Battle for resources

Battle for resources

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Cameron Dueck
Silent Sound spent the summer sailing through the Northwest Passage, visiting Canadian towns along the way and learning more about Canada's Inuit culture.

Although the shoreline we saw belongs to Canada and the towns we visited were distinctly Canadian, lawyers and politicians are still debating who actually owns the waterway known as the Northwest Passage.

The five countries with land in the Arctic - Canada, Russia, the United States, Norway and Denmark - are trying to decide who has rights over the Arctic seas.

Tests have revealed there is valuable oil and gas under the sea, and governments want to make sure they get their share of the prize.

Scientists predict that within a decade, rising temperatures could leave most of the Arctic ice-free in the summer months. This would make oil exploration much easier, and it would open the Northwest Passage to more shipping traffic, making the Arctic an important economic resource for nearby countries.

But there's more than just money involved. All the countries have their national pride at stake. A Russian expedition in 2007 went to the bottom of the sea in the North Pole and planted a Russian flag on the seabed, claiming rights to the seabed in the area.

A Canadian politician last month suggested renaming the Northwest Passage the "Canadian Northwest Passage".

If these straits and bays are to become ice-free shipping routes, someone has to police them to make sure the ships don't damage the environment, and Canada wants to wield that power.

The winners will not only get the oil and gas beneath the sea, they will also become the protector of this remote and fragile environment.

If you have any questions, e-mail them to yp@scmp.com with postcards in the subject field and we will forward them to Cameron. You can follow his voyage in his weekly log book in Young Post and on http://www.openPassageExpedition.com

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