At the end of last summer, the ice at the North Pole was found to have melted at a record level. The Northwest Passage, the long-sought shipping route through the Arctic, even opened up briefly for the first time in history.
Indeed, last summer, like the summer of 2005, broke all records for loss of summer sea ice in the Arctic Ocean and the Greenland ice sheet. In September 2007, the Arctic Ocean had 23 percent less sea ice than the previous record low and Greenland's ice sheet melted 19 billion tons more than its previous record. Scientists worldwide are still trying to figure out why the Arctic is warming and ice is melting faster than computer models predict.
In 2008, satellite data from recent weeks has shown the rate of ice melt over the North Pole to be even faster than last year. Scientists now believe the chances of a totally ice-free North Pole in the summer of 2008 are greater than 50:50 because the normally thick ice formed over many years at the Pole has been blown away and replaced by huge swathes of thinner ice formed during a single Arctic year.
The result of the melting ice over the North Pole raises the prospect of being able to extract valuable oil and mineral deposits which have until now been impossible to extract because of the thick sea ice above.
So, various countries are now engaged in a worldwide race to claim the North Pole as their own. Russia, China, Norway, Canada, and the United States are all on an international collision course to stake their claim to the new bounty of an ice free North Pole.
Consider that the US Coast Guard is already planning its first operating base in the area. Also, the Reuters news agency reported last week that "A U.S. Coast Guard cutter called "Healy" has embarked on a three week Arctic voyage to determine the extent of the continental shelf north of Alaska and map the ocean floor, data that could be used for oil and natural gas exploration.
The ultimate goal of the United States mission will be to create a three-dimensional map of the Arctic Ocean floor in a relatively unexplored area known as the Chukchi borderland. The Healy will launch again on September 6, when it will be joined by Canadian scientists aboard an icebreaker, who will help collect data to determine the thickness of sediment in the region. That is one factor a country can use to define its extended continental shelf."
It is an International race to claim the bounty under the melting ice cap of the North Pole. It is destined to become contentious and the controversy has only just begun.
For more on The Race for the Bounty of the North Pole, Read: Russia Claims The North Pole on eWorldvu.com.