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Pacific Coastal & Marine Science Center

Thumbnail photograph of Healy in sea ice; click for larger version.


Notes from the Field...


USGS and Canadian Scientists Conduct a Second Cruise to Map the Arctic Sea Floor

U.S. and Canadian scientists conducted a joint 42-day Arctic mission in the summer of 2009 to collect scientific data about the extended continental shelf and Arctic seafloor. The mission, from August 6 to September 16, 2009, continued the collaboration in extended continental shelf data collection in the Arctic started during the 2008 joint survey, with plans for further cooperation in 2010. The interagency and intergovernmental effort featured U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy and Canadian Coast Guard Ship Louis S. St-Laurent.

The 2009 Continental Shelf Survey emphasized the region north of Alaska onto Alpha-Mendeleev Ridge and eastwards toward the Canada Archipelago. The mission helped define the extended continental shelf (beyond 200 miles from shore) in the Arctic Ocean, as well as U.S. and Canadian sovereign rights based on criteria set forth in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

More information:

Cover of the publication.

According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), individual nations' sovereign rights extend to 200 nautical miles (n.mi.) (370 km) offshore in an area called the continental shelf. These rights include jurisdiction over all resources in the water column and on and beneath the seabed. Article 76 of UNCLOS also establishes the criteria to determine areas beyond the 200 n.mi. (370 km) limit that could be defined as "extended continental shelf," where a nation could extend its sovereign rights over the seafloor and sub-seafloor. This jurisdiction provided in Article 76 includes resources on and below the seafloor but not in the water column. The United States has been acquiring data to determine the outer limits of its extended continental shelf (ECS) in the Arctic and has a vested interest in declaring and receiving international recognition of the reach of its extended continental shelf.



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