Extended Continental Shelf Project: When will U.S and Canada work together again?
The 2010 Extended Continental Shelf survey is a 5-week-long expedition involving two icebreakers: U.S. Coast Guard Cutter (USCGC) Healy (at sea August 2 to September 6) and the Canadian Coast Guard Ship (CCGS) Louis S. St-Laurent (at sea August 4 to September 14).
This is the sixth in a series of U.S. cruises to the Arctic Ocean and the third in which U.S. and Canadian scientists are working together to map areas of the seafloor and to image the underlying sediment layers. The data will be used to determine the limits of the “extended continental shelf.” Previous joint missions were conducted in 2008 and 2009.
USCGC Healy is collecting multibeam bathymetric data, which provide high-resolution information about the depth and shape of the seafloor; and CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent (Louis) is collecting multichannel seismic reflection and refraction data, which can provide information about the thickness and characteristics of sediment layers down to several kilometers beneath the seafloor. Healy is also collecting high-resolution seismic-reflection data to image details of sediment layers in the uppermost 10s of meters beneath the seafloor. Both ships are collecting gravity data, which help delineate density anomalies in the sediments and deeper rocks.
In light to moderate ice, Healy will clear a path through the ice for Louis to tow its seismic gear. In heavy ice that precludes operation of the Louis seismic system, and where bathymetric data is a priority, Louis will break ice for Healy. As operational conditions permit, Healy will also collect seafloor samples of rock, sediment, and possibly metalliferous nodules to assist in delineating the extended continental shelf and to advance knowledge of Arctic geology.
This collaboration continues to save millions of dollars for both countries, provide data both countries need, ensure that data are collected only once in the same area, and increase scientific and diplomatic cooperation. Expectations are that the two nations will work together again in the summer of 2011.
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