Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Around the Arctic October 07, 2010 - 8:24 am

Arctic coastal states create sea-charting body

“Charting data in much of the Arctic is woefully out of date or nonexistent”

JANE GEORGE
Sgt. Charlie Gauthier of the Cambridge Bay RCMP detachment and Wilf Wilcox, the local Coast Guard liaison, rescued French adventurer Mathieu Bonnier over the Labour Day weekend after he floundered in icy, rough waters about 90 kilometres east of Cambridge Bay. (PHOTO COURTESY OF C. GAUTHIER)
Sgt. Charlie Gauthier of the Cambridge Bay RCMP detachment and Wilf Wilcox, the local Coast Guard liaison, rescued French adventurer Mathieu Bonnier over the Labour Day weekend after he floundered in icy, rough waters about 90 kilometres east of Cambridge Bay. (PHOTO COURTESY OF C. GAUTHIER)
After the Clipper Adventurer hit rocks near Port Epworth in the Coronation Gulf, about 100 kilometres from Kugluktuk, on Aug. 27, the Coast Guard's Amundsen icebreaker came to the rescue, evacuating more than 100 passengers. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
After the Clipper Adventurer hit rocks near Port Epworth in the Coronation Gulf, about 100 kilometres from Kugluktuk, on Aug. 27, the Coast Guard's Amundsen icebreaker came to the rescue, evacuating more than 100 passengers. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

Representatives from Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States set up a new Arctic Regional Hydrographic Commission on Oct. 6 in Ottawa to develop better nautical charts and improve safety in Arctic waters.

This past summer saw in increase of maritime traffic through the Northwest Passage— with nearly a dozen ships and smaller boats anchored outside Cambridge Bay at the height of the season.

Several ran into trouble: the Clipper Adventurer hit a rock near Kugluktuk, the Nanny grounded on shoals near Gjoa Haven and a specially-designed rowbooat floundered near Cambridge Bay.

“As vessel traffic increases, inexperience with navigating in the challenging conditions of the Arctic can create real dangers,” said Capt. John Lowell, director of United State’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in a NOAA news release. “Currently, charting data in much of the Arctic is woefully out of date or nonexistent. Inadequate charts pose a significant risk for marine safety, potentially leading to loss of life or environmental disaster, as evidenced by recent vessel groundings.”

Canadian ice specialists have said only about 10 per cent of Arctic waters off Canada have been charted properly.

To improve mapping, icebreakers like the Canadian Coast Guard’s Amundsen use echo-sounding technologies to measure water depths, find underwater physical features, and gather data on the characteristics of the seafloor.

“The establishment of the Arctic Regional Hydrographic Commission will help build synergy among the Arctic Coastal States to ensure safety of life at sea, assist in protecting the increasingly fragile Arctic ecosystem and support the maritime economy,” Lowell said.

Regional hydrographic commissions are formed through the International Hydrographic Organization IHO, an intergovernmental consultative and technical organization with membership from 82 countries.

The Arctic has been the only part of the world not covered by an IHO regional commission.

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