International Continental Shelf Survey

What Are They Doing?

This joint U.S.-Canada research cruise used two icebreakers to collect data to identify the edge of the continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean. As needed, the Healy broke sea ice for the Louis S. St-Laurent, while it collected data to map the geology of the sub-seabed. Scientists aboard the Healy also measured seafloor bathymetry, collected high-resolution sub-seafloor data, made ice observations, collected water samples, and monitored marine mammals and ocean noise through high frequency audio recording.

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the continental shelf is defined as the stretch of the seabed adjacent to the shores of a particular country. Information from the cruise helped each country determine where they have rights over the natural resources of the seafloor, which include mineral resources, petroleum resources such as oil and gas, and animals like clams and crabs.

To learn more about the science of the expedition, please visit the Extended Continental Shelf Project website. In addition to a PolarTREC teacher, Caroline Singler, a NOAA Teacher at Sea teacher was also aboard and you can follow her journals here.

Where Are They?

The team lived and worked from the United States Coast Guard Icebreaker Healy. The USCGC Healy is a research vessel designed to conduct a wide range of research activities and can break through 4 ½ feet of ice continuously. The research team boarded the ship in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, traversed the Bering, Beaufort, and Chukchi Seas and disembarked in Barrow, Alaska. The Healy will work in tandem with the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Louis S. St-Laurent.

Expedition Map


Dwarf Juniper Clings to Boulder above Skjoldungensund, Greenland
This dwarf juniper above Skjoldungensund, Greenland was the tallest-growing plant around, by virtue of closely hugging a boulder to gain some headway above the surrounding Arctic tundra. TODAY'S JOURNAL: Greenland is known as a pretty harsh place, end even during our mid-summer visit it was evident that life clinging to the margin of land seaward of the ice shelf has very special adaptations to survive in the Arctic environment. Exposed rock was very common, sometimes with wonderfully colored lichen gardens blotching the surface and sometimes still bare from the last glacier paring down...
Gathering water column data at the side gate of NG Explorer
Young explorers Aely, Wesley, Sarah, Kerry, Shannon, and Matthew help Joe Super collect water column data from the side gate on National Geographic Explorer at Qaqortoq, SW Greenland. TODAY'S JOURNAL: In my last post I showed how my partner Joe Super and I deployed a sensor via sea kayak to take some measurements of the water column in a fjord in S. Greenland. We were interested in seeing how the water changed going from the sunny surface down to the murky depths. Ordinarily, oceanographers employ a CTD to collect this type of data. CTDs measure Conductivity (to determine salinity),...
Joe Super and Bill Schmoker sea kayaking in Skoldungensund, Greenland
Joe Super and Bill Schmoker employing a sea kayak to gather water quality data in Skoldungensund, Greenland. TODAY'S JOURNAL: Yesterday I discussed measuring surface temperature vs. longitude as we approacehed Greenland to see where we entered the cold East Greenland Current. Today I'd like to show how my Grosvenor Teacher Fellow partner Joe Super and I collected measurements to generate vertical water profiles showing salinity and temperature vs. depth. On my 2010 Arctic cruise aboard the Healy we had a CTD to measure salinity and temperature vs. depth. In some spots we went down over...
East Greenland Current Convergence
Misleading Names: As I mentioned in the previous post, our voyage retraced early Viking pioneers who sailed from Iceland to Greenland (and ultimately to Newfoundland.) Most of my readers will know the irony in these islands' names, as Iceland is fairly green overall while Greenland is covered about 80% by ice. While far from balmy, Iceland owes its warmer climate to the Gulf Stream and its northern extension, the North Atlantic Drift. Warm water from the tropics works its way up the East Coast of the United states before crossing the North Atlantic Ocean, heading for Great Britain and...
Bill Schmoker, Nanortalik, Greenland
IT'S BEEN A WHILE, I KNOW! So what's been going on with me since my incredible 2010 PolarTREC experience? Well, lots. Teaching is as busy and rewarding as always, all the better now that I have all of my awesome PolarTREC stuff to enhance my curriculum. I got to visit my research team at the USGS Marine Science Lab in Menlo Park, CA (see the previous 5 journals about that trip) and have had the honor of presenting photo tips to the last three PolarTREC teacher cadres. I've given presentations about my experience to various groups, and have another chance to spread the word at the...

Expedition Resources

Project Information

31 July 2010 to 6 September 2010
Location: USCGC Healy in the Bering, Beaufort, and Chukchi Seas
Project Funded Title: 2010 U.S.-Canada Arctic Continental Shelf Survey

Meet the Team

Bill Schmoker's picture
Centennial Middle School
Boulder, CO
United States

Bill Schmoker is an Earth Science teacher at Centennial Middle School in Boulder, Colorado where he has taught for 23 years. Additionally, Mr. Schmoker was a PolarTREC teacher in 2010 and a National Geographic Grosvenor Teacher Fellow in 2013, works with pre-service teachers, has authored, edited, and consulted on many Earth Science Education products, and has held many leadership roles at the building and district levels throughout his career. Mr. Schmoker is also passionate about birding and bird photography, photographing over 640 species of North American birds and having his photos appear internationally in numerous books, magazines, web sites, and interpretive signage. He has been an instructor for the Denver Audubon Society, Boulder County Nature Association, The Nature Conservancy, the American Birding Association's Youth Birding Program and the Institute for Field Ornithology.

Helen Gibbons's picture
U.S. Geological Service
Menlo Park, CA
United States

Helen Gibbons is a public information scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in Menlo Park, California. Ms. Gibbons works with USGS scientists around the country to publish informative articles about their coastal and ocean research in the monthly newsletter Sound Waves ( She also helps researchers create written materials, displays, and hands-on activities for members of the general public interested in USGS science. She is looking forward to sharing ideas with the two teachers participating in the August 2010 Canada-U.S. joint Arctic expedition. Helen will serve as web coordinator for logs and images posted at the Continental Shelf Project Website ( before and during the expedition.

Jonathan Childs's picture
U.S. Geological Survey
Menlo Park, CA
United States

Jonathan Childs is a scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in Menlo Park, California. Mr. Childs scientific interests include using seismic reflection data to study and map the seafloor and studying the unique laws of the worlds oceans.

Brian Edwards's picture
U.S. Geological Survey
Menlo Park, CA
United States

Brian is a sedimentologist with the USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center who will serve as Chief Scientist aboard Healy during the joint U.S.-Canada extended-continental-shelf survey in August. He brings to the job more than 30 years of sea-going experience on 60-plus coring and geophysical cruises along the west coast of the United States, the Ross Sea (Antarctica), the North Pacific Ocean, and the Bering Sea. Brian specializes in sedimentary processes and stratigraphy, integrating insights gleaned from seafloor rock and sediment samples with information from remote-mapping products, such as close-up photographs of the seafloor, high-resolution bathymetric maps, and seismic-reflection profiles (sound "slices" through the seafloor that create an image like rocks exposed on the walls of the Grand Canyon). His recent studies have focused on how sediment moves from the land to the deep sea, processes controlling submarine landslides, saltwater intrusion into coastal aquifer systems, marine pollution, and seafloor habitats.