Preliminary results from scientific mapping of the Arctic seabed indicate that the North Pole likely falls within Denmark's boundaries, a Canadian scientist says.
No country currently has sovereign rights over the North Pole, though Russia has tried to lay claim to it in recent years.
Five coastal northern nations, including Canada, the United States and Russia, are currently mapping the Arctic seabed in the hopes of bolstering their efforts to extend sovereign claims on Arctic coastal areas under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Countries that extend their Arctic claims under the international treaty would tap into vast marine areas, potentially rich with oil and gas resources. Canada signed UNCLOS in 2003, and has been working with the U.S. and Denmark to map parts of the Arctic seabed.
Early data from those mapping efforts show that Denmark, via Greenland, may be able to claim the North Pole as its own, said Ron McNab, a retired researcher from the Geological Survey of Canada.
"Preliminary work has shown — and this is, again, is very preliminary — that Denmark would actually have the strongest claim to encompass the North Pole within its region," McNab, who most recently served on the board of the Canadian Polar Commission, told CBC News in an interview.
"I used to tell my Danish friends, 'So, Santa Claus is a Dane.'"
Russia drew the ire of Canada and other countries in 2007 by planting a flag at the North Pole. It plans to submit a claim on a part of the seabed that would include the North Pole.
But it may not really matter which country can lay claim to the North Pole, said Michael Byers, the Canada Research Chair in global politics and international law at the University of British Columbia.
"Because the North Pole is so far away, and the prospect of significant hydrocarbon reserves at the North Pole are so insignificant … the only value is symbolic," Byers said.
The North Pole is currently administered by the United Nations International Seabed Authority, located in Kingston, Jamaica. However, not everybody agrees that the body has any authority there.