Saturday, June 04, 2016
Inuit hunters worry about toxic splash from Russian rocket
3 June 2016 Eyes on the Arctic:
Despite assurances by Russian and Canadian authorities that a Russian rocket engine slated to fall in northern Baffin Bay this weekend does not pose any danger, Inuit hunters in the eastern Canadian Arctic worry about the potential environmental impacts from its highly toxic rocket fuel. An international aviation authority has issued a notice warning that debris from a Russian rocket launch is slated to fall Saturday into Baffin Bay, in international waters between Canada and Greenland. The Rokot (Russian for rumble) launch vehicle, a repurposed Cold-War-era intercontinental ballistic missile redesigned to launch commercial satellites instead of nuclear warheads, uses hydrazine for fuel, a highly toxic substance. The launch vehicle is expected to come down in what is called the North Water Polynya, an 85,000-square-kilometre area of Arctic sea that naturally remains ice free year round.
‘A slap in the face’
The polynya (Russian for ice free water) is a vital habitat for narwhal, beluga, walrus and bowhead whales. Its waters attract shoals of Arctic cod and other fish species, which in turn feed thousands of seals, polar bears and millions of seabirds. The area is a prime hunting ground for Inuit from Canada and Greenland. “Our animals come from there,” Marty Kuluguqtuq, senior administrative officer for the tiny hamlet of Grise Fiord on Ellesmere Island told CBC News. “It is quite alarming that a foreign object with contaminants might be affecting our way of life, with us literally seeing the thing coming down from the sky.” (more)