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. worldwarIII

    We are involved in three wars now, why not Denmark also to take back our North Pole. The nerve of those vikings, who do they think they are? For pete's sake, we own the world not them!

    May 18, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Steve

    I thought there was no land there; just frozen ocean (unlike the south pole which is an actual land mass). How can you claim ownership of open water?

    May 18, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeremy

      Steve, its actually really intelligent....what Denmark is doing is basically establishing boundaries because they realize that the Arctic is melting and therefore those once seaways blocked by ice will be used as shipping lanes..and Denmark will reap the profits off it. This is Denmark establishing the future...if Denmark didnt take this action, Russia/US/Canada would gobble up the territorial rights to this area..not to mention the unknown oil? or other natural resources that would be exposed with melting ice caps..

      May 18, 2011 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hmmm

      It isn't about the surface. It is about the mineral under the water.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Voice of Reason

      @Jeremy...Actually, I suspect that when the polar cap melts, Denmark will be 6 feet under. Nice thought, though

      May 18, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
  3. jim

    What happens when the pole shifts next year?

    May 18, 2011 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Voice of Reason

      Uh...only the magnetic poles will shift.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
  4. strategic bob

    There is no land at the geographic North Pole, so any claim would have to be predicated on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). (Note: UNCLOS is an international convention which the US has not ratified, despite requests that it do so from several Chiefs of Naval Operations, Commandants of the US Coast Guard, the National Commission on Ocean Policy, and several Secretaries of State, due to lies told by Phylis Schaffely and other benighted individuals with simlar Neanderthalic political views) UNCLOS recognizes the right of coastal states to claim limited jurisdiction of submerged areas of continental shelfs and adjacent waters. Normally, this is limited to 200 nautical miles, but can extend out to as much as 350 nautical miles when it can be shown that the continental shelf extends further than 200 miles. Right now, Russia, Canada and Denmark are each trying to establish that the Lemontov Ridge, which runs across the Arctic Ocean seafloor is an extension of their respective continental shelfs. UNCLOS also provides that adjacent or opposing nations can agree on where the dividing lines shall be between them. It appears that Denmark is preparing a claim based on UNCLOS to be presented to the UN and other nations with land bordering on the Arctic Ocean. These nations are Canada, the US, Denmark, Russia, and Norway. (see for a more complete discussion and some good maps of the area)

    May 18, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeremy


      ok mr. genius...what is the REAL reason for this?

      May 18, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • richard

      intelligent reply, not just an opinion,thanks.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  5. dwizard

    Let the Danes have it and then let's all sue them for letting it melt and causing all these climatic changes.

    May 18, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
  6. ArmTanz

    Santa Claus is not gonna be happy. He's got an army of elves and flying reindeer ready to fight Denmark on this.

    May 18, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
  7. John

    All of this so the Danes can charge Santa Clause rent and horn in on the very lucritive Christmas delivery business.

    May 18, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
  8. ivan

    G-d bless them, they are a great people and therefore it will be in responsible hands! As an American I say give it to them, knowing they will take great care of it!

    May 18, 2011 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Francisco, UK

      Well said! The Danes and/or the Norwegians should be given the rights to the geographic north pole. Canadians have too much land already, and god forbid the US or Russia get their hands on it.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Adam

    We have the moon, let them have the North Pole.

    May 18, 2011 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Soulcatcher

      Wait til they charge you a fee for compass traffic.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • krozareq

      Be awesome if we had the Moon, but unfortunately it violates international law (which we signed) to lay claim to the Moon.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
  10. richard

    The problem I see for it to be one country,is that if there is a problem there,will the other countries say-it isn't our problem, its yours. You know the not our problem society that we live in.I hope what ever they decide;it is peaceful and will help the environment and any wildlife.

    May 18, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  11. me

    four of these countries also claim ownership of the south pole

    May 18, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  12. judd

    Most americans can't stand the idea of another country laying claim to the north pole. If the US was claiming it, I'm sure everyone on here would be have a different opinion about ownership of the NP.

    May 18, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeremy

      Judd, You think " most americans" care about the North Pole to begin with? come on....We have natural resource interests in the the Arctic Ocean that we would like to claim ownership in the future, for. But, we arent overly concerned with Denmark claiming the north pole for themselves. would be Canada, Russia, the other Scandanavian countries that would be concerned.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • truenorthstrong

      stupid remark! u must be Canadian!

      May 18, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Soulcatcher

    Isn't greenland bankrupt?

    May 18, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scooby Doo

      No, but I believe that their assets have been frozen

      May 18, 2011 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
  14. AsrtoGuru

    I would give all the rights of North Pole to Denmark – one condition - take control of Pakistan also . YES read it correct – Get North Pole and get failed Pakistan for free.

    May 18, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      Really hillarious 🙂

      May 18, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • sdar

      Pakistan will welcome claims from anyone who beats the crap out of indians first.

      May 19, 2011 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
  15. MeatTreat

    "We'll be damned if we let those no-good, well-dressed, soft-spoken, architecturally inclined, generally peaceable Danes get away with it."
    This is what makes Canadians great, and funny.

    May 18, 2011 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
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