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USGS Visit to Alaska to Discuss Law of the Sea Studies

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Debbie Hutchinson presents a public lecture in Barrow, Alaska
Above: Debbie Hutchinson presents a public lecture in Barrow, Alaska, explaining connections between the Law of the Sea, the Arctic Ocean, and marine research. [larger version]

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientist Debbie Hutchinson traveled to Barrow, Alaska, on April 20-23 to visit the Barrow Arctic Science Consortium, talk with Native Inupiat whaling captains, and give a public talk on an upcoming field program that will use two icebreakers to survey parts of the Arctic Ocean in support of defining the extended continental shelves of the United States and Canada. The extended continental shelf is that part of the sea floor and sub-sea floor that extends beyond 200 nautical miles from shore and for which nations hold certain sovereign rights if they can demonstrate that they meet the conditions set forth in Article 76 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The USGS and the Geological Survey of Canada are planning to conduct a joint expedition in September to map the sedimentary deposits of the Canada Basin and the Chukchi Cap (a large undersea plateau), primarily in international waters north of Alaska. Not only will the mapping help meet the conditions of Article 76, but it will also be the first time that some of these parts of the Arctic Ocean have ever been surveyed with modern navigation and technology. Because of a lack of information about sedimentary deposits in the Canada Basin, theories about sea-floor-spreading processes there and the timing of opening of the basin are plentiful and controversial. The data of primary interest—multichannel seismic-reflection data—will be collected by the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St. Laurent, while the U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Healy collects multibeam bathymetric and gravity data. Another purpose of the Healy will be to lead the two ships through thick sea ice expected in areas along the Canadian margin; providing a clear path for the Louis will help maximize the continuity and quality of the seismic-reflection data. (See maps of Arctic sea-ice thickness at URL http://soundwaves.usgs.gov/2008/06/research2.html.)

While in Barrow, Hutchinson spoke with four whaling captains and the acting mayor of Barrow about the purposes of the experiment and ways to ensure that embarking and disembarking the Healy in Barrow will not interfere with the fall whale hunt. She also presented a lecture on "Law of the Sea, the Arctic Ocean, and Marine Research: Why All the Interest?" In addition to the whaling captains, Hutchinson spoke with biologists from the North Slope Borough about the seismic experiment.

Related Sound Waves Stories
New Method to Estimate Sea-Ice Thickness
June 2008

Related Web Sites
Oceans and Law of the Sea
United Nations

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cover story:
Palos Verdes Shelf Experiment: Contaminated Mud

Palos Verdes Shelf Experiment: Whatever Can Go Wrong

Submarine Landslides and Large Earthquakes

Whitings Possible Explanation for Middle East Oil Deposits

USGS Participates in Marine Quest 2008

Law of the Sea Studies

Meetings USGS/DOI Santa Barbara Channel Workshop

USGS Part of Law of the Sea Delegation

Carolinas Coastal Change Processes Project

Awards USGS Circular Wins Blue Pencil Award


July 2008 Publications List

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