Clyde River, Nunavut. This small hamlet, population 1,100, is at the epicenter of an international effort to stop a dangerous type of oil exploration in the Arctic called Seismic Cannon Mapping. Their primary concern is the well-being of the narwhal, a rare and threatened whale that primarily resides in Baffin Bay and is the origin of the myth of the unicorn.
A planned oil exploration survey of the entirety of Baffin Bay has been opposed by Inuit of Clyde River. Led by former Mayor Jerry Natanine, the Clyde River Solidarity Network (Greenpeace Canada, Amnesty International, Idle No More, Council of Canadians,Mining Injustice Social Network, and author and activist Naomi Klein and Actresses Emma Thompson and Lucy Lawless have signed a statement of support) asserts that the seismic cannon mapping proposed by a Norwegian consortium of companies Multi Klient Invest/TGS/PGS has been expressly refused consent by Inuit. Furthermore, Clyde River haslegitimate concerns that seismic cannons threaten the marine wildlife and the fragile ecosystem that 80-90% of narwhals inhabit.
Led by Jerry Natanine, Clyde River challenged the Canadian National Energy Board’s approval of the survey in July of 2015 – the board ruled unanimously in favor of the survey amidstwidespread opposition. This year, in a rare move, the Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear the case for protecting Baffin Bay from sonic blasts on November 30th.
In the meantime Greenpeace Canada is mobilizing their icebreaking ship, The Arctic Sunrise, on a peaceful protest training mission to Clyde River with Actress Emma Thompson accompanying former mayor Jerry Natanine. The mission is to raise awareness around the planned seismic mapping of Baffin Bay, install solar panels on the roof of the community center, and to host a training session with the residents of Clyde River demonstrating peaceful protest methods and flotilla organizing in case the cannons start shooting the Arctic waters.
The expedition will begin installation of solar panels on the community center, peaceful protest training sessions, and flotilla safety protocols this week. Emma Thompson and her daughter have arrived and met with residents and are sitting in on the training sessions. The goal of the expedition is to primarily train residents of Clyde River to have effective tools of protest in order to be heard by the Canadian government and international media while also bolstering their self-sufficiency and sustainability through solar generated power.
Located at the 70th parallel longitude within the Arctic Circle, Clyde River is at the northwestern part of Baffin Island on the eastern coast of Canada and separated by Baffin Bay from Greenland. It’s a remote and frigid area of the world that not that many people visit. But there’s a robust wilderness that supports an amazing biodiversity that Inuit depend upon for their survival.
Baffin Bay is home to ninety percent of monodon monoceros, ‘the unicorn of the sea,’ or narwhal. These rare whales migrate up and down the shores of Baffin Bay, feeding on Arctic Char near the North Pole in the winter and squid and shrimp when they summer in more southern waters. They are the second deepest diving whale, up to a mile and a half, and swim upside down while feeding. But the most fascinating aspect of the narwhal is their tusk: a ten foot long tooth that protrudes from their upper lip and guides their underwater foraging.
This is the tooth of legend. Literally. The myth of the origin of the unicorn has been traced back to Vikings that hunted narwhals in the Arctic Circle. They brought back the horns and sold them to southern Europeans who wouldn’t reveal what animal they were from nor where they caught them in order to preserve the secrecy of the Viking fishing grounds. Lore soon built up around these horns, even the Queen of England paid the equivalent of a castle to purchase one, and the legend of the horse with a horn was born. Crushed up narwhal, or ‘unicorn’ horn, was said to protect those that ingested it from being poisoned by anything. That only a virgin maiden alone in the forest could attract a unicorn before hunters could capture it – indeed, the famousThe Lady and the Unicorn tapestries are based on the legends built around the very real, though unknown at that time, narwhal of the Arctic.
The narwhal’s habitat is almost solely Baffin Bay – the other 10% of narwhal are on the eastern coast of Greenland and Svalbard – so they are intricately linked to the underwater ecosystem. There is much evidence to show that seismic surveys are linked to deafness, stranding, beachings, and the deaths of narwhals and other whales. In an open letter to President Obama over fifty marine biologists and scientists have urged him to ban seismic surveys off of the coasts of the U.S. The dangers are real and the future of the species that spawned the legend of the unicorn is at risk of becoming a legend itself.
For More Information go to: www.TheNarwhalsWake.Film
And if you’d like more people to learn about narwhals and the dangers that they are facing support The Narwhal’s Wake Arctic Expedition Kickstarter Campaign.
Learn about Greenpeace’s efforts to help the residents of Clyde River, save the narwhals, and protect the Arctic sign the petition at Arctic Home.