidizing each rider to the tune of $30 a head. Who cares, counters Miller. “It’s a happy burst of colour and identity for a downtown which until recently has been—dare I say it?—a bit drab.” (CBC)

Election results are in from Newfoundland & Labrador. Inuk elder Jim Learning was unsuccessful in his effort running as an independent to challenge party politics in the province. Progressive Conservative leader Ches Crosbie was the only party leader who campaigned in any Indigenous communities when he visited Sheshatshiu, Labrador last week. Returning Liberal Premier Dwight Ball, who’s responsible for the province’s Indigenous Affairs portfolio, made one campaign stop in Labrador but didn’t venture to any of its Inuit communities. (CBC)

“When a houseboat burns, how does the cleanup work?” asks Cabin Radio after a blaze tore through one of the many colourful structures dotting Yellowknife Bay this week. Thankfully, no one was hurt, but the cleanup does leave some questions given that the houseboats are notoriously not subject to municipal jurisdiction. (Cabin Radio)
Yellowknife's class of ’79 will come to their old stomping grounds for a 40-year reunion next month. The bond between the St. Patrick and Sir John Franklin high-school students of 1979 has only grown “stronger as the years go by” says organizer Caroline Kasteel Bowler. Reporter Emelie Peacock says the reunion “could be the first 40th high-school reunion ever organized.” I assume she means in Yellowknife because Google has a buffet of wholesome news stories celebrating 70th, 80th, and even 90th high-school reunions. (My Yellowknife Now)

Congrats to the Pinnguaq Association and Pangnirtung for claiming a $10-million Smart Cities prize from Infrastructure Canada. The money will fund new maker-space learning locations in several Nunavut communities. “We present this project as a way to provide the tools to enable youth to unlock modes of expression, economic opportunities and [an] emotional outlet,” reads the pitch. There’s a lot of innovation happening with Northern youth, matter of fact. The Gordon Foundation hosted its third hackathon in Inuvik this week. The theme was targeting federal policies for meeting Northern housing needs. Yellowknife, sadly, missed out on its $5-million Smart Cities bid to create a grid of ‘smart’ streetlights. (Nunavut News)

We’re currently up to our pocket protectors in Northern research stories working on the July/August science issue of Up Here. A couple of science stories that caught my attention but we, unfortunately, didn’t have room for in the issue includes Swedish scientists arguing with Japanese scientists over whether the oldest known evidence of life has been discovered in Northern Labrador, and palaeontologists in the Yukon going Ice Age: CSI to find out what killed the giant beaver. (CBC)


The Pompeo fallout continues. The president of the Canadian Inuit Circumpolar Council is challenging the U.S. secretary of state’s comments last week about Canada’s claim on the Northwest Passage. Monica Ell-Kanayuk says in a news release that the waterway has long been claimed by Canada and, more importantly, “the Northwest Passage is part of Inuit Nunangat, our Arctic homeland.”

China, also a subject of Pompeo’s outburst at the Arctic Council, 
fired back in an editorial published in the China Daily Mail. “China has been involved in Arctic affairs on the basic principle of ‘mutual respect, cooperation, win-win result, and sustainability,’” writes the dean of Nanjing University's Institute of International Relations. Norwegian columnist Arne O’Holm is more blunt about America's war rhetoric replacing intergovernmental dialogue. “Peace and love, my ass.” (High North News)

Robinson Meyer, over at The Atlantic notes the ironic foreign policy from the U.S. here. The Americans view the Arctic as increasingly important to both economic and military interests, but refuse to acknowledge the climate change opening up that very battleground. “The whole argument makes sense if you’re careful not to think too hard.” (
The Atlantic)

ExplorersWeb has a roundup of Arctic expeditions taking place this spring (the best time for high Arctic travel, don't you know). Included in that list are 12 Japanese men and women who completed an “uneventful” 600-kilometre journey from Pangnirtung to Clyde River, led by “rebel Arctic adventurer Yasu Ogita.” Unclear exactly why Yasu is the bad boy of the Arctic expedition scene, other than his untrained, unprepared start in the adventuring field. I guess that's enough. (ExplorersWeb)

A bear is stealing picnic baskets in Russia's Kamchatka peninsula. No, really. There's video and everything. Humans feeding bears is sadly common in the region, which in turn causes the wild animals to become desensitized to people (and often ends with them shot by wildlife officers). Thankfully, Yuri here was captured for release after being lured into a specially-made container, “tempted by fish and a tasty cabbage pie.” The director of State Wildlife Service in Kamchatka tells the Siberian Times that his trap worked because the young bear was still “curious and arrogant.” Older animals would usually be more careful. “And in this bear, the feeling of hunger ultimately defeated the feeling of fear.” We’ve all been there. (Siberian Times)
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