David Mosher

Program Manager, UNCLOS Program
Natural Resources Canada

Learn about the discovery of an underwater sea mount, what makes someone want to voyage to the Arctic, and the biggest challenge about ship surveys.


There are two types of people who go to the Arctic: those who go to the Arctic and never come back and those who go to the Arctic, love it, and seek the rest of their careers trying to find ways come back to the Arctic. I guess I started as a student working in the Arctic living on the ice, so I guess I’m the later category where I’m always looking for opportunities to go back.

This research is important to Canada for a number of reasons. The work in the Arctic is sort of the latest phase of Arctic exploration dating back centuries. And so it is exciting to be a part of that. But for the country of course, we are extending Canada’s new outer limits and at some point in time, this is going to prove to be very historical, I hope.

The work in the Arctic was actually a really unique opportunity. First of all, no ships had been to many of these areas where we had visited before and very little scientific data have ever been acquired in these waters. So it really is frontier territory so that’s always exciting for a scientist to go somewhere new that really had not been discovered.

I got involved in the UNCLOS project in 2008. My former role in UNCLOS started out as chief scientist on the Louis S. St-Laurent to take the vessel up to the Arctic. In addition, I had a big role in terms of authoring the Atlantic submission because of my experience in the Atlantic. I’ve been working in the Atlantic margin since my graduate student days. When a state ratifies the treaty, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, they automatically get out from the coastline to the 200 nautical mile limits and they have sovereign rights over that territory. So you can go beyond 200 nautical miles to 350 nautical miles, and sometimes beyond, if you have the right geologic and hydrographic bathymetric conditions. So we go out and make those necessary measurements to extend our continental margin out beyond 200 nautical miles.

Also close to my heart are the technologies. We got to use technologies we are quite familiar with, but we had to adapt them in ways so that we could use them in the ice.

There are so many experiences. I mean, everyday there is something new and exciting. I guess one of the most exciting things was the discovery of a new sea mount, an underwater mountain that had never been discovered before. It was really at the request of the Americans so we named it Savaqatigiik Seamount, which means “Collaboration Sea Mount” in the Inupiaq language of Alaska.

As you can imagine, in any major expedition like this, the logistics are immense and critical. And so it takes a team of people with a whole lot of difference experiences to mount the logistics to go on such an expedition. You know what you have to bring along to get the job done and the expertise that you need with you. It’s a very important part of to the job, no question. You just can’t run to Canadian Tire to get a nut and bolt if you need it. Everything has to be on board, or manufactured on board, if you don’t have it with you.

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