Three cruises and $43 million: How Canada made its case for claiming the North Pole
The 2,100-page report is before the UN commission for review to argue for control over a vast region of the Arctic sea floor
One minute, it was dangling off the back of an icebreaker into the waters of the High Arctic. The next, the crucial piece of gear was gone.
“We got pinched,” recalls Mary-Lynn Dickson. “You’re clearing a path, but the ice moves in and we got pinched.”
Dickson was the lead scientist on a 2,100-page report just submitted to the United Nations that Canada will use to argue for control over a vast region of the Arctic sea floor.
It was 2016. She was on her third expedition far north of Ellesmere Island, and the ice had just clipped the team’s last underwater microphone, called a streamer.
Without it, there was no way to record signals rebounding off the sea floor — the whole point of the trip.
They were hundreds of kilometres from anywhere. The first rule of Arctic science was in force: If something breaks, you fix it or you don’t have it.
Dickson threw the ball to her technical team.
We called it the Frankenstreamer. It wasn't pretty, but it worked
“By the next morning they said, ‘We can build a new one out of spare parts,”‘ she says. “We called it the Frankenstreamer. It wasn’t pretty, but it worked.”
Thanks partly to the Frankenstreamer, Canada makes a strong case that the North Pole is part of its True North, Dickson says.
All coastal nations claim 200 nautical miles off their shores as exclusive economic zones.
Beyond that may lie something called the extended continental shelf. If a country can prove that the shelf exists off its coast and that it’s connected to the country’s land mass, it can be claimed.
Peering through sometimes thousands of metres of icy water to prod the bottom beneath was what Dickson and her colleagues on the Coast Guard’s Louis St. Laurent were trying to do.
The task was large and time was short. The science agenda was packed and almost every h