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Arctic Meltdown Launching Odd Scramble For Territory

By James Donahue

Who would have thought only a few years ago that global warming and the subsequent arctic meltdown would trigger moves between four or more governments for oil drilling rights at the North Pole?

As the world runs out of its natural resources . . . including crude oil which is a key element to keep the wheels of any military machine turning . . . this is exactly what is happening on the north tip of our planet.

We noticed with interest when the Canadian government sent a fleet of naval ships into the northern seas to guard the Northwest Passage, a legendary route for ships that many scientists believe will soon become a reality as the ice packs disappear. But who were the Canadians guarding the passage against?

Then when the Russians sent a submarine under the ice to the North Pole and staked a rust-proof titanium flag at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean, claiming the area as Russian territory, things began making sense. The Russians are attempting to claim land rights from Russia right up to the North Pole, thus giving that nation access to what is believed to be vast untapped oil and gas reserves.

What was incredible about the Russian achievement was that the submarine used had to drop to a depth of 13,980 feet to plant that flag.

The Russian move set off a storm of controversy, albeit the stories are not making massive headlines in the U.S. as yet.

A week after the Russian flag-planting expedition, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced a new deep-water seaport and military training center he said would strengthen Canada's presence in the North. He said the Russian move shows that "sovereignty in our Arctic is going to be an important issue," and made it clear that the Canadians will be fighting for their share of any gas and oil deposits found in the area.

Next Denmark, which remains in dispute with Canada over the ownership of Hans Island in the boundary waters between Ellesmere Island, Canada, and Greenland, which is controlled by the Danes, claimed its own rights to whatever lies below the North Pole.

This week we learn also that the U.S. Coast Guard has an icebreaker heading into the Arctic to "map the sea floor off Alaska." But the lead scientist on the expedition, Larry Mayer, director of the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping, University of New Hampshire, said the project just involves science. "There's no flag-dropping on this trip," he said.

The other nations involved in all this research are making it very clear just what their interests in that region are.

In fact Helge Sander, Denmark's minister of science, technology and innovation, said findings by his nation's researchers indicate "Denmark could be given the North Pole."

To back up this claim, Denmark launched its own expedition, with Swedish and Canadian scientists participating, into the Arctic. In a spirit of international cooperation, the path to the pole is being cleared by a chartered Russian icebreaker.

Before leaving on the expedition, Sander said that preliminary research suggests that the disputed Lomonosov Ridge, an undersea mountain range that runs past the pole between Siberia and North America, is a geological extension of the northern coast of Greenland.

The Danish ambassador to Canada, Poul Kristensen, was quoted as saying that the possible energy resources to be found under that region could be valued in the billions.

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, all five polar nations surrounding the Arctic Sea could lay claim to huge portions of the sea floor territory if they can prove the area is in any way linked to their continental shelves. That could include Alaska, which gets the United States involved, whether government spokespersons wish to admit it or not.

All of this scrambling to secure property rights in a sea that is beginning to open as the ice cap melts suggests that these nations either have an inkling of oil and gas reserves that exist there, or they are so desperate they are grasping for straws.

We wonder if Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and perhaps Indonesia won't soon be fighting over rights to the exposed territory under the South Pole.