Thawing Continent(s) and Moving Islands

arctic map politics


As the arctic continues its seemingly unstoppable liquification, at InfrraNet Lab we continue tracking the results of this thawing geography and the new potential urbanisms that will result from an "open" arctic. Adding fuel to that is the recent release from the International Boundaries Research Unit at Durham University of the Arctic maritime jurisdiction map.

An ongoing debate over extended continental ridges and shelves, distance from shores, as well as old treaties have produced several contested zones. Russia has been the most proactive in trying to resolve disputes. On August 2, 2007, two Russian mini-submarines traveled 4,200m below the North Pole seabed to plant a rust-proof titanium flag on what is arguably an extension of Russian landform. The Russians have been trying to prove since 2001 that what is called the Lomonosov Ridge is actually an underwater extension of Russian territory. With Canada, United States, Denmark, Norway and Russia vying for the resource-laden potential of the Arctic, the race is on to establish official borders, new infrastructures, and specific resource locations. This has led to a series of inevitably networked cities bound by a mutual ambition to serve as a leading hub for the development of this region.

With climate change in this region, on more than one occasion, ice masses have broken away from pack ice masses. In 2005, Ayles Ice Island broke away from the Canadian Arctic coast. Since then it has travelled more than 500km from its breakoff point southward down the Canadian coast. Scientists planted a satellite tracking beacon on the migrating Ayles - because if the island continues to drift to the west, it could threaten the oil and gas installations off Alaska. However, 3 months later in August 2007, it got wedged in a channel.

Recently more than 20km2 of the Ward Hunt Ice shelf broke away is now beginning its slow(er) drift ... somewhere.

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