Happy 15th Birthday, Nunavut! Unfortunately, the Great White North seems to be celebrating this auspicious occasion with fire.
The garbage dump in Iqaluit, Nunavut’s capital, has been on fire for the past two months or so. The fire chief has a plan to extinguish the fire for a mere $4.5 million. They hope to excavate all the garbage, dump it into a pit of sea water, and rebury the soggy mess in a new landfill. The article is a bit vague on what they’ll do with the water afterwards, but, hey, with a golden plan like this, what can go wrong?
About 2,200 km (1,400 mi) west, the Northwest Territories are just burning willy-nilly. According to NWTFire.com, about 140 fires are currently burning across the territory. The smoke has flowed down through Saskatchewan, Manitoba, into the Great Plains of the US.
But, let’s focus on the beautiful bowhead whales instead. There are other “Nunagram” photos at Finding True North to celebrate their birthday in much prettier ways.
Last week, the Canadian Parliament approved the Nordion and Theratronics Divestiture Authorization Act (the “Nordion Act ”). How’s that for an exciting lede? Well, this could have significant impacts on the world’s supply of medical isotopes, used for nuclear imaging procedures to diagnose cancer and heart disease.
The act itself merely allows the Crown corporation to be sold to a foreign entity (in this case, the US firm, Sterigenics). But, the issue with the isotopes is that Nordion’s Chalk River research reactor is scheduled to close in 2016. The CBC article quotes an Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development report:
The loss of Canada’s processing capacity in the second half of 2016 reduces current global processing capacity by approximately 25 per cent in that period.
I don’t pretend to have a solution for this or really understand all the implications. The Chalk River Lab is almost 70 years old and building a new facility would certainly take years, if not decades, to complete. The teeny, tiny, kernel of libertarian in me says that government interference in the private market leads to all sorts of distortions and skewed incentives. However, my bleeding-heart liberal side notes that governments need to serve the entire population and sometimes has to override the “free market.” Medical isotopes are necessary in modern medicine and seem to me to be worth the intervention.
The 2013-14 NHL season is over. Congratulations to the LA Kings (you rat bastards)! More importantly, last year was the 60th season of Hockey Night in Canada. Not that it will end anytime soon, but will CBC no longer own the exclusive rights to NHL broadcasts in Canada. In remembrance, here is the classic videos of Petey the Puck from the 1970s. I watched him growing up and even then thought he was a bit dorky. But, that’s nostalgia for you. Regardless, here’s looking forward to Sep and Oct!
This weekend, CBC reported that father-son vacationers, Paul and Don Jarvis, caught a 3.5 meter (~12 ft) sturgeon weighing an estimated 400 kg (just under 900 lbs). Since the story made it to US national news, it doesn’t really fit my Meanwhile in Canada series, but I went down the internet rabbit hole to make it an Interesting Science subject.
The most accurate way to age a sturgeon requires that it be killed to count the layers (similar to tree rings) of the dorsal fin just behind the head or from the otoliths (literally, ear stone). To simplify matters, several organizations have made length charts to correlate the fish size to age. For example, see these from Minnesota (pdf) and Fraser River, BC (where this fish was caught, pdf). Neither of these give the age for the size of sturgeon caught, so they are only useful as general info. Plus, river sturgeon grow larger than lake sturgeon, so comparisons for different regions are troublesome.
Furthermore, a 2003 study from Idaho Fish and Game (pdf) summarized 23 years of research to correlate known fish growth over time to the fin ray method. They determined that the fin-ray method actually under estimated a sturgeons age. Newer information, like those from Wisconsin have applied a correction factor to improve the accuracy.
So, back to the question, how old is that sturgeon in the river? Nobody knows. The fish did not have a transponder tag to give any background information (although one was inserted in case it is ever caught again). General guesses range between the founding of the Dominion of Canada (1867) to the Yukon Gold Rush (late 1890s). Makes you feel young.