More beautiful pictures of black grouse on this finnish page
For a stunningly realized thesis project submitted last month at the University of California, Berkeley, Taylor Medlin focused on what he called “Towards a New Antarchitecture.” Presented through a combination of miniature wax models and sculpted ice, the project aimed to show how new, more sustainable construction techniques could be developed for the continent of Antarctica.
The overall project statement read as follows:
Antarctica, the most recently explored large land mass in the world, is also currently one of the most unsustainable place on the earth when viewed through the lens of construction techniques. There are over sixty research stations from thirty different countries already built on the continent, all of which are completely constructed out of materials foreign to Antarctica, necessitating huge logistical resources to set up and maintain life there. Though some stations have begun to experiment with energy collection techniques, most remain completely dependent on diesel generators consuming fossil fuels brought from the mainland. Is it possible to develop construction techniques that take into consideration the materials already present in Antarctica as building blocks for design? And furthermore, what are the possibilities for energy production and conservation that have not yet been explored?
Through the design of a methodology of construction relating to ongoing research stations in Antarctica, I wish to show the plausibility and environmental advantages of designing research stations through the utilization of ice as a principal construction material.
Read the full article with more pictures here
Reuters February 26, 2010
SINGAPORE – An iceberg the size of Luxembourg has broken off from a glacier in Antarctica after being rammed by another giant iceberg, scientists said on Friday, in an event that could affect ocean circulation patterns.
The 2,500 sq km (965 sq mile) iceberg broke off earlier this month from the Mertz Glacier’s 160 km (100 miles) floating tongue of ice that sticks out into the Southern Ocean.
The collision has since halved the size of the tongue that drains ice from the vast East Antarctic ice sheet.
“The calving itself hasn’t been directly linked to climate change but it is related to the natural processes occurring on the ice sheet,” said Rob Massom, a senior scientist at the Australian Antarctic Division and the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Co-operative Research Centre in Hobart, Tasmania.
Both organisations, along with French scientists, have been studying existing giant cracks in the ice tongue and monitored the bumper-car-like collision by the second iceberg, B-9B.
This 97 km long slab of ice is a remnant of an iceberg of more than 5,000 sq km that broke off, or calved, in 1987, making it one of the largest icebergs ever recorded in Antarctica.
The Mertz glacier iceberg is among the largest recorded for several years. In 2002, a iceberg about 200 km long broke off from Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf. In 2007, a iceberg roughly the size of Singapore broke off from the Pine Island Glacier in West Antarctica.
Massom said the shearing off of the ice tongue and the presence of the Mertz and B-9B icebergs could affect global ocean circulation.
The area is an important zone for the creation of dense, salty water that is a key driver of global ocean circulation. This is produced in part through the rapid production of sea ice that is continually blown to the west.
“Removal of this tongue of floating ice would reduce the size of that area of open water, which would slow down the rate of salinity input into the ocean and it could slow down this rate of Antarctic bottom water formation,” he said.
He said there was a risk both icebergs would become grounded on banks or shoals in the area, disrupting the creation of the dense, salty water and the amount that sinks to the bottom of the ocean, he said.
Oceans act like a giant flywheel for the planet’s climate by shifting heat around the globe via myriad currents above and below the surface.
You’ve heard about the Pacific garbage patch and the Atlantic garbage patch, each a sobering sign of how when we throw things away, they don’t go “away” — they often go into the sea, where they remain for a long, long time.
Much of the global ocean remains uncharted in terms of pollution, but unfortunately the more we look, the more we find. And now even the most remote, pristine waters on the planet — the coastal seas of Antarctica — are being invaded by plastic debris.
In a series of surveys conducted during the austral summer of 2007-2008, researchers at the British Antarctic Survey and Greenpeace trawled the region, skimming surface waters and digging into the seabed. Even in the exceedingly remote Davis and Durmont D’Urville seas they found errant fishing buoys and a plastic cup. Plastic packaging was found floating in the Amundsen Sea (see map).
It doesn’t sound like much, but finding trash in the far corners of the planet is a worrying sign. The research team, led by David Barnes of the British Antarctic Survey, believe the debris they found represents the leading edge of a tide of man-made refuse that is just now starting to make its way into the most secluded parts of our oceans.
If there’s good news, it’s this: sledges dragged along the seafloor turned up a healthy, vibrant Antarctic ecosystem, and nothing else. Plastic bits are ubiquitous in beach sands and coastal sediments throughout much of the world, but the reach of humanity’s profound plastic habit and throw-away culture has so far failed to reach the bottom of these southern seas.
The researchers, though, have a gloomy outlook for what they might find in a future trip to the region. In a letter to the journal Marine Environmental Research, they write:
The seabeds immediately surrounding continental Antarctica are probably the last environments on the planet yet to be reached by plastics, but with pieces floating into the surface of the Amundsen Sea this seems likely to change soon. Our knowledge now touches every sea, but so does our legacy of lost and discarded plastic.
Original article here
By Randy Boswell, Canwest News Service June 22, 2010
The Canadian government has put the world on notice that ships entering the country’s Arctic waters will be subject to new mandatory vessel-tracking rules next week aimed at preventing terrorist activity and pollution while improving search-and-rescue capabilities in the Far North.
But the strict new measures — generally welcomed by opposition parties and specialists in northern geopolitics — have raised some concerns with the U.S. government, it was revealed at a news conference in Ottawa on Tuesday.
Polar experts had pressured the federal government for years to replace Canada’s voluntary NORDREG ship-registration system for northern maritime traffic, widely seen as inadequate in an era when melting ice and rising global interest in Arctic tourism, science and economic development are increasing ship traffic in the region.
The government announced in late February it was doing just that. And at Tuesday’s news conference, Fisheries Minister Gail Shea — whose department oversees Canadian Coast Guard operations — reiterated that the new rules coming into effect on Canada Day aim to both protect the northern environment and assert Canadian sovereignty.
“Our government and Prime Minister Harper have always asserted that a strong and sovereign Canada depended on a healthy, prosperous and secure North,” said Shea.
“The world has their eyes set on the unprecedented economic growth opportunities, in particular in the mining and oil and gas sectors,” she added. “We can all expect this to mean more shipping in the Arctic.”
But a senior Transport Canada official acknowledged that the U.S. — which views the Northwest Passage as an international strait beyond Canada’s exclusive jurisdiction — expressed “mixed” feelings about the new regulations.
“The U.S. has sort of a mixed view of it,” the official stated. “They recognize for the purposes of pollution prevention and safety of navigation, that such measures are a good idea. On the other hand, they do like to maintain the freedom to navigate. They’re keen about that — they have a large navy.”
Canada considers the Northwest Passage part of this country’s “internal waters.” Under a long-standing arrangement that acknowledges Canada and the U.S. “agree to disagree” on the legal status of the Arctic shipping route, U.S vessels voluntarily alert Canada to their planned presence in the passage and Canada agrees not to interfere with their voyages.
The new ship-tracking regime, called the Northern Canada Vessel Traffic Services Zone, will regulate the movement of cargo carriers, cruise ships and other large vessels moving through the Northwest Passage and throughout the waters of the Canadian Arctic archipelago.
The system falls short of a recent Senate committee’s recommendation that all sizes of vessels should be forced to register their northern voyages with the coast guard.
But Shea said the regime taking effect July 1 covers all vessels seen as posing a serious threat of polluting Arctic waters.
The government’s plan requires mandatory registration for ships of 300 tonnes or more, for tugs with a two-ship weight of 500 tonnes or more and for any vessel carrying dangerous goods or potential pollutants.
The new rules, Shea stated, will work to prevent pollution of Arctic waters and also to help the coast guard and other federal agencies respond quickly to oil spills, search-and-rescue requests and other northern emergencies.
In announcing the planned measures in February, the government had pointedly noted that, “the proposed regulations would apply to both Canadian and foreign vessels, and are consistent with international law regarding ice-covered areas.”
But as early as 2008, when Harper first indicated his government’s intention to move toward a mandatory ship-registration system, he acknowledged that the move could rile other nations.
“It’ll be interesting to see,” he said during an August 2008 visit to the Arctic. “I expect that some countries may object.”
But he added: “I think it ultimately is in everybody’s interest to ensure there is some kind of authority in the area, some kind of environmental and commercial authority. . . . We have no particular power play here.”
Last year, the government also introduced stiffer pollution-prevention regulations for Arctic waters, doubling to 370 kilometres the offshore distance over which Canadian rules would apply.
“These measures will send a clear message to the world: Canada takes responsibility for environmental protection and enforcement in our Arctic waters,” Harper said when those measures were introduced.
Archaeologists excavate bones of sacrificial animals from the vicinity of sites; the Ukonkivi seita has been nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
By Jussi Konttinen in Inari, Finnish Lapland
The low rays of the sun caress the rough surface of a strange stone arrangement on the shore of Inari Lake in Sápmi, or Finnish Lapland.
In the shallow water sits a boulder, on top of which rests the Päällyskivi (“Top Stone”), the shape of which resembles the head of an elk. The top stone is supported by three smaller stones.
“Everything suggests that this is a seita”, says Inari Sámi seita expert Ilmari Mattus, while observing the construction.
“An old tale that even embraces Christianity supports the notion. According to the tale Päivän Olavi (Olavi of the Day), a famous seita destroyer, would have snatched the rock here.”
Seitas, or the old sacred places of the Sámi people, have become the subject of renewed interest. The name varies, depending on the local Sámi dialect, and the places are also known as sieidis or Storjunkare.
The Academy of Finland is funding a four-year research project, in connection with which six seitas have already been examined. The archaeologists from the University of Oulu have performed small-scale excavations in the vicinity of the seitas.
The studies have already produced some results.
“Based on radiocarbon dating, the oldest findings have been dated back to the 12th century”, says archaeologist Tiina Äikäs.
Next to most of the examined sacred places the bones of animals, such as reindeer, goats, sheep, or various types of bird and fish species have been located.
Animal offerings were presented to seitas in hopes for better luck with fishing or hunting. Sometimes such proceedings included brushing the stone with blood or fat.
This summer season the excavations will continue in Termisvaara in the far northern municipality of Enontekiö. Divers will start exploring the seitas surrounded by water.
Most known seitas are unusually shaped stones. At one time Christian priests destroyed seitas, but the indigenous Sámi people themselves are also known to have taken them apart, if they have not been propitious.
Behind Inari Lake’s Päällyskivi seita rises the Ukonsaari Island, or Äijih in Sámi, the holiest of the holy places for the Inari Sámi people, The name refers to the highest-ranked of the gods.
A previously unknown seita was discovered on Ukonsaari when the Oulu archaeologists combed through it in 2007.
“It is a stone with a face resembling that of an angry animal. From a nearby hole more than 400 bones were discovered, many of which had been burned. The oldest of them according to dating was the humerus of a swan”, explains Ilmari Mattus.
Another known Äijih is located on Inari Lake closer to the village of Inari itself. It is a peculiarly shaped high island, where there is a sacrificial cave.
Even though the island was already examined in the 19th century, there, too, new discoveries have been made in connection with the recent year’s excavations.
The island has been put forward as a possible UNESCO World Heritage Site.
But how do the present Sámi people view their seitas?
Are the old sacrificial sites perchance still in use today?
“Nobody would admit that they worship nature gods. But I do believe such practices still exist”, says Ilmari Mattus.
In Finland, around 50 seitas have been registered as historic relics, but in reality there are many more.
Some of the sacred places are known only to locals, who do not wish to tell their precise whereabouts.
“A few wooden seitas, so-called keropää seitas, also still exist. I cannot reveal where they are, for I have been told about them in confidence”, says archaeologist Eija Ojanlatva.
“This is a typical problem a researcher can run into. An archaeologist should strictly speaking inform the National Board of Antiquities of his or her findings.”
In the ongoing projects only seitas that are publicly known have been studied. The bones that have been collected for closer analysis will be returned later.
In the future the seita studies may be broadened in such a way that sacrificial places are sought based on hints from place-names.
Some of the Sámi people take a reserved stand on the studies.
“One should ask what the benefit of this study is. The Sámi community should first hold an internal dialogue on the subject. When information is entered into a registry by the National Board of Antiquities this speaks volumes of how the situation is not under the control of the Sámi people”, says former chairman of the Sami Council Pauliina Feodoroff.
Feodoroff’s personal opinion is that the sacred portion of what is considered “cultural heritage” should be off-limits to outsiders.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 13.6.2010
Original article here
By Juliet O’Neill, Canwest News Service June 17, 2010
OTTAWA — The government should get cracking on implementing Nunavut land claims and involving Indigenous peoples more in protecting Arctic sovereignty, the House of Commons defence committee said Thursday.
An all-party report expressed “concern” that Indigenous peoples have not been accorded proper recognition for their historic role in helping ensure Canada’s sovereignty in the Arctic by living in the region.
“The assertion that our sovereignty depends largely on Inuit occupation of the region are a bit hollow if we continue to lag on our commitments to the Inuit and prolong the failure to implement the Nunavut land claims agreement,” Jack Harris, New Democratic Party defence critic, said at a news conference by committee members.
The MPs also recommended the Arctic Council should be strengthened, the government should re-establish the office of Arctic ambassador, create a cabinet committee on Arctic affairs and give priority to resolving a dispute over the Beaufort Sea with the United States.
The report generally supported the broad direction of government policy but chair Maxime Bernier said the recommendations aim to ensure Canada has the right tools. While the committee concluded the Canadian Forces are equipped to defend the region, it was concerned the building of Arctic patrol ships and the icebreaker John G. Diefenbaker are falling significantly behind schedule.
The committee recommended the government make development and long-term maintenance of viable Indigenous communities a priority and ensure that the Inuit be included in Northern environment scientific projects.
“It is especially important that Canada’s Indigenous peoples be an integral part of any decision making process affecting policies regarding the Arctic,” the report said. “In line with this, we believe it important that outstanding land claims in the region be settled quickly.”
Harris issued a supplementary report emphasizing the long-stalled process of implementing the 1993 Nunavut Land Claims Agreement.
“After 17 years, only 50 per cent of the agreement has been implemented,” he said, citing provision of educational services as a key to the future of Nunavut’s ability to run its own affairs and participate in national and international decision making about the Arctic.
“We must stress the importance and urgency for the government of Canada to fulfil its obligations to our indigenous partners in the Arctic.”
The committee heard testimony that a dispute resolution mechanism in the agreement was not working and Inuit leader Mary Simon had told the committee that “along with the building of military infrastructure in the region we also need to build sustainable communities.”
The committee said “Canada’s legal title to its Arctic territories is well established” and there is no immediate military threat to Canadian territories either in or “through” the Arctic. But it said that “given the increased interest and anticipated activity in the Arctic, Canada needs to increase its ‘presence’ in the region.”
Meanwhile, Operation Nanook, the Canadian Forces’ summer Arctic sovereignty exercise, moves north of the Arctic Circle for the first time this summer, and in a twist will include ships from the Danish and American navies, plus a ship and dive team from the United States Coast Guard.
The participation by the Danes and Americans is notable for a Canadian sovereignty exercise, since Canada has lingering offshore boundary disputes with both Denmark and the U.S.
With a file from the Nunatsiaq News
Hornorkesteret: Today we mourn the premature death of Roald Amundsen on June 18th 1928, 82 years ago. On a rescue mission to save his by then bitter enemy – the Italian general Umberto Nobile who designed the dirigible “Norge” used for the first transpolar flight.
The small seaplane Latham 47 left Tromsø as one of many rescue missions to recover the crew of the wrecked dirigible “Italia”. The Latham expedition sent their last radio signals a little later the same day, but then there was silence. Later an improvised raft was found made from one of the Latham 47 ‘s pontoons, and it is believed that the whole crew perished.
Two years ago, marking eighty years since the Latham 47 disappeared, Hornorkesteret recorded and released a song in Amundsens memory featuring norwegian polar hero Fridtjof Nansen on vocals, taken from a recording of his memorial speech for Amundsen. Together with other Amundsen-related tracks and sober and fitting cover graphics, this MP3 single can be downloaded from the Panot archive of curious musics – scroll to the bottom to find the “Elegi for Roald Amundsen” MP3 single. The files are kindly hosted by TEKS, Trondheim Elektroniske KunstSenter.
Hornorkesteret, The Norwegian Polar Orchestra has, since 1999, played music on instruments made from reindeer antlers and other antlers, as well as drums, bones, flutes, ice, rocks and fire. Hornorkesterets compositional strategy, consisting of both improvisation and set frameworks creates a unique and organic soundscape, and together with our conceptual and visual focus on norwegian polar history, the group has become an exciting and challenging experience. We have fans from all walks of life, construction workers, fishermen, professors, connoisseurs of contemporary music, scientists, rockers and even jazz musicians have praised Hornorkesterets “call of the wild” and the moods the group manages to convey with their primitive antler instruments.
“Elegi for Roald Amundsen” is a grandiose, bordering on pompous, piece with Fridtjof Nansen himself on vocal – praising Amundsen as “one of those silent men who DOES things”. The piece drones on behind Nansens dramatic speech in a minor key and ends with a “solo pathetique” played on the soprano antler Høyang Resonator.
By Jane George, Nunatsiaq News
High Arctic seabirds carry a “cocktail” of contaminants, confirms new research, which analyzed the excrement of Arctic terns and eiders nesting on a small island north of Resolute Bay.
The seabirds’ cocktail is not a particularly healthy mix for the birds or the land they nest on, a team of biologists from the Canadian Wildlife Service and Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., determined.
That’s because, in addition to pesticides, the seabirds are loaded with heavy metals such as cadmium and lead, which they pick up from the foods they eat.
“The birds are like a funnel and they’re concentrating these contaminants,” says John Smol, a biologist from Queen’s and one of the co-authors of a study on sea birds published in the recent edition of the journal of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
The seabirds then excrete contaminants from their diet of fish and shellfish around their nesting sites, creating what Smol calls a “boomerang effect,” where contaminants found in the ocean return to the land.
To study terns and eiders, biologists visited Tern Island, a small island 130 kilometres northwest of Cornwallis Island.
There, they found two ponds — one used by terns, the other by eiders.
To see what these birds were eating, they took sediments from each of the lake bottoms and then analyzed them.
While nearing “Tern Pond,” researchers had to be extra careful and watch their heads, because the terns attacked as soon as they approached the nesting area.
Around the terns’ nesting area, they found the birds’ excrement contained high concentrations of cadmium and mercury.
Fish-eating Arctic terns have the longest yearly migration of any bird species, with some covering about 80,000 kilometres annually, all the way down to Antarctica and back.
Sampling at “Eider Pond” showed the excrement of eiders, who feed mainly on mussels, clams and starfish, contains high levels of lead, manganese and aluminum, which they absorb near Greenland where they winter over.
In the past, Mark Mallory of the Canadian Wildlife Service in Iqaluit, also involved the Tern Island study, has looked at a colony of 20,000 fulmars at Cape Vera on Devon Island.
Cape Vera is another isolated place, considered to be far from pollution by industrial and agricultural contaminants such as mercury, PCBs and DDT.
But Mallory found this bird colony sits in the middle of another High Arctic hot spot of contamination.
There, fulmars nest on cliffs, which are ringed by freshwater ponds at the bottom, and their excrement flows down into these ponds below along with the contaminants.
Contaminant levels in sediments from 11 ponds from Cape Vera are up to 60 times higher than those found at nearby sites where there are no seabird populations.
Now biologists want to know more about how these contaminants travel through food chain, what the impact is, for example, when foxes eat the seabirds.
The good news is that the levels of metals don’t present any danger to Nunavummiut who eat tern eggs, eiders or eider eggs.
But there is some concern that contaminants could affect the overall health and numbers of terns, eiders and other seabirds in the Arctic.
The research findings also underline the need for more environmentally sound practices to cut down on contaminants in fish and shellfish that have ended up in the oceans.
“At the end of the day, it’s a sad tale, that the oceans are polluted no matter where you are — that’s the bottom line,” Mallory says.
Original article here