March 13, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic hits hard in the Arctic. Plus, a blizzard beach day in Iqaluit, one Inuvik man’s quest to conquer Mulletfest, and Russia’s special little Snowflake project. All in this week's newsletter.

A Canadian Armed Forces member from 12e Régiment Blindé du Canada, D Squadron, prepares for a reconnaissance patrol in Resolute Bay during operation Nanook-Nunalivut. (VIA FOIN-JTFN)


Back from vacation just in time for the internet to shut down and all the toilet paper to run out. Oh well, at least it's minus 31 outside today. I also shouldn't have used my “Corona Virealis” pun last week because guess what virtually all of today's newsletter is about?

Thanks for reading,
Jacob Boon 

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Well, that escalated quickly. This time last week the Arctic Winter Games was assuring folks it had preventative plans in place for any coronavirus outbreak. Only a couple of days later, the 50th edition of the games was outright
cancelled due to the growing COVID-19 pandemic and the extreme risk isolated northern communities now face. 

It's a huge hit for the hundreds of athletes who were expecting to compete this weekend. “I am absolutely devastated and heart-broken,” Jamie Savikataaq, the Nunavut girls’ hockey coach,
told Nunatsiaq NewsThe CBC has some tips on how those athletes can deal with the disappointment.

All the
supplies from the games are now being broken down and distributed around Whitehorse, in case you're in the market for a few dozen bunk beds. The special 50th Arctic Winter Games medals will be melted down, though a few will be stored in the AWG’s archives. One of the most competitive sports at the games—pin trading—is thankfully still a go.

Meanwhile, icing the games leaves restaurants with 
freezers full of food and hotels with empty rooms. It's just one example of the massive economic impact coronavirus will have for northern companies big and small. Total costs aren't going to be known for months, but everything from Arctic tourism to fisheries will be hit hardThe Tourism Industry Association of Yukon is already asking the government to step in with a $2.5 million stimulus package

But that number was tabulated before today's 
announcement that the northern cruise ship season is canceled. “Thinking about the cruise guides I’ve worked with in the Arctic,” tweets Jimmy Thomson. “They are not employees, they’re contractors; they can’t get EI and their entire season just went out the window.” 

Eye on the Arctic has a visual breakdown of how national and regional governments around the Arctic Circle are responding to the ongoing pandemic. (Various)

One thing that’s not cancelled is the annual Joint Task Force North Nanook-Nunalivut training exercise in the High Arctic. This year, Canadian forces are in Resolute with American infantry members for some cold exercising. In related news, the Globe just published a series of Louie Palu’s photographs documenting the militarization of the Arctic at training exercises such as these over the years and, hey, we wrote about Palu's photos last summer. (Various)

Elsewhere, Yellowknife couple Steven Shen and Nancy Lin are facing the coronavirus crisis on both sides of the world. Shen had traveled to China for a retirement vacation in January, planning to return in March. Now, he’s stuck 800 kilometres south of Wuhan. (CBC)

If all that wasn't enough, researchers have discovered a new form of Chlamydia deep below the Arctic Ocean. (Phys.Org)

Plenty of Corona, but no virus at Iqaluit's blizzard beach day. (Via Youtube)
While most of Iqaluit was huddled inside during this past weekend’s blizzard, four residents frolicked outside as if it were a balmy Caribbean paradise. (Nunatsiaq)

Every old sourdough has a story about meeting Jack London or Robert Service. Few actually ever did. Herein lies one of the dilemmas for a history writer, says Michael Gates: Pull back the curtain and expose the real truth, or let everyone enjoy their tall tales? (Yukon News)

The Government of Nunavut is still recovering from last November’s ransomware attack, having so far spent $5 million trying to fix old problems and prevent new ones. (Nunatsiaq)

Gerri Sharpe was only nine when she sold her first crafted owl oopik for a bag of chips. Now, reports Charlotte Morritt-Jacobs, she's “stitching connection and culture through seal skin.” (APTN)

Climate change is bringing the Northwest Territories’ cemeteries to the end of their lives. (CBC)

“Deep in the mazy grey passages of Toronto’s CBC headquarters, Nunavut-born throat singer Riit is gleaming.” Carly Lewis profiles the Pangnirtung superstar and her latest album. (The Walrus)

Inuvik’s Logan Andrews made a vow to win the contest of his dreams: Mulletfest. He lost, but the experience of meeting other mullet wearers on a trip to Australia—where he lived in a rented camper van and couch-surfed for a month—was worth spending all those frequent flyer miles. (Cabin Radio)

Nunavut’s set to raise the territorial minimum wage to $16, the highest currently in Canada. It’s a three-dollar-an-hour jump, but still only 60 per cent of what an actual living wage would be for a Nunavut worker. (Nunatsiaq)

John Parker has died. He was 91. The former Yellowknife mayor and NWT commissioner most notably worked in the 1980s to hand off government control and authority from the commissioner's office to the territorial council (now Legislative Assembly). The Parker Line, the boundary between NWT and Nunavut, was named in his honour. He’s also the namesake for Parker’s Notch on Victoria Island. Here's a video interview on the 50th anniversary of the territorial government's move from Ottawa to Yellowknife, during which Parker speaks about his legacy: “I’d just be very happy if they remember me. But I would hope that if there’s any thought of it at all, that they would put me in the category of somebody who worked toward the development of representative and elected government in the territories.” (NNSL)
Look at this special little Snowflake project. (Via Snezhinkasrtation)


Russia is building an autonomous Arctic base to develop futuristic technology in a carbon-zero facility. Code-name ‘Snowflake’ will be home to researchers in telecommunication, biotech, clean agriculture, robotics, and artificial intelligence. (Vice)

What’s changed in the last 10, 20, and 30 years for women in Finland? Fewer penis postcards, at least. (YLE)

You come to Kamchatka for two reasons: bears and volcanoes. The Russian peninsula has both in greater abundance than anywhere else in the world, writes Carl Fincke. “But first things first. ‘Do you want alcohol?’” (Washington Post)

Finally, let's dig into the strange underworld of competition ice climbing. (Outside)

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