Polarizing Region

POLITICS

Denmark, together with Greenland, is claiming around 906,495 square kilometers (350,000 square miles) of the continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean, in an area that is bigger than Texas and includes the North Pole. (NPR)

Use our resources to better understand why the region is so important—and then map it yourself!

Teachers, scroll down for a short list of key resources in our Teachers’ Toolkit.

With the bottom of the Arctic Ocean now rendered in sharper relief than ever before, the five surrounding countries are plotting their claims. Click to enlarge this beautiful Nat Geo map! Map by Bill Rankin, National Geographic. View this map on our website.

With the bottom of the Arctic Ocean now rendered in sharper relief than ever before, the five surrounding countries are plotting their claims. Click to enlarge this beautiful Nat Geo map!
Map by Bill Rankin, National Geographic. View this map on our website.

This bathymetric view of the Arctic ocean offers a different perspective on the same region—and the same territorial claims. Click to enlarge this beautiful Nat Geo map! Map by Bill Rankin, National Geographic. View this map on our website.

This bathymetric view of the Arctic ocean offers a different perspective on the same region—and the same territorial claims. Click to enlarge this beautiful Nat Geo map!
Map by Bill Rankin, National Geographic. View this map on our website.

DISCUSSION IDEAS

  • According to our encyclopedic entry, the North Pole sits in the middle of the Arctic Ocean, on water that is almost always covered with ice. How can Denmark claim territory that is in the middle of the ocean?
    • Well, first of all, Denmark is making the claim with Greenland, which sits closer to the pole than any other piece of land. Greenland is an autonomous country, but part of the Kingdom of Denmark.
    • Denmark contends that its data show Greenland’s continental shelf extends to the North Pole. A continental shelf is part of a continent that extends underwater to the deep-ocean floor. Greenland’s continental shelf may be connected to the Lomonosov ridge, a enormous underwater mountain range bisecting the Arctic Ocean. (Russia has also claimed the entire Lomonosov Ridge.)

 

  • Does this mean the North Pole is now part of Denmark and Greenland’s exclusive economic zone? Is Santa Claus Danish?
    • Not yet. An exclusive economic zone extends 200 nautical miles off a country’s coast, not a country’s continental shelf. Claims beyond 200 nautical miles must be supported by scientific and technical data. According to NPR, “Denmark said it would file paperwork with the U.N. to support its claim.”
    • Check out this great BBC map showing the extent of Denmark and Greenland’s new claim—which extends well into regions claimed by Canada and Russia, as well as the North Pole.

 

 

  • What nation, if any, do you think has a “claim” the North Pole? Use our Polar Regions MapMaker Kit to map different nations and organizations’ interests in the region. Issues to consider:
    • geography. Take a look at the topographic and bathymetric maps above. Does proximity or geology always help determine political territory?
    • political stakeholders. Right now, the North Pole region is in international waters, with Russia supporting the most comprehensive scientific research stations. How would a territorial claim impact
      • the Arctic Council, composed of nations with territory in the Arctic Circle?
      • the scientific community?
      • the environment?
      • the indigenous peoples of the Arctic?
    • the international community. How would establishing a claim to the region around the North Pole impact nations and organizations outside the Arctic Circle? (Nat Geo would have to update its maps, for one!)
    • technology. The U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea limits exclusive economic zones to 200 nautical miles from a nation’s coast. How should sophisticated GIS and mapping technology, which can help identify continental shelves more precisely than ever before, be incorporated into this law?

 

TEACHERS’ TOOLKIT

NPR: Denmark Claims Part Of The Arctic, Including The North Pole

Nat Geo: North Pole

Nat Geo: Geography in the News—The Arctic’s Northeast Passage

Nat Geo: Polar Regions MapMaker Kit

2 responses to “Polarizing Region

  1. Pingback: Mining in the Deep | Nat Geo Education Blog·

  2. Pingback: Who Owns The North Pole? | GEOGRAPHY EDUCATION·

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s