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This week in the Arctic: The Navy looks north

  • Author: Alaska News
  • Updated: August 26, 2016
  • Published April 1, 2016

Here are some of the stories from around the Arctic that we've been following this week:

The U.S. Navy turns its attention northward

The U.S. Navy has closed its camp on the Arctic Ocean sea ice (early, because of safety concerns, even as reports came that the ice reached its lowest extent ever), a part of its Ice Exercise 2016. The exercise wasn't only about testing military preparedness in the Arctic; scientists also accompanied the Navy, studying things like the layer of warm water called the Beaufort Lens. Elsewhere in the Arctic, the Navy is bringing planes back to Iceland for the first time in a nearly decade. Marc Lanteigne, a senior research fellow at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, writing in The Arctic Journal, says that move "reflects wider American concerns about Arctic security." Some of those concerns include a ramped-up Russian military presence in the region -- though U.S.-Russian cooperation within the Arctic remains stronger than elsewhere in the world.

The slow pace of getting new icebreakers

What did it mean that Canada's new Liberal government promised "enhanced icebreakers" for the Arctic? The Ottawa Citizen's David Pugliese had posed that question earlier and now he has his answer: "The term 'enhanced icebreakers' is simply a reference to what was already promised under the Conservative government's shipbuilding strategy. So no change. No new icebreakers. No additional numbers." In the U.S., meanwhile, where a program to build new polar icebreakers is also underway, one representative, California's Duncan Hunter, has expressed concerns about the potential for delays in the years-long acquisition process.

Further reading:

- Is the Crystal Serenity, set to sail the Northwest Passage from Seward to New York this summer, a new Titanic, asks The Guardian?

- Researchers in Svalbard are encasing tundra heather in ice, in hopes it will tell them about the hitherto unstudied effects of the warmer Arctic winters.

- Oil exploration permits granted to Shell in the 1970s have been a sticking point in efforts to protect waters of Nunavut's Lancaster Sound. In a fresh wrinkle, Greenpeace says it has evidence those permits expired decades ago, reports The Canadian Press.

- A 62-year-old member of Nunavut's legislature kept himself and family members alive -- in part by building an igloo with just a knife -- after becoming lost for eight days during a snowmachine trip from Iqaluit to Pangnirtung, reports Canada's National Post.