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Department of Geography

Staff Profile

Publication details for Professor Philip Steinberg

Shake, K.L., Frey, K.E., Martin, D.G. & Steinberg, P.E. (Un)frozen spaces: Exploring the role of sea ice in the marine socio-legal spaces of the Bering and Beaufort Seas. Journal of Borderlands Studies. 2018;33:239-253.

Author(s) from Durham


Sea ice is a dynamic physical element of the greater Arctic marine system, one that has myriad connections to human systems on a variety of spatial and temporal scales. Changes to the spatial extent of sea ice simultaneously permits and endangers maritime operations, as well as impacts current debates over maritime boundaries, presenting an interesting challenge for international law. Sea ice is not a stationary object; it moves through time and space in response to the physical forces of wind, ocean currents, and heating. It has a tangible, material and substantive role in contestations over territory, resources and marine boundaries in both the Beaufort and Bering Seas. We suggest here that sea ice’s material nature in these marine regions continuously challenges stationary conceptions of law in complex and sometimes contradictory ways. Building on recent work on the human geographies of sea ice, the dynamic field of legal geography and recent contributions in ocean-space geography, we outline how the dynamism of sea ice could influence notions of boundary, resources and climate change in ocean-spaces of the greater Arctic region