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Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘arctic canada

[LINK] Two notes on tourism at the poles

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Chris Sorensen’s “The one per cent are coming to Canada’s Arctic” in MacLean’s describes a new cruise ship visit to the Canadian North.

Residents of Ulukhaktok, N.W.T., population 402, may feel as though New York’s tony Upper East Side has come to visit when Crystal Serenity steams into town later this summer. The towering cruise ship, the biggest to traverse the fabled Northwest Passage, will be carrying 1,070 passengers who paid between $25,000 and $155,000—and 655 crew members—for a 32-day trip that promises “intrepid adventure, the great outdoors and immersive cultural experiences.” Which is where Ulukhaktok comes in. Crystal Serenity is not the first cruise ship to visit the coastal hamlet, mind you, but it’s by far the largest. “There was one back in 2012 called the World,” Janet Kanayok, the local economic development officer, says of the privately owned luxury yacht that carries between 150 and 200 passengers. “But it wasn’t nearly as big as this.”

Nor is Crystal Serenity likely to be the last giant, gilded passenger ship to come calling. Rising temperatures and receding sea ice have opened more of the Northwest Passage’s interconnecting waterways in recent seasons. In 2013, MS Nordic Orion made history by becoming the first bulk carrier to make the historically treacherous trip, hauling a load of B.C. coal to Finland and shaving about 1,000 nautical miles off its usual route through the Panama Canal. The following year, the MV Nunavik, operating on behalf of a Canadian firm, sailed from the Hudson Strait through the passage to China carrying nickel concentrate. In all, there were 25 full transits of the Northwest Passage last season, according to data from Fisheries and Oceans Canada. That’s up nearly 40 per cent from five years earlier.

With the Arctic’s defences melting, Los Angeles-based Crystal Cruises is understandably excited about a huge opportunity to wow well-heeled cruise junkies who’ve grown bored of sand and sun. The company’s inaugural Northwest Passage cruise, from Anchorage, Alaska, to New York, sold out quickly, and tickets for next year’s trip are already on sale.

The Bloomberg article “Antarctica Now Has a Jaw-Dropping Luxury Hotel”, by Nikki Ekstein, looks at a new hotel I Antarctica.

Travel to Antarctica has reached fever pitch.

You can go by yacht. You can come and go in a single day. You can even book a fly-around for New Year’s Eve. And now you can stay in a five-star hotel with bespoke furnishings and its own fleet of aircraft.

To be fair, the White Desert camp isn’t exactly new. And it’s no secret spot, either; the guest ledger includes such names as Prince Harry and Bear Grylls. But as a means of celebrating its 10th anniversary, the so-called most remote property in the world has gotten a complete luxury overhaul.

What it now humbly calls “sleeping pods” are six heated fiberglass domes, with bamboo headboards, Saarinen chairs, fur throws, and en suite bathrooms stocked with sustainable Lost Explorer-brand toiletries, created by a scion of the de Rothschild family. Wooden skis adorn the walls; thick parkas for each guest hang from free-standing coat racks. And each suite stands alone on a rugged strip of land in the interior of Antarctica, midway between a frozen lake and towering walls of ice. Drama is in no short supply.

Perhaps the most significant renovations have taken place in the lodge’s library lounge and dining room. Whereas the dining room once consisted of one long wooden table, it’s now a more formal affair, with furs thrown over chairs that wouldn’t feel out of place in a Brooklyn Heights apartment. After hangout sessions with 6,000 emperor penguins, this is where guests share convivial, three-course meals comprising ingredients and wines flown in from Cape Town. (They’re prepared by an in-house chef who cooks privately for the British Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton when he’s not at camp.)

Written by Randy McDonald

August 22, 2016 at 7:59 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “A city of two worlds, Yellowknife is an open book well worth reading”

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Dave Bidini’s ode in The Globe and Mail to Yellowknife is a lovely read.

Yellowknife is small and openhearted, but it’s also hard to find. You think you know what it is, but then it moves – from the darkness of a tavern teeming with North and South Slavey, Cape Bretoners, Métis, Saskatchewanians and old men from the Dehcho to the cool shadow of a Twin Otter cruising low enough above your dockside rock that you could poke it with a fork. Here’s a fun game: When visiting, try to describe Yellowknife to your friends on a postcard (hint: buy a lot of postcards).

Yellowknife has a main street, but no one calls it that. In fact, they call it two things: 50th Avenue and Franklin Avenue, depending on how you feel about the former British explorer and northern colonialism (spoiler alert: The Dene don’t feel good, while most non-indigenous shrug as if not quite understanding the question). The main street – or 50th or he-who-will-not-be-named – has its own naked charm, including the denizens outside the main Post Office, most of them undomiciled.

If you spend any time with them, it isn’t hard to walk into a story. One afternoon at the main post office, I met two men the size of compact cars – Bear and James Thrasher, both from Tuktoyaktuk – who, like many of the city’s homeless, had come to Yellowknife because of greater access to services, housing and alcohol (Tuktoyaktuk is a dry community on the shores of the Western Arctic, which I visited during my eight-week stay in the Northwest Territories).

When they found out I was going to their hamlet, Bear asked for my book so he could write down the Inuvialuktun word for “white person.” I handed it to him – the hardbound writing book looked like a church pamphlet in his great hands – and his tongue curved around his lip while engraving the word on the page: kabloonak. He told me in a voice like a hammer on a drum: “Now, listen, you might hear this word, but it’s not necessarily bad. It depends on how someone uses it. You got that?” I told him I did.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 16, 2016 at 3:45 pm

[NEWS] Some Monday links

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  • Bloomberg notes Amazon’s development of a portal in Japan for Chinese tourists visiting that country, reports on an unexpected decline in Russian manufacturing, and looks at Poland’s conflicts with the European Commission on legal and democratic issues.
  • Bloomberg View notes Trump’s social security plan depends on immigrants, and looks at the geopolitics of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
  • CBC looks at plans for a greenhouse in a Nunavut town that might bring down the prices for fresh food substantially, and reports on a Brazilian town home to descendants of Southern migrants who are mystified by Trump.
  • The Globe and Mail reports on a South African discovery suggesting ancient hominins practiced burial and reports on a British Columbia judge who threw out the convictions of two people charged with terrorist plots, saying they were entrapped.
  • MacLean’s reports on how transit companies and airlines respond to abusive posts on social media.
  • The National Post reports on the impending return of hundreds of jihadists to the North Caucasus.
  • Open Democracy reports on the state of affairs in Hungary.

[NEWS] Some Thursday links

  • Bloomberg notes the decline of Japan’s solar energy boom with falling subsidies, suggests 1970s-style stagflation will be back, looks at how an urban area in Japan is dealing with overcrowding, looks at Russia-NATO tensions, and examines how Ireland is welcoming British bankers.
  • Bloomberg View looks at the return of Russian tourists to Turkey, notes Russia is not suffering from a brain drain, looks at the Brexit vote as examining the power of the old, and argues the Chilcot report defends Blair from accusations of lying.
  • CBC reports on the end of Blackberry’s manufacturing of the Classic.
  • The Globe and Mail notes that, once, gay white men were on the outside.
  • The Independent describes claims that refugees in Libya who cannot pay their brokers risk being rendered into organs.
  • The Inter Press Service describes the horrors of Sudan and looks at how Russia will use Brexit to fight sanctions in the European Union.
  • MacLean’s reports on the opening up of the Arctic Ocean to fishing and looks at Winnipeg support for Pride in Steinbach.
  • The National Post reports on the plague of Pablo Escobar’s hippos in Colombia, looks at Vietnam’s protests of Chinese military maneuvers, and examines Turkey’s foreign policy catastrophes.
  • Open Democracy notes the desperate need for stability in Libya.
  • The Smithsonian reports on how video games are becoming the stuff of history.

[NEWS] Some Thursday links

  • The BBC notes a study suggesting that the bombardment of the early Moon by comets gave it water.
  • Bloomberg View criticizes red tape in Greece, and notes that the salts of Australia will be drawing solar cell manufacturers to that country.
  • The Guardian notes Jeremy Corbyn’s claims of BBC bias against him.
  • The Inter Press Service examines the vulnerability of young women in Africa to HIV.
  • MacLean’s notes the struggles of a prominent Inuit family, the Tootoos, with alcohol.
  • National Geographic notes an exciting archeological dig into the heart of Roman London and reports on signs of activity on Pluto.
  • New Scientist notes that, among the orcas, evolution is driven by culture, with culturally distinctive groups also being genetically distinctive.
  • The Toronto Star reports that Mossack-Fonseca, the law firm at the heart of the Panama Papers, is shuttering offices.
  • Wired notes Switzerland’s Gotthard tunnel and warns that Flint is not the worst bit of American infrastructure in decay.

[NEWS] Some Monday links

  • Bloomberg notes that Brexit proponents are now saying leaving the European Union will create more jobs in the financial sector, and describes the continued rise of fertility rates in Japan to German levels.
  • CBC reports on how a Croatian vintner helped California wines gain international recognition in 1976, notes that Fort McMurray evacuees outside Alberta can’t access that government’s relief funds, and looks at how an Iqaluit man is using Amazon’s free shipping to feed people in smaller Nunavut communities.
  • The National Post reports that Egyptair flight 804 appears to have been destroyed by an internal explosion on the right side of the aircraft.
  • Open Democracy reports on the appalling practice of a British property company that has assigned red doors to asylum seekers who are then attacks.

[OBSCURA] On the return of Arctic Comics

Arctic Comics is back.

From MacLean’s:

Thirty years after amazing and entertaining audiences at Expo 86, “Arctic Comics” with its mythological heroes, tall tales and meditations on what it means to be Inuit is back.

“There’s no shortage of stories up here,” said Nicholas Burns, one of the artists behind the 88-page, full-colour comic book being published this month.

The first “Arctic Comics” began almost as a lark when the Northwest Territories government realized it would need northern material to sell at its pavilion at Vancouver’s world party.

“I put in a proposal saying I’ll do up this comic and do up stories of Inuit past, present and future and they thought it was a great idea,” said Burns, who was then living in Rankin Inlet, now part of Nunavut. “I essentially self-published and sent them down and they sold like hotcakes.”

The N.W.T. pavilion turned out to be one of the hits of the fair. Eager visitors snapped up 60,000 copies of “Arctic Comics.”

From the Toronto Star:

With the same past, present and future focus as the original, the new “Arctic Comics” features a trip with a legendary Inuit Ulysses in “Kiviuq versus Big Bee.” The fantastical adventure of the long-ago traveller, drawn from Inuit myth, was written by the late Jose Kusugakm, one of the founders of Nunavut, and illustrated by Germaine Arnaktauyok, who drew the drum dancer on the back of a special-edition toonie.

There’s a romp entitled “The Great Slo-Pitch Massacre” and a science-fiction yarn called “Blizzard House” — aficionados will recognize artist George Freeman who drew Captain Canuck.

Dauntless RCMP Const. Lucy Puqittuq and her loyal dog Vincent make an appearance and the theme of southerners inventing their own version of the North comes in for some teasing in “Film Nord.”

And then there’s Michael Kusugak’s “On Waiting,” a setting of a poem about a boy lying on a beach waiting for a seal. Almost nothing happens — except for everything.

The boy dreams, watches the tide and thinks of his dead grandfather playing walrus-head soccer with other spirits among the aurora’s dancing lights.

The book can be ordered for $C 17.99, a PDF version for $C 9.99

Written by Randy McDonald

May 4, 2016 at 11:40 am


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