Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

The Undersea Frontier

Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

The Undersea Frontier

Article excerpt

THE SOURCE: "The Last Great Landgrab" by Geoffrey Gagnon, in Wired, Feb. 2008.

FOR YEARS, RUSSIAN SHIPS have been plying the Arctic Ocean in search of irrefutable proof that the undersea Lomonosov Ridge is connected to the fatherland. When a robotic arm pounded a titanium tricolor into the seabed under the North Pole in August, Russian explorers announced success. Unfortunately, both Canada and Denmark already claim this spot on the ocean bottom as their own.

The world's coastal nations are scrambling to stake out territory on the last international frontier--the shelves and mountain ranges that stretch hundreds of miles from their shores. Touched off by an obscure authorizing provision ' in the United Nations Law of the Sea Treaty, the breakup of polar ice that makes undersea mining feasible, and--not incidentally-the high price of oil, the last great land rush is under way, says Geoffrey Gagnon, a magazine editor and writer. Some specialists believe the Arctic contains more oil than Saudi Arabia.

For centuries, the Cannon Shot Rule limited a nation's territorial ambitions to roughly three miles, the range of a 17th-century cannon. In 1945, President Harry S. Truman unilaterally extended U.S. boundaries about 200 miles, to the edge of the continental shelf, in order to lay claim to offshore oil. But when other countries followed suit, confusion arose over the exact extent of each nation's shelf. Four decades later, the Law of the Sea Treaty allowed a nation to go beyond 200 miles by submitting evidence that its continental shelf extended past that limit. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.