Joint Canada-U.S. mapping cruise in the Atlantic winding up

RV Atlantis
UNOLS Research Vessel Atlantis, operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, transits to a joint Canada-U.S. survey location in the North Atlantic.

The U.S. and Canada have been surveying in the northern Atlantic Ocean this summer, gathering data to support both countries’ territorial claims under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The survey project started on August 15, and the ship is scheduled to return to Woods Hole, Massachusetts, on September 10.

Lt. Briana Welton, a NOAA Corps officer, is representing the Office of Coast Survey and the NOAA-University of New Hampshire Joint Hydrographic Center, as the team of eight Canadian and U.S. hydrographers and geologists work onboard the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System’s Research Vessel Atlantis. (The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution operates the Atlantis).
This image shows the multibeam sonar coverage of 116,600 square kilometers, as of noon 4 September 2012, overlaid on a Canadian nautical chart. (Red dashed line shows where the foot of the slope was originally thought to be located.)

The survey team has been mapping the North Atlantic Continental Slope on the Canadian side of the Hague Line, acquiring multibeam, sub-bottom profiler, magnetic, and gravity data. (Check out Where is Atlantis Now?, for a great map of their cruise.)
The national effort to establish the full extent of the continental shelf is vital to the U.S. economy, as the ocean shelf has energy and mineral resources likely worth many billions of dollars. The process for extending the shelf is outlined by the U.S. Extended Continental Shelf Project:

Under international law, as reflected in the Convention on the Law of the Sea, every coastal State [country] automatically has a continental shelf out to 200 nautical miles (nm) from its coastal baselines, or out to a maritime boundary with another coastal State. However, a coastal State may define a continental shelf beyond 200 nm (called an extended continental shelf), if it meets the criteria outlined in Article 76 of the Convention. The process requires the collection and analysis of data that documents the natural prolongation of the continental landmass beyond 200 nm as determined by the formulae and limit lines in Article 76.

NOAA is one of the U.S. agencies leading the effort to collect the data that would allow our Nation to extend the shelf.

RV Atlantis CTD
The crew of RV Atlantis deploys equipment to measure the conductivity, temperature and density of water, to correct for oceanographic characteristics when measuring water depths with sonar.

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