Report: Denmark to lay claim to North Pole
The summer sun sheds light on an iceberg near the town of Ilulissat, Greenland.
May 18th, 2011
12:09 PM ET

Report: Denmark to lay claim to North Pole

The Kingdom of Denmark is preparing to claim ownership of the North Pole, according to a Danish media report.

In a document leaked to the Danish newspaper Information, Denmark will ask the United Nations to recognize the North Pole as a geologic extension of Greenland, the vast Arctic island that is a Danish territory. Danish Foreign Minister Lene Espersen confirmed the annexation attempt, Information reported.

According to The Copenhagen Post, "The kingdom is expected to make a demand for the continental shelf in five areas around the Faroe Islands and Greenland, including the North Pole itself."

Denmark has set its sights on the geographic North Pole, a fixed point in the Arctic Ocean at 90 degrees north latitude and 0 degrees longitude. The magnetic north pole, the one your Cub Scout compass points to, is near there but moves around all the time as Earth's magnetic field shifts, according to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.

Five countries - Canada, Denmark (via Greenland), Norway, Russia and the United States (via Alaska) - have coasts on the Arctic Ocean, but none has ever claimed ownership of the pole. Working under a United Nations mandate, high-ranking diplomats have met several times to work out a plan for mutually acceptable boundaries.

"We are in the middle of an important and civilized process of how to usefully manage the last area in the world not owned by anyone," Greenland President Kuupik Kleist told Information. "... If we did not, we would leave it to those who have already filed claims, or who will do it. It is therefore a must that Denmark is preparing claims."

It's unclear how the claim will go over with the other Arctic countries, but initial reactions have been mild.

Despite longstanding Russian interest in the region, at least one Russian media outlet was sanguine about Denmark's approach.

"This fits in well into the contemporary international law regime of the Arctic," Vassily Gutsulyak, an expert with the Institute of State and Law in the Russian Academy of Sciences, said in an interview with The Voice of Russia.

Although the Danish document downplays the economic potential of its proposed claim, the Voice of Russia said the region holds vast reserves of gas and oil, as well as such minerals as coal, gold, copper, nickel, tin and platinum. Climate change also promises to open useful shipping routes across the Arctic, it said.

A Canadian expert greeted the news with enthusiasm.

"This is a positive development because Denmark ... is working in a framework of international law," University of British Columbia (Canada) professor Michael Byers told Postmedia News. "It is exactly how these matters are supposed to be resolved."

However, not all Canadians are willing to let the pole go without a fight. A tongue-in-cheek editorial on the online forum The Mark said:

"We'll be damned if we let those no-good, well-dressed, soft-spoken, architecturally inclined, generally peaceable Danes get away with it."

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Filed under: Canada • Climate change • Denmark • Earth • Energy • North Pole • Norway • Russia • U.S.
soundoff (195 Responses)
  1. S. Claus

    Elf Team 6 is on full alert. Rudolph has been outfitted with laser-sighting and just cashed in every sporting goods store gift card I got so I got enough guns to make plenty of Ho-ho-holes in you Danish if you think you're taking my land! I want my country back!!

    May 18, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pete

      They must be smoking something really good, if they think they can just take it. Idiots. USA, Russia and Canada are by far the more powerful claimants, and Danes don't have any business up there.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Cesar

    Let them have it. Who wants to be there anyway. Hope the Russians, Canadians, and the others don't fight over it. Santa, MOVE OUT!

    May 18, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
  3. B

    Didn't Santa lay claim to the North Pole long, long ago?

    May 18, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jessica

    I thought that Superman owned it since the Fortress of Solitude is there.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Adam

      I agree. This is a Superman vs. Santa Claus issue, and Denmark and the U.N. need to stay out of it.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jessica

      Adam, Of course we all know that Santa is a fairy tale...

      May 18, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Ryan in Michigan

    This is silly. The North Pole should receive the same "no man's land" status as Antarctica and the South Pole, with various countries keeping research bases and mining facilities. Besides, I thought Denmark granted Greenland independence sometime in the second half of 2010, so their claim would be invalid anyway.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Trevor

      Why? Because you say so? They're not claiming the entire Artic Circle, just the piece of land within it that happens to contain one of the Earth's magnetic poles.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Logic

      "No man's iceberg" you mean, until climate change reduces it to "no man's open sea"....

      May 18, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Casper

      Get your facts straight. Denmark didn't grant Greenland independence. They (we) granted them self-government on the 21 of June 2009. Greenland remains a part of the Kingdom of Denmark.

      May 25, 2011 at 8:19 am | Report abuse |
  6. Scientist

    I can see Switzerland trying to pull this, gotta have a new place to hide the wealth from taxes, but Denmark? Come on.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Cesar

    I totally agree with Ryan. Makes a lot of sense.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Carl LaFong

    Let's do this the UN way: have Denmark play rock-paper-scissors with the rest of the world.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • kake79


      May 18, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  9. fred

    Canada has an outpost in the region (Alert), and has long laid claim to much of the Arctic. Several recent excursions by the Canadian navy have taken place, with more planned to underline Canadian sovereignty in the region. In the 1950s and 1960s, the arctic was often used by submarines to test new weapons, sonar equipment, and depth testing.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Howie

    International waters. Period.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • phearis

      That's exactly what I said.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
  11. John

    Am I missing something? There's no land at the North Pole, only ice. Doesn't that make it "international waters" pretty much by definition? Besides, at the rate things are going it won't even be ice before too long....

    May 18, 2011 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • kake79

      Good point.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  12. TheHalfBakedLunatic

    I think the north pole should belong to Ecuador ... how come they haven't tried to lay claim to it yet?

    May 18, 2011 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Ratso Rizzo

    If they are going to claim it they darn well better be prepared to defend it. What if vast amounts of oil are discovered there? Hmm, what then? The Ruskies will be at their doorstep. Good thing Denmark has such a formidible military machine – NOT!

    May 18, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Baruch

    The entire arctic should be declared a protected zone and an international peace zone.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Anonymous

    They can't do that! That's Santa's home!

    May 18, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
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