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14 Aug, 2007 02:53

Denmark enters Arctic contest

The race for the Arctic seabed is hotting up with a growing number of participants. Scientists from Denmark – following Canada and the United States – have set sail for the North Pole to collect geological data.

This comes less than two weeks after Russia completed the first historical dive to the ocean floor below the North Pole.

This historic moment for Russia can not be erased or disputed. However, Denmark officials say the flag-planting by Russia's Arctic 2007 mission has no legal significance. The event though has prompted Denmark to launch a month-long expedition to study the Lomonosov Ridge to see if the area is geologically connected to Greenland, a Danish territory.

“The fact that Russia and Canada have claims in the area, does not effect Denmark's rights to make a claim in the area. At the end of the day the matter will be settled by the Commission according to the UN convention,” pointed out Danish Minister of Science, Technology and Development Helge Sander.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea is the ultimate rule over issues concerning continental shelf borders.

“According to the Convention, the continental shelf of a country ends 200 miles from its shoreline. But here, in article 76 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, part 6, it says it can be extended beyond 350 miles if there are sub-marine elevations, which are natural components of the continental margin, such as its plateau, rises, caps, banks and spurs. So when a country has these, it can claim they are connected to its shelf,” shared his analysis Anatoly Kolodkin, Maritime Law Association, Moscow.

Moscow claims the Lomonosov Ridge is an extension of the Eurasian continent, and therefore part of Russia's continental shelf under international law. Officials say they're confident the samples of the sea bed retrieved during their August mission will support their claim.

Meanwhile on Saturday Canada pressed its arctic claim, announcing plans to build two new military bases in its far North.

And America's largest icebreaker, Healy, left for the Arctic on Friday on what it calls an environmental mission.

Anatoliy Kolodin, a journalist following the story, said this is the beginning of a Political play-for-play.

“It's a game, but it's very interesting game, and of course Russians began that game,” said Anatoliy Kolodin.

The long neglected Arctic region is believed to contain up to 25% of the world's undiscovered oil and gas which prompted the race. And with global warming melting ice caps at a quicker pace drilling into the reserve is expected to become more feasible.

And while Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the U.S. all own their bit of territory in the Arctic region, each player is vying for the area that lies beyond.

The trillion dollar question is which country will end up proving their claim of ownership.

“I think there will be very interesting scientific conferences and that question will be answered in discussion of scientists not politics. But it will be done in few years not now,” commented Andrey Reut, Economic Journalist, Izvestia Daily Newspaper

Russian explorers are planning another Arctic expedition this year.