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. edvhou812

    They just want the oil exploration opportunity. They're going to the UN though? Yeah, Russia might have a few things to say about this.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • B=Dog

      Ok Denmark.... you might have to deal with a man named SANTA!

      May 18, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  2. sam99999

    I don't care who gets it as long as the US, either on its own or through the UN, doesn't have to send billions a year there to support it.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  3. mag

    north pole is more bragging rights than anything. its not like they are going to build condos on the land. I know, the oil angle, but is the north pole not going to be proected by environemental laws? i hope no drilling.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Caligula

    If were Canadian, I would be majorly ticked off.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Osama from Canada

      you got that right!

      May 18, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Mario

    Greenland should get it's independence, it is not right for a european country to have a colony on the 21st century.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Trevor

      Maybe you should poll the Greenlanders and see if they even want independence. Being a part of one of Europe's largest economies can't be too bad. Or simply deal locally and start rallying for Puerto Rican independence.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Texan

      Have you forgotten that the USA has territories in several places around the world as well?

      May 18, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  6. JimmBobb

    As I remember, the Russians have already planted a flag on the ocean floor at the north pole with a submerssible.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      I'll tell you where they can plant their flag.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Joe

    So for millions of years, no one needed to own it. But all of the sudden, it now must be claimed.... BS. Black gold, yet again.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Paul

    Now this is a funny article!!!

    May 18, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Bob

    I think it is entirely appropriate for Denmark to claim the North Pole. Reindeer are native to the Scandinavian peninsula, north of Denmark, while Kris Kringle is from Holland, south of Denmark. This strongly suggests that the most famous inhabitant of the North Pole would naturally be Danish, either in origin or by adoption (for example, during the age of Danish seaborne power in the 10th Century).

    May 18, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Owl96

    The North Pole is over the Arctic Ocean. To claim it, it must fall within the coastal boundary limits. That may be the case, but if not, it should be international waters. If it does fall within Greenland's coastal boundaries, then I guess I will need a visa to travel to the North Pole.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jesseca5

    I won't object as long as Copenhagen will put in a Carlsberg Brewery there. Love Danish beer.

    Jesse in Texas

    May 18, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Elitiest

    Too late. Santa Claus already owns the mineral and shipping rights.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  13. banasy

    This is so ridiculous I don't even know where to begin.
    So I won't.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Sevr4

    I am an excellant driver..

    May 18, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alyssa

      Not so much on the spelling though, huh?

      May 18, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Byrd

    I vote that we give it to Bangladesh instead. They and a host of other African nations have been given the pole by just about everyone else in the Western world for centuries, so they might as well take possession.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Francisco, UK

      Sorry, but did you just imply that Bangladesh is in Africa????

      May 19, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
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