Archive for April, 2010

Ánde Somby performed wolf-joik at Malcom McLarens funeral

April 28, 2010

Ánde Somby wearing a green traditional gakti from Buolbmát (Polmak). It is from 1840 - before the famous preacher Lestadius got his breakthrough and made the Sami designs very spartanic.

A young Ánde Somby might already have heard The Sex Pistols when he performed at the Jokkmokk Festival in 1976.

Sami joik singer Ánde Somby (51, Norway) performed a version of the “Wolf joik” at Malcolm McLarens funeral in London April 22nd. About 400 people attended the closed ceremony at One Marleybone Curch in London.

McLaren, sometimes called “The Godfather of Punk”, invented and managed the popular punk band The Sex Pistols. He managed and produced many other bands before and after the Pistols, and he worked with film, visual art and fashion, his main point of entry to pop culture. He had a rare grip on media spin and a keen sense for picking out important undercurrents in culture.

“Bob Geldof jumped in his seat when I started my wolf joik. It is quite moving once it gets started.” Somby told Dagbladet.

A joik is not a song but a resonant melodic phrase, sung unaccompanied and repeated through various iterations with no fixed beginning or end. Traditionally utilised to induce a trance state in Sami shamans, it is a music essentially animist in nature. Joiks are not sung about something but considered a rhythmic signifier of the actual thing itself, be it a place, an event, a family member, associate or an animal, especially reindeer.

“My wolf joik fitted the circumstances quite well, as Malcolm McLaren was, in the best sense of the word, a wolf-like artist.” Somby said.

Somby was personally invited by Vivienne Westwood and McLarens son Joseph Corré to perform in the church ceremony before McLarens coffin was paraded through London to High Gate Cemetery.

Ánde Somby holds a post doctoral sholarship at the Law faculty at Tromsö University and sometimes practises as a legal professional outside the University. He has been an active joik performer since 1974, and has worked on albums with Inga Juusso and Nils Porsanger. His website has information about joik and Sami culture, and links to sound samples of different joiks, including the wolf joik. Read his terms of use and proceed to the joik samples here.

Rebels WITH a cause

Though no longer politically active, Ánde Somby once fronted young Sami activists “Samefront” (Sami Front) or ČSV for an interview with national newspaper VG in 1976. The letters ČSV (meaning “show Sami strength”) were understood in the press at the time to be an equivalent to AIM (American Indian Movement).

A young radical Ánde Somby in 1976. Fuelled, perhaps, by the energy of punk?

Official Norway had nearly wiped out Sami culture and treated Sami people like second-rate citizens, much like the authorities in the United States and Canada did to the American Indians and Inuits, but in the seventies a new cultural awareness was growing. Fuelled by the general civil rights movement of the late sixties and early seventies, but no doubt also by the energy of punk, young Samis picked up forbidden and forgotten cultural traditions and demanded actual rights to decide over their land. This movement culminated in the Alta Dam demonstrations 1979-81 where the whole norwegian environmental movement joined them and united over a common cause. The demonstrations and acts of civil disobedience were widely publicized and for the first time since the German occupation during World War II, Norwegians were arrested charged with violating laws “against rioting”. The hunger strikers in front of the parliament in the capital included Ándes brother Niillas Somby. People from all over Norway, including prominent intellectual figures, chained themselves to construction equipment in Alta to halt the proceedings. The demonstrations put the rights of Sami people to their lands on the national political agenda, even if the supreme court finally ruled the development of the Alta River legal in 1982 and construction started again.

When all was lost after the supreme court ruling, Niillas Somby and two other men decided to sabotage the construction of the dam with dynamite, but a faulty timing device set off the dynamite prematurely. Niillas Somby lost his arm and damaged an eye, and was initially charged with homicidal arson looking at a penalty of up to 21 years, even though the sabotage was to an uninhabited construction site. On leave from prison he escaped to Canada where he was adopted by the Nuxalk Nation in British Columbia. He was expelled from Canada in 1985 to serve a five month sentence for the sabotage.

Fittingly, McLarens final words were said to be “Free Leonard Peltier”. Leonard Peltier (born September 12, 1944) is an American activist and member of the American Indian Movement (AIM) who was convicted and sentenced in 1977 to two consecutive terms of life imprisonment for the murder of two Federal Bureau of Investigation agents during a 1975 shootout on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Jonas Qvale/Hornorkesteret

Auto-appendectomy in the Antarctic: case report

April 24, 2010

Vladislav Rogozov, consultant anaesthetist1,2, Neil Bermel, professor of Russian and Slavonic studies3

1 Department of Anaesthetics, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, Sheffield S10 2JF, 2 Department of Anaesthesiology and Resuscitation, Cardiac Centre, Institute of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Prague, 140 21, Czech Republic, 3 Department of Russian and Slavonic Studies, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S37RA

Correspondence to: V Rogozov v.rogozov@sheffield.ac.uk

The Russian surgeon Leonid Rogozov’s self operation, undertaken without any other medical professional around, was a testament to determination and the will to life

“A job like any other, a life like any other”—Leonid Rogozov

The ship Ob, with the sixth Soviet Antarctic expedition on board, sailed from Leningrad on 5 November 1960. After 36 days at sea she decanted part of the expedition onto the ice shelf on the Princess Astrid Coast. Their task was to build a new Antarctic polar base inland at Schirmacher Oasis and overwinter there. After nine weeks, on 18 February 1961, the new base, called Novolazarevskaya, was opened.

They finished just in time. The polar winter was already descending, bringing months of darkness, snowstorms, and extreme frosts. The sea had frozen over. The ship had sailed and would not be back for a year. Contact with the outside world was no longer possible. Through the long winter the 12 residents of Novolazarevskaya would have only themselves to rely on.

One of the expedition’s members was the 27 year old Leningrad surgeon Leonid Ivanovich Rogozov. He had interrupted a promising scholarly career and left on the expedition shortly before he was due to defend his dissertation on new methods of operating on cancer of the oesophagus. In the Antarctic he was first and foremost the team’s doctor, although he also served as the meteorologist and the driver of their terrain vehicle.

29 April 1961

After several weeks Rogozov fell ill. He noticed symptoms of weakness, malaise, nausea, and, later, pain in the upper part of his abdomen, which shifted to the right lower quadrant. His body temperature rose to 37.5°C.1 2 Rogozov wrote in his diary:

“It seems that I have appendicitis. I am keeping quiet about it, even smiling. Why frighten my friends? Who could be of help? A polar explorer’s only encounter with medicine is likely to have been in a dentist’s chair.”

As a surgeon Rogozov had no difficulty diagnosing acute appendicitis. In this situation, however, it was a cruel trick of fate. He knew that if he was to survive he had to undergo an operation. But he was in the frontier conditions of a newly founded Antarctic colony on the brink of the polar night. Transportation was impossible. Flying was out of the question, because of the snowstorms. And there was one further problem: he was the only physician on the base.

30 April

All the available conservative treatment was applied (antibiotics, local cooling), but the patient’s general condition was getting worse: his body temperature rose, vomiting became more frequent.1 2

“I did not sleep at all last night. It hurts like the devil! A snowstorm whipping through my soul, wailing like a hundred jackals. Still no obvious symptoms that perforation is imminent, but an oppressive feeling of foreboding hangs over me . . . This is it . . . I have to think through the only possible way out: to operate on myself . . . It’s almost impossible . . . but I can’t just fold my arms and give up.

“18.30. I’ve never felt so awful in my entire life. The building is shaking like a small toy in the storm. The guys have found out. They keep coming by to calm me down. And I’m upset with myself—I’ve spoiled everyone’s holiday. Tomorrow is May Day. And now everyone’s running around, preparing the autoclave. We have to sterilise the bedding, because we’re going to operate.

“20.30. I’m getting worse. I’ve told the guys. Now they’ll start taking everything we don’t need out of the room.”

Preparation for the operation

Following Rogozov’s instructions, the team members assembled an improvised operating theatre. They moved everything out of Rogozov’s room, leaving only his bed, two tables, and a table lamp. The aerologists Fedor Kabot and Robert Pyzhov flooded the room thoroughly with ultraviolet lighting and sterilised the bed linen and instruments.

As well as Rogozov, the meteorologist Alexandr Artemev, the mechanic Zinovy Teplinsky, and the station director, Vladislav Gerbovich, were selected to undergo a sterile wash. Rogozov explained how the operation would proceed and assigned them tasks: Artemev would hand him instruments; Teplinsky would hold the mirror and adjust the lighting with the table lamp; Gerbovich was there in reserve, in case nausea overcame either of the assistants. In the event that Rogozov lost consciousness, he instructed his team how to inject him with drugs using the syringes he had prepared and how to provide artificial ventilation. Then he gave Artemev and Teplinsky a surgical wash himself, disinfected their hands, and put on their rubber gloves for them.

When the preparations were complete Rogozov scrubbed and positioned himself. He chose a semi-reclining position, with his right hip slightly elevated and the lower half of the body elevated at an angle of 30°. Then he disinfected and dressed the operating area. He anticipated needing to use his sense of touch to guide him and thus decided to work without gloves.

The operation

The operation began at 2 am local time. Rogozov first infiltrated the layers of abdominal wall with 20 ml of 0.5% procaine, using several injections. After 15 minutes he made a 10-12 cm incision. The visibility in the depth of the wound was not ideal; sometimes he had to raise his head to obtain a better view or to use the mirror, but for the most part he worked by feel. After 30-40 minutes Rogozov started to take short breaks because of general weakness and vertigo. Finally he removed the severely affected appendix. He applied antibiotics in the peritoneal cavity and closed the wound. The operation itself lasted an hour and 45 minutes.1 2 Partway through, Gerbovich called in Yuri Vereshchagin to take photographs of the operation.

Figure 1
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Figure 2
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Gerbovich wrote in his diary that night3:

“When Rogozov had made the incision and was manipulating his own innards as he removed the appendix, his intestine gurgled, which was highly unpleasant for us; it made one want to turn away, flee, not look—but I kept my head and stayed. Artemev and Teplinsky also held their places, although it later turned out they had both gone quite dizzy and were close to fainting . . . Rogozov himself was calm and focused on his work, but sweat was running down his face and he frequently asked Teplinsky to wipe his forehead . . . The operation ended at 4 am local time. By the end, Rogozov was very pale and obviously tired, but he finished everything off.”

After the operation

Afterwards Rogozov showed his assistants how to wash and put away the instruments and other materials. Once everything was complete, he took sleeping tablets and lay down for a rest. The next day his temperature was 38.1°C; he described his condition as “moderately poor” but overall he felt better. He continued taking antibiotics. After four days his excretory function came back to normal and signs of localised peritonitis disappeared. After five days his temperature was normal; after a week he removed the stitches.1 2 Within two weeks he was able to return to his normal duties and to his diary.

8 May 1961

“I didn’t permit myself to think about anything other than the task at hand. It was necessary to steel myself, steel myself firmly and grit my teeth. In the event that I lost consciousness, I’d given Sasha Artemev a syringe and shown him how to give me an injection. I chose a position half sitting. I explained to Zinovy Teplinsky how to hold the mirror. My poor assistants! At the last minute I looked over at them: they stood there in their surgical whites, whiter than white themselves. I was scared too. But when I picked up the needle with the novocaine and gave myself the first injection, somehow I automatically switched into operating mode, and from that point on I didn’t notice anything else.

“I worked without gloves. It was hard to see. The mirror helps, but it also hinders—after all, it’s showing things backwards. I work mainly by touch. The bleeding is quite heavy, but I take my time—I try to work surely. Opening the peritoneum, I injured the blind gut and had to sew it up. Suddenly it flashed through my mind: there are more injuries here and I didn’t notice them . . . I grow weaker and weaker, my head starts to spin. Every 4-5 minutes I rest for 20-25 seconds. Finally, here it is, the cursed appendage! With horror I notice the dark stain at its base. That means just a day longer and it would have burst and . . .

“At the worst moment of removing the appendix I flagged: my heart seized up and noticeably slowed; my hands felt like rubber. Well, I thought, it’s going to end badly. And all that was left was removing the appendix . . .

“And then I realised that, basically, I was already saved.”

Leaving Antarctica

More than a year later the Novolazarevskaya team left Antarctica, and on 29 May 1962 their ship docked at Leningrad harbour. The next day Rogozov returned to his work at the clinic. Shortly thereafter he successfully defended his dissertation. He worked and taught in the Department of General Surgery of the First Leningrad Medical Institute. He never returned to the Antarctic and died in St Petersburg, as Leningrad had by then become, on 21 September 2000.

The boundary of the humanly possible

There are some references to auto-appendectomies in the literature. The earliest one was possibly that performed by Dr Kane in 1921 (although the operation was completed by his assistants).4 5 We know that Rogozov had not heard about it before he performed his operation.

Rogozov’s self operation was probably the first such successful act undertaken in the wilderness, out of hospital settings, with no possibility of outside help, and without any other medical professional around. It remains an example of determination and the human will for life. In later years Rogozov himself rejected all glorification of his deed. When thoughts like these were put to him, he usually answered with a smile and the words: “A job like any other, a life like any other.”6

Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b4965


Competing interest: VR is a son of Leonid Rogozov.

References

  1. Rogozov LI. Self operation. Soviet Antarctic Expedition Information Bulletin. Washington, DC: American Geophysical Union 1964;4:223-4.
  2. Rogozov LI. Operacija na sebe. Bjulleten sovietskoj antarkticheskoj ekspeditzii 1962;37:42-4.
  3. Gerbovich VI. Fragment from diaries in V proshlom u nego moglo byt bolshoe budushchee. Omsk Humanitarian Institute, 2007;63-185.
  4. Rennie D. Do it to yourself section: the Kane surgery. JAMA 1987;257:825-6.[Abstract/Free Full Text]
  5. Frost JG, Guy CC. Self-performed operations: with report of a unique case. JAMA 1936;106:1708-10.[Abstract/Free Full Text]
  6. Rogozov V. Operace vlastniho appendixu v Antarktide. Vesmir 2004;1(83):25-8.

Original article here

Iqaluit airport out of aviation gas

April 24, 2010

The Iqaluit airport has run out of aviation gasoline, which means some adventure pilots may have to change their flight plans.

Aviation gasoline, also known as av gas, is the type of fuel often used by private aircraft such as small propeller planes. Commercial airlines use jet fuel and therefore are not affected.

The aviation gasoline shortage does affect pilots of small planes that had planned to stop in Iqaluit en route to Europe.

“Iqaluit is certainly a place where we stop to refuel and enjoy the destination,” Thierry Pouille, president of Florida-based Air Journey, told CBC News on Wednesday.

Pouille, whose company guides pilots flying their own airplanes on extended trips to exotic locations, had planned to lead a group of seven planes to Iqaluit for an overnight refuelling stop as part of their trip to Iceland in June.

Instead, Pouille said they might have to stop in Kuujjuaq, Que., then on to Greenland.

“If there’s no av gas available then indeed, we have to look for plan B,” he said.

Aviation gas is shipped to Nunavut on the annual sealift resupply. Officials with the Nunavut government say there is minimal demand for the fuel and it’s available only at a handful of the territory’s airports.

But Uqsuq Corp., the aviation gas supplier in Iqaluit, says 2009 was an exceptional year for aviation gas sales.

In an email to CBC News, Uqsuq general manager Chris Coté said aerial survey operations based out of Iqaluit unexpectedly used up Uqsuq’s annual supply of aviation gas.

Cote said a fuel resupply is expected to arrive by ship in early to mid-July.

“Russian Arctic” National Park Will Not Be Opened In Time

April 23, 2010

Some 85% of the territory is covered by ice sheets. During a short summer the coastal area is bursting with polar poppies, moss and lichen. It is a stunning sight.

Moscow, Russia (RIA Novosti) Apr 21, 2010
An executive order on the formation of the “Russian Arctic” national park was signed last summer. Gennady Danilov, director of the federal natural reserve located on the territory of the archipelago, believes that the park ought to include Franz Joseph Land. It currently includes the northern part of the island Novaya Zemlya and several neighboring islands.

In an interview with RIA Novosti correspondent Alexander Kuleshov Danilov argues for the creation of a single, specially protected natural park. He also explains what could attract tourists to the Arctic and details the potential environmental threats Franz Joseph Land faces.

Question: Why do we need national parks in the Arctic?

Answer: Today we do not have any agency with oversight of economic activities and security either on Franz Joseph Land or Novaya Zemlya. There is a frontier post on Franz Joseph Land: 18 people merely asserting Russia’s presence on the archipelago. They do not protect anything and there are no floating factories there. This territory is essentially open to foreign vessels. There is a weather station on the island of Heiss.

The aim of creating the park is not only and not so much to preserve nature as to ensure national security. If territory is uninhabited it may be put under international control. This is why all countries assign the status of a national park to all uninhabited territories. This is what happens on Alaska, Greenland and the Canadian islands. Nobody can claim a territory with this status.

Q: What will this national park be like?

A: We believe this national park should include the territory of Franz Joseph Land and the northern part of Novaya Zemlya. But when this issue was discussed, some departments, including the Defense Ministry, insisted that only the north of Novaya Zemlya should be included into the national park, while Franz Joseph Land should retain its status of a federal wildlife reserve. Yet, in the future this will be an integral nature complex uniting the national park and the federal wildlife reserve. This complex will be under special protection.

Q: Will research be conducted there?

A: Of course, research has been and will be conducted on the territories of the park and the reserve. The Institute of the Arctic and the Antarctic is permanently involved in research there. The St. Petersburg Marine Geological Expedition worked there for several years. The Murmansk Marine Biological Institute conducted research there for four years. The Moscow Institute of Natural and Cultural Legacy at the Russian Academy of Sciences has operated there for over 20 years. The Norwegians are also engaged in research on these territories, and international expeditions have visited them as well.

Q: Which territories have been studied more – Franz Joseph Land or the northern part of Novaya Zemlya?

A: Novaya Zemlya has hardly been studied at all. Compared to Franz Joseph Land it is much less accessible and its flora and fauna has not been studied as much. Of course, when we organize tourist expeditions, we land there and walk by the shore. Last year, one Russian businessman completed the restoration of a winter hut in which the members of Willem Barentz’s expedition lived in 1596-1597. In theory, about 10 to 15 people can stay in such a hut for a time.

Q: When Prime Minister Vladimir Putin signed an executive order to form the national park, he publicly urged ministry officials to spend their vacation in the Arctic. Is tourism possible there at all?

A: It is possible and it exists. We bring about 400-900 tourists to the islands and the North Pole per year. The icy conditions allow tourists to come there during two or three months each year. Ships can travel to Novaya Zemlya and Franz Joseph Land but tourism there is not easy to organize. Now we conduct tours from Murmansk to Franz Joseph Land on board nuclear-powered icebreakers. From there we visit the North Pole and then return to Novaya Zemlya. During these cruises we land in some of the most interesting natural, historical and cultural places. Eventually we return to Murmansk. It is possible to travel to Novaya Zemlya on regular passenger vessels kitted out with ice reinforcement. However, government officials from the ministries have not visited the Arctic.

Q: Is it expensive to go there?

A: The average price of a two-week Arctic tour is between $20,000 and $30,000. All amenities are provided. The ships have comfortable cabins, bars, swimming pools and saunas. It is possible to land from a helicopter on any spot.

Q: What can tourists see there?

A: First of all, polar bears, walruses and whales. Up to 3,000 polar bears gather on Franz Joseph Land, Novaya Zemlya and Spitsbergen in July-August. There are 1,200 walruses on the biggest haul-out site on the island of Victoria. There are also narwhales and rare Dutch whales that were all but extinct by the early 20th century.

The environment there is very interesting, highly peculiar and beautiful. Some 85% of the territory is covered by ice sheets. During a short summer the coastal area is bursting with polar poppies, moss and lichen. It is a stunning sight. We also visit the historic locations where the first polar expeditions stayed. The descendants of members of the first expeditions come to pay their respects at the places discovered by their predecessors.

Only the coastline can be visited in the Russian Arctic national park. The inland territory is mud-laden and impassable even for off-road vehicles. These are low lands with clay marshlands.

Q: When will the Russian Arctic national park open? A document on its formation was signed last June, wasn’t it?

A: No sooner than in 2011 when field support bases open for the park’s workers and tourists and when an oversight agency is appointed. The government executive order said that this agency should be established in the first quarter of 2010. Nothing has been done so far and we are drafting a letter to the government on this score. Moreover, the organization of the complex will raise the issue of recycling waste oils on the islands of Franz Joseph Land.

Q: What is the estimated volume of waste oils there?

A: There are about 60,000 tons in up to 250,000 metal barrels on three islands of Franz Joseph Land. They are leftover from the operation of military facilities. Everyone agrees this is “the number one contamination hotspot.” Today, a dozen countries are ready to pay to clean up these territories. Many Russian agencies would like to undertake this but if the territories are proclaimed a specially protected national park, all contracts will be awarded through tenders and supervised by the park’s administration.

Q: What agencies are you referring to?

A: The Defense Ministry would like to do this work and receive the funds for it. This is why the park’s opening is being delayed under all kinds of pretexts. Several conferences involving international environmental organizations have been held on recycling waste oils. A number of agreements were reached but the war in Georgia obstructed their implementation.

Now international relations are returning to normal and I think we will soon resume these negotiations, all the more so since environmental issues in the Arctic will be particularly urgent during the development of the Stockman deposit.

Source: RIA Novosti
Original article here

// //

Second find of ancient dug-out canoe in Arklow by same man

April 23, 2010

A construction crew working on a highway in 1955 pulled up this dugout canoe from a Dutch bog. It’s almost 9 feet long and was radiocarbon-dated to 8500 B.C.

Tim O’Brien/Irish Times

For the second time in half a century, the remains of what appears to be a dug-out canoe have been discovered in Arklow, Co Wicklow. In a curious coincidence, both finds were by the same person, local man Peter Dempsey.

The National Museum of Ireland confirmed yesterday that the first discovery made in 1966 was a dug-out canoe which was recorded and photographed by the museum at the time.

Mr Dempsey, who is mayor of Arklow, said he was feeding ducks on the riverbank close to the locally known 19-arch bridge, when he saw the second canoe last Friday.

As the original canoe had been returned to the water after a record was made by the museum, Mr Dempsey said he initially thought his latest discovery was the same canoe.

However, Nessa O’Connor of the National Museum said photographs appeared to suggest it was a second canoe. Ms O’Connor said personnel from the museum would travel to Arklow to view the find, but from an initial perusal of the photographs, she said there was a strong likelihood that it was indeed a canoe.

Fashioned from trees as primitive boats, the canoes could be as much as 5,000 years old. The longest dug-out canoe found in Ireland is currently in the National Museum. With a length of about 56ft, it was found in Co Galway. It is thought it served as a primitive ferry.

While his first find was returned to the water, Mr Dempsey is hopeful space can be found for the latest discovery in the Maritime Museum in Arklow.

The dug-out requires a lot of care and must be kept immersed in water to stop it from drying out and disintegrating. It is currently being looked after in a local house where it is wrapped in wet bed sheets and regularly hosed down

“I think it may have floated down to Arklow after floods in March,” Mr Dempsey said.

The mayor said he had been telling his grandchildren about his 1966 find moments before he went outside to feed ducks on the riverbank and saw the latest find.

“I wondered was it the same canoe or was it part of it, but it seems to be a completely different one,” he said.

Original article here

Fuel restrictions in Antarctic Waters (NYT editorial)

April 23, 2010

Good map of Antarctica, Justhus Perthes See Atlas 1906 Inset maps of Cape town, Cape of good hope, Magalhaes strait, Hobart, Port Elizabeth

Published: April 22, 2010

Early this month, the International Maritime Organization — the United Nations agency that oversees maritime law — announced that large cruise ships will no longer be allowed to burn heavy fuel in Antarctic waters. This is a welcome step in protecting the harsh but delicate polar environment.

It is also part of a global effort to end the use of heavy, high-sulfur fuel in oceangoing ships. Burning heavy fuel throws highly polluting emissions into the atmosphere, and it poses a serious risk to marine life if spilled.

Gasoline and diesel, used in cars and trucks, are relatively light refined fuels, with strict limits on their sulfur content. The heavy fuel used in ships, including cruise ships, is called bunker fuel. It is basically the crude residue of refining — closer to asphalt than gasoline — mixed with diesel fuel.

The need to restrict these fuels has led the United Nations agency to begin creating Emission Control Areas, where tougher pollution standards, including a sharp reduction in sulfur and particulates, will be enforced.

The ban on high-sulfur fuel in Antarctica, which begins in August 2011, will effectively end visits by cruise ships carrying more than 500 passengers. It will also reduce the total number of Antarctic passenger visits from more than 15,000 a year to about 6,400, all of whom will be traveling on smaller, lighter and greener ships.

This is an important step and a welcome respite for the waters. And it will help drive the cruise industry — notorious polluters — to re-examine its essential mission.

After all, what’s the point of visiting the natural wonders of the nautical world if you leave a terrible stain behind when you leave?

Original article here

Scottish Arctic convoy veterans honoured by Russia

April 23, 2010


Scottish veterans of the World War Two Arctic convoys are to be honoured by Russia.

Thirty veterans are to be presented with commemorative medals marking the 65th anniversary of the end of World War Two by the Russian Consul General at a ceremony in Edinburgh.

During the war the convoys – described by Winston Churchill as the most dangerous of the war – travelled to the ports of Archangel and Murmansk located on the Barents Sea in the north of Russia.

The convoys consisted of merchant vessels escorted by warships, and a total of four million tons of supplies and munitions were supplied to the USSR between 1941 – 1945.

The journey was a hazardous one, passing close to Nazi occupied Norway, which left them vulnerable to attack by U-boats, surface vessels and German aircraft. Many of these convoys departed from Scotland.

Conditions also made the journeys treacherous. In the summer months long hours of daylight left the convoys vulnerable to attack, and in winter months severe cold would take its toll.

In one convoy, 21 of the 34 merchant ships in the group were lost as a consequence of German attacks.

During the course of the war, a total of 2,800 seamen were lost in the Arctic convoys.

Those who served in the Arctic convoys were not awarded a seperate medal by the British government, but in 2005 an Arctic Emblem was introduced for those who served on the convoys following a campaign by veterans.

By John Kilbride
Original article here

Emperor penguins counted by satellite (Wall Street Journal)

April 22, 2010

Antarctic census is one for the birds

Biologists count hard-to-find emperor penguins with satellite photos supplied by a U.S. intelligence agency

By ROBERT LEE HOTZ

McMurdo, Antarctica


Bird-watcher Philip Trathan is counting the emperor penguins here—from space. In the first complete census of these well-known birds, the British wildlife ecologist and his colleagues are scanning high-resolution satellite photos of Antarctica for penguins, like military analysts searching for Iranian rocket sites. In fact, their precision imagery comes from the U.S. National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. The photos are part of the roughly $25 million of commercial satellite images the agency buys every month for use by the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Department.

“You can count individual birds,” said Dr. Trathan, a penguin ecologist at the British Antarctic Survey, who is part of an international census team.

Their penguin census, which will be completed later this year, is the latest application of satellite mapping techniques that are transforming perceptions of Antarctica, where millions of square miles of ice blend into a wilderness of white, and only penguins are truly at home. In many ways, this shifting snowscape is as uncharted as the day explorers first sighted its mainland almost 200 years ago.

“Until last year, we had better maps of Mars than of Antarctica,” said Paul Morin, director of the University of Minnesota’s Antarctic Geospatial Information Center, which is funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation to use the unclassified intelligence imagery in science projects like the penguin survey. “We can now see one of the most inaccessible places on Earth, on demand,” Mr. Morin said.

With the newest high-resolution imagery, researchers can detect anything on the continent larger than an end table. At that scale, a four-foot-tall, 90-pound emperor penguin is just large enough to show up in a single pixel. Dressed by nature in darkly formal feather-wear, an emperor penguin stands out in high contrast against the ice, even when viewed by a camera moving at four miles a second in an orbit 423 miles overhead.

Still, the emperor penguins complicate the count by huddling together for warmth. On an especially cold day, as many as 10 of them can cram together on a square meter of ice—a space slightly larger than a single pixel. “If you have so many pixels of penguins,” said mapping expert Peter Fretwell at the British Antarctic Survey, “you have to decide how many penguins per pixel.” Wildlife biologists estimate the count will turn up between 200,000 and 400,000 breeding pairs.

Living across the continent’s 5.4 million square miles of polar ice, the emperor penguins are a bellwether that can help researchers detect subtle changes in climate and ocean conditions affecting all of Antarctica. Other penguin species wax and wane in response to changing regional winds, temperature trends and commercial fishing. But so far, no one knows how emperor penguins have responded to the changes, because there has been no easy way to find them all.

“Emperors are a really tricky species to get a handle on,” said Dr. Trathan. “At the moment, nobody really knows how threatened emperor penguins really are.”

It’s no wonder. The birds make themselves at home in two of Earth’s most inaccessible environments. No other bird dives deeper underwater, as far as 1,500 feet. No other creature breeds on the sea ice during Antarctica’s winter darkness, when temperatures drop to 80 degrees below zero and winds top 100 mph.

For years, field biologists based here at the U.S. McMurdo Station have tracked meandering emperors, bobbing like off-balance bowling pins, as they slip, slide and belly-flop over ridges of wind-rippled snow.

The new census is not the first time penguin watchers have tried satellites. By chance, researchers last year discovered they could detect vast stains of penguin excrement on the ice using older low-resolution satellite images. That revealed the locations of 38 emperor colonies, 10 of them never seen before, Dr. Trathan and his colleagues reported last June in the journal Global Ecology and Biogeography.

Still, they couldn’t actually see any penguins until they gained access to the newest images, which the intelligence agency buys from commercial satellite operators DigitalGlobe Inc. in Longmont, Colo., and GeoEye Inc. in Dulles, Va. Scientists hope the newest images will allow them to study emperor penguins without disturbing them—and without leaving their home laboratories.

“If you can do it from space,” said Dr. Trathan, “you can do it from your desk.”

Printed in The Wall Street Journal Europe, page 33

Original article here

Race for Arctic Energy Riches Heats Up

April 22, 2010

By Peter C. Glover, ET Europe Associate Editor

Ed. Note: “The Arctic: Territory of Dialogue” conference in Moscow has been postponed because of the volcanic eruption in Iceland. It has been rescheduled to take place sometime in September.

Race for Arctic Energy Riches Heats Up

When Vladimir Putin calls for international dialogue and personally attends the resulting conference, you know Russia means business. Whether the intention is that the international cards are dealt fairly or the flim-flam of talking shop PR diplomacy, is hard to say. But the whimsically titled “The Arctic: Territory of Dialogue” conference on the future of the Arctic’s oil and gas riches represents new Cold War intrigue writ large.

The race for the Arctic’s energy bonanza is heating up. If you were in any doubt, check out this conference season. Last month, Canada hosted a summit of Arctic Ocean Foreign ministers from the littoral nations, i.e. Canada, the US, Russia, Denmark and Norway. It was billed as Canada finally taking its Arctic initiative seriously. But the conference only hit the headlines when US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized the organizers for excluding other interested parties, especially the indigenous peoples and Iceland, Finland and Sweden.

In June, the Adam Smith Conferences will host the Russian Arctic Oil and Gas conference, this, again, in Moscow. But with the Arctic Council already supposedly the carriers of the torch for the new international Arctic “arrangements” why inaugurate yet another series of international talking shops?

Well, one major clue comes with the priority of the organizing group, the Russian Geographical Society (RGS), and with those invited as speakers and guests. The RGS, historically, is far better known for its environmental rather than energy concerns, as a review of its new “The Arctic” website confirms. According to Svetlana Mironyuk of Ria Novosti news agency, which is responsible for micro-managing the event, the conference will be “the first large project of the revived Russian Geographical Society.”

And, while Prince Albert of Monaco, the Aspen Institute Arctic Commissioner, is the honorary guest, it appears that he and Putin are the only invited statesmen. According to Mironyuk, this underscores the point Putin wants to make, that Arctic territory disputes are matters to be left to the “explorers and scientists.” Making the call for international dialogue in an address to the RGS in mid-March, Putin began with the politics: “There has been much ado around the Arctic region. You know how the [Russian] flag was erected [on the seabed] and how negatively our neighbours reacted to this. Nobody has stopped them erecting their own flags. Let them do it. But we work under the rules established by the United Nations and in line with maritime laws.”

Putin soon moved to other more esoteric matters. Indeed his RGS audience must have thought that Al Gore had been parachuted in as the Russian Prime Minister made an impassioned plea … to save the polar bears. Putin said, “The number of polar bears continues to decline. In fact, they are on the verge of extinction. Of course, this must not be allowed, and the polar bear should be preserved not only in zoos, but in wildlife also.”

Leaving aside that polar bears are actually currently thriving, as recent studies have shown, one can only gasp that the Russian PM has apparently found environmentalism being converted to a sudden concern for the Arctic wildlife. Am I being a little cynical perhaps, or is all this a clear indication that Putin is building an international case for Russia as the key Defender of the Arctic environment, to further bolster Russian geographical claims? You call it.

Meanwhile, if Russia is serious about taking the initiative in reducing growing tensions over Arctic territorial and mineral rights and potential future conflict, then there are certainly plenty of tensions around to defuse. Russia and the US have yet to resolve a long-standing demarcation dispute in the north Pacific; the US and Canada are arguing over large areas of the Beaufort sea; Denmark is wrangling with Canada over claims in Greenland; and there’s Norway’s claim to a massive portion of Russia’s continental shelf in the Barents Sea. Britain, too, has lately made a claim in the north Atlantic giving it “Arctic access.”

Then there are, of all things, China’s Arctic claims.

Currently on a worldwide metals and energy shopping spree, China too has shifted its eyes to the vast new energy frontier beckoning under the Arctic. China clearly has no intention of being dealt out of the Great Arctic Energy Game. Beijing has gained observer-status at the Arctic Council. It has opened research stations in Norway, at Spitzgen. It owns the world’s largest, Soviet-bought, ice-breaker with which it already plies Arctic waters. Though China has no rights to Arctic shelf deposits per se, it understandably has a serious interest in the region’s strategic and economic future. Not least, over new oil and gas fields, the settling of the legal rules for the polar oceans, border demarcations and, particularly, newly navigable Arctic waterways; shipping lanes that could significantly reduce the length of China’s westbound trading routes.

With potentially 15% of the world’s total hydrocarbon reserves at stake, Putin plainly wants to position Russia as the key dealer at the new Arctic energy table. He has a credible case. The RGS claims that 80 percent of the “Arctic land” is governed by the Russian Federation and Canada. And a US study in June 2009, authored by Californian geologist Dr. Donald Gautier, has acknowledged that Russia, with the longest Arctic border and its army of nuclear ice-breakers, does indeed “own the rights” to most of the Arctic’s energy riches. Gautier stresses: “Russia is already the world’s largest producer of natural gas, and so our findings suggest that the undiscovered resources are going to have the effect of more or less reinforcing that Russian strategic strength with respect to its natural resource potential.” Just what Europe, the US, China and Japan need — Russian calling the shots on a sizeable chunk of the world’s oil and gas resources for decades to come. No wonder Putin perceives an unprecedented opportunity to offer international seats to the Arctic Great Game, in anticipation that most won’t want to straggle in late being dealt out altogether.

Russia, like any new frontier pioneer, is going to need partners to overcome the enormous technological difficulties that lie ahead. Putin is no fool. By taking the roundtable diplomatic initiative as the leading Arctic energy power and chief protector of the Arctic environment, the new “green” Putin believes that “jaw-jaw” – on Russian terms, of course – is clearly better for business than energy “war-wars.”

The conference thus amounts to an invitation to interested parties to offer an international blessing to a betrothal and something of a marriage of convenience between the Russian and the Polar bear. Kismet, so Putin might believe, given that “Arctic”, from arktos, is the Greek word for bear.

Original article here

‘Man Who Ate His Boots’ An Arctic Tragedy (NPR)

April 22, 2010

April 17, 2010

Listen to the show here

Sir John FranklinThe Man Who Ate His Boots is the tragic tale of British explorers and their numerous failed attempts to find an Arctic sea passage connecting Europe to Asia. The search for the Northwest Passage captivated the British imagination and sent many men to their deaths. Host Guy Raz speaks with author Anthony Brandt about his new book as well as its most famous character, Sir John Franklin, whose final disastrous expedition ended in cannibalism.

Copyright © 2010 National Public Radio®. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

GUY RAZ, host:

If you’ve ever read Mary Shelly’s “Frankenstein,” you’ll recall that early scene when Captain Walton’s ship becomes trapped in Arctic Sea ice. The crew had been trying to reach the North Pole when a mysterious ghost-like monster appears in the distance.

Well, Ms. Shelly was writing during a period in British history when the country was gripped by the race to find Northwest Passage. Napoleon had just been defeated:

Mr. ANTHONY BRANDT (Author, “The Man Who Ate His Boots”): The world was England’s to conquer. If the ice was impenetrable, if the odds were impossible, no matter. They were Englishmen, members of a superior race, the children of destiny.

RAZ: That’s Anthony Brandt reading from his new book, “The Man Who Ate His Boots.” It’s about Britain’s obsessive search to find a sea passage through the Arctic that could connect Europe to Asia.

The most famous and tragic expedition was led by Sir John Franklin. In 1845, he led two ships and 129 men through the ice-covered waterways above the Canadian mainland. Not one man survived.

For that story, we’re joined by Anthony Brandt. He’s in our New York bureau. Welcome to the program.

Mr. BRANDT: Well, thank you.

RAZ: Before we talk about the famous Franklin expedition of 1845, set the scene for us. I mean, how much did this quest to find a northwest passage capture the imagination of the British public in the early 19th century?

Mr. BRANDT: Well, it was an old quest that had been going on for 300 years, or nearly 300 years by that time. And the public was very enthusiastic that it was being renewed after the Napoleonic wars. The country was feeling good about itself. This had been a historic mission that the English had assigned themselves to do many centuries before. They felt it was their time and that nothing could stop them.

RAZ: There were a series of these expeditions, and about at least 15 of them until 1845 when Britain’s admiralty decides to sponsor a new expedition, again, to find the Northwest Passage. John Franklin is tapped to lead this expedition but he was the last choice, right?

Mr. BRANDT: He was the last choice. He was 59 years old. He had no business doing this again but he was trying to save his reputation.

RAZ: I mean, he had already been on a few of these expeditions before.

Mr. BRANDT: Right.

RAZ: And he wasn’t sort of a hero out of central casting. He was described as, quote, “looking something like a stuffed bear.”

Mr. BRANDT: Yes. He was pudgy. He said if he had to walk around on the ice, he probably wasn’t the person to do it. But all he had to do was stay on ship and direct things.

RAZ: So, the journey starts out okay but what happens sort of a few weeks in?

Mr. BRANDT: They left Baffin Bay in August, I think, of 1845. They headed into Lancaster Sound and nobody saw them after that. Not a word came out. They disappeared for three years. And in 1848, the admiral team got worried and said we got to look for them and find them. Eleven years they searched for them.

What they found eventually was a single piece of paper describing up to a certain point what had happened. They had gotten trapped in the ice after their first year unable to move. The ice was slowly taking them, drifting them south at the rate of about 14, 15 miles a month, maybe not even that fast. And it was clearly polar ice, thick ice, and there was no way out. They had been trapped there for two years.

RAZ: And most of the crew survives for these two years. The survivors do abandon the ships and eventually, everybody died. They had plenty of food. Why didn’t they survive?

Mr. BRANDT: It’s not fresh food and scurvy was the scourge of all sea voyages at the time. You need vitamin C on a daily basis. It only comes in fresh food, and they took enormous quantities of lemon juice. But after six months, nine months a year, lemon juice loses the vitamin C. It’s a fragile chemical and it kind of disintegrates.

So, by the end of two years, usually 18 months, scurvy will appear. And unless you have fresh meat or fresh vegetables, it will very rapidly start killing people.

RAZ: And there’s evidence that suggests that the crewmembers who eventually left the ship actually had to eat the others who died.

Mr. BRANDT: Well, what they did when they left the ships was they did some peculiar things. They dragged boats with them filled with their silverware and with odd – with tons of clothing that they didn’t need. You wonder if they had sort of lost their reason at some point. But the evidence of cannibalism is irrefutable. At some point, they started eating their dead. There are many, many bones that survive with saw marks on them. And the only reason you cut into a bone with a saw is so that you can put the limb or whatever it is into a pot and cook it.

And there was a huge controversy when evidence came back that they had resorted to cannibalism. The English were very, very upset about that.

RAZ: Anthony Brandt, the Passage wasn’t navigated until 1903 when the Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen, did it. Now, of course, you can do it as a tourist in an icebreaker. And in fact, in 2007, for the first time in recorded history, there was almost no sea ice in the Passage at all, which seems like a kind of a fitting epilogue to the story that you tell.

Mr. BRANDT: You have to imagine ice that’s 40 feet thick. That’s as thick as a four-story building is tall. That’s thick. And if you had seen it, you would never believe that it would never melt. Now, it melts.

RAZ: That’s Anthony Brandt. His new book is called “The Man Who Ate His Boots.” It charts the history of the search for the famed Northwest Passage.

Anthony Brandt, thank you so much.

Mr. BRANDT: It’s my pleasure.

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