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Chris Hemmingway, Director of Hydrography and the Law of the Sea Program

Chris Hemmingway is a director at the Canadian Hydrographic Service, where one of his main duties is to head DFO’s scientific work in support of Canada’s submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) – an international treaty that sets out the legal framework for ocean activities and boundaries. Watch as Chris explains more about the UNCLOS mission, which has been making history since 2003 in an effort to define Canada’s full maritime limits and boundaries.


The Arctic Ocean is is one of those areas that I think it captures people's imaginations because it is so far from our everyday lives.

But when we think of the Arctic Ocean it's sort of a big unknown it's a vast white frontier and for me I found it really exciting to be part of this project because when I worked in geology I did some mapping geological mapping in the north and I loved the north so to circle back and still be involved in a mapping effort in the north is pretty exciting.

Our role in the UNCLOS program is to determine scientifically the depths and the shape of the seafloor so that we can contribute to the scientific evidence that will form part of our - Canada's - submission to the Commission on the limits of the continental shelf.

And it will also be contributed to the international bathymetric chart of the Arctic Ocean which is an international initiative and so the data we collect for own UNCLOS will also contribute to better understanding overall of the Arctic Ocean and will be combined with the data that's collected from other countries as well.

The mission in the Arctic is a big challenge; I mean it's not like planning a weekend camping trip with your family or something like that right. You have to think of all the different contingencies though the weather, equipment failures all kinds of things because equipment that's designed for use in the South may not work in the harsh arctic conditions.

We've been collecting data in the Arctic for several hundred years and yet we still know so little about it and in the last three years especially when we put a real focus on Arctic surveying for UNCLOS and things it's amazing you send a ship up there for - you know - 50 to 60 days and you're collecting really a small amount of data compared to the size of the area to be mapped.

Collaboration has really has been a key part of the on UNCLOS program over the years we worked on and off throughout the years with the US with Denmark with other countries like Sweden. It's hard to get there it's hard to plan for a mission like that so often when other countries are going or when we're going everybody around to come around kind of says well is there any way we can get on board with you? Maybe a little bit of work while you're there and that's how things get done.

But the work we're doing for the UNCLOS project is going to redraw the boundaries of Canada and so the maps that kids in will see in schools in the future are gonna look quite different from the map that I saw when I was a kid in school and to me that's where the exciting part is.

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