Expedition to Map the Arctic Seafloor

American and Canadian scientists are setting sail this summer to map the Arctic seafloor and gather data to help define the outer limits of the continental shelf.

Each country may exercise sovereign rights over their extended continental shelf’s natural resources of the seabed and subsoil. These rights and authorities include control over minerals, petroleum and sedentary organisms such as clams, crabs and coral.

The extended continental shelf is that part of a country’s continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles from shore, and its outer limits can be defined according to criteria set forth in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Data collected during this mission will help determine where these criteria are met for the United States and Canada in the Arctic Ocean.

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Louis S. St. Laurent (left) and U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy (right) in the Arctic – Photo Credit USGS.
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USGS scientists Ellyn Montgomery and William Danforth discuss incoming data. Photo credit USGS, taken in 2008.
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U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy in the Arctic. Photo Credit USGS.
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Louis S. St. Laurent finding a path through the Arctic sea ice – Photo Credit USGS.

The United States and Canada are working collaboratively from August 7–September 16, 2009, using two icebreakers. The U.S. Geological Survey will work with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of New Hampshire on U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy to collect data primarily on seafloor depths and morphology. The Geological Survey of Canada, Natural Resources Canada will lead research on the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Louis S. St-Laurent and gather information primarily on the thickness and characteristics of sub-bottom sediments.

“The Arctic Ocean is an area of great scientific interest, possible economic development and potential resource conservation,” said USGS scientist Deborah Hutchinson, who will be aboard the Canadian ship as a U.S. liaison. “Both countries benefit from this two-ship expedition by sharing technical expertise and data. Research in these remote areas of the Arctic Ocean is expensive, logistically difficult and sometimes dangerous.”

This mission will emphasize the region north of Alaska onto Alpha-Mendeleev Ridge and eastwards toward the Canada Archipelago. This is the second year the United States and Canada have collaborated in extended continental shelf data collection in the Arctic. Both countries plan to work together again in 2010.

Research is coordinated by the U.S. Extended Continental Shelf Task Force, a government-wide group headed by the U.S. Department of State. Participants in this Task Force include the U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Coast Guard, National Science Foundation, Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Navy, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Executive Office of the President, Minerals Management Service, and the Arctic Research Commission.

For additional information, including details on the 2009 cruise and photographs and video from past missions, visit the Extended Continental Shelf Project Web site.

You will also have access to journals and photographs during this mission and from last year’s expedition at the Arctic Chronicles.

The upcoming program follows a joint 2008 U.S.-Canada survey described at Sound Waves monthly newsletter.

You can also learn more about Canada’s Extended Continental Shelf Web site.

Information on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea can be found online.

One thought on “Expedition to Map the Arctic Seafloor

  1. Hi,
    I am a photographer for the Coast Guard and I just returned from a trip aboard the cutter Healy. We worked closely with the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Louis St-Laurent. I noticed all of your pictures of the two ships together are from last year, but I have many pictures I can share with you. Please visit:


    You may add any of the photos you like to your archives. The pics are not high resolution (I was posting them from the ship so I had to shrink them), but if you let me know which photos you need I can make sure you get the best quality possible.

    Thanks and I hope this will be of use to you all,
    Petty Officer Patrick Kelley

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