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Danish, Canadian scientists set to map Arctic Ocean

Canada and Denmark are set to launch a joint aerial mapping mission over the Arctic Ocean that could help extend the territorial reach of the two countries to the Pole – or beyond. Canadian and Danish scientists have already begun assembling at an ice camp on Ward Hunt Island, Canada’s northernmost piece of land, for this weekend’s launch of the mission.

From there, one group of researchers will carry out sonar surveys by helicopter along the edge of the continental shelf while a second team – aboard a specially equipped DC-3 aircraft now being readied in Calgary – conducts “aerogravity” sweeps over a Europe-sized swath of Arctic sea ice, including the North Pole.

The gravitational measurements are aimed at providing fresh proof that the North American continent – including Canada’s High Arctic archipelago and Danish-controlled Greenland – extends far into the central Arctic Ocean along two major underwater mountain ranges, the Alpha and Lomonosov ridges.

The data collected during the polar flights is expected to bolster both countries’ submissions under a UN treaty for extended undersea territorial rights and, ultimately, control over potentially huge reserves of Arctic offshore oil and gas.

The Canadian and Danish claims under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) are expected to overlap near the North Pole with Russia’s bid for extended seabed territory along the Mendeleyev and Lomonosov ridges on the Eurasian side of the Arctic Ocean.

All five countries with Arctic Ocean coastlines – Canada, Denmark, the U.S., Russia and Norway – have been accelerating their UNCLOS evidence-gathering efforts as the ongoing Arctic sea-ice retreat unlocks the polar frontier for shipping and resource exploration.