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 user 2007-10-10 at 11:52:00 am Views: 62
  • #18904

    Ice melt raises passage tension
    ArcticOCT 07 In another sign of potential friction in the warming
    Arctic, Canada has warned that it will step up patrols of the Northwest
    Passage.Record summer melting of sea-ice has made the passage fully
    navigable; and immediately escalated a dispute over who controls the
    route.Canada maintains that the waterway that connects the Atlantic
    with the Pacific lies within its territorial waters.It has backed that
    up with plans for a new military base in the Arctic.However, the United
    States, and other countries claim international rights to use the route
    for shipping.

    Big melt
    In an interview with BBC News, the
    head of the Canadian Coast Guard, George Da Pont, said: “Our view is
    that it’s our territorial waters and that we govern it accordingly.
    Obviously the Americans and some European countries have different
    views.”I assume at some point in time they’ll get settled but we’re
    pretty confident that they’re Canadian territorial waters and that we
    should be regulating and asserting our control over them as we would
    over any other part of our territorial water.”It’s critical, it’s part
    of our history; like any country it’s important to assert your control
    over your country and your territorial waters.”His statement comes as
    polar experts are still reeling from the dramatic loss of Arctic ice
    this summer.

    The Canadian Ice Service was among the
    organisations monitoring the retreat and its director, Doug Bancroft,
    told the BBC that he was “stunned” that this extent of melting had not
    been expected for decades.”It just seemed as if it wasn’t going to
    stop. Normally, towards the end of August, the beginning of September,
    the melting slows down and stops and we get ready for the coming fall
    and the refreezing during the winter. But it just kept on going and the
    concern was, ‘Well when is it going to stop this year?’ – and
    ultimately when it did stop, it shattered all previous records.”

    Research cruise
    Monday, the Canadian Coast Guard is preparing to send one its research
    vessels, the Amundsen, through the Northwest Passage with about 40
    scientists on board .Equipped with a remotely operated robot submarine
    and a sonar system, the ship will undertake a detailed survey of the
    sea-bed – essential if the waterway is to become more open to
    commercial shipping.Researchers on board also hope to study the
    changing patterns of the ice – not only the ice that grows and retreats
    with the seasons but also the far thicker multi-year ice which drifts
    with the Arctic currents and poses the most serious threat to any
    vesselsA British team on board will study the sediment on the sea-bed
    to hunt for a chemical record of changes in the ice stretching back for
    the past thousand years – a vital task to help understand the likely
    rate of change in the future.