Saturday, June 07, 2008

Friday August 31st 2007
When a team of Russian polar explorers in mini-submarines planted a flag on the seabed below the North Pole in August 2007, the world responded with scorn and outrage. Moscow wants to lay claim to the oil and gas riches of the Arctic Ocean, but several other northern hemisphere states are in the race. Sergei Pryamikov, an oceanographer from the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute in St Petersburg, says Russia's expedition is more than a PR stunt

This institute has 85 people studying the problems of ice. That’s probably more than all the other such experts in the world put together. In 2005 our research ship the Akademik Fyodorov got to the North Pole without an icebreaker only thanks to the navigators and experts who chose the correct route.I’ve been many times to the Arctic and the Antarctic, and I’ll soon be going again. I’m an oceanologist, so it’s a great pleasure for me to study the ocean. After all, it’s the conditioner of our planet. The role of sea ice is the role of the switch in that conditioner because it’s a form of storage of freshwater, it’s very light and as soon as it warms up the ice melts, releasing water which spreads out across the surface of the ocean and becomes an obstacle to the output of heat.So the climate evens out. Thus there is a kind of natural conditioner and regulator. There’s a kind of joke that the Arctic is the weather kitchen for the northern hemisphere and the enormous Russian Arctic shelf is the chef.Our continental shelf is the biggest in the world; no other country has one that big. We consider the border area of that shelf to be ours for two reasons. The first is according to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which gives each country a 200-mile zone from the extremities of its territory [in which natural resources can be exploited]. And there is a second article which says that if the notion of the shelf widens – if it can be shown to extend beyond the 200-mile limit – then the country can claim that extended part.Russia has good chances to do that. But it seems we now want more, to go on down the Lomonosov ridge too. I don’t really understand why, we’ve got a lot as it is. [The Kremlin has given the institute the task of proving the Lomonosov underwater ridge which traverses the polar region is connected to Russia’s continental shelf, in order to bolster its claim to energy riches in the seabed.]I don’t want to comment on the planting of the flag on the ocean floor. The dive by Artur Chilingarov with the Mir mini-submarines that has been in all the press recently is only the first stage of a long Arctic expedition. And thank God that bit is all over.Our expedition is part of the International Polar Year (IPY), to which Russia has given 240 million roubles (GBP4.6m). The organising committee of the IPY decided to concentrate all the money on this international expedition – which will carry out oceanological, sea, geographical and ice research, in exactly those places where this kind of heavy ship [the Akademik Fyodorov] can work. We’ll also be using Mi-8 helicopters.Groups of scientists have already landed on Franz Josef Land and on Schmidt Island near the Severnaya Zemlya archipelago. The ship is now carrying out difficult research north of there. Unfortunately it couldn’t get through to the Laptev Sea because of the heavy ice conditions, in spite of global warming, so it has returned to the Kara Sea and will try to get through by a different route.Our expedition has three main tasks. Firstly, to identify the reason for the quick and intense warming of the Arctic and the natural consequences of that. Secondly, to carry out regular monitoring of the Arctic in order to acquire reliable statistics.The last three or four years we have received enough finances to revive this monitoring, which stopped during Perestroika. So we will be working with our ships and using other Russian know-how. At the end of its trip the Akademik Fyodorov will try to put down [on a stable ice floe] our North Pole NP-35 drifting station with 20 people on board for long-term observation.Lastly, we will be testing a complex of new measuring systems that are produced not only in Russia but across the world. Scientists from the United States, Germany and France will take part. About 40 people will be flown out to the Arctic port of Tiksi to meet the Akademik Fyodorov. Altogether there will be about 100 researchers on board by the time the ship returns to Murmansk on September 25. So the dive in the Mir subs was only one small part of this large expedition: it was a kind of “scientific” sports trip.

Columbia takes dibs on all seabeds

Richard N. Gardner 11Columbia University Law School New York, N.Y.
1Columbia University Law School New York, N.Y.
* Based on a statement before the Subcommittee on International Organizations and Movements, Committee on Foreign Affairs, Wednesday, March 4, 1970.

Senior DoD official urges long-range bomber revisions The chief weapons buyer for the US military said that in late 2007 he rejected a US Air Force (USAF) plan to develop a new long-range bomber by 2018, saying he thought the USAF's requirements and cost estimates for the classified programme were not realistic. "To be honest with you I didn't think that was achievable and was not inclined to sign that paper," John Young, the US Department of Defense's (DoD's) top acquisition official, said after a 3 June Senate hearing on Capitol Hill

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