Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Mapping race for ocean riches underway

NOVA SCOTIA (CBC) - Canada is trying to chart new territory off the East Coast and in the Arctic to claim the resources below, but the right to stake that claim has turned into a race against the clock. The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis St. Laurent has spent four months in the Arctic laying plotting points on the outer edge of the continental shelf, an underwater mountainside that slopes as deep as 3,000 metres under the sea and ice.

"Once the edge is defined and that data is submitted to the United Nations, once that's approved, then that's Canada's territory," said Capt. Andrew MacNeil.

Dick MacDougall, with the Hydrographic Service of Canada, the agency that makes ocean maps, says the area in the East Coast is a million square kilometres, while the area in the Arctic is about 750,000 square kilometres.

"It's roughly the size of the three prairie provinces, to which Canada would have the rights to the sea bed, the resources on the sea bed and the resources below the sea bed," said MacDougall.

Finding the edge of the shelf and measuring the land that extends from it can be blocked by rocks and sediment on the bottom. To get that proportion right, mappers must look at where the sediment starts to thin out.

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