Permanent Human Settlement of the Earth, Space and Ocean Frontiers

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Another projection of power in Aquatica

Credit: AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

Ralph Buttigieg

Sydney, NSW

Hot in the wake of the flag planting Russian submarine comes the following response from the USA.

SEATTLE (AP) -- A U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker is headed to the Arctic to map the sea floor off Alaska, as Russia, Denmark and Canada assert their claims in the polar region, which has potential oil and gas reserves.

The lead scientist on the expedition scoffs at the political implications.

"We're basically just doing science,'' said Larry Mayer, director of the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping at the University of New Hampshire. "There's no flag-dropping on this trip,'' he said in an interview from Durham, N.H.

The Healy left Puget Sound on Monday and should be in Barrow around Aug. 17, said Russ Tippets, a spokesman at the Coast Guard Pacific area office in San Francisco. Mayer will meet the Seattle-based icebreaker Healy at Barrow, Alaska, and head about 500 miles north with a team of about 20 scientists to map an area known as the Chukchi Cap.

Russian media assert that the Healy's mission signals that the United States, along with Canada, is actively joining the competition for resources in the Arctic. Melting ice could open water for drilling or create the long-sought Northwest Passage for shipping. A Russian submarine dropped that nation's flag Aug. 2 on the floor of the Arctic Ocean under the North Pole.

Mayer denied the reports. "We've had this trip planned for months, and it has nothing to do with the Russians planting their flag,'' he said....

Now it may be perfectly true that there is no direct link between this research expedition and the Russian episode but it clearly shows the international interest in this part of Aquatica.