Dispute over Hans Island nears resolution. Now for the Beaufort Sea

JILL MAHONEY
From Tuesday’s Globe and Mail
Published Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2011

Original article here

Negotiators are now confident that Canada and Denmark will resolve their dispute over Hans Island, and sooner rather than later.

Relations between the two countries have grown irritable at times in recent years because of their competing claims to the barren bit of rock perched halfway between Ellesmere Island and Greenland. Also in dispute is a patch of the Lincoln Sea even farther north.

But the two countries are in negotiations and have embarked on a joint mapping exercise, and both Canadian and Danish officials, speaking on background, said they were confident of reaching an agreement before Canada deposits its claim over the Arctic seabed to the United Nations in 2013.

Shared jurisdiction of the island is one possibility; another is running the border down the middle of the uninhabited, 1.3-square-kilometre knoll, which would give Canada a land border with Denmark.

In a recent poll, a large majority of Canadians said that asserting and protecting Arctic sovereignty should be Canada’s foremost foreign policy priority. In a statement to The Globe and Mail, Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon insisted that it was.

“We continue to exercise our sovereignty in the Arctic while also making progress on outstanding boundary issues,” Mr. Cannon said.

In fact, negotiations are beginning to bear fruit after years in which Canada refused to discuss competing claims. The United States and Canada have long disagreed over where the border between Alaska and Yukon should be drawn, as it projects into the Beaufort Sea. While the Americans have sought a negotiated settlement, Canada preferred to agree to disagree.

But there is oil under the seabed, and petroleum companies are anxious to get at it. Last year, the Conservative government declared its willingness to reach a deal. The two countries have embarked on a joint mapping expedition of the ocean floor.

That exercise may not be completed until 2013, because the ice is too thick for much of the year, and a Canadian government official speaking on background said it might not be possible to complete an agreement until after then. In the meantime, a bilateral “dialogue of experts” is underway, with the next meeting scheduled for Washington in the spring.

Some Arctic-watchers believe the slow pace of the talks over the Beaufort is frustrating an impatient Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

“The people at Foreign Affairs already have very full plates,” said Michael Byers, a political scientist at the University of British Columbia who specializes in Arctic issues. “They don’t see the urgency of negotiations now when a solution probably isn’t doable this year or even next year. So you have this tension between the Prime Minister’s Office, which wants to see progress, and the department, which doesn’t see it as a top priority.”

But Canadians officials maintained the pace had been agreed to with the American government. The Americans and Canadians “are committed to a win-win” agreement that satisfies both sides that their interests have been protected, one official said.

The U.S. government agrees. “Our technical teams have held productive meetings on the Beaufort boundary in the past,” the embassy said in a statement. “We look forward to continued discussions in the future.”

The nations that encircle the Arctic have agreed, under the Law of the Sea convention, to submit their claims over what they believe is their fair share of the Arctic seabed to the United Nations for arbitration. Canada’s deadline is 2013.

The UN will not arbitrate in areas where there is a border dispute, and an agreement over the Beaufort border is unlikely before 2014. But officials say this is only a minor impediment, especially since the U.S. hasn’t ratified the treaty anyway.

As for the biggest dispute of all, who controls the Northwest Passage, none of the players has even agreed to talk about it, and no resolution to the question of whether it is in Canadian or international waters is expected in the foreseeable future.

Roald Amundsens diary: 100 years ago today

From Roald Amundsens diary of the South Pole expedition 1910-1912 which is being published continuosly by the Fram Museum at Bygdøy near Oslo.

February 4 – Saturday

Great commotion! When we drove down to the vessel this morning, instead of our dear lonely Fram, there were two ships at the barrier. The latest arrival, a large barque, Terra Nova.

We were told that it had come in at midnight last night. Lt. Campbell, leader of the eastern party, immediately paid a visit on board. Nilsen received him. They had been eastwards and tried to come into King Edward VII land, but without result. They were now on their way back. Would go first to the main station in McMurdo Sound and later to Cape North to look for new land. Lt. Pennell was in charge of the ship. Both these and the doctor came up to the hut and ate breakfast with us. Later, Nilsen, Prestrud and I went on board their ship and ate lunch with them. They were exceptionally amiable and offered to take post to Fullerton. They left at 2pm. Made a round trip this morning. Have used the rest of the day to tidy up. Have had a strange experience.

We have all had colds after meeting the Englishmen. We are all sneezing and sniffing.
Posted: 04 February 1911 by Roald Amundsen

February 3 – Friday
Drove up 24 newly shot seals this morning. Set up a 16-man tent. Divided them up and stuffed the meat in. All the fillets and sirloin removed for human consumption. All of us here in the hut are much fonder of seal meat than tinned food, and prefer not to taste anything else.

Posted: 03 February 1911 by Roald Amundsen

February 2 – Thursday
It was -21.5°C last night. Wonderful summer temperature. This morning the whole roof was covered with tar insulation material and we are now almost finished with the unloading. These are tiring days.
Posted: 02 February 1911 by Roald Amundsen

February 1 – Wednesday
This evening while we sat and ate, Lindstrøm reported a seal had come right up to the hut on the barrier. Helmer Hansen welcomed it and tomorrow we shall make use of the fillets.

Posted: 01 February 1911 by Roald Amundsen

January 31 – Tuesday
We get more and more organised every day now. Today, Lindstrøm has mounted the Lux lamp, a wonderful furnishing which will give us much pleasure.
Posted: 31 January 1911 by Roald Amundsen


Terje Isungset åpnet Nansen-Amundsen-året i Tromsø

Nansen-Amundsen-året ble offisielt åpnet i Tromsø 23. januar ved at Terje Isungset spilte på 100 år gammel is fra Sydpolen.

Instrumentet, som han kaller sørpolofon, bestod av fire issylindre av ulik lengde med en diameter på 8-10 centimeter. De var montert etter xylofon-modellen på en resonanskasse av is, og han spilte på dem med mindre isklkubber.

Sørpolofonen etter konserten.
Sørpolofonen etter konserten.

Sørpolofonen tålte ikke mildværet i Tromsø, og sylindrene ble tydeligvis ganske porøse av en halvtimes venting etter lydsjekken. De hadde mista en del klang, og brakk opp under sydpollåten, som isflak i vårsola. Det var likevel en stor opplevelse å høre og se dette instrumentet. Kanskje akkurat disse snøflakene landet på Amundsens bare hode da han hilste flagget ved polpunktet?

Det var en flott konsert Isungset leverte sammen med sangeren Lena Nymark. De har funnet en nydelig formel med klangfull isperkusjon og lett, spretten kveding.

Lena Nymark og Terje Isungset
Lena Nymark (sang) og Terje Isungset (Svalbard-is).

Isungset hadde mer gammel is i å by på. En annen melodisk-perkusiv variant var biter av 500 år gammel is fra Svalbard, som han hadde plassert på et isbrett og spilte på med andre gamle isbiter. Han spilte også på hengende stemte isplater av klar is, som med en smule delay gir lange, dype og varme toner. Til slutt, eller var det midt i, tok han opp isluren, og blåste kalde, rå og forlokkende toner, som vindens evige jag over polisen.

Isungset og luren.
Isungset blåser i luren.

Med vakker sang og lyden av arktis og antarktis ble det en konsert verdig en polfarer eller to. Isungset er en kreativ musiker og instrumentmaker, og bringer tradisjonene fra Amundsen og Nansen videre i sin utforskning av isens musikalske egenskaper. Det er underlige og vare toner han får ut av istrumentene. Enkelt, skjørt, evig og uhørt.

Isperkusjon, islur, Svalbard-is og hengende isglockenspiel.
Fra venstre: isperkusjon, islur, Svalbard-is og hengende isglockenspiel.

Tromsøs ordfører Arild Hausberg og Norges utenriksminister Jonas Gahr Støre bidro også under åpningen.

 

Erlend Lien

UN report calls for Sami language boost

Euractiv.com  18 January 2011
Original article here

A UN report examining the human rights situation of Sami people in Sweden, Finland and Norway calls on the Nordic states to provide Sami parliaments with more funding to help boost general knowledge of the  indigenous Arctic people, their language and their culture.

BACKGROUND

Minority languages in Europe are protected by the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, which was adopted by the Council of Europe in June 1992 and came into force in 1998.

It seeks to promote threatened languages as part of Europe’s cultural heritage and facilitate their use in daily life.

Article 22 of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights states that “the Union shall respect cultural, religious and linguistic diversity”.

MORE ON THIS TOPIC

The report notes that overall, each of the Nordic countries pays a high level of attention to indigenous issues, but that more remains to be done to ensure that the Sami enjoy the full range of rights that are guaranteed to indigenous peoples.

Drafted by the United Nations’ special rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, James Anaya, the report pays particular attention to efforts “to revitalise Sami languages and provide children and youth of that minority with an appropriate education”.

The special rapporteur calls on Nordic countries to provide “immediate and adequate funding” to Sami parliaments to assist in the implementation of concerted measures toward these ends.

In parallel, Anaya suggests that “the states and the Sami parliaments should cooperate to develop and implement measures to increase awareness about the Sami people within the media and the public at large,” including in school curricula.

According to the report, the media often portray Sami stereotypes, which contribute to their negative image in society. The Sami people – estimated to number 70,000 to 100,000 – traditionally inhabit a territory spanning the northernmost parts of Europe, including Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia’s Kola Peninsula.

Despite national borders, they continue to exist as one people, united by cultural and linguistic bonds and a common identity. There are nine language groups divided across national borders, but the UN report notes that the wide variety of Sami languages is actually decreasing.

Sami people do not generally speak the language outside home and those who do speak it are spread out over large areas, contributing to the loss of their linguistic heritage.

Access to services

UN rapporteur Anaya notes that unlike Norway and Finland, there is no legislation in Sweden that specifically protects the Sami language.

In Sweden, the language is granted special protection within certain designated “administrative areas,” but the municipalities that make up the Sami administrative area have difficulty complying with their obligations “due to a lack of Sami-speaking staff and a reported negative public attitude towards the minority”.

While the Finnish Constitution guarantees the rights of Sami people to maintain and develop their own language and culture, “as a practical matter, these legal protections are not implemented, due in a large part to the lack of knowledge of municipal and national state authorities in Sami languages”.

Even within the Sami heartland in Finland, access to social and healthcare services in the Sami language is described “as a matter of chance”.

Education

One common feature in all Nordic countries is that Sami students may study in the Sami language within designated Sami areas, which are defined by law. But the problem, notes Anaya, is that some 50% of Sami people, and 70% of children under the age of 10, live outside these areas.

The fragmentation of Sami settlements and a shortage of teachers present a problem for education in the Sami language and culture, and there is also a shortage of education materials.

And while some measures have been taken to facilitate long-distance learning, at least in Finland, these programmes have experienced problems, primarily due to a lack of funding, according to the report.

Feeding The Robotic Guardians Of The Arctic Seas

Strategy page January 19, 2011. Original article here

Although the Cold War ended in 1991, the U.S. and Canada still maintain a string of radar stations from Alaska to Greenland. The system, originally called the DEW (Distant Early Warning) Line, was built in the 1950s, to detect Russian bombers or reconnaissance aircraft coming in. Right across the Arctic Ocean, and the North Pole from the northern coast of North America, is the north coast of Russia. Right across the pole is the shortest distance (for aircraft or ballistic missiles) from Russia to North America.

After the Cold War ended, Canada took over control of the entire system, which is now managed from an underground facility in Ontario. The U.S. still picks up 60 percent of the cost, and has access to information the radars collect.

Even as the Cold War was ending, the DEW line was already being replaced by a system consisting mostly of unmanned radar stations (which cut operating expenses 50 percent and spared many Canadian and American air force personnel periods of duty on the coast of Arctic Ocean). The new North Warning System (NWS) consists of 15 manned long range radars (11 in Canada), and 39 unmanned radars (36 in Canada). This radar system covers an area 5,000 kilometers long and 300 kilometers deep. The DEW line was much longer (going from the Aleutian Islands to Iceland) and deeper (there were two more radar lines farther south, north of the U.S. border.

The DEW Line and the NWS give no warning of ballistic missile attacks, so a different system, using ground and space based radars, has been developed over the last half century. But you still want to know what aircraft are out there over the cold Arctic seas.

A civilian firm provides most of the logistic and technical services to maintain the radars, their generators and communications equipment of the NWS. This costs about $63 million year. The unmanned radars are marvels of automation, built with many redundant systems, so the radars can remain operational until maintenance crews can be flown in from one of the five support bases. This is particularly difficult during the long, cold and dark Winters.

Viking silver thieves arrested, loot recovered

History Blog, December 8th 2010
Original article here

Stolen Viking silver coins recovered on GotlandFive men have been arrested on the Swedish island of Gotland for having stolen 1,000 Viking-era silver coins. The entire hoard from which the looters helped themselves to 1,000 coins was over twice that size: 2,000 German, English and Danish coins from the 1060s.

Gotland, a large island in the middle of the Baltic off the southeast coast of Sweden, is replete with Viking hoards. Sadly, it is also replete with looters who illegally dig up whatever treasures they can find, then sell them online or through shady dealers. Since there is so much ground to cover and the weather rarely cooperates to keep looted sites in CSI condition, not only do thieves often get away with it, but the thefts themselves are not discovered.

It was a fortuitous chain of circumstance that brought these scofflaws to justice.

Part of a crucifix from the 11th century was found in the ground where the looters dug. Several days later, an email was discovered by chance with a photo of a part of a crucifix.

A comparison of the find and the image showed that the parts belonged together and that the crucifix came from the hiding place in the field in Gandarve.

“The person who had sent the email was suspected of having attempted to sell the crucifix and he led us on to another person with ties to Gotland,” said prosecutor Mats Wihlborg.

During a raid on a property on Gotland, investigators came across three people with metal detectors, shovels and backpacks. After examining computers and GPS equipment, they also found links between the defendants and two other places where the looters had struck on Gotland.

The looters will be charged with preparation of aggravated crime against relics and aggravated crime against relics. The charges carry a potential sentence of four years in prison. Three of the defendants are thought to be the ringleaders responsible for multiple thefts. The prosecutor is delighted. He noted that it’s extremely rare for cases to actually reach the point of prosecution, and especially not of a full-on looting ring.

Looters are not just hobbyists who stumbled on a treasure and decided to keep it or even sell it on the down low. They are organized, experienced and well-versed in the geography of the island. They often operate at night to avoid detection, and they’re damn good at it. That’s why these arrests are so important to the Gotland authorities.

Harpist to soothe Antarctic chill

By Kate Evans Fri Dec 17, 2010 8:10am AEDT
Original article here

Alice Giles will perform a range of music for the residents of Mawson Base when she arrives in February.

Alice Giles will perform a range of music for the residents of Mawson Base when she arrives in February. (ABC News: Kate Evans)

Harpist Alice Giles dreamed of following in her grandfather’s footsteps – but those footsteps lead rather far away.

The internationally-renowned musician lives in Yass, near Canberra, and teaches at the Australian National University School of Music.

She has always been curious about Antarctica.

Her grandfather, Cecil Thomas Madigan, was an explorer who travelled with Douglas Mawson on the first Australasian Antarctic expedition from 1911 – 1914.

“At 22, he was away for two-and-a-quarter years, which is a huge chunk of a young man’s life,” Giles said.

“He had a fiancee, my grandmother, waiting for him at home.

“It was always part of my childhood to hear about this hero grandfather I had.

“So there’s always been a fascination for me with kind of making a connection somehow.”

In February, she will realise that dream, travelling to Antarctica on an Australian Antarctic Division Arts Fellowship, to play and record music at Mawson base.

The trip will take more than a month – but the sea voyage is so long she will only have eight days on dry land.

Giles plans to perform a range of music for the residents of Mawson Base, including well-loved hymns like Abide with Me from the 100-year-old Scottish Students’ Songbook mentioned in her grandfather’s diaries.

She will also play a series of new works composed especially for the journey by Australian composers, including Larry Sitsky and Jim Cotter.

Martin Wesley-Smith has composed a work based on the diaries of Cecil Madigan, reflecting Giles’ relationship with her grandfather; while ANU composition student Joshua McHugh has written a piece entitled Billions of Penguins.

She is taking two harps – her full-sized electro-acoustic harp to play inside the base, and a hardy smaller harp she hopes to play outside and record.

“There’s also something very appealing about the harp and how it reacts with the environment, because it’s a very direct instrument. Just the touch of your fingers or even the wind can create a sound,” she said.

“Mawson’s hut in Commonwealth Bay is meant to be the windiest place in the world, you can get really high blizzard winds, so that will be pretty exciting.

“‘When that goes through the harp it will make a beautiful sound.”

She will also record sounds from the Antarctic environment – penguins, cracking ice, and those wild winds.

“It’ll be a bit of an adventure because I won’t know what the conditions will be,” she said.

“It’s kind of an experiment, as most things are to do with Antarctica.”