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Russian scientists begin North Pole dive to back territorial claim

Russian researchers are preparing to dive beneath the ice at the North Pole to gather scientific data and back the country's claim to a vast energy-rich Arctic territory, the Vesti 24 satellite channel said Thursday.

Researchers in two mini-submarines will dive 4,200 meters (14,000 feet) below the surface to take soil and fauna samples on the seabed, leave a Russian flag and a message to future generations in a capsule, and establish a video link with the International Space Station (ISS), mission organizers said earlier. The dive is designed to bolster Russia’s claim to about 460,000 square miles of territory - the underwater Lomonosov and Mendeleyev Ridges named after the Russian scientists - which the country says is the continuation of its continental shelf.

Russia’s claim is being challenged by other countries with territory inside the Arctic circle. The United States’ geological survey data suggest the Arctic seabed contains up to 25% of the world’s oil and natural gas reserves, and other mineral riches, made accessible by the receding of polar ice due to global warming.

The dives and retrieval are expected to take about eight hours, with only an hour on the seabed. The crews include Russian veteran explorer Artur Chilingarov, and Australian and Swedish researchers Mike McDowell and Frederik Paulsen. The research vessel Akademik Fedorov with the mini-subs on board reached the Pole Wednesday night trailing the nuclear-powered icebreaker Rossiya. (RIAN.RU)