UNH-led Mission Concludes Joint US-Canada Arctic Seafloor Survey

UNH-led Mission Concludes Joint US-Canada Arctic Seafloor Survey

Dec 20, 2011

A recent mission marked the completion of a five-year collaboration between the United States and Canada to survey the Arctic Ocean. The bilateral project collected scientific data to delineate the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles from the coastline, also known as the extended continental shelf (ECS).

The 2011 joint Arctic mission spanned nearly six weeks in August and September and was the fourth year to employ flagship icebreakers from both countries, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy and the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Louis S. St-Laurent.

“This two-ship approach was both productive and necessary in the Arctic’s difficult and varying ice conditions,” said Larry Mayer, Ph.D., U.S. chief scientist on the Arctic mission and co-director of the NOAA-University of New Hampshire Joint Hydrographic Center.

Since the start of U.S. ECS work in the Arctic in 2003, Healy alone has mapped more than 320,000 square kilometers (123,000 square miles) of the Arctic seafloor, or about the size of Arizona.

“These data provided high resolution maps to help determine the outer limits of the U.S. ECS, while revealing previously undiscovered mountains, known as seamounts, and scours created by past glaciers and icebergs scraping along the ocean bottom 400 meters below the surface,” said Mayer.

The U.S. Extended Continental Shelf Task Force is responsible for delineating the U.S. ECS and is chaired by the Department of State with co-vice chairs from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Department of the Interior.  Ten additional agencies participate in the task force, including the U.S. Geological Survey, Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, Environmental Protection Agency, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the Arctic Research Commission, and the Executive Office of the President.

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Additional information on the joint U.S.-Canadian Extended Continental Shelf cruise: http://www.continentalshelf.gov and http://ess.nrcan.gc.ca/scient_e.php.

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