"The Healy crew will primarily conduct three missions focusing on the biology, chemistry, geology and physics of the Arctic Ocean and its ecosystems, as well as perform multi-beam sonar mapping of the extended continental shelf," the release stated.
Researchers from the University of New Hampshire will use sonar mapping and bottom dredging in the Bering Sea and Arctic Ocean to further support the demarcation of the extended continental shelf.
"This work will directly support the United States’ claim for natural resources found on or beneath the ocean floor," the release said.
Healy’s mission is also intended to document the species living the region and collect data on how climate change and decreased ice coverage is affecting the ocean, the release added.
The voyage comes amid concerns that the United States is lagging behind other nations, especially Russia, in preparing for summer shipping lanes that are expected to open in the Arctic within the next two decades.
In addition, nations are beginning to explore the Arctic with an eye to mining oil, gas and other mineral resources.
Competition is expected among nations that border the Arctic, which also include Canada, Norway, Denmark, as well as other nations such as China and South Korea with an interest in Arctic exploration and shipping.