A Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker is set to embark on a 47-day expedition from Halifax Harbour to the North Pole to collect scientific information and much-needed data that could bolster the country’s claim to Arctic sovereignty.
CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent will leave Friday for Tromsø, Norway with a team of scientists who will take part in seabed mapping along the way.
The Canadian Hydrographic Service will be collaborating with researchers from the European Union and the United States on the expedition.
From there, the vessel will head on a six-week expedition to the Arctic Ocean to collect more data.
A similar mission last year discovered ocean-floor sea mounts and volcanoes. Scientists are hoping to build on that data this time around.
“The mapping that we’re doing is state of the art mapping,” said Paula Travaglini of the Canadian Hydrographic Service.
“We get to see the sea floor that has never been seen before and that is both along the transit. When you think of the world oceans. We have currently mapped only 12 per cent of the world’s oceans. So any opportunity we have to collect more information is a benefit to mankind and to mapping in general.”
The ship’s captain, who has been travelling to the Arctic since 1980, says ice conditions and the weather could make parts of the trip difficult.
“We’ll be dealing with 24-hour daylight, so that gives us a big advantage, but in the Arctic in the summer we also get a lot of fog,” said Captain Anthony Potts.
“So we can get days and days of foggy weather where we may not be able to fly the helicopter or it just makes conditions difficult for working.”
At the expedition’s official launch on Thursday, Dominic LeBlanc, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, said the mission will help establish the boundaries of Canada’s continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean.
The data can be used to define the boundaries and will part of the country’s case to the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Seas.
“We believe we have a very strong case to assert Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic but in order to properly do so, it has to be based on something more than political bluster,” LeBlanc said.
“It’s got to be based on science, it’s got to be based on international law and those two concepts come together beautifully in this mission that begins tomorrow.”
The federal government plans to submit its case to the commission in 2018.