According to Tim Reid, journalist for the Times, the US Coast Guard cutter Healy was to head for the Arctic this week on a three-week journey to map the Arctic Ocean floor.

The mapping, Reid says, will take place in a relatively unexplored area at the northern edge of the Beaufort Sea. The goal of this undertaking, Reid says, is “to bolster US claims to the area by proving that it is part of its extended outer continental shelf.”

The Russians got a jump on staking a claim last August with the deployment of a submarine that was used to plant the nation’s flag on the seabed beneath the North Pole. And Canada announced shortly thereafter that the government would build two new military bases in the Arctic. According to Reid’s article, Canada now is readying its own vessel to follow the Healy in a couple of weeks.

Denmark has been trying to prove that a portion of the Arctic is an extension of Greenland’s continental shelf, which of course, gives Denmark a legitimate claim. And Norway, meanwhile, is quietly pursuing a survey of its own. Regardless of how things shake out, Norway will most likely find a way to partner with whatever entities stake a claim.

There are enormous reserves in the Arctic, and nobody yet knows how great they are. Estimates range from 15% to 25% of the world’s remaining reserves, which amounts to 400 Bbbl to 900 Bbbl of oil. At either end of this estimate, the prize is worth competing for.

Evidently, all of the players – Russia, the US, Canada, Denmark, and Norway – agree.

The race is on, and it’s going to be a very interesting one to watch!

Reid’s article is available on the Times Web site at: