November 22, 2019

Guarding against polar bears. Plus, chaos at CBC North, rugby-playing belugas, time-travelling Greta Thunbergs, and a pessimism festival in Finland.

Don't get downwind of a polar bear. In fact, don't go anywhere near a polar bear.


What a week for regional journalism. First, CBC North's management announced (internally) that it would merge its three northern newscasts into a pan-territorial broadcast. Cabin Radio broke the story and the outrage was swift. Everyone from national reporters to CBC's own employees and even the Yukon government condemned the move. Management relented to the pressure and reversed its decision after 48 hours.

“I was emotionally overwhelmed on air this morning,”
wrote Trailbreaker host Loren McGinnis about the change-of-mind by his bosses. “I’ve never felt so deeply that what we do is valued... I will be grateful for that show of support from our audience for the rest of my life.”

At the same time as that situation was unfolding, TorStar also
announced it was shutting down its Metro Commuter papers across the country, laying off 100 editorial staff. Ryerson instructor Hayley Watson and former Northerner (and Up Here contributor) Jimmy Thomson organized a condolence fund, raising over $2,000 that was donated to the impacted newsrooms across the country to buy themselves a round at the bar. 

It's getting harder and harder for a journalistic publication to survive, especially in remote locations, which makes it all the more important to support and preserve those that do. So, on that shameless note, if you like what we do in Up Here, think about subscribing? 

As always, thanks for reading,
Jacob Boon 

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Speaking of woeful media times, does anyone want to buy a newspaper in Skagway? The entire newspaper, that is. Publisher Larry Persily is offering his paper free to a good home, provided the new owners move to the tiny Alaskan community. (Associated Press)

“I’m not poor.” Kent Driscoll with APTN interviews Ooloosie Saila, the subject of the now-infamous New York Times article on Cape Dorset. (APTN)

Lori Fox is a wizard with animal stories. She’s written delightful profiles about such northern species as ermines, wolverines, pikas, and ravens. Now, she turns her attention to pike: “the ‘gator’ of the northern lakes.” (Yukon News)

The Queen of England has ditched buying any new fur and northern trappers aren’t impressed. Or, they wouldn’t be impressed if any of them could be reached for comment. Kind of difficult to get a quote from a trapper between August and January as they're “all out on their lines currently.” (CBC)

Time-travelling climate activist....or just some random Yukoner?

A girl who sort of, a little bit, if you squint, kind of looks like Greta Thunberg was found in a Yukon gold rush photo from the 1890s. Naturally, the internet went straight to time travel theories. (CTV)

The Yukon’s oldest commercial radio station celebrated its 50th anniversary this week. CKRW began broadcasting from Whitehorse in 1969, founded by local businessman Rolf Hougen. You can read Up Here’s history of the Hougen business empire from back in June right here. (CBC)

Careful on those floatplanes. The Transportation Safety Board says a design problem in Cessna 206 planes—that's been known about and unaddressed for decades—contributed to the death of three people in a crash last August in Nahanni National Park. (Canadian Press)

“After considering dozens of claims for compensation totalling millions of dollars, the team overseeing the cleanup of Giant Mine has arrived at a total amount it feels should be paid out for damages caused by the cleanup—zero.” (RCI)

Finally, Harrison Ford and his terrifying CGI dog journey to the Yukon in a new FILM adaptation of Jack London’s The Call of the Wild. Check out the trailer at the link. (The Wrap)
Working with polar bears “isn't about what you do when you have a bad encounter, but what you do to prevent them.” PHOTO: Michael Ginzburg


There aren’t just scientists locked in the ice aboard the Polarstern Arctic expedition. Keeping all those eggheads safe are polar bear guards like Michael Ginzburg. “On his daily patrol, Ginzburg will use binoculars to scan the sea ice—not just for fur, but for the signs that might precede or follow a bear’s presence: the alluring silhouette of a seal, or a fat set of footprints in the snow. A keen nose also helps. ‘Bears are very smelly,’ he says. ‘You can tell if they’re coming downwind.’” (PBS)

A viral video of a rugby-playing Beluga is most-likely a Russian “spy whale” that escaped to the Norwegian coast last spring. There's a sentence you don't write every day. (High North News)

Greenland’s largest airport will be closing due to climate change. The permafrost underneath the runway is melting, necessitating a relocated facility. (Novinite)

Russia’s Arctic expansion isn’t all nuclear submarines or military exercises, writes John Thompson. A small and furry Russian export is gaining a strong foothold in Svalbard. “We’re talking about the sibling vole—a mouse-like critter about half the size of an arctic lemming.” (Nunatsiaq)

How spending a year, 4,600 miles from home, on an isolated northern Russian peninsula brought an American writer’s debut novel to the finals of the National Book Awards. (Business Insider)

Puolanka has turned pessimism into a brand. The remote Finnish municipality was consistently cited in demographics as having the worst of, well, everything in the region. So they turned into the skid, putting up highway signs advising visitors to turn back and hosting an annual pessimism festival. “Alright, we’re the worst, but we’ll be the best worst in Finland.” (BBC)
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