Meanwhile, British researchers carve up theoretical Arctic pie
Survey bolsters Canadian North Pole claims
A joint study by the geological surveys of Canada and Denmark suggests the hotly-contested Lomonosov Ridge, which lies under the Arctic Ocean, is an extension of the Canadian and Greenlandic continental plates.
The study, presented Aug. 8 at the International Geological Congress in Oslo, Norway, is part of a package of scientific data Canada will need to make a claim under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
"Plate reconstructions that require the Lomonosov Ridge to be attached to the North American and Greenland plates are consistent with our data," reads an abstract of the study, which was penned by a Danish researcher and four Canadians.
Under UNCLOS, countries can claim offshore territory beyond their 200-nautical mile economic zone if they can prove underwater geology is an extension of their continental shelf. At stake is control over the potentially huge oil, natural gas, and mineral reserves that scientists believe lie under polar waters.
Russia claims the ridge as an extension of its landmass and planted a flag on the seafloor at the nearby North Pole last summer, a move that drew howls of condemnation from Ottawa.
Also last month, a British University released a map depicting "theoretical maximum claims" of Arctic offshore territory, Britain's Guardian newspaper reported.
The map, published by the International Boundaries Research Unit of Durham University, splits the Lomonosov Ridge more or less equally between Canada and Russia, with the symbolic North Pole lying near the intersection of competing Russian and Danish claims.
But the Durham University researchers also caution the map lacks the bathymetric and seismic surveys needed to be fully accurate.
Citing data from the United States Geological Survey, IBRU director Martin Pratt told the Guardian the area could be home to as much as 90 million barrels of oil and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas.
Pratt expressed concerns over the potential environmental impact of a scramble for fossil fuels inside the Arctic Circle.
"It is vulnerable and extracting oil and gas is not an environmentally friendly activity."