In what Russian officials are calling a race against the U.S. to stake a claim in an area believed to be rich in natural resources, two Russian ships are set to deploy a pair of submeriibles to the bottom of the Arctic Ocean tonight. The race aspect might be overblown, though; according to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, which is conducting the U.S. mission in the area, its scientists intend to study hydrothermal vents and the biology of the deep ocean.
The Russians, on the other hand, clearly seem to be heading down for the riches. It’s not clear yet whether the potential reserves are large enough to justify the cost of pumping them out. But the Russian explorers, who will pilot the two subs down to depths of 14,000 feet, hope to establish that the area is actually a natural extension of their country, and thus belongs to Russia. They’re even planning to plant a flag.—Gregory Mone