Denmark Attempts to Prove Claims to North Pole

A Danish expedition in the Arctic will map the sea depths north of Greenland in an attempt to back up the country's claims to the much-disputed territory, the Danish government said today.

Denmark is looking into whether the Lomonossov Ridge, an underwater mountain chain between Greenland and Siberia, is an extension of Greenland.

Forty-five researchers set sail from northern Norway on Sunday on the Swedish ice-breaker Oden to conduct the research. They are expected to spend nearly five weeks between longitudes 83 and 87 north studying the region, which is thought to have an abundance of hydrocarbon mineral deposits.

"Five potential claim areas have been identified off the Faroe Islands and Greenland, potentially including the North Pole," Danish Science, Technology and Development Minister Helge Sander said in a statement (Agence France-Presse, Aug. 13).

Last week, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited the Arctic in order to assert Canada's claims to the region, following Russia's planting of a flag on the seabed below the North Pole (Greenwire, Aug. 10).

U.S. also stakes claim to Arctic

U.S. scientists have embarked on a two-month expedition to the Arctic to map the sea floor off Alaska.

Despite a flurry of efforts by Canada, Denmark and Russia to lay claim to the region, lead scientist Larry Mayer said the team's effort is not a response to those countries' actions. "We're basically just doing science," said Mayer, director of the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping at the University of New Hampshire.

"There's no flag-dropping on this trip," he said. "We've had this trip planned for months, and it has nothing to do with the Russians planting their flag."

Mayer said the expedition would try to determine the extent of the continental shelf north of Alaska.

"In that area, the [United States] would have rights over the resources of the sea floor and subsurface that would include drilling for oil and gas," he said. Mayer suggested boundary information could be registered with the United Nations' Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (Doug Esser, AP/Anchorage Daily News, Aug. 13). -- KB

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