May 8, 2020

Learning on-the-land skills through online videos, drawing Dene culture with Joe Sacco, and keeping one Alaskan town fed with a Costco membership. We’re staying a socially-distant eight sourdough loaves apart in this week’s Up Here newsletter.

Iqaluit's bowhead whale arch. Grace Will-Scott submitted this shot for this year's Up Here photo contest.


Last week I asked if anyone had some missing back issues of Up Here to help us complete our archives. A big thank you to Mike MacIntyre of Petrolia, Ontario who answered the call. Mike, who says he's enjoyed our little publication since it started in 1984, had several of the missing magazines squirrelled away and has offered to mail them to us. Someone should be in touch soon to arrange those details, Mike. 

We're still looking for issues from October 2000, October 1999, February 1994 and June/July 1992 to complete our archives. If you have a copy of any of those, shoot us a line at

Thanks for reading,
Jacob Boon 


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A huge sigh of relief this week as Nunavut’s first case of COVID-19 turned out to be a false positive. As the handful of cases in both the Yukon and the Northwest Territories have now all recovered, that means the North is completely coronavirus free (for now). Nunavik in northern Quebec, which was facing a surge of cases last month, has also recovered with no additional community spread. (Various)

So why do some COVID-19 tests come back as false positives? Cross-contamination in the labs is the most likely culprit, 
reports John Last for CBC North: “Every now and again, even though it's sort of a very precise robotic instrument… there can be very slight traces of carryover from sample to sample.”

For those who'd like to learn more, this week
ProPublica put together this explainer on “Why You Can’t Always Trust Your Coronavirus Antibody Test Results.” Also, from Vox; “Why even a super-accurate COVID-19 test can fail.”

Even with the recovery, the territories aren’t joking around about opening their borders. Just ask Steven Hagen, from Inuvik, who was kicked out of the NWT after trying to move home from Alberta during the pandemic. (

In other news this week, Yellowknifers were asked to conserve power after the Snare Falls hydroelectric plant went offline due to an oil leak. The city is being powered by a diesel unit at the Jackfish generating plant in the meantime. (

Conserving power is no problem for three generations of family who are spending the pandemic reconnecting on the Mackenzie River. Melaw Nakehk’o says her kids have 
swapped video games for chopping wood with their grandfather. Elsewhere, two Inuit men have fulfilled their childhood dream of hunting a polar bear the traditional way, with no GPS, snowmobile or phone.

Meanwhile, in Yellowknife, Devon Allooloo is a “part-time” trapper who’s 
learned his on-the-land skills online, through Youtube videos and online forums: “I looked up some videos on YouTube on how to snare lynx, and then from there I just started snaring lynx.” (Various)

COVID-19 has given most Canadians a taste of what Northerners face on a daily basis: worries about medical services, potable water, internet, energy and food availability. So writes Jessica Shadian in the National Post, anyway. “Anyone else find this to be a tad overstated?” tweets Eva Holland. “Whitehorse is not Inuvik is not Grise Fiord.” (Various)

One thing we can all agree on, the Yukon’s physical distancing campaign is fantastic. The Territory’s public health promotion puts a northern twist on coronavirus advice by asking residents to stay one caribou’s length (or two huskies, four ravens, or eight loaves of sourdough bread) apart. (
The Guardian)
A page from Joe Sacco's upcoming graphic novel on Dene culture, Paying the Land.
Acclaimed comic journalist Joe Sacco follows up his 2009 classic Footnotes in Gaza with Paying the Land, an upcoming graphic novel on Dene culture and history: “Against a vast and gorgeous landscape that dwarfs all human scale, Paying the Land lends an ear to trappers and chiefs, activists and priests, to tell a sweeping story about money, dependency, loss, and culture—recounted in stunning visual detail by one of the greatest cartoonists alive.” Here’s an article about the new book and Sacco’s trips to the Northwest Territories from the Times Literary Supplement(Macmillan)

Yukon Wines and Solstice Ciderworks have launched a new line of haskap wines and ciders, using locally-grown berries from the territory. There might be a wait to try them, though. The first delivery to Whitehorse’s liquor store sold out in a day. (
Yukon News)

Meanwhile, untapped beer kegs from Yukon Brewing are piling up and approaching the end of their shelf life. Brewery president Bob Baxter says dumping any beer keg is an emotional moment. “It happens from time to time, and I just look the other way...  Sometimes there is a tear involved.” (

Kirt Ejesiak spent five years growing his aerial drone company in Iqaluit—that is until COVID-19 brought the demand for his services to a crashing halt. Now, he’s one of the founders of the newly created Inuit Business Council, a group of similar entrepreneurs advocating for small business relief from the federal government. (Northern News Services)

But never mind the pandemic; the North’s 
first swarm of annual mosquitos has arrivedMaybe the territories can take a lesson from the Florida Keys, where the EPA is battling mosquito with mosquito—genetically engineered mosquitos. (Bloomberg News)

Remembering when Canada sent a battalion of armed troops to protect its border from American insurgents—its northern border, that is. (
A hiker takes in the beauty of the Faroe Islands. (via Visit Faroe Islands)


For the past three years, the Faroe Islands' tourism campaigns have reached millions despite spending almost nothing on paid advertising. So who’s the genius behind this approach to destination travel? Meet the former journalist marketing the tiny northern nation on a shoestring budget. (The Drum)

Looks like this may be the end of commercial whaling in Iceland. (
National Geographic)

In 1110, the moon vanished from the sky. Now, thanks to 1,000-year-old ice cores drilled in Greenland, we might finally know why. (
Science Alert)

“The man feeding a remote Alaska town with a Costco card and a ship.” (
The Hustle)

So much for a free market. Donald Trump says his government will be “looking into” banks that are “discriminating” against the energy industry by refusing to back Arctic oil and gas investment. (
The Bristol Bay)

China is increasingly studying the competitiveness of Arctic shipping compared to the Suez Canal and China-Europe railway. A paper released this week finds the northern sea route has few commercial prospects, though another study found the route could be more viable provided there are no carbon taxes in play. And another predicts it’ll take until 2050 before the route becomes economically worth it. “Many of these studies on Arctic shipping coming out of China are funded by government bodies such as the National Natural Science Foundation of China and the National Social Science Fund of China,” tweets Arctic reporter Mia Bennett, “which indicates the government’s active interest in building up expertise in the sector.” (Twitter)

Speaking of studies, Finland ran a two-year universal basic income study and the results are finally in: recipients of the money received a boost to their overall mental and financial well-being, as well as improving their employment with no apparent disincentive to work. (New Scientist)

Most national parks in America receive the bulk of their operating funds from Congress. But not Glacier Bay in Alaska, where 70 per cent of its annual budget comes from cruise ship fees. Staff are now scrambling to figure out how to survive the tourism season that wasn't. (
National Parks Traveller)
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