Posted by: | 13th Sep, 2014


We have a new website that will now be the main home for the UBC POLAR C LUB.


We will keep this blog site as an archive of past events.


We also have a new partner – The UBC GREEN COLLEGE – and we are helping them to run an Arctic-Wise seminar series.  We need your help to organize events and/or simply attend them.

Please go to the new website for more details.

HED signing out.

Best regards,

Helen Drost



The £200m investment in an icebreaker was announced by Chancellor George Osborne in a speech in Cambridge.

The ship is likely to be 130m long and sport a helipad, cranes, onboard labs, and have the ability to deploy subs and other ocean survey and sampling gear.

It should be ready to enter service in 2019, and will support scientists in both the Antarctic and the Arctic.

The strength of its hull will allow it to push deeper into pack ice than any previous British research vessel.



As Arctic ice decreases International shipping increases

IMO is developing a draft mandatory International Code of safety for ships operating in polar waters (Polar Code), to cover the full range of design, construction, equipment, operational, training, search and rescue and environmental protection matters relevant to ships operating in the inhospitable waters surrounding the two poles. The work is being coordinated by the Subcommittee on Ship Design and Construction (SDC)  – formerly the Subcommittee on Ship Design and Equipment (DE). MarineLink

For more information on daily progress of subcommittee  – check out the daily blog from Victoria BC based company. Click on logo:




On SEPTEMBER 24th – 6:30 PM 2013

at the Norm Theatre




























with support from:




Plan to meet later in the summer…

Click  this link for contact details to be added to mailing list:

Caroline Desbiens’s new book

“Power from the North Territory, Identity, and the Culture of Hydroelectricity in Quebec,”

published by UBC Press: 

About the Book :

In the 1970s, Hydro-Québec declared “We Are Hydro-Québécois.” The publicity campaign slogan symbolized the extent to which hydroelectric development in the North had come to both reflect and fuel French Canada’s aspirations in the South. The slogan helped southerners relate to the province’s northern territory and to accept the exploitation of its resources.

In Power from the North, Caroline Desbiens explores how this culture of hydroelectricity helped shape the material landscape during the first phase of the James Bay hydroelectric project. She analyzes the cultural forces that contributed to the transformation of the La Grande River into a hydroelectric complex. Policy makers and Quebecers did not, she argues, view those who built the dams as mere workers — they saw them as pioneers in a previously uninhabited landscape now inscribed with the codes of culture and spectacle.

This dynamic book reveals that drawing power from the North involves not only the cultural erasure of Aboriginal homelands but also rewriting the region’s history in the language of identity and territoriality. To reverse this trend, Desbiens calls for a truly sustainable resource management, one in which all actors bring an awareness of their own cultural histories and visions of nature, North, and nation to the negotiating table.


About the Author(s)

Caroline Desbiens is a professor of geography at Laval University. She holds the Canada Research Chair in Historical Geography of the North.


Table of Contents

Foreword: Ideas of North / by Graeme Wynn

Introduction: Looking North

Part 1: Power and the North
1 The Nexus of Hydroelectricity in Quebec
2 Discovering a New World: James Bay as Eeyou Istchee

Part 2: Writing the Land
3 Who Shall Convert the Wilderness into a Flourishing Country?
4 From the Roman de la Terre to the Roman des Ressources

Part 3: Rewriting the Land
5 Pioneers
6 Workers
7 Spectators

Conclusion: Ongoing Stories and Powers from the North



“As society struggles to find a balance between economic security and environmental well-being and grapples with the various challenges posed by social and environmental injustices, the freighted implications of popular ideas of the North need to be better understood. Power from the North can and should help with this.”
— from the Foreword by Graeme Wynn

Power from the North is a much-needed reinterpretation of Quebec’s relationship with its north. Desbiens’s sophisticated critique of nationalist, heroic narratives inherent in the earlier James Bay projects argues persuasively that development has been both an aspect of the modern technocratic state and of a troubling legacy of colonialism in Quebec. This timely historical geography speaks directly to this legacy, as well as to current political rhetoric about the North.”
— Hans M. Carlson, author of Home Is the Hunter: The James Bay Cree and Their Land


Sample Chapter

Sample Chapter [PDF]


Related Topics

History > Other
Environmental Studies


Other Ways To Order

In Canada, order your copy of Power from the North from UTP Distribution at:

UTP Distribution
5201 Dufferin Street
Toronto, Ontario
M3H 5T8

Phone orders: 1(800)565-9523 or (416)667-7791
Fax orders: 1(800)221-9985 or (416)667-7832


Ordering information for customers outside Canada

“While fracturing events are common, few events sprawl across such a large area or produce cracks as long and wide as those seen here.”

Extensive Ice Fractures in the Beaufort Sea

NASA Earth Observatory images by Jesse Allen using VIIRS day-night band data from the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership. Suomi NPP is the result of a partnership between NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Department of Defense. ____________________________________________________________________

“A fracturing event in this area is not unusual because the Beaufort Gyre tends to push ice away from Banks Island and the Canadian Archipelago,” explained Walt Meier of the National Snow & Ice Data Center (NSIDC). “Point Barrow can act like a ‘pin point’ where the ice catches and fractures to the north and east.”

In February, however, a series of storms passing over central Alaska exacerbated the fracturing. Strong westerly winds prompted several large pieces of ice to break away in an arc-shaped wave that moved progressively east. By the end of February, large pieces of ice had fractured all the way to the western coast of Banks Island, a distance of about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles).

While fracturing events are common, few events sprawl across such a large area or produce cracks as long and wide as those seen here. The age of the sea ice in this area was one of the key reasons this event became so widespread. “The region is covered almost completely by seasonal or first-year ice—ice that has formed since last September,” said Meier. “This ice is thinner and weaker than the older, multi-year ice, so it responds more readily to winds and is more easily broken up.”


Further Reading

  1. Earth Observatory Arctic sea ice.
  2. Arctic Sea Ice Blog (2013, March 24) Arctic freezing season ends with a loud crack. Accessed March 28, 2013.
  3. Arctic Sea Ice Blog (2013, March 2) The cracks of dawn. Accessed March 28, 2013.


Posted by: | 25th Mar, 2013

Not Frozen in Time Lecture March 26 7pm UBC

Dr. Frank Tester
Tomorrow at 7pm at UBC

For details check out link:

Not Frozen in Time poster




The people in the photo are Aaju Peter and Mathew Nuqingaq. The photo was taken in Dundas Harbour, Nunavut.  photo credit: Michelle Valberg

A celebration of the Arctic                                       Une célébration de l’Arctique

Mr. Nicholas Offord
Interim Chair of the Board of Trustees
Ms. Margaret Beckel
President and CEO of the
Canadian Museum of Nature along with Tom Perlmutter
Government Film Commissioner and Chairperson of the National Film Board
of Canada

invite you to the launch of


Wednesday, April 3, 2013
6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.


This special evening celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Arctic Expedition and features the Flora of the Canadian Arctic, the Museum’s latest Arctic scientific discovery, experiences shared by modern Arctic explorers, an interactive igloo and much more.


Arctic-inspired refreshments
Cash bar


Canadian Museum of Nature
240 McLeod Street, Ottawa
Salon, third floor


RSVP by March 27:
or 613-364-4122


This invitation admits two.


M. Nicholas Offord
président intérimaire du Conseil d’administration
Mme Margaret Beckel
président-directrice générale
du Musée canadien de la nature
ainsi queTom Perlmutter
Commissaire du gouvernement à la cinématographie et président de l’Office national du film du Canada
vous invitent au lancement du festivalEXTRAORDINAIRE ARCTIQUELe mercredi 3 avril 2013
18 h à 20 h 30


Cette soirée commémore le 100e anniversaire de l’Expédition canadienne dans l’Arctique en présentant la flore de l’Arctique canadien, des causeries avec des explorateurs modernes du Grand Nord, un igloo interactif et bien d’autres activités.


Rafraîchissements au goût du Grand Nord
Bar payant


Musee canadien de la nature
240, rue McLeod à Ottawa
Salon, troisième étage


Veuillez confirmer votre présence
avant le 27 mars :
ou 613-364-4122.


Cette invitation est valable pour deux personnes.

Dr. Andrew Dobson, from Princeton University, is the Graduate Student Invited Speaker for the Organismal Diversity Talk of this year.  JANUARY 30th 2013

Andrew Dobson

His talk,  “Parasites, Population Cycles and Climate Change in the High Arctic” will be the BRS next Wednesday (January 30th 12 noon)

Dr. Dobson is known as one of the leading researchers on wildlife disease ecology and on the diversity and conservation of the Serengeti, although he has worked on a variety of different ecosystems and his interests are quite diverse as you can see from his publications and website:

He will be available for meetings all day Thursday Jan. 31st. If you are interested in a time slot with him, please email Angie Nicolás, saying what time you would like to meet with him, and include your office number or preferred location.



Angie Nicolás,

MSc student, Zoology UBC

Posted by: | 7th Sep, 2012


Data this week shows the rate of melt slowing but the ice still losing 40,000 sq km a day. Cryologists [ice experts] talk of it possibly dropping below 3m sq km for the first time in possibly tens of thousands of years. If so, it would be a whopping 25% below the 2007 record minimum extent and something that few ice experts ever thought could happen in their lifetimes.


Posted by: | 23rd Aug, 2012


Click on their logo to get the latest news

The Inuit have a long and vibrant tradition of passing tales and legends down from one generation to the next using visual arts and storytelling. For the past 70 years, the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) has been documenting life in the Arctic through the production of films by, and about, the Inuit. The NFB’s collection of more than 100 documentaries and animated films represents a unique audiovisual account of the life of the Inuit—an account that should be shared with, and celebrated by, all Canadians.

The National Film Board of Canada in collaboration with the Inuit Relations Secretariat of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada and the Government of Nunavut, Department of Education, and with the support of Inuit organizations, has selected more than 40 films from its collection, the most important worldwide, that represent all four Canadian Inuit regions (Nunatsiavut, Nunavik, Nunavut and Inuvialuit), some available in Inuktitut.

Discover a powerful portrait of the Inuit experience, past and present, in these animated shorts and documentaries.




Watch Susan Watts’ investigation in full

By Meirion Jones and Susan Watts
BBC Newsnight

Secret US embassy cables released by Wikileaks show nations are racing to “carve up” Arctic resources – oil, gas and even rubies – as the ice retreats.

They suggest that Arctic states, including the US and Russia, are all pushing to stake a claim.

The opportunity to exploit resources has come because of a dramatic fall in the amount of ice in the Arctic.

The US Geological Survey estimates oil reserves off Greenland are as big as those in the North Sea.

The cables were released by the Wikileaks whistleblower website as foreign ministers from the eight Arctic Council member states – Russia, the United States, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden and Iceland – met in Nuuk, Greenland, on Thursday to sign a treaty on international search and rescue in the Arctic and discuss the region’s future challenges.

Most computers will open this document automatically, but you may need Adobe Reader





The cables claim the Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller joked with the Americans saying “if you stay out, then the rest of us will have more to carve up in the Arctic”.

Greenland is an autonomous Danish dependent territory with limited self-government; however, the cables show that US diplomats believe Greenland “is on a clear track to independence” and see this as “a unique opportunity” for American gas and oil companies to get a foothold.

The then-US Ambassador to Denmark James P Cain said in the cables that he introduced Greenland’s government to New York financiers “to help the Greenlanders secure the investments needed for such exploitation”.

Territorial claims

The grab for the Arctic accelerated in 2007 when polar explorer Artur Chilingarov used a submarine to plant a Russian flag on the seabed under the North Pole.

The US cables reveal a senior Russian official told the Americans that this was a deliberate move by the Kremlin and that Chilingarov was “following orders from the ruling United Russia party”.

Russian flag on sea bed under North Pole 

In 2007 a Russian explorer planted a Russian flag under the North Pole

They also report comments by the Russian Ambassador Dmitriy Rogozin to Nato saying “the 21st Century will see a fight for resources and Russia should not be defeated in this fight”.

The US embassy cables also expose US concerns about Canada’s territorial claims to the North West passage and to “seabed resources that extend to the edge of the continental shelf”.

They show that in 2008 the US embassy in Ottawa asked Washington to delay a new presidential directive requiring “the United States to assert a more active and

influential national presence to protect its Arctic interests”.

Officials were worried that if it was released before the Canadian federal election the Arctic would become a big election issue and “negatively impact US-Canadian relations”. The directive was in fact delayed until after the Canadian election.

Rising tensions

The cables also report Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper telling Nato to keep out of the Arctic – an issue where he is in agreement with Russia.

Instead of seeing the melting of the Arctic ice cap as a spur to action on climate change, oil companies like Cairn are rushing in to extract the very fossil fuels that caused the melting in the first place
Environmental campaigner Ben Ayliffe

He is said to have claimed that some European countries without Arctic territories were trying to use Nato to give them “influence in an area ‘where they don’t belong'”.

Tom Burke, who advises mining company Rio Tinto and the UK Foreign Office on climate change and business, told Newsnight that political tensions were rising because “the ice is declining much faster” than expected, so “everybody who thinks they’ve got a chance to get at

those resources wants to get in there and stake their claim”.

Since the 1970s, Professor Peter Wadhams of Cambridge University has made repeated trips under the North Pole in Royal Navy nuclear submarines to measure the thickness of the ice.

He told Newsnight the graph “has gone off a cliff” because the ice sheet has thinned as well as shrunk.

The Pan-Arctic Ice-Ocean Modelling and Assimilation System (PIOMAS) which measures ice volume shows that last September there was only a quarter of the ice in the Arctic that there had been in 1979.

Prof Wadhams says in summer “it could easily happen that we’ll have an ice-free North Pole within a year or two”.

New sea route

British oil company Cairn Energy are in the vanguard of the Arctic oil rush. The company’s commercial director Simon Thomson told Newsnight “we’re leading the charge”.

Meeting Arctic ice 

The ice sheet is thinning as well as shrinking

Mr Thomson says Cairn Energy are “ahead of everybody else” in Greenland, but he knows the major oil companies are on alert saying “they’re all watching and they’re all waiting to see what we will find”.

He says that there is an awareness that although “it’s a substantial prize”, one big spill could endanger the whole Arctic oil project, therefore “we need to do what we do with an absolute focus on safety”.

However, the search for Arctic oil has been criticised by environmental campaigners, and Greenpeace protesters have already boarded a Cairn Energy rig currently

heading for Greenland.

“Instead of seeing the melting of the Arctic ice cap as a spur to action on climate change, oil companies like Cairn are rushing in to extract the very fossil fuels that caused the melting in the first place,” campaigner Ben Ayliffe, who is on the Greenpeace ship Esperanza, told Newsnight.

Some experts think that what is happening in the Arctic is like the Scramble for Africa in the 19th Century when European nations raced to secure resources.

However, it is not just a race for oil and gas. Russia hopes that the Northern Sea Route will open up and allow northern European shipping to get to the Far East a third quicker than via the Suez Canal.

New fisheries are opening up and Greenland in particular has mineral resources including aluminium and rubies.

Posted by: | 17th Oct, 2013



SEPTEMBER 24th – 6:30 PM at the Norm Theatre




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