First data from the bottom of the Arctic Ocean has been retrieved

Published 12-04-2006

After ten days of hard work and a constant fight against weather and drifting ice, the Canadian and Danish researchers have retrieved the first data from the bottom of the Arctic Ocean. Read the first six stories from the researchers at the edge of the big white nothing.

Both countries have ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Article 76 of UNCLOS specifies a mechanism for extending the limits of the continental shelf beyond the 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Once a country has signed this convention, it has ten years to collect the data and make the claim. Canada signed in November, 2003, and so it has until 2013 to complete the process. Denmark is in a very similar situation, except that it signed the convention in November, 2004.

In the course of 6 weeks, seismic refraction, gravity and bathymetric data will be collected over the submarine Lomonosov Ridge that stretches from Ellesmere Island and Greenland out into the Arctic Ocean.

The work forms part of the LORITA-1 project (Lomonosov Ridge Test of Appurtenance Expedition - Phase 1) that will investigate whether the submarine ridge is a natural prolongation of the Canada/Greenland land territory. The participants will be working under difficult physical conditions with temperatures down to minus 40 and on a sea ice that is continually in motion.

Work in brief:
The experiment that is planned is an underwater seismic survey running from a point just north of the NW corner of Greenland up over the Lomonosov Ridge. In brief, we will be setting off explosives in the water and detecting the resulting vibrations of the ice surface. The sound wave will travel many kilometres down into the earth below the sea, and the returns will tell the seismologists much about the structure of the continental shelf.

The work will be carried out along three lines, each 200 km long. Two lines in continuation of each other are following the Lomonosov Ridge and start near the coast of North Greenland. The third line is crossing perpendicular to the two first. Each line will involve 150 ice-mounted seismometers recording the vibrations, and these instruments will be distributed over the distance of 200 km. Eleven under-water explosions will be detonated along the line of the seismometers.

For transportation we have a Twin Otter aircraft and three Bell 206 helicopters. The main part of the people will be living at Alert, and they will be flying out on the ice every day to work. One ice camp will be established on the sea ice to act as a depot for fuel and explosives. Three persons will live in the ice camp under the operations.

Read the stories from the researchers at the LORITA-1 project under Expeditions and field work

Kai Sørensen, GEUS
Tlf: + 45 38 14 21 36