Putin Lays Claim to North Pole
The Russian president has his eye on over 463,000 square miles of the Arctic.
Russia is petitioning the United Nations for exclusive economic control over 463,000 square miles of the Arctic, including the North Pole.
The area is potentially home to valuable deposits of oil and gas, which have become more accessible as Arctic ice has continued to melt at unprecedented rates.
According to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, each nation is entitled to an exclusive economic zone that extends 200 nautical miles into the ocean from the nation's baseline. Russia, however, is invoking a separate rule because it "can demonstrate that the continental shelf on which it sits actually extends farther than 200 miles. In such cases, the law recognizes a 350-mile limit," according to CNBC.
The United Nations rejected a similar claim by Russia in 2002, citing a lack of scientific evidence to substantiate it. This time around, Russia has pulled out all of the stops. Russian leaders claim to have sent a mini-submarine to the region to collect scientific evidence. The sub reportedly planted a small Russian flag on the sea floor beneath the North Pole, the New York Times reports.
This article originally appeared on Discovery's DISCOVRD blog.
Now that winter has more or less fully descended across the Northern Hemisphere, we are once again reminded of the various modern technologies that help us stave off the cold. But what about the really rough environments, where winter gets especially cruel?
Navigating ice-covered waters is a very old dilemma indeed -- cold-weather mariners have been developing ice-breaking ship technology for more than 1,000 years. Modern icebreaker ships use reinforced hulls to clear waterways for other vessels and to keep trade routes open. Above, the Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker Yamal ("End of the Land") heads out for the North Pole.
Despite the name, icebreaker ships rarely use their bow to literally cut into sheets of ice. Rather, the weight of the super strong hull causes the ice to bend and break as it passes under and around the vessel.
Hundreds of nations and research groups maintain permanent research stations in various Arctic and Antarctic locales. Britain's Halley VI Research Station, pictured above, is a mobile facility with eight modules built atop ski-fitted hydraulic legs. Modules can be towed independently and the facility regularly moves around to avoid crushing snow accumulation.
About 70 staffers occupy the station in the summer season, with a skeleton crew of 16 "winterers" holding down the fort year-round. The wintering team includes a chef, a doctor, mechanics, several electronics engineers and a heating and ventilation engineer. They all get very, very good at foosball.
Belgium's Princess Elisabeth Antarctica research station uses wind power, solar power and a sophisticated battery storage system to harness renewable energy at polar extremes. The zero-emission station's solar panels get 24 hours of sun in the summer months, but must rely on wind power in the winter.
Deliveries to the Princess Elisabeth Antarctica can be a challenge. One per year, a ship from Belgium travels to the coast of Antarctica to deposit building materials and supplies on the ice shelf. Since the station is 200 kilometers (124 miles) inland, the delivery process becomes an expedition in itself with snowmobile scouts picking a path through obstacles and crevasses for the convoy.
Earth's poles are plenty cold, but we're actually in a good spot, solar-system-wise. Some researchers are planning for even colder climes. The Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station (FMARS) is a simulated Martian habitat in the polar desert environment of Devon Island in Nunavut, Canada. The research station was established in the summer of 2000 by the Mars Society to test possible methods of colonizing the Red Planet. It's still active -- the 142nd crew rotation just completed its field rotation in November.
Back on Earth -- and down here in the less insane latitudes -- plenty of communities must also make concessions to the snow and cold. At Yellowstone National Park, traditional vehicles are modified with snow treads and ski mounts to create the park's famous snow coaches.