No "flag-dropping" for U.S. icebreaker
/ A U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker is headed to the Arctic to map the sea floor off Alaska, as Russia, Denmark and Canada assert their claims...
The Associated Press
A U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker is headed to the Arctic to map the sea floor off Alaska, as Russia, Denmark and Canada assert their claims in the polar region, which has potential oil and gas reserves.
The Healy left Puget Sound on Monday and should be in Barrow around Friday, said Russ Tippets, a spokesman for the Coast Guard Pacific area office in San Francisco.
"We're basically just doing science," said Larry Mayer, director of the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping at the University of New Hampshire. "There's no flag-dropping."
Mayer will meet the Seattle-based icebreaker Healy at Barrow, Alaska, and head about 500 miles north with a team of about 20 scientists to map an area known as the Chukchi Cap.
Russian media assert that the Healy's mission signals that the United States, along with Canada, is actively joining the competition for resources in the Arctic.
Mayer denied the reports. "We've had this trip planned for months," he said.
The seven-year-old Healy is the newest U.S. icebreaker. It's 420 feet long and capable of breaking ice 8 feet thick. It is due back in Seattle in October, said spokesman Stephen Elliott.
The purpose of the mapping work aboard the Healy is to determine the extent of the continental shelf north of Alaska, Mayer said. It's not a claim, he said, but a process of registering boundary information with the U.N. Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.
"In that area, the country would have rights over the resources of the sea floor and subsurface that would include drilling for oil and gas," he said.
Along with the crew, there will be about 20 scientists onboard the Healy, including representatives from the University of New Hampshire, University of Texas, University of Alaska, Scripps Institution, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the State Department and the National Ice Center, he said.
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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