Back off. We own the Arctic.

Everyone wants to own the Arctic, for various reasons, but mostly to do with the potential offshore oil deposits. But Canada may actually have data that proves its legal right to the area.

The federal scientist heading Canada’s bid to claim thousands of square kilometres of Arctic Ocean seabed under a UN convention says a joint United States-Canada mapping mission to the Beaufort Sea this fall yielded “very promising” results that could vastly extend this country’s territory in one of the polar region’s richest target zones for offshore oil and gas.

“The quality of the data is astonishing,” Halifax-based geoscientist Jacob Verhoef says. “We haven’t analysed it all, but what we found is that the entire Beaufort Sea — all the way up to the north — is covered with significant amounts of sediments, which makes our case look very promising.”

Under rules laid out in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, Canada’s claims for extended undersea jurisdiction in the Western Arctic hinge on the thickness of sediments deposited on the ocean bottom over tens of thousands of years by the Mackenzie River, which discharges millions of tonnes of silt annually into the Beaufort near the Northwest Territories-Yukon border.

Plus I knew that global warming had its advantages.

Taking advantage of an unprecedented melt of sea ice in the region this summer, which combined with favourable winds to create the greatest extent of ice-free waters in the Beaufort in recorded history, the researchers gathered geological measurements much further north than originally planned.


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