Thursday, August 2, 2007

Russian Sub Places Canister of Flag on Bottom of Ocean Floor Below Ice Cap?

(If you look very closely, you can see the set of Nasa's best ever April Fool's Joke.)

It would seem that the Hoax Moon landing of depicted in O. J. Simson's Capricorn One would be that much easier to verify -- telescope anyone -- than a bunch of submariners swearing on their copies of Moby Dick that they have placed a flag -- in a canister, mind you -- where the longitude lines join up and a polar bear has no other choice than to head South.

The Mir-I is one of two Russian craft diving to the Arctic floor
Submarine footage Two Russian mini-submarines have reached the seabed below the North Pole on a mission aimed at boosting Moscow's claims to the Arctic, reports say.

Explorers have planted a Russian flag in a metal capsule on the seabed 4,200m (14,000ft) below the pole, an official told the Itar-Tass news agency.

A Russian official said the "risky and heroic" mission was comparable to "putting a flag on the Moon".

Melting polar ice has led to competing claims over access to Arctic resources.

Russia's claim to a vast swathe of territory in the Arctic, thought to contain oil, gas and mineral reserves, has been challenged by other powers, including the US.

The mission's leader, explorer and parliamentarian Artur Chilingarov, told Itar-Tass news agency that Mir-I's landing on the seabed was "smooth".

"The yellowish ground is around us, no sea dwellers are seen," he said.

'Heroic mission'

The two mini-submarines, Mir-I and Mir-II were brought to the North Pole by the two ships in the Russian expedition - a nuclear-powered ice-breaker and a research vessel.

It's a very important move for Russia to demonstrate its potential in the Arctic... It's like putting a flag on the Moon
Sergei Balyasnikov
Russian Arctic and Antarctic Institute

The expedition set off last week from the port of Murmansk and is looking for geological evidence to back up Moscow's claims to the resource-rich Arctic seabed.

Scientists aboard the submarines also plan to collect samples of Arctic flora and fauna.

Russian media reported last week that the ships were briefly tailed by foreign aircraft, but this claim was played down by the expedition leader.

Itar-Tass reported on Wednesday that the expedition's ships had arrived at the North Pole.

The submarines' return from the seabed to the surface is regarded as the most dangerous part of the journey.

The vessels will have to navigate back to the exact point where they started from, or else risk being trapped beneath the Arctic ice.

"This is a risky and heroic mission," Sergei Balyasnikov, a spokesman for Russia's Arctic and Antarctic Institute, told the RIA-Novosti news agency.

"It's a very important move for Russia to demonstrate its potential in the Arctic," he said. "It's like putting a flag on the Moon."

Competing claims

President Vladimir Putin has already described the urgent need for Russia to secure its "strategic, economic, scientific and defence interests" in the Arctic.

Moscow argued before a UN commission in 2001 that waters off its northern coast were in fact an extension of its maritime territory.

The claim was based on the argument that an underwater feature, known as the Lomonosov Ridge, was an extension of its continental territory, but it was rejected and Russia told to resubmit with more evidence.

Several countries with territories bordering the Arctic - including Russia, the US, Canada and Denmark - have launched competing claims to the region.

The competition has intensified as melting polar ice caps have opened up the possibility of new shipping routes in the region.

Current laws grant countries an economic zone of 200 nautical miles beyond their land borders.

This zone can be extended where a country can prove that the structure of the continental shelf is similar to the geological structure within its territory.

The North Pole is not currently regarded as part of any single country's territory and is therefore administered by the International Seabed Authority.

1) North Pole: Russia plans to leave its flag on the seabed, 4km beneath the surface, as part of its claims for oil and gas reserves
2) Lomonosov Ridge: Russia argues that this underwater feature is an extension of its continental territory and is looking for evidence
3) 200-mile line: Shows how far countries' agreed economic area extends beyond their coastline. Often set from outlying islands
4) Russian claimed territory: The bid to claim a vast area is being closely watched by other countries. Some could follow suit

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