Tag Archives: Norway

“The ice edge is lost” – but can it be mapped?

By Philip Steinberg, Professor of Political Geography, Durham University and Berit Kristoffersen, Associate Professor, Department of Social Sciences, UiT – The Arctic University of Norway

Stein&Krist

Photo courtesy of US National Snow and Ice Data Center, http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/files/2012/09/Figure4b.png

Drawing chaotic natures onto mobile seascapes

Amidst a steady stream of news stories announcing record-setting lows in sea ice extent, our recent publication in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers asks a question that is fundamental to efforts to understand and manage our changing planet: What is sea ice?

Sea ice is never simply frozen sea water. It exists amidst dynamic processes of freezing, melting, and brine rejection; it supports complex ecosystems of primary algal production; its edge (where sea ice extent meets open water) is never clearly defined; and because that edge is perpetually moving it can never easily be mapped. Yet in spite of, or perhaps because of, sea ice’s indeterminacy its appearances and disappearances are regularly enrolled to support one political project or another – oil drilling, sovereignty claims, environmental protection, etc.

The politics of sea ice

The political utility of sea ice was driven home to us by the publication of two maps within months of each other in 2015: a Norwegian map that moved the sea ice edge 70 kilometers northward and a Canadian map that moved it 200 kilometers southward. In “’The ice edge is lost….nature moved it’: mapping ice as state practice in the Canadian and Norwegian North,” we research the genealogies of these maps to explore the pitfalls that emerge when sea ice is mobilized as a planning object.

Is the ice edge lost?

The title of our article is derived from two statements made about the Barents Sea ice edge. The first is from Nikolai Knipowitsch, a pioneer in sea ice research, who sent a telegram to his colleagues in 1930, proclaiming: “The ice edge is lost. Those who find it, please deliver it to the address: Longitude 81”. Knipowitsch was celebrating that he had correctly predicted that, due to higher temperatures and changes in the Gulf Stream, there would be an almost total absence of sea ice that summer in the Barents Sea. The title’s second quotation comes from a statement made 85 years later by Norway’s Prime Minister, Erna Solberg. Defending a map that, moved the ice edge northward and thereby lent support to efforts to open new areas of the Barents Sea to oil exploration, Solberg stated, “We are not moving the ice edge. It is actually nature that is currently moving the ice edge”.

Both statements can be contested. Knipowitsch knew very well that the ice edge was not mysteriously ‘lost’; indeed his research was devoted to uncovering the processes behind variation in its retreat and appearance. Solberg fails to share Knipowitsch’s sense of irony, but her statement can nonetheless be subjected to critique that resonates with the large body of geographic research that questions simplistic understandings of a unidirectional relationship where ‘nature’ influences ‘culture’. In this case, for instance, one could note that the ‘nature’ that Solberg blames for ‘moving’ the Barents ice edge is itself a product of carbon emissions from oil and gas extraction similar to that which would be facilitated by the map’s redrawing of sea ice extent.

But perhaps most profoundly, both quotations refer to the ice edge as an object that can be measured, mapped, and enrolled in economic development, state building, and a host of other projects. Our article suggests that whether the ice edge is said to be lost (as it was by Knipowitsch) or found (as it was by Solberg), the significance in both of these quotations – and in the Canadian and Norwegian maps that followed – is that the ice is said to exist as an object.

Toward a politics of probabilities and processes

In “’The ice edge is lost…nature moved it’” we urge that the retreat of sea ice should be incorporated into political discourse and conversation, not by drawing and reading lines on a map but by interpreting sea ice within a confluence of probabilities and processes: probabilities because sea ice cover is both spatially and temporally uneven and dynamic, and processes because the value of sea ice is less as an object with single purposes (e.g. to hinder ships, to support marine mammals and their hunters) than as an essential element of polar ecosystems and global circulations. Drawing a line on a map and calling it an ice edge smooths over insecurities, scientific knowledge gaps, and ecological risks involved in conducting economic activities above or below that line. It follows that sea ice management needs to be directed less toward protecting the places where sea ice was most recently located and more toward management of a zone where, amidst probabilities of its occurrence, environmental and social processes are preserved.

This presents a challenge for lawyers, legislators, and activists, as well as cartographers. New forms of mapping and legislating are required for a politics of probability and processes. We hope that geographers are up to this task.

About the authors: Philip Steinberg is Professor of Political Geography and Director of IBRU: the Centre for Borders Research at Durham University. Berit Kristoffersen is Associate Professor, Department of Social Sciences, UiT – The Arctic University of Norway.

books_icon Hjort J (1939) N. M. Knipovich. 1862–1939 ICES J Mar Sci 14 (3): 335-336. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/icesjms/14.3.335
books_icon Steinberg, P. and Kristoffersen, B. (2017), ‘The ice edge is lost … nature moved it’: mapping ice as state practice in the Canadian and Norwegian North. Trans Inst Br Geogr. doi:10.1111/tran.12184

60-world2 Thompson A (2017) Sea Ice Hits Record Lows at Both Poles Scientific American https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/sea-ice-hits-record-lows-at-both-poles/

A British Arctic Policy for the Twenty-first Century

by Benjamin Sacks

HMS Alert's 1875-76 expedition to the Arctic. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

HMS Alert’s 1875-76 expedition to the Arctic. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Britain retains significant interests in the Arctic Ocean, according to a recently published commentary in The Geographical Journal. To the general reader, this point may be somewhat surprising: physical geography aside, the United Kingdom’s more famous interests in the South Atlantic and Antarctica tend to make headlines. The Cold War, in particular, popularised the Arctic environment as the preserve of Russia, the United States, and Scandinavia. In 2007 and 2010 the House of Lords formally discussed Britain’s supposed lack of a coherent and tangible Arctic policy, proposing that the House of Commons, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the National Oceanographic Centre formulate at least a mission statement outlining British objectives in the region. Britain’s intimate relationship with Canada, and increasingly with Norway, have also been cited as key motivators to both expanding Arctic goals and defining the terms of Arctic activity. Various Parliamentary committees have discussed the possibility of establishing a powerful Arctic scientific research body similar in scope and size to the British Antarctic Survey.

The Arctic has long drawn British explorers, entrepreneurs, strategists, and naval planners. The British Empire brought Canada’s vast Arctic territories into the public imagination, and the Second World War catalysed a strong bilateral British-Norwegian relationship which continues to the present. In the twenty-first century, this exploration- and defence-based relationships have been complemented with an increasing range of corporate and public interests, from environmental activism and scientific inquiry to petroleum and rare earth minerals exploration.

Yet as of present, the British government has yet to publish or promote a formal Arctic policy. Duncan Depledge (Royal Holloway) suggests that this is because London remains concerned ‘about over-committing itself where the UK’s interests are often peripheral in relation to wider global concerns’ (p. 370). But as Depledge contends, Britain’s economic and strategic interests require a strong Arctic presence.

From a defence point-of-view, Britain both retains and will need to increase its Arctic interests. In a 2012 white paper authored for the United Royal Services Institute, Depledge and Klaus Dodds recalled their first-hand experiences observing a series of joint operations between Britain and Norway. Referring to it as the ‘forgotten partnership’, the authors stress Norway’s strong reliance and confidence in its North Sea neighbour to ensure the North Atlantic’s protection in the event of conflict. Physical geography also plays an important role: extreme weather training remains as important as ever for British forces.

Scientific and corporate interests are no less important. Beyond never-ending Parliamentary quibbling over white paper naming and policy terminology (pp. 370-72), London has repeatedly claimed that it wishes to become a leader in environmental protection and rehabilitation. World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace, and BBC Earth awareness programmes have accomplished significant strides in raising public awareness for ‘saving’ the Arctic from excessive human development. Ultimately, Depledge stresses the need for clarifying British Arctic policies across defence, scientific, environmental, and corporate spheres, as well as recognising Britain’s position as a non-Arctic state. Britain will need to work with Scandinavia, Russia, Canada, and the United States to seek common ground while respecting national interests.

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Duncan Depledge 2013 What’s in a name? A UK Arctic policy framework for 2013, The Geographical Journal 179.4: 369-72.

books_icon Duncan Depledge and Klaus Dodds 2012 Testing the Northern Flank: The UK, Norway and Exercise Cold ResponseThe RUSI Journal 157.4: 72-78.

Red Cross Red Crescent: A Geographical Life

800px-Croixrouge_logosby Benjamin Sacks

In the August 1924 edition of The Geographical Journal, the Royal Geographical Society republished a notice from Monsieur Raoul Montandon, then-president of the Geographical Society of Geneva. The Geneva group was finalising a new series, entitled Materiaux pour l’Étude des Calamités, in honour of the International Red Cross Committee. Both the Geneva and London societies, as well as G Ciraolo, president of the Italian Red Cross, hoped to galvanise as much support as possible amongst geographers to assist in editing Materiaux. In so doing, the societies sought to fashion a truly international journal, bridging the divide between medicine, international affairs, and geography.

The joint call came at a propitious moment in the Red Cross and the RGS’s history. The non-sectarian, non-governmental movement, which celebrated its one hundred and fiftieth anniversary this week, had recently recovered from its massive undertakings on both sides in the First World War, and was well-poised to take advantage of international sympathies, as expressed by the League of Nations, in particular, towards preventing another world war. Indeed, geographical societies, the Red Cross, and the League of Nations were deeply linked.

The Red Cross (and Red Crescent after 1919) stands as one of the few success stories in twentieth century international cooperation. Geographers and explorers became involved early in the organisation’s modern development. Fridtjof Nansen, a geographical polymath who sailed schooners, reached towards the north pole on drifting ice flows, sketched arctic landscapes, tested scientific theories in Greenland, and served as Norway’s (then newly-independent from Sweden) first ambassador to the United Kingdom, helped lead the Red Cross’s humanitarian efforts in Russia and Armenia immediately following the vicious Civil War. For these efforts, he was awarded the 1922 Nobel Prize. He worked with both the Red Cross and the League of Nations until his death in 1930, hoping to prevent another catastrophe on the scale of the 1914-1918 war.

Nansen was by no means alone in aiding the Red Cross’s mission. An examination of The Geographical Journal‘s obituaries revealed a number of geographers and explorers who worked with the Red Cross and to spread geographical knowledge. May French Sheldon, one of the first women elected to the RGS fellowship (1892), was an itinerant explorer in the mould of Jules Verne’s Phileas Fogg who travelled three times around the world and was the first female to lead an expedition into Central Africa. In the First World War she embarked on an international lecture tour to raise money for the beleaguered Belgian Red Cross.

Just as Sheldon fashioned her own geographical career, Prince Iyesato, head of Japan’s Tokugawa family (who had lost power in 1867, but were eventually restored to leading the House of Peers) was elected a Life Fellow of the RGS for his lifelong interest in and support of geographical endeavours. As an unofficial patron, he travelled to London to attend the Society’s 1930 centenary celebration. In the 1920s, he directed the Japanese Red Cross, sending volunteers to aid in the Great War’s aftermath, as well as undertaking responsibilities on behalf of Japan at the League of Nations.

books_icon 1924, Scientific Study of Natural Catastrophes, The Geographical Journal, 64, 2, 191-92.

books_icon Brown, R. N. Rudmose, Obituary: Fridtjof Nansen, The Geographical Journal, 76, 1, 92-95.

books_icon 1936, Obituary: May French Sheldon, The Geographical Journal, 87, 3, 288.

books_icon 1940, Obituary: Prince Iyesato Tokugawa, The Geographical Journal, 96, 6, 451.

books_icon Austen, Nancy Virginia, 1921, “Prince Tokugawa, Heir of Japan’s Last Shogun“, New Outlook, 129, 514-15.

60-world2Red Cross celebrates 150th anniversary“, BBC News, 17 February 2013.

Antarctica: Frozen Diplomacy

600px-Antarctica_6400px_from_Blue_MarbleBy Benjamin Sacks

On 18 December 2012, William Hague, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, announced that the southern portion of the British Antarctic Territory, spanning from the southern edges of the Ronne Ice Shelf to the South Pole, had been renamed in honour of Queen Elizabeth II. In celebration of the Diamond Jubilee, the 169,000 square mile, unpopulated region is twice the United Kingdom’s land area. There is considerable precedent for ceremoniously naming parts of Antarctica. Britain had previously named the the region near the Dumont d’Urville Sea George V Land, and Princess Elizabeth Land near Prydz Bay and the Amery Ice Shelf. Norway, which along with Britain was the chief explorer of Antarctica in the early twentieth century, named a large swath of the continent after its monarchs.

The legal framework behind Britain’s decision to rename a portion of its Antarctic territory is, to pardon the pun, ‘frozen’. Britain’s claim to much of West Antarctica is, like the claims of six other states, held in permanent limbo under the terms of Antarctic Treaty, safeguarding the continent against future development, which became active on 23 June 1961. As such, although Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, France, and Norway all made territorial claims, their respective holdings are not necessarily recognized by any other state, and all countries are free to conduct scientific research in any part of the continent.

It is important to keep in mind how little the world knew about Antarctica at the beginning of the twentieth century. In June 1963, Griffith Taylor, a surviving member of Robert Scott’s 1910 expedition, wrote in The Geographical Journal of some of the changes international teams had noted since his perilous journey over fifty years previously. Taylor recalled explorers’ differing geographical accounts, particularly over the length and breadth of continental mountain ranges and ice shelves. Other areas, including the Filchner Shelf, were all but unknown in 1910-14. Finally, and somewhat ominously, he predicted, but did not elaborate upon, the continent’s ‘probable disintegration’ (pp. 190-91).

Although uninhabited, Antarctica was long (and, indeed, continues to be) described within a colonial vocabulary. In part, this was because still so little was actually understood about the continent’s interior. In 1951, famed explored Vivian Fuchs described post-war British efforts in the region. The British were not simply exploring Antarctica, but rather a somewhat indeterminate British Antarctica, stretching vaguely down from the Falkland Islands. The maps, including that of Marguerite Bay, took on a creative, even farcical quality normally associated with the faded charts of early exploration (see. p. 402, for example).  But Fuchs’ report was also a clear piece of authoritative legitimation, a systematic chronology of British expeditions since 1945 acknowledging the United Kingdom’s Antarctic interests. Successive generations, including the (1984-85) Joint Services expedition, have continued this role to the present.

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Griffith Taylor, 1963, Probable Disintegration of Antarctica, The Geographical Journal 129 190-91.

books_icon Vivian E Fuchs, 1951, Exploration in British Antarctica, The Geographical Journal 117, 399-419.

books_icon Chris Furse, 1987, Joint Services Expedition to Brabant Island, Antarctica, 1984/85The Geographical Journal 153 1-10.

60-world2 UK to name part of Antarctica Queen Elizabeth Land, BBC News, 18 December 2012.

60-world2 The Antarctic TreatyNational Science Foundation: Office of Polar Programs, accessed 20 December 2012.

 

Area Content Alert: 44, 2 (June 2012)

Cover image for Vol. 44 Issue 2The latest issue of Area (Volume 44, Issue 2, pages 134–268, June 2012) is available on Wiley Online Library.

Click past the break for a full list of articles in this issue.

Continue reading

Content Alert: New Articles (27th January 2012)

These Early View articles are now available on Wiley Online Library.

Original Articles

The paradigm of structural engineering approaches for river flood risk reduction in Norway
Ilan Kelman and Trude Rauken
Article first published online: 23 JAN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2011.01074.x

Ice melt reveals historical artefacts

By Richard Gravelle

It’s become something of a trend for me to write about the negative effects of climate change, and particularly the retreat of glaciers.  Recently however, I found a news story that does, in some ways, provide a small upshot to climatic warming.

A team of archaeologists working on recently deglaciated land in the Jotunheimen mountains of Norway have revealed that melting ice is exposing historical artefacts faster than they can collect them.  Although the preservation of historical artefacts is not uncommon (Italy’s ice man Otzi for example), Jotunheimen is proving unusual due to the sheer numbers of artefacts being discovered at the same time – around 600 in one area alone.

The items are believed to be pre-Viking hunting equipment, including sharpened sticks, bows and arrows, as well as some items of clothing though to be around 3,400 years old.

Unfortunately, the rate of exposure of such artefacts and the limited time and manpower resources available to the archaeologists means that items are being lost at an alarming rate.  One exposed, items require immediate preservation and refreezing (often within a few days) before they rot away and are lost forever.

With increasing ice mass loss threatening to expose more historical pieces, lets hope that these are found and preserved, and do not become history themselves.

Alister Doyle, Reuters, September 14th 2010, Home of “Ice Giants” thaws, shows pre-Viking hunts.