Freezing cold war: militaries move in as Arctic ice retreats, photo essay

Canadian Arctic operations advisers scale the decades-old wreckage of an airplane in temperatures below -50C. They are on reconnaissance outside Resolute Bay on Cornwallis Island, Nunavut, Canada. Photograph: Louie Palu/Zuma Press

US, Russian, Canadian and Chinese forces are taking an active role in the polar region but the real threat is the rapidly changing climate


Guardian: This month Arctic sea ice reached its second lowest extent on record, and modeling shows it will completely melt in summer by 2035. But where many see a disaster, some global powers discern an opportunity to secure geopolitical and commercial interests – and military ones.

Canadian pilots and air crew seen after a week of Arctic survival training for military personal from Canada, the UK and France at the Canadian Forces Crystal City training facility near Resolute Bay in Nunavut, Canada. These military personnel are in a tracked ground vehicle taking them back to heated facilities after a week of living outdoors in makeshift shelters at temperatures below -50C. Photograph: Louie Palu/Zuma Press

The UK, the United States and Canada have been among the countries ramping up their Arctic military exercises, and for the past five years, photographer and film-maker Louie Palu has been taking pictures of soldiers confronting an environment as hostile and deadly as any enemy force. He has photographed a parachute drop into mountainous terrain in Alaska, “through-the-ice” training in a lake in the Northwest Territories, a submarine coming up from under the ice in the Beaufort Sea and igloo-building and radar operations in Nunavut. He saw soldiers suffer frostbite and, during exercises in Finland, even be killed in a vehicle accident, he said.

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  1. The worst duty station ever? Locked and loaded to thwart Polar Bears. And when the ice melts you’ll have swarms of Mosquitos and Black Flies! Seems like a job for the RCMP.

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