August 30, 2019
Artificial intelligence in Nunavut, quinoa in Finland, and the undying mystery of Franklin’s failed expedition. Plus, painting dead fish in Alaska.

Congrats to Nunavut Youth LEAP, who just returned from a two-week backpacking expedition with a group of Qikiqtarjuaq youth across the Akshayuk Pass. Coordinator Celine Jaccard passed along this photo from the trip. More great shots right here.


Happy Labour Day Weekend, everyone. It's now been six months since we started this weekly newsletter, and I can't thank all of our readers enough for subscribing and showing their support. I hope you've had as much fun reading these as I've had writing them. 

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Jacob Boon 

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“Why are we still fascinated with John Franklin's expedition?” asks the Anchorage Press. It's a timely article about the Alaskan town's new museum exhibit and arrives just as Parks Canada unveils undersea photography of the HMS Terror's sunken treasure.

Parks Canada says it was able to photograph 90 per cent of the Terror’s lower deck through remote-controlled robotic cameras. “The doors were eerily wide open,” says Ryan Harris, lead archaeologist on the project.

Frigid temperatures, a lack of sunlight and centuries of sediments have preserved most of the ship's contents—everything from beds and desks to plates, glasses, and even potentially paper. Inside the captain's cabin, Parks Canada found a tripod, thermometers, and map cabinets with closed doors. 

“There is a very high probability of finding clothing or documents, some of them possibly even still legible. Rolled or folded charts in the captain’s map cupboard, for example, could well have survived,” Harris tells
National Geographic

Any logs, diaries, or letters could provide more insight into the final days of Franklin's men, now arguably more famous in failure than they would have been in success. (Various)

Dinner plates preserved about the Terror. (via Parks Canada)

Canada’s newest national park is great news for Maine’s bird population, reports the state’s Natural Resources Council. Thaidene Nëné, at more than twice the size of Yellowstone National Park, is home to ten million or more breeding birds, many of which either migrate through or winter in Maine. “Although Thaidene Nene may be physically located 2,000 miles from our state, perhaps you will think of it, with gratitude for this gift from Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation, the next time you see one of the many bird species that consider both Thaidene Nene and Maine home.” (NRCM)

Speaking of flying critters, northerners on social media say there are more bats visiting the NWT. The territory’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources isn’t so sure about that. Did you know bats have only been in the NWT for 100 years? I didn't. (CBC)

Lots of people are upset with government in the Yukon. Dawson City placer miner Darrell Carey is suing the territory alleging an expropriation of his claims. Alpine Aviation owner Gerd Mannsperger says the city of Whitehorse is bullying his company to hand over a dock on Schwatka Lake. And hotel owners in Watson Lake are planning to shut down instead of paying the town’s new five per cent accommodation levy. (Various)

Meanwhile, the NWT government is facing a “representative action” (the territory doesn’t have class-action legislation) over its flagrant, repeated health privacy breaches, including the theft of a laptop containing health data for 80 per cent of the NWT’s residents, and also the time that hundreds of confidential documents were left at the dump. (CBC)

How about some good government news for counter-balance? Congratulations to 23-year-old Skye MacDonald and 19-year-old Kateri Lynn on their respective Smith’s Landing and Dettah election wins. Aspiring lawyer MacDonald is the youngest elected councillor to represent Smith’s Landing First Nation. Teenager Lynn also rocked the ballot box, receiving the most votes of any candidate in her election. (Cabin Radio)

"I'm trying to be me, and I am Inuk.” Unreserved spends some time with Natan Obed to talk about race and identity. “There's so many young Inuit now that are not completely fluent in Inuktitut, that have grown up with one parent who's not Inuk and one parent who has grown up outside of it. I think sometimes that's lost in the debate. That if you don't have Inuktitut, that somehow you can't be an advocate for it or that you are not ever going to be a good one. I think we need to use all of our strengths.” (CBC)

Only a couple weeks after creating the new Tuvaijuittuq marine protected area north of Ellesmere Island, the federal government is now taking the first steps to protect waters around Nunavut’s Southampton Island. The “area of interest” includes 93,000 square kilometres of marine territory all the way into Chesterfield Inlet and the waters bordering Coral Harbour. (Nunatsiaq)

The Globe and Mail says scientists and First Nations are scrambling to save artifacts freed from melting permafrost. Editor Jessica Davey-Quantick wrote about this very issue back in the July issue of Up Here: “Unlike archaeological sites that have to be registered, paleontology sites aren’t covered by law [in the NWT]. And without that legislated protection, history could literally be lost.” (Up Here)

Usually, any article about how artificial intelligence (AI) will revolutionize this or dynamically change that should be an immediate red alert for your bullshit meters. But kudos to Thomas Rohner and this piece for Nunatsiaq that delves into surveillance culture in China, “two-eyed seeing,” and how ethical decisions about AI systems are being guided through traditional Indigenous thinking. (Nunatsiaq)
JR Ancheta didn’t have a scale large enough for this massive cabbage, so he took it to the Alaska Airlines counter at the airport to be weighed. The 28.5-pound plant is now “on its way to kimchee.” (via Twitter)


Climate change is causing better cultivation of peaches in Ruissalo, Finland. Increased temperatures and rainfall have also caused a shocking growth in grapes, apricots, cherries, pears, and apples. Quinoa and corn—grains originally developed by the Incans in South America—are also now seeing success in Finland. (RCI)

Old mining equipment from Svalbard may be sold at bargain-basement prices to coal-producing countries because it’s cheaper than managing the gear as hazardous waste. (High North News)

German researchers will conduct one of the biggest Arctic science expeditions to date next month when they let the ship Polarstern become locked in ice for 13 months. Some 600 scientists from 17 countries will conduct studies on the vessel as it slowly drifts past the North Pole. The $134-million project, eight years in the planning, pays homage to Fridtjof Nansen of Norway, who deliberately froze his wooden ship, the Fram, in the ice off Siberia in 1893. (Science Mag)

Anchorage artist Romney Dodd paints dead fish. Yes, dead fish. The unique canvasses, 150 of them, were collected from a retiring taxidermist in Dodd’s Alaskan hometown. “It has been really fun getting to know these guys,” she tells PBS, “every single face is different.” (Alaska Public Media)
Fine art fish by Romney Dodd. (Photo by Daniel Hernandez/Alaska Public Media)
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