1
   

USA, Russia, Canada, Denmark, Norway & the Arctic

 
 
wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Fri 30 May, 2008 08:45 am
Quote:
'Race for the North Pole is cancelled'
(Randy Boswell, Canwest News Service, May 29, 2008)

ILULISATT, Greenland - Ministers from the five Arctic coast nations - including Canada - declared at a landmark conference here this week that "the race for the North Pole is cancelled," and that science and international law will now peacefully determine who owns which parts of the vast, oil-rich polar seabed.

But the race, in fact, has only been transformed into a long, slow, three-way mud-wrestling match - a five-year struggle between Canada, Russia and Denmark for the murky ground that lies thousands of metres beneath the pole and which ultimately will be decided, like any fight, by timing, power and strong-arm tactics - or retreat.

Science and law will only go so far, say Canada's top polar experts, when it comes to defining the undersea boundaries between three nations whose claims under a UN treaty are almost certain to overlap near the centre of the Arctic Ocean.

That's when politics - no holds barred - comes into play.

"That is where negotiations will get very interesting," says University of Calgary political scientist Rob Huebert, noting that all three countries could produce valid geological evidence for claims that overlap those of their polar neighbours - perhaps at or even beyond the North Pole.

"For us to go over the top depends on two issues," he adds. "Will the science allow us to go over? And will we have the political will to go over? We may have the right to do it - if we are willing to stand up to the Russians."

Michael Byers, a University of British Columbia professor of politics and international law, said "the only thing stopping Canada from claiming undersea territory beyond the North Pole, if the science supports it, would be a negotiated agreement among the Arctic Ocean Five" - Canada, Russia, Denmark, Norway and the U.S. - "to limit claims to extended continental shelves to 350 nautical miles from shore."

Byers says such a deal "would avoid some potentially sticky disputes," but added: "I would be very surprised if there is any agreement to this effect anytime soon."

Under current rules, the rights of coastal countries over sea floor resources are limited to a fairly narrow strip of offshore territory - no more than 350 nautical miles (648.2 kilometres), and only in places where the continental shelf extends that far out from the coast.

But coastal states can claim much more territory if they able to show that undersea mountain ridges or other offshore geological features - such as the buildup of sediment from river discharges into the sea - constitute a natural underwater extension of the national land mass.

If so, they can claim the ridge - until the point where it drops 2,500 metres below the ocean surface - plus 100 nautical miles (185.2 kilometres) of seabed from that point.

Under that key provision of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, all five polar countries are compiling sea floor research to claim "Article 76" rights over potentially huge, Saskatchewan-sized swaths of Arctic Ocean bottom.

And one of the most contentious parts of the underwater Arctic is proving to be the Lomonosov Ridge, a submerged mountain that is an excellent bet to qualify as a continental extension. It stretches thousands of kilometres from the Danish-Canadian boundary waters north of Greenland and Ellesmere Island, directly past the North Pole and across the Arctic Ocean toward the Siberian coast.

Russian, Canadian and Danish researchers all have gathered sea floor survey data suggesting the ridge is an extension of their respective countries. Last summer, Russia launched the "race" for the North Pole - and prompted outrage in Canada, Denmark and elsewhere - by sending a mini-submarine to the four-kilometre-deep sea floor at the pole and depositing a Russian flag made of titanium.

Huebert insists the flag-planting was no mere stunt - that it was, in fact, a warning to Canada and Denmark not to push their seabed claims beyond the North Pole.

"It was clearly a signal to us and the Danes," says Huebert, "telling us: Do Not Enter."

More detailed scientific analysis should ultimately determine which parts of the ridge belong to the Eurasian continent, which belong to North America and how far towards - or even beyond - the North Pole each country's claim deserves to go.

But even so, the almost inevitable overlaps will have to be sorted out in non-scientific ways - first by referring to legal precedents from historical boundary disputes, then by negotiation, persuasion, coercion and the other problem-solving mechanisms known collectively as politics.

Two practitioners of the art, during a wrap-up news conference in Greenland, emphasized that science and law will determine the undersea boundaries of the Arctic Ocean and downplayed the further role of politics in the process.

"I understand that this is a sexy subject for all of you - flags on the seabed, somebody from this side of the globe getting over the pole and grabbing some land from somebody else," an annoyed Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in response to a Canwest News Service question about possible seabed claims beyond the North Pole.

"It's all hypothetical. The rules which we agreed to today are based on the Law of the Sea convention . . . whatever is scientifically proven will be accepted."

Canada's Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn added: "This is a rules-based process. The rules are very clear . . . we'll all submit our respective claims based on science."

On Thursday, the chief federal scientist leading Canada's undersea mapping mission in the Arctic - Halifax-based Natural Resources geophysicist Jacob Verhoef - was asked about whether the Canadian claim could reach all the way to the North Pole or beyond.

"Theoretically," he said, if the Lomonosov Ridge is proven to be "a natural prolongation" of North America then Canada, as well as Denmark, "could use it to extend its outer limits beyond the pole. The same could be true for Russia, now measuring from the other side."

Asked if Canada intended to conduct seabed research on the far side of the pole before submitting its UN claim by the 2013 deadline, Verhoef said "the gathering of data beyond the pole is not our highest priority," but added that, time permitting, "we may decide to collect some additional data in that area."

It's a decision, he noted, that would have to take into account the "political realities and ramifications."
0 Replies
 
hamburger
 
  1  
Reply Fri 30 May, 2008 04:04 pm
just watched the CBC afternoon news report . they reported that an "arctic agreement" has been reached .
couldn't find the report on the CBC website yet - but the CHINA NEWS reported it yesterday Laughing .
seems that china must be more interested in the arctic accord than canada Shocked

Quote:
欢迎访问新华网 - WWW.XINHUANET.COM
>>

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Summit seeks accord on Arctic environment protection


BEIJING, May 29 -- The five nations that ring the Arctic Ocean affirmed their willingness to cooperate to protect its environment, at the end of a day-long ministerial summit in Greenland.


"We will take steps in accordance with international law... to ensure the protection and the preservation of the fragile environment of the Arctic Ocean," said a statement agreed Wednesday by envoys from Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States.

"We intend to work together, including through the International Maritime Organization, to strengthen existing measures and to develop new measures to improve the safety of maritime navigation and prevent or reduce the risk of ship-based pollution in the Arctic Ocean," it added.

The five nations went on to pledge to strengthen cooperation over the Arctic Ocean -- including scientific research -- "based on mutual trust and transparency."

The summit in Ilulissat, on Greenland's west coast, was the first to be held at ministerial level between the five regional powers.

It was aimed at easing recent tensions as each nation seeks to extend its sovereignty to the Arctic waters that could hold 25 percent of the world's undiscovered oil and gas, according to the US Geological Survey.

"The race for the North Pole has been cancelled," said Swedish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller, hailing the outcome.

Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov said: "The declaration reflects the will of all participants to resolve the issue through negotiations in a spirit of cooperation and on the basis of international law."

But concern was expressed by a prominent Inuit spokesman, who said the indigenous peoples of the Arctic were being "marginalized."

"Inuit have their own definition of sovereignty," said Aqqaluk Lynge, the Greenlandic politician who is president of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, which speaks for 150,000 Inuit.

Lynge said Inuit leaders would gather in the northern Canadian town of Kuujjuaq in November for their own summit on how to "collectively respond to the main forces -- state, industry and others -- that are debating questions of ownership of our lands and seas without us having a meaningful voice".

Rivalry between the five Arctic neighbors has heated up as the melting polar ice makes the region more accessible.

Denmark and Canada, for instance, have a longstanding disagreement over who owns the tiny, uninhabited, ice-covered Hans island, which straddles Nares Strait between Greenland and Canada's Ellesmere Island.

Canada and the United States are meanwhile at odds over the sovereignty of the Northwest Passage, which links the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Scientists say the Northwest Passage could open up to year-round shipping by 2050.

Last year, Russian explorers claimed to have planted their national flag at the bottom of the ocean, at a depth of more than 4,000 meters (yards), after an expedition aimed at underlining Moscow's aspirations to Arctic territory.

According to international law, each of the countries bordering the Arctic hold sovereignty over a zone measuring 200 nautical miles (370 kilometers). That leaves 1.2 million square kilometers (465,000 square miles) of unclaimed territory.

(Source: China Daily/Agencies)



source :
CHINA NEWS REPORT
0 Replies
 
wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Tue 3 Jun, 2008 11:28 am
Quote:
Scientist warns over Arctic quest
(Randy Boswell, Canwest News Service, June 02, 2008)

The federal scientist leading Canada's quest to secure thousands of square kilometres of seabed territory in the Arctic Ocean says the country's grasp for potential undersea oil and other submerged resources could reach beyond the North Pole -- a prospect likely to put Canada on a diplomatic collision course with polar rivals Russia and Denmark.

Dr. Jacob Verhoef, the Halifax-based director of Natural Resources Canada's Atlantic division, told Canwest News Service the Canadian government has yet to decide whether it will authorize ocean-bottom surveys on the Eurasian side of the pole, where geologists from Russia have been gathering data for its planned claim for an extended continental shelf off Siberia's northern coast.

The contentious territory is along the Lomonosov Ridge, an undersea mountain range that stretches an estimated 2,000 kilometres from the Danish-Canadian boundary waters north of Greenland and Ellesmere Island, directly past the North Pole and across the Arctic Ocean toward the Siberian coast.

Russian, Canadian and Danish researchers have all been collecting sea floor geological data suggesting the ridge is a natural extension of their respective national landmasses -- the key criteria under a UN treaty that allows countries to expand their jurisdiction over offshore territory well past the current limit of 350 km from the coast.

Last summer, Russia sparked what has been widely described as a "race" for the North Pole and a "rush" for Arctic Ocean oil -- increasingly accessible because of the melting polar ice cap -- by sending a mini-submarine to plant a flag at the North Pole sea floor.

Under Verhoef's direction, Canadian researchers have been amassing what he calls "very positive" evidence that the Lomonosov Ridge -- as well as a second undersea mountain to the west, Alpha Ridge, and offshore parts of the Beaufort Sea -- constitutes a "natural prolongation" of the North American continent.

More detailed data needs to be gathered in all three areas of the Arctic before Canada makes its submission under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea before a 2013 deadline.

"Theoretically," said Verhoef, if the Lomonosov Ridge is proven to be attached to North America, then Canada (as well as Denmark) "could use it to extend its outer limits beyond the pole. The same could be true for Russia, now measuring from the other side."

Asked if Canada intended to conduct seabed research on the far side of the pole before submitting its UN claim, Verhoef said, "The gathering of data beyond the pole is not our highest priority," but added that, time permitting, "We may decide to collect some additional data in that area."

It's a decision, he noted, that would have to take into account the "political realities and ramifications."

University of Alberta political scientist Rob Huebert, an expert in sovereignty issues, has been pushing for Canada to be as comprehensive as possible in collecting Arctic Ocean sea floor data.

At a Parliamentary committee in March, Huebert urged the federal government to direct Verhoef's team to push their research to the limit -- even if it means annoying Moscow and its flag-planting scientists.

"The Russians are trying to convince us to go to the pole and use the pole as the dividing feature," Huebert told the committee. "If we accept that argument and, if the ridge allows us to go that far, we shortchange ourselves in terms of access to oil and gas."
0 Replies
 
wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Wed 11 Jun, 2008 01:38 pm
http://www.tripcentral.ca/IMAGES/TOUR/MAPS/2155.jpg

Quote:
Graduation, Kotzebue, 2008
0 Replies
 
hamburger
 
  1  
Reply Wed 11 Jun, 2008 05:18 pm
just remembered highschool history lesson : AUGUST VON KOTZEBUE - GERMAN DRAMATIST

Quote:
One of Kotzebue's books was burned during the Wartburg festival in 1817. He was murdered in 1819 by Karl Ludwig Sand, a militant member of the Burschenschaften. The murder of Kotzebue gave Metternich the pretext to issue the Carlsbad Decrees of 1819, which dissolved the Burschenschaften, cracked down against the liberal press, and seriously restricted academic freedom in the states of the German Confederation


(you are probably aware of this connection, i assume)

see also the german PROJECT GUTENBERG
hbg
0 Replies
 
hamburger
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 Jun, 2008 08:02 pm
a rather lenghty report from the BBC .

Quote:
Liz Kalaugher reports from the High Arctic as she travels aboard the Amundsen, a Canadian Coast Guard vessel. She has joined an expedition investigating the effects of climate change off Banks Island.


instead of posting the whole text , i'll just give the link :

ICE DIARY
0 Replies
 
wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 Jun, 2008 04:56 am
Thank you for the link, hamburger. Interesting and fun to read.


The expedition is at Banks Island in the Arctic:
http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images/44772000/gif/_44772452_banks_island_466.gif
0 Replies
 
hamburger
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 Jun, 2008 10:19 am
jw :

did you check out the "arctic ice in retreat" display ?
quite astonishing , i thought .
while it probably doesn't signal the immediate demise of the arctic icecover , it makes me wonder - even though we had a rather beastly winter (it turned out that our temperatures were actually ABOVE normal , but the previous winters had been milder and had spoiled us ) .
hbg
0 Replies
 
wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 Jun, 2008 10:26 am
hamburger wrote:
jw :

did you check out the "arctic ice in retreat" display ?
quite astonishing , i thought .
while it probably doesn't signal the immediate demise of the arctic icecover , it makes me wonder - even though we had a rather beastly winter (it turned out that our temperatures were actually ABOVE normal , but the previous winters had been milder and had spoiled us ) .
hbg


I looked at the display. Very well done on-line article. Nice photos, also.

(everyone should take a look at the link provided by hamburger)
0 Replies
 
gustavratzenhofer
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 Jun, 2008 10:29 am
Including me? Do I have to?
0 Replies
 
wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 Jun, 2008 10:30 am
gustavratzenhofer wrote:
Including me? Do I have to?


Especially you, Gus! Global warming affects the survival of capybaras!
0 Replies
 
hamburger
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 Jun, 2008 10:33 am
gus wrote :

Quote:
Including me? Do I have to?


if you want to be excused from classes , you must show a note from your mother - i'm sure you know that , gus .
now be a good boy and sit down - and stop fidgeting .
the teach
0 Replies
 
gustavratzenhofer
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 Jun, 2008 10:35 am
I have been looking the article over, but I was waylaid by this photo and the similarity between man and beast...

http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images/44770000/jpg/_44770871_4da19405-036a-470a-a3ec-116aed4a571e.jpg
0 Replies
 
wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 Jun, 2008 10:36 am
Good that you are paying attention, Gus. Tomorrow hamburger gives us an exam.
0 Replies
 
hamburger
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 Jun, 2008 10:39 am
while gus is a good and obedient student , his mind will sometimes wander ... ... far off the subject !
0 Replies
 
wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Sun 29 Jun, 2008 09:45 am
http://www.independent.co.uk/multimedia/archive/00035/alaska1_35169b.jpg

Tomorrow is the fiftieth anniversary of Alaska's statehood.
0 Replies
 
hamburger
 
  1  
Reply Sun 29 Jun, 2008 01:59 pm
CONGRATULATIONS !
hbg

our first pleasure cruise was a seven-day alaska cruise in september 1988 on the (old) SS. ROTTERDAM - now replaced by the MS ROTTERDAM as flagship .
i don't use that word lightly , but the scenery was simply AWESOME !
we had planned a two-week cruise for this year , but mrs h's hip isn't co-operating . we hope that we'll be able to do the cruise after the pending operation - sometime next year - our suitcases are packed , just in case ! :wink:

i don't know if ships are still allowed this close to the ice !

http://img111.imageshack.us/img111/9946/alaska2en0.jpg

http://img111.imageshack.us/img111/1866/alaska1988ak5.jpg
0 Replies
 
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Sun 29 Jun, 2008 02:40 pm
Our ship, the Crown Princess, did not get that close to the glaciers. Lucky you!
0 Replies
 
wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Jul, 2008 07:47 pm
Quote:
Bush Says Gas Prices Causing Rethinking on Drilling
(By Holly Rosenkrantz, Bloomberg, July 12, 2008)

President George W. Bush said some opponents of expanded domestic oil drilling and exploration are rethinking their positions amid the rise in gasoline prices.

``If this change of heart is real,'' Bush said in his weekly radio address, lawmakers can ``expand American oil and gas production and eventually relieve the pressure of rising prices.''

Bush is pressing Congress to open more domestic land to oil drilling in an effort to reduce energy prices. He has proposed drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf and developing energy sources in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as a response to record prices.

Many Democrats have resisted calls for new drilling on the grounds it may damage the environment, and they have called on Bush to release oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve to ease pressure on prices, a proposal Bush has rejected.

The stockpile, with more than 700 million gallons of oil, ``has never been more full than it is now,'' Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland said in today's Democratic radio address. Releasing some of it would give drivers ``quick and real relief'' from gasoline prices that have nearly tripled during Bush's presidency, he said.

The U.S. also needs a long-term energy policy to curb its dependence on foreign oil, boost the economy and reduce global warming, Van Hollen said.

The price of crude oil has doubled in the past year, with oil for August delivery settling at $145.08 a barrel yesterday on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The average price of a gallon of regular gasoline now tops $4 per gallon, according to AAA, compared with less than $3 in early February.

Bush, in his radio address, didn't name lawmakers who have changed their positions on the issue. Some Republicans, including presumptive presidential nominee Senator John McCain and Senator Mel Martinez of Florida, have expressed stronger support for domestic drilling than they have in the past.

House Democrats will push legislation next week that would ban the export of Alaska oil to overseas markets. The legislative package would also require oil companies to drill on leases they have before asking the federal government for more leases.

Bush blamed a lack of action on the issue on the Democratic Party.

``Past efforts to meet the demand for oil by expanding domestic resources have repeatedly been rejected by Democrats in Congress,'' he said.
0 Replies
 
wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Sun 13 Jul, 2008 05:30 pm
Quote:
The Arctic Resource Rush Is On
(By Ed Struzik, Yale Environment 360, July 10, 2008)

In spring, the shores of the Arctic Ocean in Canada's Northwest Territories are buried deep in snow and ice, seemingly devoid of all life and resources. But not far under the surface, in the relatively shallow permafrost, lies what could be one of the largest sources of energy ever discovered, a slushy mix of water, ice, and natural gas known as methane hydrates. These days, Arctic geologists are scrambling to find methods to tap into this abundant store of energy.

Gas hydrates -- lattice-like ice structures that trap large quantities of methane, the major component of natural gas -- are just one of a trove of natural resources in and around the Arctic Ocean. Vast reserves of oil, natural gas, and minerals also lie beneath the frozen sea and land. For centuries, these riches lay out of reach. Indeed, as recently as five years ago, few companies dreamed of investing in the Canadian Arctic because there was no safe and economical way of extracting these resources and shipping them out. In an area nine times as large as California, there was -- and is -- only one highway, a third of it gravel, which goes to the Arctic Ocean. There is no seaport and no railway.

All that, however, is about to change, as a fast-moving confluence of events is turning the Canadian Arctic -- and some northerly regions of Russia and other Arctic nations -- into the next Klondike: Just as the Arctic's summer sea ice is melting at an unprecedented rate, soon opening up the fabled Northwest Passage and other shipping lanes, the booming global economy has created a soaring demand for natural resources, sending prices sky-high. The wealth that has lain untapped beneath the Arctic is now rapidly being opened for exploration.

Soon, not only will ships be steaming across the top of the world, shaving 7,000 kilometers off a Europe-to-Asia voyage that now takes them through the Panama Canal -- these vessels will also be able to penetrate previously inaccessible expanses of the Arctic to explore for, extract, and transport natural resources.

These developments will have profound environmental, economic, and global security impacts. Unlike Antarctica, where exploitation of minerals has been indefinitely banned under the Antarctic Treaty System, the Arctic is ripe for exploitation. And the environmental implications of this resource rush are sobering, with fleets of ships and oil tankers moving through a pristine marine environment and legions of workers on land drilling and digging for all manner of mineral wealth.

"It's only a matter of time before a single tramp steamer takes a run through the Northwest Passage," says Michael Byers, who holds the Canada Research Chair in International Law and Politics at the University of British Columbia. "Our ability to stop that ship or clean up if it runs aground and spills its load is severely lacking. We have the longest coastline in the world in a region that is covered by ice for most of the year, and we don't even have an all-weather icebreaker."

With so much money at stake, the Arctic has become a hotbed of territorial disputes as the surrounding countries spar for control of resources. In a report issued earlier this year, two of the European Union's top foreign policy officials warned of the looming international struggle over this energy rich region. The Bush administration, however, is more sanguine, arguing that existing maritime treaties and regular meetings of the five major nations bordering the Arctic Ocean -- Canada, Russia, the United States, Norway, and Denmark -- will ensure the Arctic's peaceful and responsible development.

This focus on the Far North comes as a result of the stunningly swift disappearance of ice in the Arctic Ocean. Scientists estimate that summer sea ice has declined by about 50 percent since the 1950s. Last year, summer sea ice extent reached a record low, and thick, multi-year sea ice now covers less than 30 percent of the ocean, down from more than 50 percent in the mid-1980s. Experts who once believed that the Arctic Ocean would not be largely free of summer ice until mid-to-late century now concede that the ice could be gone within a decade.

As a result, in nearly every corner of this icy world, resource companies are investing heavily. Energy and mining firms have announced a $17 billion Arctic exploration agreement with Russia. Exxon's Canadian subsidiary, Imperial, has formed a consortium to construct a $16 billion pipeline to send Arctic natural gas to southern Canada and the United States. Last summer, Exxon spent nearly $600 million for the rights to explore a tiny lease in the Beaufort Sea, and this year BP paid $1.2 billion to explore in the same region. French mega-uranium miner Areva, which is one of 40 companies looking for uranium in Nunavut, Canada's new Inuit territory, is considering developing a huge mine. Theirs is just one of 200 development and exploration proposals the once-neglected territory is grappling with these days.

An increasingly common sight in the Arctic Ocean: open water. Soon, the ocean will be ice-free in summer, opening the way for development. On Canada's Baffin Island -- a huge mountain of snow and ice that is home to less than 10,000 people, mainly Inuit -- plans are underway to develop a $4.6 billion iron mine and railroad. At Bathurst Inlet in the central Arctic, the Inuit themselves are contemplating construction of a seaport and a new 160 mile-long highway that would open up the Slave Geological Province, widely regarded as the richest untapped mineral deposit in the world. The road also would service three existing diamond mines, with more to come.

Recently, along the shores of the Beaufort Sea in Canada's western Arctic, I got a sense of both the magnitude of these resources and the forbidding terrain that has so far kept them locked up. With the springtime temperature at -35 F (-37 C), I watched as scientists from the Geological Survey of Canada tapped into methane hydrates buried under the permafrost not far from the frozen shoreline. The gas rose quickly in the well before being capped by technicians.

Although methane hydrates are found deep in marine shelves worldwide, the biggest and most accessible reserves lie in the Arctic's relatively shallow permafrost zones and on the Arctic Ocean's continental shelf. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that there may be more untapped energy stored in gas hydrates than in all of the conventional oil, gas, and coal reserves in the world.

Cognizant of the wealth at stake, many countries, including the U.S. and those in the European Union, are continuing to deny Canada's long-standing claim of sovereignty over the Northwest Passage, through which most of these resources would be transported. They insist that the passage is, like the Suez Canal, an international strait.

Competing claims over Arctic territory are escalating. In 2002, Denmark planted a territorial flag on Hans Island, a tiny, treeless chunk of rock off the coast of Ellesmere Island, only to have Canada later send its own mission to reclaim the island. In the Beaufort Sea, the U.S. is in a dispute with Canada over the maritime boundary off the coast of Alaska and the Yukon, where billions of barrels of oil could potentially be found. Last summer, the Russians used a submersible to plant a flag on the ocean floor at the North Pole, claiming 460,000 square miles -- an area nearly the size of Germany, France, and Italy combined. Much of that seabed already has been claimed by other Arctic countries.

Sovereignty, however, is not the only challenge that Canada faces in the Arctic. The environmental threats, on land and sea, are huge. Both the road that the Inuit want to build and the uranium mine that Areva is contemplating will be situated in the calving grounds of two huge caribou herds. Ships sailing through the Northwest Passage may also disrupt bowhead, beluga, and narwhal migrations. And today only a small portion of the biologically important areas bordering the Arctic Ocean are protected in parks or reserves.

But the biggest threat may well come from the captain of a single-hulled, crude oil tanker who tries to save time and fuel by taking a shortcut through the Northwest Passage. If that ship runs aground or is crushed by melting ice spilling out of the High Arctic, it could make the two-year, $2 billion clean-up of the Exxon Valdez look like a kitchen spill.

Experts all agree that Canada is not prepared to handle such a disaster. With no Arctic seaport, no roads, virtually no Arctic naval capability, and very few airports from which to stage a recovery and cleanup, the government would be hard-pressed to mount an effective response. Gary Sergy -- an Environment Canada expert who helped pioneer oil spill cleanup technology in the Arctic -- questions the ability of anyone to effectively deal with an Exxon Valdez-like disaster in the Canadian Arctic, where the huge Beaufort Gyre is constantly spiraling, pushing enormous volumes of ice and water through dozens of channels in the archipelago.

"How would you get a cleanup crew on site with no port or airstrip?" asked Sergy. " We just don't have the infrastructure. It all boils down to a logistical nightmare."
0 Replies
 
 

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