Friday, August 7, 2009

In Barrow: One Year Anniversary; Forest Fires in Fairbanks; Recent Developments in Law, Science, Policy

Dear Readers,
Greetings from Barrow (more specifically from BASC and the Ilisagvik cafeteria), where we are preparing to transfer to HEALY today, for its 09-05 cruise. Many operations in and around Barrow have been delayed by forest fires near Fairbanks and the ensuing transport-domino effect up and down Alaska’s airways.
First, thank you for your enthusiastic support over the last year. You have visited from many places around the U.S. and the globe. Because my postings will become less regular once we are on board, and through mid-September when we are scheduled to disembark, I wanted to take time now to thank you for reading along since I began this weblog one year ago, as we embarked on Healy 08-05.
Over the next few weeks my focus will be more on science operations on board and less on the policy and news I have tried to emphasize over the past 12 months. However, I wanted to send one last short listing of links about important developments in the last week.
U.S. and Canada: As many of you know, Alaska’s Senator Mark Begich introduced seven arctic-related bills this week. As Institute of the North points out in its Top of the World Telegraph, the bills are called “the Inuvikput legislation after the Inupiaq expression meaning “the place where we live.” In Canada, “Bill C-3, an Act to amend the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act, came into force on August 1, 2009, effectively doubling the area of Canada’s jurisdiction to enforce certain environmental and shipping regulations, from 100 to 200 nautical miles.
With the late summer /early fall arctic research season in high gear, more stories about potential effects of global change are making their way into the media. As always one needs to sort carefully through the range of reporting available online. I offer just one example, highlighted by the Knight Science Journalism Tracker, which dubs itself as offering “peer review within science journalism.” The Tracker questions aspects of report this week in the New Scientist feed that the Beaufort Gyre could contribute to exponentially increased pollution of the Arctic Ocean as temperatures warm and ship traffic increases. Not surprisingly, the blogosphere picks up the dramatic headlines without always questioning the conclusions.
For readers not yet acquainted with the Federation of American Scientist project on Government Secrecy, I recommend its Secrecy News blog as an excellent source of information about data and declassification policies within the U.S. government. Recent posts include reference to the Department of Interior press release that “some 700 classified images of Arctic sea ice have been declassified and released.
With thanks one last time from shore, I look forward to updating you from time to time between now and September 16 about life and work on HEALY 09-05. Barbara Moore of the US ECS Task Force as well as two teachers, Christine Hedge and Jon Pazol, will also be blogging from HEALY.

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.