NPR logo Denmark Claims Part Of The Arctic, Including The North Pole

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Denmark Claims Part Of The Arctic, Including The North Pole

An iceberg is seen off Ammassalik Island in Eastern Greenland. Denmark, together with Greenland, will claim around 350,000 square miles of the continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean, in an area around the North Pole. i

An iceberg is seen off Ammassalik Island in Eastern Greenland. Denmark, together with Greenland, will claim around 350,000 square miles of the continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean, in an area around the North Pole. John McConnico/AP hide caption

toggle caption John McConnico/AP
An iceberg is seen off Ammassalik Island in Eastern Greenland. Denmark, together with Greenland, will claim around 350,000 square miles of the continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean, in an area around the North Pole.

An iceberg is seen off Ammassalik Island in Eastern Greenland. Denmark, together with Greenland, will claim around 350,000 square miles of the continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean, in an area around the North Pole.

John McConnico/AP

Denmark, together with Greenland, today will claim around 350,000 square miles of the continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean, in an area around the North Pole that is slightly larger than the size of Texas and Oklahoma combined.

"The submission of our claim to the continental shelf north of Greenland is a historic and important milestone for the Kingdom of Denmark," Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard said in a statement. "The objective of this huge project is to define the outer limits of our continental shelf and thereby — ultimately — of the Kingdom of Denmark." (Here is the statement in Danish.)

A map of the area Denmark is claiming. i

A map of the area Denmark is claiming. Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Denmark hide caption

toggle caption Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Denmark
A map of the area Denmark is claiming.

A map of the area Denmark is claiming.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Denmark

Denmark contends that its data show Greenland's continental shelf is connected to the Lomonosov ridge, a ridge beneath the Arctic Ocean, The Associated Press reports. A Danish geophysicist quoted by the news service called the North Pole "a tiny, tiny abstract spot" that lies in the area.

Denmark said it would file paperwork with the U.N. to support its claim.

Under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, nations are entitled to a continental shelf extending to a distance of 200 nautical miles from their coast. Claims beyond that distance must be supported by scientific and technical data.

The current claim, in an area north of Greenland, is Denmark's fifth: A partial submission — north of the Faroe Islands — was presented in April 2009; another, in the area south of the Faroe Islands, was submitted in December 2010. A third partial submission was made in June 2012 for an area south of Greenland, and one in November 2013 was made for an area northeast of Greenland.

Deutsche Welle provides the background:

"Between 2007 and 2012, Danish scientists, with colleagues from Canada, Sweden and Russia, surveyed a 2,000 kilometer long (1,240 miles) underwater mountain range that runs north of Siberia. They concluded that the ridge is geologically attached to Greenland, a huge, sparsely populated island that is a semi-autonomous Danish territory."

"Submissions by many states already await consideration by CLCS, and it is therefore difficult to predict when the consideration of this Danish/Greenland submission will be initiated," the Danish statement read, referring to the U.N.'s Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, the panel that considers such claims.

The Arctic is heavily contested. Russia and Canada have previously claimed the resource-rich region that is estimated to hold 30 percent of the world's untapped natural gas and 15 percent of its oil.

The Danish statement noted that today's claim overlaps with Norway's continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles. It added that there is potential overlap in its claims with claims by Canada, Russia and the U.S.

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