Canada's Arctic Sovereignty: "Say It with TNT"
Barry Artiste, Now Public Contributor
In the 1950's Race for Space saw Russia and the Americans pulling out all the stops to claim Space as their own. Canada is doing the same in claiming the Arctic's Frozen North against all comers, particularly Russia, Denmark and the United States, all who dispute Canada's claims of Arctic Sovereignty.
Scientists using dynamite to blast into the ice in order to place sound sensors to stake Canada's Claim to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 2003, Canada has until 2013 to present scientific evidence to back up its sovereignty claims.
Evidence, as such, will allow Canada unhindered and undisputed access from the US, Russia and Denmark to mine the mineral wealth under the ice and seafloor, in what is a true Arctic Race for Space, a Prime Space of Canadian Real Estate.
One wonders if other Countries will abide by the UN Convention when untapped energy and mineral demands world attention in a place once ignored by the World until the discovery Diamonds, Natural Gas & Oil etc.
The Inuit on the other hand always placed a reverance for the Arctic, and perhaps they will be the biggest losers in their claim of Inuit Sovereignty.
Northern exposureBy KATHLEEN HARRISScientists push limits in Arctic to find treasure under the ice
ICE CAMP, 82oN, 92oW, Nunavut -- Camped on a frigid ice floe on the roof of the world, a small army of scientists is using dynamite and sound sensors to stake Canada's sovereign turf in the North.
A dozen red tents dot the barren blanket of frozen Arctic white -- the "homes" of 25 researchers and support staff mapping our country's extreme outer limits beneath the sea. The evidence they collect will help extend Canada's legal continental boundaries -- and stake claim to the natural bounty that lies beneath.
Enduring hostile, isolated conditions -- and under threat of becoming prey to polar bears and wolves -- the scientists get through the long cold days and nights with true dedication to the job and a dry sense of humour. Signposts outside the huts call the temporary ice digs "Hotel California," "Hacienda," "Austin Powder" and the "Wit's End Cafe."
Researchers were dropped on this barren patch of frozen ocean in mid-March, when each day was consumed with darkness and the thermometer recorded a frigid -55C. They built the base camp up from scratch, a process John Biggar of Sarnia called "brutal."
SURVIVING DIFFICULT "
It was very hard on the equipment and the people," he said. "The work is the easy part. It's the setting up the camp and the logistics of getting started that is the hard part. Just to survive here is more than half the battle, but the work is easy."They soon settled in and got down to work in mukluks and feather-filled parkas, venturing out to gather the valuable data whenever weather and light permits. Ruth Jackson, the chief scientist for the project, said the team takes full advantage of daylight hours and clear conditions to make up for when fog and darkness impedes the work."It's been fabulous. We've had perfect flying weather. Fabulous means you can fly -- it doesn't matter how cold it is when you can fly," she said.Canada signed on to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 2003, and has until 2013 to present scientific evidence to back up its sovereignty claims. The federal government is spending about $90 million to survey the continental shelf and chart how far Canada's jurisdictional boundaries legally extend.HIDDEN TREASUREThe payoff could be huge, as the survey mapping will give Canada exclusive rights to the natural resources underneath the ocean -- a potential treasure of rich minerals, oil, gas and frozen methane, which is eyed as the "fuel source of the future."Jacob Verhoef, director of Canada's UNCLOS program, said tapping the resources is likely still decades away, but a changing climate and economic viability of development make meeting the deadline critical."We're talking long-term and we're talking once in a lifetime," he said. "If we forego on the deadline, what happens? We probably would not get a lot of sympathy from the other countries. And this is potentially huge."To collect the scientific data, the team uses dynamite and sophisticated seismic instruments to drill through the ice and get a picture of what's on the ocean floor.Chief blaster Tim Cartwright of Ottawa said the explosives serve as a sound source, measured by recorders placed at regular intervals on the ice surface. Once the explosives detonate, energy goes down to the rock and reflects back up to the recorders. The data collected from the bottom is compared to the structure on the continent to determine if it's an extension of the land or not.Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn, who travelled to the remote ice camp located about 800 km from the North Pole this week, sees the area as "untouched" and with enormous potential. Staking a territorial claim through science is critical for turning that potential into prosperity for Canada, but also to set the rules for any future development in the region."We want to have jurisdictional control over them so we can ensure that whatever exploration is done, we set the rules, we ensure the environment is protected, we ensure the regulations are followed," he said.