US Ship Joins Race for Arctic Resources
Mapping the continental shelf integral to oil and gas rights
By Clay Dillow,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 12, 2008 1:50 PM CDT
In this photo released by the US Coast Guard, the Coast Guard Cutter Healy breaks ice to support scientific research in the Arctic Ocean near Barrow, Alaska, Saturday, July 22, 2006.    (AP Photo/U.S. Coast Guard, Prentice Danner)
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(Newser) – A Coast Guard cutter will this week begin mapping Alaska’s continental shelf, Reuters reports, in a first step toward mining data that could be used to establish rights to oil exploration in the Arctic. Melting ice caps, which one scientist calls "bad for the Arctic, but very very good for mapping," are believed to hold the next big energy bonanza.

“These are places nobody’s gone before, in essence, so this is a first step,” a State Department official said. With oil prices soaring and supplies dwindling, the Arctic is now a geopolitical play as Russia has claimed 460,000 square miles and last year defiantly planted its flag in the seabed beneath the North Pole.