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Who Owns the North Pole?

According to The Copenhagen Post, the government of Denmark has officially stated its intention to claim the North Pole for the Kingdom of Denmark. If they have, that’s because the North Pole doesn’t belong to any nation. Why is that? Can any country lay such a claim?

The North Pole and surrounding waters are international waters that do not belong to any country. Coastal countries have the rights to the marine resources up to 200 nautical miles offshore, according to the 1982 UN Convention of the Law of the Sea – that’s their exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Beyond the EEZs, the sea belongs to no nation. However, the Law of the Sea allows some nations to extend their claims if their continental shelf extends into international waters beyond their EEZ. Under this clause, Russia has claimed the resources on the seabed and the sea around the Lomonosov ridge, an underwater mountain ridge crossing the Arctic (see map).

Out of the blue came Denmark’s news. Its government will likely claim the North Pole as an extension of Greenland, an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark.

The complex national boundaries in the Arctic and the high seas in the "doughnut hole" in between the exclusive economic zones of Arctic nations. Source: University of Durham

 

Why are countries interested in the North Pole and surrounding waters? Simply because the ice is melting and that opens up new business opportunities: oil and gas, minerals, fisheries, and new transportation routes.

The United States cannot make such claims because it has not ratified the Convention of the Law of the Sea. A group of Republican Senators has blocked ratification because they say it’s detrimental to US national interests. Ironically, this leaves the US disadvantaged with respect to the other Arctic nations, which did ratify the Convention.

I believe – as many conservation and scientific organizations believe – that the “doughnut hole” in the middle of the Arctic’s EEZs should be declared a no-take sanctuary. That ecosystem is too fragile and unique, a heritage for all humanity.

 

Comments

  1. Bob
    USA
    December 10, 2013, 8:40 pm

    I thought Santa and his Elves laid claim to the North Pole years ago.

  2. [...] #8: No one owns the North Pole. The North Pole isn’t a part of any nation. It’s situated in international waters. Earlier this year, environmentalists backed by [...]

  3. ariel tide
    ph
    November 4, 2012, 4:36 pm

    North pole owned by Superman.hehehe. The fortress is located there…

  4. nithya jagadish
    India
    May 31, 2011, 4:52 pm

    A beautiful location like North pole should be left in Nature’s hands…there should be an end to human quest..We have drained all thimgs possible from mother nature..its time to preserve atleast the very few left….

  5. wayne hinds
    May 31, 2011, 9:50 am

    greed is a funny thing, you only see you in all things, because you want it all for your self. Just leave it alone, so much can be said and done, but at the end of the day, it belong to all of us.
    We need to respect what God has given to us for all mankind.

  6. Heather
    Dracut, Ma
    May 31, 2011, 6:06 am

    It’s beautiful enviroment? There is nothing there! They show a picture of it in the article! I don’t see any beautiful enviroment!

    Preserve it for all mankind? Who can make this statement with a straight face? How many of “all mankind” will ever, ever, every go to the North Pole???????

  7. Asimov
    australia
    May 29, 2011, 1:26 am

    With the current ridiculous rise in the world’s population, no-one will end up ‘owning’ anything. As a species, our time here is limited & our world will change irrespective of anything we do or even think we’re doing to it, but over-population is the big issue of the day because of how to feed it, which it seems most commentators (political or otherwise) refuse to acknowledge or even discuss.

  8. Dennis Reiley
    May 28, 2011, 2:49 pm

    Anyone who wants to claim a place had better put a permanent settlement there. As the ice over the north pole moves with currents and weather the settlement will need to move almost daily.

    What really needs to be done is to have all land unclaimed since the year 2000 be administered by the United Nations.

  9. Keith F
    Iloilo, Philippines
    May 27, 2011, 10:35 pm

    Could you imagine what will happen if ice will melt.
    The water level would increase and many of our islands here in the philippines would sank. :(

  10. GEORGE JONES
    Boston
    May 27, 2011, 4:38 pm

    Imagine no possessions, it isnt hard to do, nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too. Imagine all the people living for today. John had it right. Someday we may all be able to go wherever we please on our planet as a united humanity that protect and cherishes all life and each other.

  11. Adjudicator
    West Coast, USA
    May 26, 2011, 11:52 pm

    Let the people who live there decide. LOL Wait, this just in. There are people who live there. Laps, Inuit, Russians, Greenlanders, Alaskans, Eskimos, Norwegians. Do they have a say?

  12. Herbert Sydney Johnson I,m just saying
    norland ont canada
    May 25, 2011, 2:58 am

    Russia sold Alaska to the U S A, I’m sure the Russian did not sell anything other than the land. Denmark YEA thats has no validity-to the claim. Norway somehow claims Greenland and that gives them ownership to the north pole, I guess they hope that works for them. So the toss up becomes between Canada and Russia. OK that the white world now for the real owners just to name a couple tribes eg. Inuit of Canada or chip-chi of Russia or any native or aboriginal north of the50 parallel.

  13. therailer
    earth
    May 25, 2011, 1:58 am

    Yeah, go ahead – own it, destroy it, watch it melt away and disappear along with all of it’s beauty. I am so sick of humans that try to own “time”. Sorry but the indigenous (genius) people got it right…you can only borrow the location for the short time you are alive. In the long run, what happens with Mother Nature will not be up to us stupid humans-unless we get smart and try to emulate nature.

  14. Orlando
    Canada
    May 24, 2011, 11:14 pm

    Move Israel to the north pole and the land dispute is settled. A little cold though

  15. Megs
    New Jersey
    May 24, 2011, 6:59 pm

    Why fight over the North Pole? I mean it’s not like you can grow food on it, yes a lot of animals live on it, but come on modern world. What will you do on this breath-taking land? Maybe, just maybe the world should kick back and enjoy the wonderful landscape. Let the North Pole be free to all the animals.

  16. Sk. Ashraf Ali
    Dhaka, Bangladesh
    May 24, 2011, 5:35 am

    It is very wrong if any country claims North Pole.
    Places like North Pole, South Pole should be only for the people of the world like the tourists, environmentalists, explorers, scientists; not anyone’s property nor any country’s state.

  17. Lemmy C
    May 24, 2011, 4:20 am

    Jamaica! Give it to Jamaica!

  18. Shola
    Kazakhstan
    May 23, 2011, 10:27 pm

    Yes, exactly. What about the Norwegian Saami , the Inuit/Inuktitut population in Alaska, Nunavut, and Greenland? Do they have any rights?!!!

  19. Tim
    Canada
    May 23, 2011, 4:33 pm

    ““The furthest North permanently inhabited town is in Canada.”

    No.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northernmost_cities_and_towns

    Apparently, Longyearbyen (long year + “the city” in Norwegian) on Svalbard wins. Qaanaaq in Greenland is number two.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alert_canada
    The northern most permanently inhabited place in the world is Alert, Nunavut in Canada

  20. tommy
    sacto
    May 23, 2011, 3:01 pm

    every country have they own land now so y now they want to claim the north pole for let leave the this place alone because no body want to c ww3 happened over this lol…………………

  21. Jay Tee
    mt. everest
    May 23, 2011, 9:14 am

    I own all the air on the planet, but I am willing to entertain any offers on it.

  22. ដេត
    (Phnom Penh)
    May 23, 2011, 5:41 am

    Is there any measurement to stop Denmark from conquer this area? I just want to see this human’s heritage and the biodiversity last 4ever and undisturbed. Lives and Business opportunities are not equal.

  23. Peter Lund
    Copenhagen
    May 23, 2011, 5:24 am

    “You can’t just say something is your’s because you think you can make money off of it.”

    Forgot to add: it’s not just because we say so. And we haven’t, btw.

    US/RU/CA/DA/NO agreed to a) get an arbitration from a suborgan of the UN and b) let the underwater geography be the main decider.
    (We also decided to leave the other members of the Arctic Council out of this because they aren’t bordering on the North Pole — and we left out the native members of the council as well, which was not so nice. It’s one thing for the Norwegian Saami to not get a say in this but the Inuit/Inuktitut population in Alaska, Nunavut, and Greenland don’t, either.)

    See also:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilulissat_Declaration
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Territorial_claims_in_the_Arctic

  24. Peter Lund
    Copenhagen
    May 23, 2011, 4:54 am

    “The furthest North permanently inhabited town is in Canada.”

    No.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northernmost_cities_and_towns

    Apparently, Longyearbyen (long year + “the city” in Norwegian) on Svalbard wins. Qaanaaq in Greenland is number two.

    I don’t know if Longyearbyen really is permanently populated these days but Qaanaaq certainly is.

    The question of the North Pole is not really about the North Pole, it is about new sea routes and about oil, gas, and (potentially) minerals under the sea.

    I don’t believe Denmark is really acting completely alone: I bet the rest of the European Union would prefer it to be Danish rather than Russian (worst outcome), American (second-worst), Canadian (tolerable), or Norwegian (not too bad, either).

    China is rather miffed that it hasn’t got a say in this, btw. Some countries think it should be decided by a rather larger group than the current 5 members of the Arctic Council (DK, NO, CA, RU, US).

  25. khairiatun ali
    Malaysia
    May 22, 2011, 11:31 pm

    Human have own many lands on this plant, so why don’t we give nature a chance instead? Not that we loss anything anyway.

  26. Idmb
    Canada
    May 22, 2011, 6:55 pm

    If any one nation should own it, I suggest the Principality of Sealand.

  27. osiris
    indonesia
    May 22, 2011, 8:44 am

    it is this human nature that caused neverending wars between what so called “NATION”

  28. David Waghorn
    Canada
    May 21, 2011, 9:15 pm

    Everyone knows the North Pole belongs to Santa Clause.

  29. Adam
    Canada
    May 21, 2011, 9:14 pm

    I agree, such a beautiful area belongs to the people and should not be exploited for economic gain. But I’m pretty sure that the Canadian government has laid claim for the last 100 years or more. Although not recognized by the US, most political maps from the last century show it as part of Canada. The furthest North permanently inhabited town is in Canada. You can’t just say something is your’s because you think you can make money off of it. Many of todays problems would have a solution if the world worked this way.

  30. RWEHIRIKA JUSTUS
    Isingiro UGANDA
    May 21, 2011, 8:59 am

    The act of land to belong to people is the one that is causing people to claim So if the land is near them they a right to claim for it.

  31. Keem Kenneth Santos
    Manila, Philippines
    May 21, 2011, 12:24 am

    These countries should instead think and implement ways on how to keep the ice from melting – to save lives, not only of human but also of many different species.

  32. electriclady281
    Houston, TX
    May 21, 2011, 12:23 am

    I just read this article today that said that if trends continue , the Arctic will be entirely ice-free in Sept. by 2016: http://mojo.ly/jsL4BF
    So it would seem that in five years’ time, this discussion would be a moot point.

  33. electriclady281
    Houston, TX
    May 21, 2011, 12:22 am

    I just read this article today that said that if trends continue , the Arctic will be entirely ice-free in Sept. by 2016 http://mojo.ly/jsL4BF
    So it would seem that in five years’ time, this discussion would be a moot point.

  34. Juvy Love L. Lacre
    Philippines
    May 20, 2011, 11:33 pm

    no one will own such nation…for it may destroy it’s beautiful environment…we humans can’t be satisfied with what we have…why don’t we just preserve it’s beauty instead of destroying it for selfish reasons…

  35. Johns Smiths
    China
    May 20, 2011, 11:14 pm

    I can’t agree more.The noth pole belongs to all the human being ,it’s proprietary couldn’t be based upon geological factor.It stands for we human beings wisdom crystalization

  36. [...] Who Owns the North Pole? [...]

  37. arvind sareen
    New Delhi INDIA
    May 20, 2011, 3:01 am

    Certain land on Earth should be declared NO MAN,S LAND
    and just enjoy the beauty of that land .We humans have have discovered a lot; now its time for our future genrations ,we must leave something for them to explore .and maintain the beauty of earth as far as possible.to sustain it for another couple of million years