Saturday, April 18, 2009

Healy, Mayer and CCOM in May 2009 National Geographic piece on Arctic Mapping

The summer 2007 mapping cruise of the USCGC Healy, and the meticulous and stunning work of Larry Mayer and the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping/UNH-NOAA Joint Hydrographic Center are featured in the May 2009 National Geographic article "Arctic Landgrab", by McKenzie Funk. Of particular note is Mayer's vivid and elegant image of multibeam sonar tracks gathered on Healy mapping cruises from 2003-2008. Mayer was also one of five consultants for the issue’s remarkable pull-out map of the Arctic Ocean, together with Kelley Brumley (University of Alaska Fairbanks/Stanford), Elizabeth Miller (Stanford University), Martin Pratt (University of Durham International Boundaries Research Unit) and Peter Vogt (UC Santa Barbara).  The map is available with the May issue at newsstands but not yet online.  Detailed study of just this one map reveals much about the relatively little that is known about the geomorphology and bathymetry of the Arctic Ocean.  A comparison to earlier maps provides an even clearer sense of how rapidly knowledge of the Arctic Ocean is changing, see, e.g. the 2008 International Bathymetric Chart of the Arctic Ocean and the 1975 Bruce Heezen/Marie Tharp map of the Arctic Ocean Floor.  National Geographic makes an earlier geophysical map of the Arctic Ocean, from its 2002 atlas, available online here.

The Mare Glaciale region, some 440 years ago
Map of the North Atlantic region, Sigurdur Stephansson (1570), published in The Geology of North America, Vol. L, The Arctic Ocean region, The Geological Society of America, 1990, p. 7.

For one history of Arctic Ocean bathymetry through 1983 see  J.R. Weber, Maps of the Arctic Basin Sea Floor:  A History of Bathymetry and its Interpretation, in: Arctic, vol. 36, no. 2 (June 1983), pp. 121-142.

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.