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Tragedies in Arctic hamlet sparking talk of a Franklin ‘curse’

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Some residents of an Arctic hamlet located near the Franklin shipwrecks have linked a spate of tragic deaths in the community to divers poking around the sea floor resting places of long-dead crew members.

“They feel the wrecks are cursed and should not be disturbed,” Parks Canada official Tamara Tarasoff said of the reactions of some Inuit living in Gjoa Haven, a Nunavut community about 1,000 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife.

Local resident Jacob Keanik also confirmed that members of the community, still reeling from the unexpected deaths of six residents, were pointing the finger at the ships that took part in Sir John Franklin’s ill-fated 1845 expedition to locate the Northwest Passage.

“People are superstitious. They feel there is a connection between the deaths and disturbing the wreck sites,” he said.

Both comments were made Aug. 24, during a teleconference between eight members of the Franklin Interim Advisory Committee (which includes Parks Canada staff), representatives of the Nunavut government and Inuit heritage organizations.

Louie Kammokak (left) and Jacob Keanik (right) in 2015 at the blessing of the wreck of HMS Erebus. (Parks Canada)

The committee makes recommendations on the investigation of the wrecks and potential related tourism. At the time the teleconference took place, the committee was doing preparatory work for Environment Minister Catherine McKenna’s pending visit to Gjoa Haven.

The committee decided to warn the minister about the so-called curse in case a resident asked her about it.

CBC News obtained minutes of the meeting through the Access to Information Act, and confirmed the observations directly with Keanik.

“People like to talk, you know,” he said in an interview. “People thought after … finding these shipwrecks … they seemed to notice we’re losing so many people and they thought it was from that.”

Keanik is president of the Nattilik Heritage Centre in Gjoa Haven, which is to expand by 2023 to showcase artifacts retrieved from the Franklin wrecks. He lost a brother and nephew to a boating accident in the recent string of deaths, all of which took place over two weeks in August. Two other men died in an all-terrain vehicle rollover, a community elder passed away and a staff member at a local school succumbed to a heart attack. 

All crew perished

HMS Erebus and HMS Terror left England in 1845 under Franklin’s command, seeking a Northwest Passage to the Pacific through the ice-choked Arctic. Every crew member perished, although the precise details of their fate eluded searchers for more than a century.

Canadian search teams eventually found the sea floor wreck of Erebus in 2014. Searchers found what was left of the Terror in 2016, on the bottom of Terror Bay at King William Island, west of Gjoa Haven.

The Franklin committee decided to respond to the community’s concerns by telling residents that no human remains had been found on the two wrecks.

“It is only artifacts that are being found and being taken off wreck sites and … there are plans in place that if any bodies are found, they will be left in place,” Fred Pedersen, of the Kitikmeot Inuit Association, is quoted as telling the group. “[We] will not bring up or disturb human remains.”

The late Louie Kamookak, an Inuit oral historian and Gjoa Haven resident who helped find the Erebus, blessed the shipwreck site in 2015 with sand taken from the community and sprinkled on the sea.

Keanik, who also participated, said the brief ceremony carried out from a boat was meant “to have things better in the future.” (Kamookak died of cancer at age 58 in March this year.)

The whole King William Island has non-human people that we cannot see.– Jacob Keanik, resident of Gjoa Haven, NU, on his mother’s warning about supernatural beings.  

But the Terror shipwreck site did not receive a similar traditional blessing until two years after its discovery, following the deaths of the six Gjoa Haven residents.

The Franklin committee was told that the Guardians — Inuit caretakers appointed to monitor the Franklin shipwreck sites — felt that a blessing of the Terror shipwreck was needed.

“We have spoken to the Guardians and they feel the Terror wreck needs to be blessed, as so far only the Erebus has been blessed,” say the Aug. 24 minutes.

Parks Canada spokesperson Dominique Tessier said this second blessing has since been carried out.

“This summer, following the tragedies, elders blessed sand from Gjoa Haven and the Terror Guardians brought it to the wreck of HMS Terror, where they sprinkled it over the wreck and performed a blessing,” she told CBC News.

“Both of these blessings were led by Inuit from Gjoa Haven.”

Dismisses ‘curse’ theory

Keanik dismisses talk of a Franklin “curse,” saying the community has been touched by tragedy in the past. “It was always like that, even before these shipwrecks were found.”

But he said he does accept his mother’s warnings about invisible, non-human beings inhabiting King William Island, the Arctic island that harbours Gjoa Haven at its east end.

“My late mom told me even before these shipwrecks were discovered, she mentioned you have to watch out,” he said. “The whole King William Island has non-human people that we cannot see.”

He said his mother used to warn him: “Don’t let them get to you – just do what you have to do.”

Keanik said that when he travels with a friend across the tundra, he senses the presence of these beings.

The late Louie Kamookak was a Gjoa Haven historian who spent more than 30 years recording oral stories of Inuit encounters with the ships and Franklin’s men — stories that were key to resolving the nearly 170-year-old mystery. (Kate Kyle/CBC)

“It’s a funny feeling when once we get on the other side of the island … You sense that somebody’s around you, but there’s nobody around you,” he said.

“That’s a funny feeling we always have every time we get on the other side.”

Keanik said his mother never made it clear whether she thought the invisible beings are the spirits of the lost Franklin crew, or whether they haunted the dying crew members in the mid-19th century.

“I couldn’t answer that,” he said.

The tragic and mysterious Franklin story has inspired songs, paintings, books and even a recent AMC television series that imagined a menacing supernatural force tormenting the crew members.

Follow @DeanBeeby on Twitter

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Top 5 Analytics Trends That Are Shaping The Future

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Digital transformation is increasingly becoming the focus for many CIOs around the world today—with analytics playing a fundamental role in driving the future of the digital economy.

While data is important to every business, it is necessary for businesses to have a firm grip on data analytics to allow them transform raw pieces of data into important insights. However, unlike the current trends in business intelligence—which is centred around data visualization—the future of data analytics would encompass a more contextual experience.

“The known data analytics development cycle is described in stages: from descriptive (what happened) to diagnostic (why did it happen), to discovery (what can we learn from it), to predictive (what is likely to happen), and, finally, to prescriptive analytics (what action is the best to take),” said Maurice op het Veld is a partner at KPMG Advisory in a report.

“Another way of looking at this is that data analytics initially “supported” the decision-making process but is now enabling “better” decisions than we can make on our own.”

Here are some of the current trends that arealready shaping the future of data analytics in individuals and businesses.

  1. Growth in mobile devices

With the number of mobile devices expanding to include watches, digital personal assistants, smartphones, smart glasses, in-car displays, to even video gaming systems, the final consumption plays a key role on the level of impact analytics can deliver.

Previously, most information consumers accessed were on a computer with sufficient room to view tables, charts and graphs filled with data, now, most consumers require information delivered in a format well optimized for whatever device they are currently viewing it on.

Therefore, the content must be personalized to fit the features of the user’s device and not just the user alone.

  1. Continuous Analytics

More and more businesses are relying on the Internet of Things (IoT) and their respective streaming data—which in turn shortens the time it takes to capture, analyze and react to the information gathered. Therefore, while analytics programspreviously were termed successful when results were delivered within days or weeks of processing, the future of analytics is bound to drastically reduce this benchmark to hours, minutes, seconds—and even milliseconds.

“All devices will be connected and exchange data within the “Internet of Things” and deliver enormous sets of data. Sensor data like location, weather, health, error messages, machine data, etc. will enable diagnostic and predictive analytics capabilities,” noted Maurice.

“We will be able to predict when machines will break down and plan maintenance repairs before it happens. Not only will this be cheaper, as you do not have to exchange supplies when it is not yet needed, but you can also increase uptime.”

  1. Augmented Data Preparation

During the process of data preparation, machine learning automation will begin to augment data profiling and data quality, enrichment, modelling, cataloguing and metadata development.

Newer techniques would include supervised, unsupervised and reinforcement learning which is bound to enhance the entire data preparation process. In contrast to previous processes—which depended on rule-based approach to data transformation—this current trend would involve advanced machine learning processes that would evolve based on recent data to become more precise at responding to changes in data.

  1. Augmented Data Discovery

Combined with the advancement in data preparation, a lot of these newer algorithms now allow information consumers to visualize and obtain relevant information within the data with more ease. Enhancements such as automatically revealing clusters, links, exceptions, correlation and predictions with pieces of data, eliminate the need for end users to build data models or write algorithms themselves.

This new form of augmented data discovery will lead to an increase in the number of citizen data scientist—which include information users who, with the aid of augmented assistance can now identify and respond to various patterns in data faster and a more distributed model.

  1. AugmentedData Science

It is important to note that the rise of citizen data scientist will not in any way eliminate the need for a data scientist who gathers and analyze data to discover profitable opportunities for the growth of a business. However, as these data scientists give room for citizen data scientists to perform the easier tasks, their overall analysis becomes more challenging and equally valuable to the business.

As time goes by, machine learning would be applied in other areas such as feature and model selection. This would free up some of the tasks performed by data scientist and allow them focus on the most important part of their job, which is to identify specific patterns in the data that can potentially transform business operations and ultimately increase revenue.

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Waterloo drone-maker Aeryon Labs bought by U.S. company for $265M

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Waterloo’s Aeryon Labs has been bought by Oregon-based FLIR Systems Inc. for $256 million, or $200 million US.

The acquisition was announced Monday. 

Dave Kroetsch, co-founder and chief technology officer of Aeryon Labs, says not much will change in the foreseeable future.

“The Waterloo operations of Aeryon Labs will actually continue as they did yesterday with manufacturing, engineering and all the functions staying intact in Waterloo and ultimately, we see growing,” he said.

“The business here is very valuable to FLIR and our ability to sell internationally is a key piece of keeping these components of the business here in Canada.”

Aeroyn Labs builds high-performance drones that are sold to a variety of customers including military, police services and commercial businesses. The drones can provide high-resolution images for surveillance and reconnaissance.

The drones already include cameras and thermal technology from FLIR. Jim Cannon, president and CEO of FLIR Systems, said acquiring Aeryon Labs is part of the company’s strategy to move beyond sensors “to the development of complete solutions that save lives and livelihoods.”

‘A piece of a bigger solution’

Kroetsch said this is a good way for the company to grow into something bigger.

“We see the business evolving in much the direction our business has been headed over the last couple of years. And that’s moving beyond the drone as a product in and of itself as a drone as a piece of a bigger solution,” he said.

For example, FLIR bought a drone company that builds smaller drones that look like little helicopters.

“We can imagine integrating those with our drones, perhaps having ours carry their drones and drop them off,” he said.

FLIR also does border security systems, which Kroetsch says could use the drones to allow border agents to look over a hill where there have been issues.

“We see the opportunity there as something that we never could have done on our own but being involved with and part of a larger company that’s already providing these solutions today gives us access not only to these great applications, but also to some fantastic technologies,” he said.

Aeryon Labs has done a lot of work during emergency disasters, including in Philippines after Typhoon Hagupit in 2014, Ecuador after an earthquake in 2016 and the Fort McMurray wildfire in 2016.

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Inuvik infrastructure may not be ready for climate change, says study

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The Arctic is expected to get warmer and wetter by the end of this century and new research says that could mean trouble for infrastructure in Inuvik.

The study from Global Water Futures looked at how climate change could impact Havipak Creek — which crosses the Dempster Highway in Inuvik, N.W.T. — and it predicts some major water changes.

“They were quite distressing,” John Pomeroy, director of Global Water Futures and the study’s lead author, said of the findings.

Researchers used a climate model and a hydrological model to predict future weather and climate patterns in the region. They also looked at data gathered from 1960 to the present. 

If greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rate — which Pomeroy said they are on track to do — the study projects the region will be 6.1 C warmer by 2099 and precipitation, particularly rain, will increase by almost 40 per cent.

The study also found that the spring flood will be earlier and twice as large, and the permafrost will thaw an additional 25 centimetres. While the soil is expected to be wetter early in the summer, the study said it will be drier in late summer, meaning a higher risk of wildfires.

John Pomeroy is the director of Global Water Futures. (Erin Collins/CBC)

“The model’s painting kind of a different world than we’re living in right now for the Mackenzie Delta region,” Pomeroy said.

He noted these changes are not only expected for Havipak Creek, but also for “many, many creeks along the northern part of the Dempster [Highway].”

Pomeroy said the deeper permafrost thaw and a bigger spring flood could pose challenges for buildings, roads, culverts and crossings in the area that were designed with the 20th century climate in mind.

He said the projected growth of the snowpack and the spring flood are “of grave concern because that’s what washes out the Dempster [Highway] and damages infrastructure in the area.”

Culverts and bridges may have to be adjusted to allow room for greater stream flows, Pomeroy said. And building foundations that are dependent upon the ground staying frozen will have to be reinforced or redesigned.

Pomeroy said the ultimate solution is for humans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“This study is the future we’re heading for, but it’s not the future we necessarily have if we can find a way to reduce those gases,” he said.  

“It’d be far smarter to get those emissions under control than to pay the terrible expenses for infrastructure and endangered safety of humans and destroyed ecosystems.”

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