Friday, June 10, 2005

North Pole Emigrates

From the Edmonton Journal via Neale News comes this story.
Thursday, June 09, 2005
Nathan VanderKlippe

YELLOWKNIFE, N.W.T. - Sometime in the last year, a longtime friend turned its back on Canada and was last spotted heading for Siberia. For centuries, the magnetic North Pole was ours, a constant companion that wandered the rolling tundra and frozen seas of our Arctic.

But no more.

A Canadian scientist who recently returned from a trip to measure the Pole's current location says it has now left Canadian territory and crossed into international waters.

"I think the Pole has probably just moved past the 200-nautical-mile limit," said Larry Newitt, head of the Natural Resources Canada geomagnetic laboratory in Ottawa. "It's probably outside of Canada, technically. But we're still the closest country to it." .....

The pole, which, unlike the geographic North Pole, is in constant movement, has been within modern Canadian borders since at least the 1600s -- the time of Shakespeare and Sir Isaac Newton. In 1904 it was measured just off the northern tip of Nunavut's King William Island by Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, and since then has moved in a north to northwesterly direction at a stately 10 kilometres per year.

But in 2001, scientists discovered that it was picking up the pace, suddenly Charging ahead -- and toward the edge of Canadian territory -- at more than 40
Kilometres per year.
We cannot think it should be otherwise. The Forces of Nature has its pride and it is normal to want to reside in a good neighbourhood, not one in rapid decline.

We Canadians may well be okay with daily fiscal muggings, political patronage littering the streets, mobsters disguised as Liberal fundraisers running protection rackets on local businesses, our mental streetscapes defaced with socialist ideological graffiti, political spin substituting for thought among media pundits, government officials transformed into scofflaws, and once proud citizens sprawled drunkenly on the sidewalks mainlining tax dollars given to them by Liberal pushers buying loyalty at the voting booth.

No, the Forces of Nature has taken a look at the decay and has decamped to more respectable climes. It is saying something here to note that the Forces of Nature considers a stateless existence in international waters, or a home in Siberia to be more respectable than our current puerile polity. But, as Bill Clinton says, "We are where we are." We Canadians are now without the North Pole.
But Canada prides itself on being a northern nation -- it's part of that nebulous identity we spend so much time thinking about. Does losing the pole mean losing a piece of ourselves? Will we be launched into the throes of another identity crisis, now that the world's compasses no longer point to us?

Carolyn Relf, a geologist with Indian and Northern Affairs, says no. "As long as Santa's still in the North, I don't care about the pole," she said.
Well Carolyn Relf may not care, but millions of little Canucks lying in bed on Christmas Eve with visions of a future full of federally subsidized sugarplums dancing through their heads will worry endlessly. I've been a kid and am a parent and know this to be true. I can hear it now.

Mum. Dad. Will Santa make it through Canada Customs on time? Will he have a valid visa? Where will his point of entry from Siberia be located? Will there be a Canadian immigration officer on duty on Christmas Eve? If Santa does make it through, will there be Customs duties on the little red wagon under the tree? What if the new and unproven American anti-missile defence shield takes him out by accident?

As long as the North Pole resided in Canada kids only had to worry about Rudolph crashing the sleigh into the chimney. Now this.

As for the "nebulous identity we spend so much time thinking about" it is time to admit we don't.
Sure, the CBC and the Globe and Mail obsess about it constantly. But the boys whooping it up on a Saturday night in the in the Malamute saloon know it's a crock invented to sell subscriptions to MacLeans Magazine.

Our Canadian identity is firmly rooted in Don Messer's Jubilee and rye whiskey for the older folk and in free taxpayer provided hypodermics, same sex weddings, and a government monopoly on health care for the younger generation. Okay, the Supreme Court just blew away the last item, but you get the drift.
Besides, there's not a whole lot we can do to get it back. The liquid iron that creates Earth's magnetic field is located so far beneath the planet's crust it's beyond the reach of even our most ambitious and patriotic leaders.
Clearly the author is not familiar with the tenacity of the Liberal policy back room boys. If there are votes to be had by regulating the earth's magnetic field, the mandate of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) will be expanded to encompass it. Trust me.
Col. Norm Couturier, commanding officer of Canadian Forces Northern Area, is the man charged with protecting Canada's Arctic sovereignty -- but guarding the pole is beyond his pay grade.

"It's a force of nature that we're not equipped to deal with," he said, laughing.

And though Couturier says it is, of course, sad to lose the pole, there is a sunny side. With the pole gone from Canada, it means we have less responsibility for the ill-prepared adventurers who go on half-crazed skiing adventures to reach the magnetic pole.

"It will probably mean now that we'll have to stage less rescue missions," he said.

"When it was over in Canadian territory, every year we would have to go and assist somebody or recover somebody that was trying to get there."

"Now that it's in international waters, a little bit of the pressure is off us."
Colonel Couturier may laugh. Any military officer who accepts a command requiring him to defend the whole northern border of North America without possessing soldiers, sailors, airmen/women, fighter planes, submarines, snowmobiles, jeeps, or some small say over the continental missile defence shield, is an officer with a sense of humour. I believe he is the same officer who coined the motto of the CF Northern Area. "Heap Big Smoke, But No Fire." He's a card alright.

Still, Colonel Couturier is on to something with his comments. This may be the first time in living memory that the obligations of the Canadian Forces have been downsized to match declining military capabilities. It is a small silver lining in the great black thundercloud of our incoherent defence policy. Who knows? Now that there is a precedent, matching mission capability to military resources, the idea may catch on among those who set defence policy.

At least that's my hope - if this second of the great Christian virtues is still allowed in the public square of the Dominion, I mean. "Faith" is not doing well at the various Human Rights tribunals is it and "Love" has been recently hijacked and transformed by the Supreme Court of Canada. In such an environment the future of "Hope" is tenuous at best.

Still, it could be just a temporary reprieve. The forces that are pushing the pole away from us could just as easily pull it back inside Canadian borders one day.
"I'm sure we can share it for a little while. But it's coming back," said a hopeful James Pugsley, president of Yellowknife's Astronomy North. "We did such a good job of managing it while it was here. It will be back."
James Pugsley is no doubt a good man, but he sounds like he is awfully naive. The whole point of what is happening here is that the Liberals have paid as much attention to the North Pole as they do to the population of Alberta.

That is why the North Pole up and left. It is sick and tired of being just a convenient backdrop for a spectacular secular consumer orgy once a year. It wanted respect and all it got was Colonel Couturier and his arctic snowmobile platoon, rescuing ill-prepared adventurers on half-crazed skiing adventures, and a government claiming sovereignty over a vast area it cannot occupy and will not defend.

Given those circumstances I can't blame the North Pole for decamping. Can you?


At 8:10 pm, June 11, 2005 , Blogger bob said...

John, terrific post!
One thing - North Pole is actually a few miles from Fairbanks, Alaska. So all good non-Librano Canadians can still expect a visit in the final week of the year. As for the Libranos, they're going to get the detritus being dropped on the streets of Vancouver nowadays. (A post on such topic is forthcoming, friend.)

At 8:35 pm, June 11, 2005 , Blogger Kermit said...

Another aspect (if we are aware of History, we probably have to much spare time, and will have to repeat it anyhow) of the Societal Rammifications of North Polar Drift, Exclusive of Certain Aspects of Global Warming, might be found in this...

. . . . .

Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus

Editorial printed in the New York Sun in 1897 - Editor: Francis Pharcellus Church

We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:

Dear Editor---

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, "If you see it in The Sun, it's so." Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O'Hanlon

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's...

... or maybe it doesn't apply. Either way you could go to (putting it nicely)

and make up your own mind about history!

Giggling hysterically in the bog,



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