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[OBSCURA] On the return of Arctic Comics

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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

[NEWS] Some Tuesday links

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  • Africa is a Country looks at how Ethiopians interpret the 1966 visit of Haile Selassie to Jamaica.
  • The Building Blog depicts how a California town is literally being visibly distorted by seismic forces.
  • Bloomberg considers the import of Beyoncé’s debut of Lemonade on Tidal.
  • Bloomberg View notes how the China-Venezuela money-for-oil pact is failing and looks at the risks of being a Russian media mogul.
  • The Globe and Mail looks at the very high cost of internet in Nunavut.
  • MacLean’s looks at the Iran-Iraq War and examines Beyoncé’s Lemonade.
  • Universe Today notes how spaceflight apparently acts to accelerate aging.
  • Wired notes how much of Venezuela’s electricity shortage is the consequence of booming consumption in the good years.

[NEWS] Some Saturday links

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  • Bloomberg notes controversy over Sanders’ attendance at a Vatican conference and reports on the proposal for a bridge linking Saudi Arabia and Egypt across the Gulf of Aqaba.
  • Bloomberg View notes mixed evidence behind the idea that separatism can work economically, and criticizes San Francisco’s family leave policy as having too much impact on business.
  • CBC notes that the European Union will require visas of Canadians if Canada does not give visa-free access to Bulgarians and Romanians and looks at the controversy over women praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
  • The Globe and Mail notes the division of the NDP over Mulcair, looks at the importance of the long-form census for northern Canada, and examines Vancouver’s rental market.
  • The Inter Press Service reports on how the Nicaragua Canal is bogged down by money and environmental issues.
  • MacLean’s defends transparent tax havens, as opposed to the other kind.
  • National Geographic reports on the role of amateur mapmakers in charting the Syrian conflict and describes an exciting reconstruction of Pompeii.
  • Universe Today reports on the ice disk of HD 100546.

[AH] On how Point Rosee helps confirm the disinterest of the Norse Greenlanders in Vinland

Last December, I wrote a short blog post about the latest study on the Greenland climate during the Norse era, suggesting that the temperature wasn’t that much warmer than now. This, as was noted at the time, had substantial implications for the conventional model of Greenland’s failure, and Vinland’s abortive birth.

Climate change has often been cited as key element to this story — the basic notion being that the Vikings colonized Greenland in an era dubbed the “Medieval Warm Period,” which ran roughly from 950 to 1250, but then were forced to abandon their Greenland settlements as temperatures became harsher in the “Little Ice Age,” from about 1300 to 1850.

Yet in a new study published Friday in Science Advances, researchers raise doubts about whether the so-called Medieval Warm Period was really so warm in southern Greenland or nearby Baffin Island — suggesting that the tale of the Vikings colonizing but then abandoning Greenland due to climatic changes may be too simplistic. Their evidence? New geological data on the extent of glaciers in the region at the time, finding that during the era when the Norse occupied the area, glaciers were almost as far advanced as they were during the subsequent Little Ice Age.

“This study suggests that while the Vikings may have left Iceland when it was relatively warm, they arrived in the Baffin Bay region, and it was relatively cool,” said Nicolás Young, a professor at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University and lead author of the study, which was conducted with three colleagues from Columbia and the University at Buffalo. “So for their initial settlement, and the first few centuries when they were there, they persisted and thrived somewhat during a relatively cool climate. And so it’s sort of a stretch to say that a cool climate is what drove them out of the region, when they demonstrated that they could be somewhat successful during a cool climate.”

The new emergent consensus seems to be that Norse Greenland ended quietly, without catastrophe. There were no bloody massacres by Inuit and/or pirates, no mass graves, no radical worsening of the environment. There was just a slow chipping away of a marginal colony in a marginal environment, perhaps with a slow drain of people to nicer climes–Iceland, say, or even mainland Europe. A Markland with a hostile environment, or a Vinland with a hostile population, would have been practically as distant from Greenland as the ancestral mother country of Norway, but that country was (comparatively) densely populated, a market for goods and a source for others and significant as the ultimate homeland of the Norse. Even a Vinland emptied of people would lack critical economic incentives for migrants.

There were good reasons for the Norse disinterest in Vinland. Fredrik Charpentier Ljungqvist’s paper “The Significance of Remote Resource Regions for Norse Greenland” (PDF format) and Andrew J. Dugmore, Christian Keller, and Thomas H. McGovern’s “Norse Greenland Settlement: Reflections on Climate Change, Trade, and The Contrasting Fates of Human Settlements in the North Atlantic Islands” make the very compelling arguments that the high Arctic was more economically important for the Greenlanders than Vinland: the High Arctic was the critical source of the narwhal tusks that were Greenland’s main export that was a destination for regular hunting trips on an annual basis, but a more remote Vinland was a source of quality timber for shipbuilders that could be visited more rarely. (That, as Thomas W. N. Haine’s “Greenland Norse Knowledge of the North Atlantic Environment” (PDF format) argues, Greenland’s shortage of substantial stores of native wood was one of the factors dooming the Norse in the absence of regular trade, with Europe or with Vinland. Had this trade been here, the Greenlanders’ exports to Europe remaining in vogue, the colony might well have survived.) What did remote Vinland offer the Greenlanders that was worth the trip?

All this brings us to the exciting reports of the discovery in southwestern Newfoundland of a potential Viking site, the second after world-famous L’Anse aux Meadows. That first site is located on the northern tip of the island of Newfoundland, opposite Labrador. Point Rosee, as the below map from the CBC shows, is located near the southwestern corner of Newfoundland, facing the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

If the Point Rosee site is confirmed to be Viking, this has huge implications for Greenland’s history and potential. There has long been speculation that the Vikings travelled beyond L’Anse aux Meadows, deeper into Newfoundland and throughout the littoral of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. There is some speculation that the Vikings visited Prince Edward Island, at least, if not the wider Maritimes. Then as now, the Maritimes offer a considerably more clement physical environment than Newfoundland. A Viking outpost at Point Rosee would be very well positioned as a base to explore the Maritimes, it being far closer to Cape Breton or the Iles-de-la-Madeleine or Prince Edward Island than L’Anse-aux-Meadows.

Why did the Greenlanders not take advantage of their knowledge of this land, more hospitable than their own sub-Arctic home? The hostility of the native populations to the interlopers was surely a factor, but I would argue that even more important was the Greenlanders’ disinterest in Vinland. They knew about the territory for centuries, and indeed likely made semi-regular visits to acquire the timber resources that they needed. Beyond these visits, the Greenlanders had little interest in colonizing a territory that not only lacked the natural resources that their economy depended on, but was far too remote from their Nordic homeland and their European market for a sustainable colony to ever develop, If, perhaps, the Greenlanders had a greater surplus, perhaps they might have been able to splurge, to experiment. Such a surplus was never likely, not with their marginal sub-Arctic colony being so highly dependent on long-range trade.

Very frequently in alternate history, it’s imagined that the decision of Greenlanders to not settle Vinland was chance, that if any number of factors had gone differently they might have continued the Norse migration further west across the Atlantic. The new picture that is forming, with Greenlanders apparently being aware of their Vinland and its potential for centuries, suggests otherwise. The Greenlanders did not colonize Vinland, it seems, because such a colonization was not likely and quite possibly not possible given the constraints that they faced. Much would needed to change for the Norse to ever make it to the Americas. Perhaps the Norse expansion would need to be different, not a product of anarchistic migrations but rather a product of planning by a medieval Norse monarchy, one that did command the resources that would be needed for such a distant colony as Vinland. Such an expansion, it goes without saying, would be very different from the migrations we know about.

[LINK] On the completion of the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk highway

The Toronto Star‘s Jim Coyle describes in “Highway will complete Canada’s road network from coast to coast” how a highway on the Canadian Arctic is nearing construction.

For a half century and more, an all-weather Inuvik-to-Tuktoyaktuk Highway has been imagined, proposed, talked about in the Northwest Territories. Call it Jack Kerouac on the tundra, the chance to get on the road year-round and drive across a part of Canada glorious in its harsh beauty and still the last frontier. The project, which began in 2014 and has put hundreds of surveyors, equipment operators and labourers to work, is expected to be completed in 2017-18. A series of photographs from the New York Times shows the land and people of a place apart, soon to be linked to the rest of the country.

Inuvik, with a population of about 3,500, is in the Mackenzie Delta above the Arctic Circle and is the current northern terminus of the Dempster Highway, connecting the Inuvik region to the Yukon highway system. Tuktoyaktuk, known as Tuk, is a hamlet of about 1,000 on the shore of the Arctic Ocean northeast of Inuvik. Its location has been used for centuries by the Inuvialuit people as a camp for harvesting caribou and hunting whales.

The 138-kilometre ITH is expected to cost about $300 million, two-thirds covered by the federal government, the rest by provinces and territories involved in the project. Maintenance costs — estimated at from $2,000 to $8,000 per kilometre a year — fall to the territory. The benefit of the highway’s top-of-the-world location on the treeless open tundra is reduced snowplowing cost, as snow tends to blow off the roadway.

Construction is expected to create more than 2,000 jobs in various parts of the country. When completed, local residents will benefit from a cheaper cost of living as goods can be shipped year-round, not just when an ice highway is operational between mid-December and the end of April. There will also be greater access to health care and educational opportunities, as well as enhanced social and recreational opportunities in the region. Locals look for a tourism increase as the more intrepid of their southern compatriots come to visit.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 16, 2016 at 5:22 pm

[LINK] “New Iqaluit mosque opens doors”

CBC reports on the completion of a mosque in Iqaluit, capital of Nunavut.

After years in the making, Iqaluit’s new mosque held its inauguration Friday, officially opening as a place of worship.

The building will serve as a prayer space and a community centre for Iqaluit’s 100 or so Muslims, as well as a place to learn about Islam.

“By establishing this mosque, we are saying one thing: we are now an integral part of Iqaluit, we are now a part of the Iqaluit community,” said Hussain Guisti, the Zubaidah Tallab Foundation’s general manager.

Members of the foundation, along with the Islamic Association of Nunavut, built the mosque themselves at a cost of $800,000. The foundation has also helped construct mosques in Inuvik, N.W.T., and Thompson, Manitoba.

“We just finished the mosque now. The guys were working outside underneath the mosque in –56 below,” Guisti said. “I mean, that’s treacherous. If you can build a mosque in Iqaluit, you can build it anywhere else on the planet.”

Written by Randy McDonald

February 16, 2016 at 5:20 pm

[LINK] “Weather anomaly puts North Pole temperatures at 4 C this week”

The report by CBC’s Katherine Barton about the ridiculous heat wave on the North Pole deserves wider sharing.

A weather anomaly sweeping across the world will cause temperatures at the North Pole to reach nearly 4 C this week.

Texas, Australia and England are just a few of the regions that have seen a spate of extreme weather this month, including tornadoes, brush fires and flooding. Now, forecasters say the North Pole will see temperatures well above normal.

CBC North’s resident meteorologist, Ashley Brauweiler, says the severe weather system that wreaked havoc in the U.S. and beyond is the reason.

“We have temperatures above zero near the poles and that’s because the jet stream is bringing that warm air from the South up and along Greenland and Iceland and that’s what causing those strong storms,” Brauweiler says.

“They’re seeing the same storms that were affecting the southern states.”

At the North Pole on Thursday, temperatures are expected to hit 3 C. On New Year’s Day it will be nearly 4 C.

Written by Randy McDonald

December 31, 2015 at 12:21 pm

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