WASHINGTON is sending an icebreaker into the Arctic to collect scientific data about the continental shelf and oceanic basins of its ice-bound seas. The US Coastguard cutter, Healy, has already embarked on the first of two cruises ordered by the US Extended Continental Shelf Task Force.
One of the cruises will be conducted in collaboration with the Canadian government – despite tensions between Ottawa and the White House regarding who already owns what to the far north.
The first cruise, from August 14 until September 5, was scheduled to utilise a sophisticated echo sounder that will collect data to create a 3D map of the Arctic seafloor in an area known as the Chukchi Cap. This cruise is led by the University of New Hampshire’s Joint Hydrographic Center, with support from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The second cruise, September 6 to October 1, will be conducted in co-operation with Canada. The Healy will map the seafloor, and it will also create a straight and open path through the ice, while the Canadian icebreaker, Louis S. St Laurent, follows and collects multi-channel seismic reflection and refraction data aimed at determining the thickness of sediment. The objective is that the collaboration should assist the neighbours in defining the continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean. The US Geological Survey will lead the expedition for the US, while Natural Resources Canada will lead the Canadian team.
This will be the fourth summer that the US has collected data in the Arctic in support of defining the limits of its extended continental shelf (the portion of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles where a coastal nation has sovereign rights over natural resources).