Canadian and Danish scientists are continuing research this year that could determine whether either country orbothcan claim sovereignty over an area beyond Ellesmere Island and Greenland in the Arctic Ocean.
The two nations want to claim sovereignty over part of the Lomonosov ridge, a long underwater ridge that stretches to an area between northern Ellesmere Island and Greenland from Siberia.
While Russia has laid claim to much of the ridge, both countries hope to claim at least a 350-nautical-mile section if they can prove it is part of their land mass.
Five Canadianhydrographers are currentlyinAlertto complete mapping research that began last year but was delayed by inclement weather.
Reached by satellite phone Monday, Richard MacDougall of the Canadian Hydrographic Service said Canadian researchers are trying to measure water depths to understand the shape of the seabed — a task that has faced further delays.
"The helicopters that were coming up heretook over a month to get here from Goose Bay because of weather," MacDougall said. "We really haven't flown, other than the test flights, since then because of wind."
Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Denmark and Canada have until 2013 to try to extend their boundaries beyond the 200- nautical-mile limit. There are also natural resources at stake: The Lomonosov ridge has the potential to produce gas, oil, methane and other resources.
Last spring, a team of 30 Danish and Canadian scientists worked together on the ice for about 40 days in difficult conditions, using sonar and seismic testing to map the Lomonosov ridge from northern Ellesmere Island almost to the North Pole.
The collaborative effort was part of a joint project called LORITA-1 (Lomonosov Ridge Test of Appurtenance). Both groups of researchers have reached similar conclusions from their analyses of that data.
Christian Marcussen with the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland said his group plans to use a Swedish icebreaker to return to the ice-filled waters off northern Greenland this summer.
"This crew with the Swedish icebreaker Oden will also go into Canadian waters, hopefully, if we get permission to do it, and we'll also have Canadians on board the ship, hopefully," Marcussen said.
The scientists from Canada and Denmark plan to publish their results in a scientific paper in September.
While the two countries are competing to claim the section of ridge, scientists from both nations say the joint collaboration to date has been excellent. Both countries are also sharing the $3.5 million cost of the mapping project.