Stephanie Joyce, APRN Contributor


A mapping tool that could help emergency response in the Arctic launched last week. The Environmental Response Management Application or ERMA is an interactive map, with data layers that can be switched on and off. The various layers have information like offshore lease areas, sea ice extent and critical animal habitats.

Shell still hasn’t received final permits for its Arctic drilling plans, but the company is starting to send vessels north anyways. Two of the company’s support vessels – the Aiviq and the Fennica – left Unalaska early this week for the Chukchi Sea. The icebreaker Tor Viking is expected to join them in the next few days. Together, the vessels will start prepping the drill site for the Noble Discoverer’s arrival.

More ships than ever are operating in the Bering Strait and off the north coast of Alaska, but many of the nautical charts for the region haven’t been updated in more than a century. Now, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is trying to fix that. The research vessel Fairweather sets off Wednesday for a surveying trip in the Arctic.

The Coast Guard is relaxing certification standards for Shell’s oil spill containment barge. The company convinced regulators the Arctic Challenger should be considered a mobile unit. Among other things, that means its mooring system only needs to be able to weather a 10-year storm, as opposed to the more rigorous 100-year standard for fixed platforms.

Divers inspected the hull of Shell’s drill ship, the Noble Discoverer, Monday night and determined that the rig never touched bottom when it drifted towards shore in Unalaska on Saturday. Coast Guard Lieutenant Jim Fothergill says investigators watched a live feed of the hull inspection from aboard the ship.

Investigators are trying to determine whether Shell’s drill ship, the Noble Discoverer, ran aground in Unalaska on Saturday. Bystanders and photographs place the rig less than a hundred feet from shore. But Shell says a preliminary inspection of the hull found no damage.

In May, an amateur sailor with no open-ocean experience embarked on a 1,200-mile trip across the Gulf of Alaska in a 24-foot sailboat. Earlier this week he was rescued from a beach on Akutan Island.

One of Shell’s drill ships has arrived in Unalaska and the other is expected by the end of the week. The Noble Discoverer pulled into port on Saturday, accompanied by a small flotilla of support vessels. While the ships were originally scheduled to bypass Unalaska on their way to Arctic, persistent sea ice could keep them around for a while.

Oil and gas development in the Arctic could bring some major changes to the city of Adak. An agreement announced last week paves the way for development of the former military base as a support hub for offshore oil drilling.

Four years ago, Rat Island’s namesake rodents were eradicated. Now, the name is being done away with as well. Earlier this month, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names officially dubbed the remote Aleutian island Hawadax, an Unangan word meaning “entry” or “welcome.” That was the island’s traditional name, before a Japanese shipwreck in 1780 unleashed a plague of rodents.

After more than a hundred years in the Smithsonian Museum collection, the remains of two people from St. Paul Island have been returned to the community.

In the Aleut community of St. Paul, efforts to revive Unangam Tunuu have been ongoing for decades. KUCB’s Stephanie Joyce reports on the challenges of bringing a language back from the brink of extinction.

The search for an airline to serve Adak is starting over. On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Transportation rejected the only bid it received for the federally subsidized flight route and reopened the bidding process.

As the Pribilof Island of St. Paul slowly emerges from a brutal winter, it’s becoming clear the cold weather seriously damaged the island’s reindeer herd. KUCB’s Stephanie Joyce reports there might be some tough times ahead for locals who rely on the animals for meat.

The Aleutian Islands are soon to be home to some of the world’s most cutting-edge architecture. Last week, the International Living Future Institute announced the winners of a contest that challenged architects to design an affordable, net-zero energy home suitable for the region’s tough climate. Now, as KUCB’s Stephanie Joyce reports, the Aleutian Housing Authority is moving forward with plans to turn those designs into reality.

The Coast Guard reports its responding to an ammonia leak on a fishing vessel 80 miles north of Cold Bay in the Bering Sea. Responders were expected to arrive on scene at 5:00 p.m. Thursday evening. The report came in around 1pm this afternoon that crew members were suffering from ammonia exposure. The extent of injuries is unknown.

The snow crab fleet is in a race against time. The Bering Sea has been covered in record-setting ice since the season got underway in January and with just a few weeks left, fishermen still have millions of pounds of snow crab to catch. As KUCB’s Stephanie Joyce reports, boats are going to extremes to finish in time, with a little help from a tugboat stationed on St. Paul Island.

Record-breaking ice in the Bering Sea continues to take a toll on the snow crab industry. Crabbers, processors and regulators met last week to discuss the possibility of extending the season. The inability to forecast the ice has everyone frustrated.

Last month, Alaska-based PenAir landed the country’s most expensive Essential Air Service contract for a flight from Presque Isle, Maine to Boston. Now, PenAir is on track to receive the second most expensive EAS subsidy in the nation as well, for flight service between Anchorage and Adak.

The Arctic has crossed the threshold from winter into spring. Scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center announced last week that Arctic sea ice reached its maximum extent on March 18 and is slowly beginning its summer retreat. But the Bering Sea had record ice extent for part of the winter.