Monday, September 22, 2008

Welcome VPR Listeners

Thank you for your interest, and thanks to Vermont Public Radio and Mitch Wertlieb for linking you to my arctic blog. Although my time on the USCG icebreaker Healy is past, I will continue to post items relevant to ongoing policy and environmental developments in the Arctic;
but today I simply want to share some images from the trip. You may have heard me describe being in a "constant state of awe" on board. I hope that including some of my photographs in this entry will help to convey some of the splendor of the Arctic Ocean in summer.

For the three weeks we were at sea, it was almost constantly light as the sun never dipped fully below the horizon at most of the latitudes we were traveling through (getting well north of the 83rd parallel, though still short of the North Pole).

Imagine that you are not only always surrounded in light: you
are also floating some 3,000
meters - almost two miles! - above the ocean
floor, suspended over the inky indigo darkest blue of frigid arctic waters.

Imagine, too, that the ship is moving at a slow, steady speed (5 to 7 knots, or m.p.h.) through an ever-changing ice scape: sometimes tightly compacted with tall pressure ridges, other times with broad "leads" of open water:

Sometimes the ice itself or the melt pools on top of it assume a stunning azure, because much of the salt has leached out of this older ice:

Arctic ice infuses the concept of "white" with an entirely new meaning, given its endless shades of frost, grey, snow, and shadow; in mist and in fog and in brilliant sun; in not-quite-twilight, not-quite-dawn shades of rose, pewter, lilac... words eventually fail and you are left to simply soak in the vastness and beauty of the place.

Thanks once again for your interest. I hope you will stay tuned, read a few of my earlier entries to learn more about the mapping trip (see above, right) and that you will send me your questions and comments, either by posting below or by writing to me at

Icebreaking into the Arctic

The USCGC HEALY embarked Barrow, Alaska, in August 2008 to map the US extended continental shelf, or ECS, in the Arctic Ocean (HLY 0805). Healy sailed again from 7 August to 16 September, 2009 (HLY 0905) to continue ECS mapping, joining with the Canadian icebreaker, the Louis S. St.-Laurent. The two vessels mapped together again in 2010 (see HLY1002) and 2011 (HLY1102).

As the only law professor on the science crew, I was along on HLY 0805 and 0905 to better understand
the science behind the legal process that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea establishes for states making ECS submissions. As to why the US is mapping now, even though it has not yet acceded to the Convention, read on both here, and in the Law of the Sea notes below.

Thanks to
Vermont Law School and especially to Larry Mayer, Director of the University of New Hampshire's Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping, for making my part in the trip possible.
Thanks, as well, to Adriane Colburn, for opening new windows on and for the deep.