Denmarks submission to the UN

For much the same reasons, Denmark is just as unlikely as Iceland to want a serious quarrel with Norway over the disputed Banana Hole. The Copenhagen government is due to submit its case to the UN by the end of 2014, exactly 10 years after signing the 1982 Convention, and even if its claims are accepted and an area of overlapping shelf is discovered, it would certainly strike a bilateral agreement in the same amicable spirit as the deal signed by the three countries in September 2006. This means that there is only one other area where Denmark's claimed continental shelf could overlap with that of another country and potentially be a cause of serious tension.

This area lies in the very far north of the Arctic Ocean, close to the North Pole. The Danes say that their outer continental shelf runs beyond the 200-mile economic zone that surrounds the coasts of Greenland and reaches far into the frozen wastelands of the High North. But in one small region, which covers just a few hundred square miles, the claims made by both Copenhagen and Moscow overlap.

The Danes are certainly spending a lot of time, money and effort trying to prove that this outer continental shelf belongs to them (they expect to spend around $42 million between 2004 and 2010) and are working closely with other countries to do so. The Danish mission is supported particularly closely by Canada, with which it shares resources and personnel to explore the Lomonosov Ridge that reaches well into their respective territorial waters, and in June 2005 it signed an agreement to use Canada's North Pole command centre at Alert as its headquarters. During 2009 the research team, known simply as 'Lomrog' ('Lomonosov Ridge off Greenland'), comprised 45 specialists from Canada, Denmark and Sweden who plan to collect bathymetric, gravity and seismic data to map the seabed under the ice. 'The preliminary investigations done so far are very promising', as Helge Sander, Denmark's minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, told one television station. 'There are things suggesting that Denmark could be given the North Pole.'23

Although the Danes, like the Russians, are taking this scientific effort very seriously, their overlapping claims are more likely to push them together than pull them apart. The two countries have already worked together to explore this area of shelf, and by early 2009 Lomrog's vessels had been closely escorted by the Russian nuclear icebreaker 50 Let Pobedy ('50 Years of Victory'). The Russians, as a Danish scientist explained, had simply 'offered the best value. The ship has a Russian crew - they'll do what we ask them'.24 Russia and Denmark are unlikely to quarrel heavily over this disputed area for the simple reason that its climatic conditions are so severe - and likely to remain so for many decades- and its natural resources are wholly unproven.

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