April 17, 2020

Polar bear home invasions and migrating muskox statues. Plus, adapting salmon labs for coronavirus testing, and what shape will the mining industry be in post-COVID? All in this week’s Up Here newsletter.

Grace Wilk-Scott of Iqaluit took this shot on the first day of summer, June 21, 2018, after noticing kids playing hockey on Arctic Bay’s melting ice. (Up Here)


As alluded to last week, we're pleased to announce that Up Here is one of the recipients of a grant from Facebook, the Lenfest Institute for Journalism and News Media Canada to cover COVID-19 in northern communities. Cabin Radio in Yellowknife and Nunatsiaq News in Iqaluit were the only other northern recipients. We’re still putting together plans on what form that coverage will take, so stay tuned. If you have ideas, email me at

Thanks for reading,
Jacob Boon 

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This one hurts. Yellowknife’s Folk on the Rocks festival has pulled the plug on this summer’s 40th anniversary. The festival had been holding out hope that the planned July event would be far enough away from the current COVID-19 pandemic to allow society to re-open, but board members voted this week to call it. “Unfortunately, so many people, and supplies, and artists, and people visiting, come up from southern Canada,” said artistic director Carly McFadden, “and it didn't feel like it was a safe move.” (CBC)

Even Yellowknife’s muskox mascot is social distancing. “Elon Muskox” has been moved to an indoor location while the city replants the horticultural statue for the summer season. (
Cabin Radio)

Summer is not far away, and that means fire season has already begun in the Yukon. How are the territory’s wildfire crews preparing during a pandemic? (

A new short documentary from The Atlantic follows NWT photographer Pat Kane as he takes isolation portraits of families stuck in their homes: “The photographs illuminate the high stakes of coronavirus prevention in the Arctic and the community’s solidarity.” (
The Atlantic)

Iqaluit has seen its daily water use increase by 10 per cent, but it’s not all from hand washing. Since January the city has been going over its water use target by 300,000 litres a day. The city’s CAO blames water leaks, and, yes, people isolating at home. Iqaluit has declared a water emergency the past two summers. (

Northern Dynasty, the small Canadian exploration company, which has no projects in operation and no assets other than the beleaguered Pebble Mine in Alaska, is the biggest spender on Washington, D.C. lobbyists in the entire mining sector. (Natural Resources Defense Council)

Speaking of; “Gold miners usually shine during a crisis—but not when they can’t work their mines.” (
Financial Post)

The diamond industry, at least, may be saved after the pandemic ends thanks to “revenge spending.” (CBC)

Self-isolation is bad enough, but imagine being woken up at 4:30 am by a polar bear in your home. Adamie Kauki acted fast to protect his wife and five kids, and now Quaqtaq, Nunavik’s community freezer is full of fresh meat. (photo by Johnny Oovaut) (via

On the subject of polar bears looking for homes, if you ever wanted to know where the prime polar bear real estate is in Canada, researchers have put together a map of more than 1,500 den locations. (Cabin Radio)

Hockey players in Iqaluit may not be able to have practice or play games together, but they’re still staying active thanks to… toilet paper? (
Nunavut News Online)

Just how many people are entering the territories in this time of isolation? Statistics by the government show a little under 100 people entered the NWT by road in the first two weeks of April. Fewer than 200 arrived by air. Ordinarily, notes Ollie Williams, a couple full flights from Edmonton could bring in a similar number of passengers in a day. (
Cabin Radio)

“Sometime this year, Nalcor plans to achieve a longstanding goal: to supply 98 per cent of the Newfoundland and Labrador province with renewable energy. But to Wolfrey, the massive diesel tanks outside his home are a bitter reminder that the marginalized Inuit remain in the two per cent who are not scheduled to share in the bounty.” Matt Hongoltz-Hetling on Land, Water, Spirits, and War in Rigolet. (
Pulitzer Centre)

As Arctic cruises are put on hold, the market for Inuit art faces a deep freeze. (
The Art Newspaper)

Some good news, though, for the finalists of the 2020 Sobey Art Award. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the award was this year divided equally among the 25 finalists, who each receive $25,000 (including 28-year-old Inuk filmmaker, visual artist and writer Asinnajaq). (

“Do you eat it raw?” asked the prince about his dinner of seal liver. CBC digs into its archives for the 45th anniversary of Prince Charles’ visit to the North. (

Coronavirus highlights the already-present dangers of the housing crisis in the North, says Julia Christensen: “A persistent housing crisis has led to a high prevalence of respiratory disease among northerners, and compounds additional social determinants of health. Combined with a threadbare health-care system that leaves many communities without even a resident nurse, the northern housing crisis significantly underscores the vulnerability of northern residents in the face of a global pandemic.” (
The Conversation)
Big Bird and Up Here magazine spreading cheer in Yellowknife over the Easter weekend. (My Backyard Tours)


“What the caribou taught me about being together, and apart.” (New York Times)

Greenland has become the first and only country to eliminate coronavirus. All 11 confirmed cases have now recovered. (

A veterinary scientist is being hailed in the Faroe Islands for that country's lack of COVID-19 deaths, after adapting his salmon testing lab for human use: “The only thing I changed were some of the ingredients. In our normal work it is specific to fish virus and fish bacteria and in this case I just changed the three components specific to the coronavirus.” (
The Guardian)

Russian sailors were trapped on the roof of their ship for hours after a hungry polar bear made its way on deck. “Eventually, after several hours, it got bored of looking for fish and jumped back into the water and it swam off.” (
Daily Star)
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