Russians to dive below North Pole

Russia is sending a mini-submarine to explore the ocean floor below the North Pole and find evidence to support its claims to Arctic territory.

Two parliamentarians, including veteran explorer Artur Chilingarov, are part of a team planning to dive 4,200m (14,000 ft) below the Arctic Ocean on Sunday.

The team’s ship is following a nuclear powered ice-breaker, setting sail from Murmansk port in the Barents Sea.

Melting ice in the Arctic has raised hopes of accessing energy reserves.

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.

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.

The UN has yet to rule upon the claim.

Geological proof

The team aboard the mini-submarine Mir is expected to carry out scientific experiments and measurements on the sea bed.

Reports say it will also leave behind a Russian flag and a capsule with a message for future generations.

“The Arctic is ours and we should demonstrate our presence,” Mr Chilingarov told Russian TV.

His colleague and fellow parliamentarian Vladimir Gruzdev was quoted as saying: “We must remind the whole world that Russia is a great polar and scientific power.”

The expedition’s “flagship”, the Akademik Fyodorov, will follow the trail of the ice-breaking ship Rossiya as it travels from Murmansk to the North Pole.

The Law of the Sea Convention allows states an economic zone of 200 nautical miles, which can sometimes be expanded.

To extend the zone, a state has to prove that the structure of the continental shelf is similar to the geological structure within its territory.

At the moment, nobody’s shelf extends up to the North Pole, so there is an international area around the Pole administered by the International Seabed Authority.