Arctic survey bid hits snag over Franklin ships

CBC News – original article here

An Alberta archeological firm’s proposal to test survey equipment in an Arctic waterway has hit a roadblock over concerns about the long-lost ships of Sir John Franklin. ProCom Marine Survey and Archeology had asked the Nunavut Impact Review Board to approve its proposal to conduct work in Larsen Sound, 195 kilometres northwest of Taloyoak in western Nunavut.

The company’s project, called Polar North, would use autonomous underwater vehicles to “develop solutions relating to offshore surveying for oil and gas in Arctic conditions,” according to proposal documents. If approved, the work would take place in April and August this year. But in a letter to territorial Environment Minister Daniel Shewchuk, the review board recommends that he modify or abandon ProCom’s proposal on the basis of the project’s location and “unacceptable potential adverse impacts to cultural resources.

” National historic sites Larsen Sound is considered to be the final resting spot for one or both of the famed British explorer’s ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, which disappeared during a doomed expedition to chart the Northwest Passage more than 160 years ago. “It was primarily the location of the project, and the fact that there are recognized national historic sites that are believed to be in Larsen Sound,” Ryan Barry, an official with the review board, told CBC News.

“The concerns, primarily from the [Nunavut] Department of Culture, Language, Elders and Youth, were such that they saw the potential for impact to these historic sites.” ProCom’s latest proposal does not mention Franklin’s ships, but the company ran into trouble with the Nunavut government when it tried to look for the lost ships last fall without the necessary permits. Concerns raised Barry said the board reviewed ProCom’s Polar North application in consultation with community organizations in the hamlets of Taloyoak, Gjoa Haven and Kugaaruk, as well as with officials from the federal and territorial governments and Inuit organizations. Major concerns about the project were raised during those consultations, with the proposed location being most significant, Barry said.

According to the review board, the Department of Culture, Language, Elders and Youth recommends that ProCom relocate the project to another body of water north of Larsen Sound, excluding Lancaster Sound. In a letter to Shewchuk, ProCom president Rob Rondeau said his group is prepared to make changes to its application. “Given the size of Larsen Sound, ProCom would be prepared to relocate the project, from the survey area as proposed, providing an alternative site can be selected, so that it can continue to be based from Taloyoak,” Rondeau wrote. Rondeau told CBC News he would prefer not to comment on the matter until Shewchuk has decided whether ProCom can resubmit its application with changes.

Nunavut Inuit decry narwhal tusk export ban

December 15, 2010 CBC News
Original article here

Inuit leaders are accusing the federal government of banning whalers in most of Nunavut’s communities from exporting their narwhal tusks. Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., the territory’s Inuit land-claims organization, says the trade restrictions, which were imposed by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, violate Inuit harvesting rights.

In a release Wednesday, Nunavut Tunngavik president Cathy Towtongie called on Ottawa to reverse its decision. Her organization is considering legal options, she added. “DFO does not have the right to impose such restrictions on Inuit, particularly when the [narwhal] population is thriving and harvest numbers do not threaten the species,” Towtongie stated in the release. Nunavut Tunngavik says it was notified of the trade restrictions last week. The group said under the federal order, export permits will not be issued under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) for narwhal tusks harvested from 17 of Nunavut’s 25 communities, including the territorial capital of Iqaluit.

Inuit whalers in Kugaaruk, Taloyoak, Gjoa Haven, Igloolik, and Pond Inlet are still permitted to export their harvested narwhal tusks.

“They’ve decided that there are different subpopulations, that some populations may be at risk,” Gabriel Nirlungayuk, Nunavut Tunngavik’s wildlife director, told CBC News.

“We don’t really know what that means. We would like DFO to explain themselves.”

Towtongie and Nirlungayuk said the department based its decision on “faulty scientific data” and no consultation with Inuit. Nunavut Tunngavik cited scientific surveys that peg the narwhal population at around 80,000 in Canada. Inuit harvest about 500 narwhal each year, the group adds. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has not yet commented on the trade restrictions being alleged by the Inuit group.

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

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

Amundsen honoured in Gjoa Haven

(CBC News, 25 August 2010) — Residents of Gjoa Haven, Nunavut, held a special flag-raising ceremony with Norwegian officials this week to honour Roald Amundsen, who spent two years in the community during his famed quest through the Northwest Passage. The Norwegian ambassador attended Monday’s ceremony, in which the Canadian and Norwegian flags were raised near the Amundsen Centenary Cairn in Gjoa Haven. Also in attendance was Gier Klover, the director of the Fram Museum in Oslo, Norway. “I’ve been interested in polar histories since I was a kid, so Gjoa Haven, that’s the place I’ve read about for 30 years,” Klover told CBC News on Tuesday. “Just to be here, and the incredible friendliness and hospitality of the community, is very touching.” Klover said his museum is dedicated to polar explorers like Amundsen, who set sail for the Northwest Passage in 1903 in his ship, Gjoa. The museum is building an extension to house the Gjoa, he added. Amundsen spent two winters near King William Island, in what is now Gjoa Haven, learning from local Inuit as he prepared for his expedition. “He perfected the skills, making him the ultimate polar explorer,” Klover said. “He had huge respect for local learnings and local knowledge, and he spent every day trying to learn as much as possible there, as opposed to many other explorers.” Amundsen made history when he completed the east-to-west voyage across the passage in 1906. Klover said Monday’s ceremony commemorates the growing partnership between his museum and the community of Gjoa Haven. He said he brought some photographs that were taken by Amundsen, as a gift to the community.

Via the excellent polar newsring Circumpolar Musings
Original article here