Archive for the ‘Polar history’ Category

UN report calls for Sami language boost

January 25, 2011

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”.

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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

January 19, 2011

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

December 19, 2010

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

December 18, 2010

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.”

Proposal for a Monument to Roald Amundsen at Microgaleria Sur, Canary Islands

December 13, 2010


Hornorkesteret’s Jonas Qvale made a proposal for a “National Monument to Roald Amundsen” in a contest earlier this year (he has a background in visual arts). A fund collected after Amundsens disappearence back in 1928 was now seeking proposals for a worthy monument to the world’s greatest polar hero. The entries were juried and later exhibited at the Fram Museum. Qvales proposal was not chosen, but he is still looking for financing and a place for this monument.

“Roald Amundsens Verden” (Roald Amundsen’s world) shows what could have been “Amundsens view of the world”, with an exaggerated emphasis on the polar regions, shrinking the continents except Antarctica to a narrow band around the planet’s waist. The continents would be polished Iddefjord granite with rougher surfaces on oceans. The ice caps would be inlaid and slightly raised in Rennebu ice green granite. Amundsens main expeditions would be carved and painted as red dotted lines crisscrossing the globe.

Rather than as a stone monument at Bygdøynes outside of Oslo, the work “Roald Amundsens Verden” is now being presented in styrofoam and papier maché as a miniature at the origami republika run MICROGALERIA SUR in San Fernando, Gran Canaria, Spain. Thanks to Tore H. Boe for running both the gallery and the republika, you are an inspiration to a lot of people!


The exhibition opened December 14th 2010, on the 99th anniversary of the conquest of the South Pole. At the modest but festive vernissage, the Norwegian emissiaries met with the directors and local MICROGALERIA SUR staff and officially unveiled the Amundsen monument proposal as well as additional rooms with fascinating miniature art by fellow Origami artists Origami Kanaria A195/A242, Jens Stegger Ledaal A178,  Origami Boe A22, and Magne Rudjord A286. See all of it here.

We are still seeking funding to realize the piece “Roald Amundsens Verden” in the anniversary year of 2011 -contact us at hornorkesteret@lavabit.com if you can help.

Canadians closing in on lost wreckage of HMS Terror

November 28, 2010


(Randy Boswell/Postmedia News via Vancouver Sun, 26 November 2010) — It’s a genuine treasure of American history, with a price tag to match: a rare, 195-year-old printing of the original sheet music for the Star-Spangled Banner is expected to sell for up to $300,000 at an auction next week in New York. But as U.S. history buffs lined up for a look at the patriotic relic this week during Christie’s pre-sale exhibition, Canadian archeologists were planning their next Arctic Ocean search for one of the very War of 1812 ships — the last in existence — responsible for the “rockets’ red glare” and “bombs bursting in air” that helped inspire American poet Francis Scott Key to write his country’s national anthem after witnessing the bombing of Baltimore in September 1814. The surprising link between the Star-Spangled Banner and the lost Franklin Expedition vessel HMS Terror — believed to lie off the coast of King William Island in the Canadian Arctic — adds another layer to the rich history of the ship and helps explain Canada’s three-year quest to find it, says the Parks Canada archeologist leading the hunt for the fabled shipwreck. The resting places of the Terror and its consort vessel the HMS Erebus — both lost during British explorer John Franklin’s ill-fated voyage of discovery to Northern Canada in the late 1840s — have already been declared a National Historic Site, even though their precise locations remain unknown.

Original article here

Mammoth Calf, Ancient Art Work Displayed At Neanderthal Museum In Germany (PHOTOS)

November 24, 2010

The mammoth ivory carving of prehistoric man is 35,000 years old, and was found in southern Germany.

The Huffington Post, November 19. 2010
Original article here

A stunning new German exhibition is shedding new light onto the prehistoric era.

Displayed at the Neanderthal Museum in Mettmann, Germany, the exhibition includes never-before-seen artifacts and remains of one of the most mysterious creatures of the Ice Age, the mammoth. Among the most intriguing are an icon of one of the enormous animals cast in ivory, which is believed to be the oldest known artwork of mankind, as well as the completely preserved remains of an original mammoth calf, named Lyuba.

See photos of the new exhibit, courtesy of the Associated Press, here:

A man takes photos of the original mammoth calf Lyuba, at the Neanderthal Museum in Mettmann.

Surveyor seals reveal secrets of Antarctic depths

November 7, 2010

Original article at  New Scientist
05 November 2010 by Kate Ravilious

Ocean explorers (Image: D. Costa)

Seals are helping to map the ocean floor around Antarctica. And they are proving their worth: they have already revealed new features on the sea bed that could help researchers explain the rapid melting of ice in recent years.

Knowing the shape of the ocean floor is important because underwater mountains and valleys help to shape ocean circulation, which influences ice cover and production at the surface.

Normally such mapping is carried out by echo sounding, whereby the depth of the sea is calculated by timing how long it takes for sound waves to travel from a ship to the sea bed and back again. But the most of the sea and ocean beds around Antarctica remain unmapped because the thick ice that covers much of the region is impassable for ships.

So Daniel Costa, a marine biologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, glued electronic depth sensors onto the heads of 57 elephant seals and tracked their movements in the Bellingshausen Sea off the Antarctic Peninsula between 2005 and 2009.

Ideal seals

“Seals are ideal because they go places where no one else has gone, and they don’t need a battery to drive them,” says Costa.

By tracking seals in previously well-mapped regions, Costa and his colleagues showed they dived all the way to the sea floor around 30 per cent of the time.

Next they analysed the maximum depths of seal dives in unmapped regions, to trace the contours of the sea bed to the west of the Antarctic Peninsula.

“We found that the troughs that cut across the continental shelf from the deep ocean to the coast are deeper and straighter than shown on existing maps,” says Laurie Padman, an oceanographer at Earth and Space Research, a non-profit research institute in Corvallis, Oregon.

In particular, the data revealed that troughs leading towards the Wilkins ice shelf were 600 to 200 metres deeper than previously thought. Such troughs act as conduits for warm water, so the greater depth may help to explain the dramatic collapse of the ice shelf in 2008.

The researchers are planning similar work in other areas around both Antarctica and the Arctic. “It is a cheap and very powerful technique,” saysPaul Holland, an ocean modeller from the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, UK, who was not involved in the study.

Journal reference: Geophysical Research Letters, DOI: 10.1029/2010gl044921

Plymouth to remember Antarctic explorer Captain Scott with 10-month programme

November 7, 2010


PLYMOUTH is marking the centenary of city hero Captain Scott’s South Pole expedition with a ten-month programme.

A weekend of science, history, exhibitions and plays from June 4-6 next year is the Plymouth centrepiece in a series of national and international commemorations for the Antarctic explorer.

The weekend includes the 100th anniversary of Scott’s last birthday and begins a programme of remembrance ending with the rededication of the national Scott memorial at Mount Wise on March 25, 2012.

Events outside the city include a service in St Paul’s Cathedral, London, and an international expedition to the Antarctic, being led by Plymouth-born explorer Antony Jinman.

Plymothian Robert Falcon Scott and his four companions died in March 1912 on their 1,600-mile return journey on foot from the South Pole.

They battled to the southernmost point only to discover they had been beaten in the quest to be the first to the pole by Norwegian Roald Amundsen’s party.

But the story of their bravery and spirit remains one of the greatest tales in the history of human exploration.

Denis Wilkins, the chairman of the Scott 100 Plymouth organising committee, said the aim was to involve the whole community and inspire a new generation of Plymothians.

“This can be a huge success, akin to the way Plymouth celebrated the 400th anniversary of the Spanish Armada in 1988,” he said.

“Scott was a true hero. Setting off to the Antarctic 100 years ago was like setting off for the Moon today.

“Despite his demise, his expedition advanced our knowledge of this silent brooding wilderness. But above all he was an inspiration to thousands of young people.

“Through this celebration we have the opportunity to show how our nation has developed the heritage of science, history and culture to which he made such a great contribution.

“Above all, this centennial provides an opportunity to inspire the young people of Plymouth, Devon and Cornwall with the ideals of endeavour, achievement, curiosity and selfless embodied by Captain Scott, his men (many of whom had Plymouth connections) and their expeditions.”

The Scott 100 committee is a group of volunteers which has been planning the commemorations for over a year. All the leading institutions in Plymouth are represented, including the university, the city council and the Royal Navy.

Scott 100 will also highlight the city’s continuing links with the frozen continent. Among those is the British Antarctic Survey Medical Unit, which is based at Derriford Hospital.

Mr Wilkins, a surgeon, is a former director of the medical unit. The director of the survey, Professor Nick Owens, was previously the chief executive of Plymouth Marine Laboratory. Prof Owens will be a key speaker at a conference at the university, one of the events in the city’s Scott 100 weekend in June.

Full details of the Scott100 Plymouth commemorations were being unveiled today at the City Museum and Art Gallery.

For more information about the Scott 100 commemorations, contact Joanna Murphy at the University of Plymouth on 01752 588959.

Original article here

Mystery Arctic box unearthed, may contain Franklin’s log, but more likely Amundsens magnetic observations

September 8, 2010

Wally Porter (left) shows the cairn where his grandfather buried what may be the logbooks from the ill-fated Franklin expedition to writer Ken McGoogan. Photograph by: Sheena Fraser McGoogan, Postmedia News

Vancouver Sun via Circumpolar Musings:
By Ken McGoogan, Postmedia News September 5, 2010

An old wooden box excavated from beneath an Arctic cairn is being flown unopened Monday to Ottawa from the Nunavut hamlet of Gjoa Haven.

The Nunavut-government launched the excavation after an Inuit family relayed oral history suggesting that the cairn contained records from the ill-fated 1845 expedition led by Sir John Franklin in search of the Northwest Passage.

But Canadian historian Kenn Harper, who has spent months researching the cairn, says the box will prove to contain records left in 1905 by explorer Roald Amundsen during the first-ever navigation of the Passage.

The box, which measures 14.5 x 11 x 6.5 inches, will be opened and its contents preserved at the Canadian Conservation Institute.

Harper, author of the best-selling Inuit biography Give Me My Fathers Body, and also Honorary Danish Consul in Nunavut, says the box contains papers that Amundsen buried after spending almost two years in Gjoa Haven tracking the movements of the North Magnetic Pole.

He began investigating the cairn after learning of the claim by descendants of George Washington Porter II, a Hudson’s Bay Company manager based in that hamlet on King William Island.

Harper says that Eric Mitchell of the HBC, the senior man in the territory, dug up the Amundsen records in 1958, with the help of Porter II. The two men found documents that had first been discovered in 1927 by William Paddy Gibson, an HBC inspector who reburied them.

Gibson wrote in The Beaver magazine of finding the records, which included a signed photograph of Georg V. Neumayer, a German scientist who had sparked Amundsens interest in the North Magnetic Pole.

Harper predicted that the Saturday excavation would turn up an old HBC ammunition box. Andrew Porter, who runs a tourism business in Gjoa Haven, says that just such a box was found three feet beneath the cairn.

Harper says the unopened box contains a metal canister in a bed of tallow. Inside the canister, conservators will find the Amundsen documents in an envelope sewn into an oilskin packet and wrapped in pages from a 1950s Nautical Almanac and an Edmonton newspaper.

Harper, who has lived in the Arctic for over 30 years, doubts that any Franklin documents will be found. He believes that oral history has confused Franklin and Amundsen.

Original article here