We eat bacon and pastries and are happy. Oh, and the North Pole is ours.
December 15, 2014 3:44 PM   Subscribe

In 2012, the UN said that Denmark was the happiest place on earth. This year, Denmark returned to the UN with some nice Danish pastries, and a territorial claim to the North Pole based on its relationship with Greenland, a Danish autonomous territory.

Independent: "Interest in the Arctic is intensifying as global warming shrinks the polar ice, opening up possible resource development and new shipping lanes. The area is believed to hold an estimated 13 per cent of the world's undiscovered oil and 30 per cent of its untapped gas."

NPR: "Denmark, together with Greenland, today will claim around 350,000 square miles of the continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean, in an area around the North Pole that is slightly larger than the size of Texas and Oklahoma combined."

Financial Times: "All countries’ borders currently end 200 nautical miles from their coasts in the Arctic, leaving a vast patch of land owned by nobody. Denmark is following Norway, Russia and Canada in submitting a claim under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea to a portion of the Arctic." (n.b. some other news publications do not mention a claim by Norway)

Moscow Times: "Legal claims have been augmented by military and industrial muscle: Russia has begun offshore drilling in the Arctic and built military bases in several protected sites above the Polar Circle, including the Wrangel Island, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Danes were not impressed. 'The Lomonosov ridge is the natural extension of the Greenland shelf,' said Christian Marcussen, a senior geophysicist with the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland."

Sputnik News: However, the bid has been heavily criticized by some influential Arctic experts. 'It is ironic that the only country that right now could be said to be acting provocatively in the Arctic is Denmark. That is out of character with the country's tradition of constructive diplomacy,' Canadian professor Michael Byers, a leading expert on Arctic sovereignty, said in an interview with Politiken, a Danish media outlet.

Reuters: "Denmark acknowledges that Norway's continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles overlaps the Danish claim. It may also overlap with claims by Canada, Russia and the United States."

International Business Times: "In December 2013, the Canadian government filed before the United Nations an application regarding the outer limits of its continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean. It maintained it has rights to claim the North Pole because it lies within Canadian territory."

Related: Vessels of the Royal Danish Navy. Denmark is a founder member of NATO, and the only Nordic country to be in both NATO and the EU. Greenland home rule and self rule.
posted by Wordshore (58 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I did a presentation on this two years ago as part of my MSc, this website was my main source.
posted by DelusionsofGrandeur at 3:56 PM on December 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

Happiest place on Earth, maybe. But the North Pole belongs to Canada.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:02 PM on December 15, 2014 [5 favorites]

I think Canadian professer Michael Byers may be influenced by the territorial dispute between Denmark and Canada over Hans Island.

The Russians planting their flag at the North Pole seabed in 2007 was way more provocative.
posted by DelusionsofGrandeur at 4:05 PM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

I know this is kind of off-topic, but you lead with it, so...

In Danish, the word for "Danish pastry" translates as "Vienna Bread".

They may claim the north pole, but they don't claim the pastries.
posted by lollusc at 4:11 PM on December 15, 2014 [9 favorites]

In Danish, the word for "Danish pastry" translates as "Vienna Bread".

Right now, I am making every possible false equivalency between this and French Fries in America.
posted by GrumpyDan at 4:33 PM on December 15, 2014 [5 favorites]

Good luck to Denmark in defending their new territory from the nuclear powers that already made claims on it!
posted by a lungful of dragon at 4:42 PM on December 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

They've been claiming this for years, right?
posted by fshgrl at 4:43 PM on December 15, 2014

Excellent timing on the part of Denmark. As Russia Putin is busy and his reputation is at a low while dangerously scrambling with both the western Ukraine and and the coffers that are emptying rapidly owing to sanctions as the Ruble loses value and the petrol-linked Canadian dollar suffers a similar though less precipitous decline.
posted by vapidave at 4:46 PM on December 15, 2014

Speaking of Danes and bread, Meet Smørrebrød, the Best Sandwich You're Not Eating.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:46 PM on December 15, 2014 [5 favorites]

An executive summary of the Danish submission to CLCS is here (pdf).
posted by DelusionsofGrandeur at 4:54 PM on December 15, 2014

Ah, humanity. Is there any stupid bullshit you can't fight over?
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:56 PM on December 15, 2014 [5 favorites]

I bet I can fight over stupider bullshit than you.
posted by Apoch at 5:00 PM on December 15, 2014 [24 favorites]

Both Denmark and Russia claiming the Lomonosov ridge as part of their continental shelves brings to mind the spaghetti-eating scene from Lady and the Tramp.
The whole thing is so dick-wavingly stupid though. Canada has no real, scientific claim to the north pole (Harper - yes, unbelievable! - insisted at the last minute that Canada expand its claim to the seabed, over-ruling the opinions of Canadian experts), nor do Russia or Denmark unless they're going to split some geophysical hairs that would probably lead to new undersea land claims all over the planet.
posted by Flashman at 5:04 PM on December 15, 2014

In Canada, conscription notices are being printed.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 5:17 PM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is the least valid claim yet. If you were to section off the continental shelf along a line equidistant between Canadian and Danish (Greenland) sovereign land, the Lomonosov ridge wouldn't touch Greenland's portion of the shelf.
posted by rocket88 at 5:19 PM on December 15, 2014

I wish they could adopt me. I'd give anything to study in Denmark and find a job there afterwards.
posted by brainimplant at 5:21 PM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Betting now that there will suddenly appear a population of Russion speakers in Denmark that are totally being oppresed.
posted by happyroach at 5:25 PM on December 15, 2014 [10 favorites]

CBC worldat six just announced they will be interviewing a retired Canadian scientist who says the Danes are right.
Can't help but imagine this is somehow more appealing against harper's attack on science and the cbc.

I figure we can share with denmark. At least till harper is out of power it is probably for the best!
posted by chapps at 6:05 PM on December 15, 2014

The North Pole belongs to Santa, who is filling his sleigh with ordnance as we speak. You'd better leave a Danish out for him this year.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 6:06 PM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

I feel like there's at least a Lovecraft spoof in this. Denmark laying claim to the area in an attempt to keep prying eyes away from their increasingly desperate dealings with the thousand-eyed red and white bubbling thing they foolishly woke there. The end of the story is, like, the icy fingers of the glaciers regaining the death-grip they had on the world in ancient times, spreading slowly but inexorably from the North Pole down, while the sound of the thing's vile afflatus echoes hoarse and blasphemous across the endless snowy wastes: "H'hoghhh... hohhghhh... h'hhoggh'gh..."
posted by No-sword at 6:19 PM on December 15, 2014 [11 favorites]

No, wait! Better ending: a madman screaming in a rapidly chilling padded cell, "It has a wife! It has a wife!"
posted by No-sword at 6:22 PM on December 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

Ok so it belongs to Inuits.
posted by spitbull at 6:25 PM on December 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

Anyone who wants a great read that involves the Danes, fool-hardy expeditions to northern Greenland, murder mystery, the Greenland Inuit people, AND eldritch horrors should read Smilla's Sense of Snow, by Peter Hoeg.
posted by foodmapper at 6:44 PM on December 15, 2014 [12 favorites]

Why not give it to Switzerland? They have a navy. They could outfit oilrigs into banks. It'd be an arctic Waterworld of finance.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 6:53 PM on December 15, 2014

Maybe the North Pole should belong to Norway? After all, they discovered it.
posted by Flashman at 6:58 PM on December 15, 2014

Denmark would Kalmarize that so fast.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 7:02 PM on December 15, 2014

Where's Vimes so he can arrest all the involved parties?
posted by kmz at 7:06 PM on December 15, 2014

The Russians planting their flag at the North Pole seabed in 2007 was way more provocative.

Best scavenger hunt item ever.
posted by jason_steakums at 8:25 PM on December 15, 2014 [5 favorites]

I think the North Pole and, let's say, the area in a 50 mile radius should be one of those unowned, non-exploited areas of the planet, sort of like Antarctica. The amount of oil under there can't be that great, it's not like there's any land there to occupy, and if people keep fighting over it I fear that access will be restricted or cut off due to human arrogance and stupidity.
posted by Blackanvil at 8:49 PM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

The reason it's being fought over is natural resources, not "dick waving" (or not only that, anyway).
posted by axiom at 10:08 PM on December 15, 2014

It is interesting (in the BBC link) that this move is seen as related to a Greenland Independence movement.

I am not sure I entirely understand the logic. Its kind of like Denmark claiming even more of Greenland from a Greenlanders' perspective, no?
posted by chapps at 11:03 PM on December 15, 2014

'Danish pastries' in the English-speaking world are pretty dissimilar to the pastries we actually get in Denmark. We generally like a lot more egg and a lot less flakiness in our pastry, and much of it is actually based on yeast doughs.

'Danish pastries' are some bastard hybrid of Viennese pastries and Danish pastries (and are quite a bit closer to the former, really).
posted by Dysk at 12:51 AM on December 16, 2014

Maybe the North Pole should belong to Norway? After all, they discovered it.

Sure, why not? And maybe Canada should belong to Denmark, since after all, we discovered it.
posted by Dysk at 12:54 AM on December 16, 2014 [6 favorites]

Ok, I really really need to know. Did the delegation from Denmark actually bring pastries to the UN General Session?

This is really weighing on me, guys. You lead with pastries and then leave me hanging as to whether it was just a joke on the word "Danish".
posted by chainsofreedom at 4:33 AM on December 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

And maybe Canada should belong to Denmark, since after all, we discovered it.

Leifur Eiríksson might have a word to offer about that.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 4:52 AM on December 16, 2014

Mod note: A couple of comments deleted. Sorry guys, maybe we can re-rail this discussion without the "fuck Denmark" and insulting random other countries stuff. Thanks.
posted by taz (staff) at 5:17 AM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Iceland had only been settled for about a century when Leif Erikson was born - I'm not sure an Icelandic national identity existed at the time. He ended up settling Greenland which is part of Denmark to this day. Insofar as he had any national identity, it would likely either be Danish, Greenlandic, or possibly Norwegian.
posted by Dysk at 5:20 AM on December 16, 2014

Claiming this part of the North Atlantic for the kingdom of Denmark is effectively claiming it for Greenland. Should Greenland at some point decide to leave the kingdom, I have no doubt the territories would become Greenlandic.

Happily, this, so far, has been a case governed by international law, so whether or not other claimants have thermonuclear weapons is hardly relevant. While Canada and the kingdom has an ongoing territorial dispute over Hans Ø (aka Tartupaluk), it has so far been tremendously uneventful.
posted by bouvin at 5:35 AM on December 16, 2014 [4 favorites]

One of my Danish coworkers tells me that perhaps this claim results from Denmark's situation with resources in the North Sea-- evidently there was at some point a dispute between at least Denmark, Germany, and Norway; there were multiple possible ways of splitting up the undersea rights, and Denmark didn't fight for the one most advantageous, resulting in some oil seabeds going to Norway instead.

I don't have an actual historical reference here, though.
posted by nat at 5:55 AM on December 16, 2014

That is a widespread urban legend in Denmark as well (allegedly the crafty Norwegians got the Danish minister drunk, and the rest is history). In actuality, the division between Norwegian and Danish North Sea was handled through lengthy committee work, concluded years before anyone knew there was oil beneath them thar waves.
posted by bouvin at 6:01 AM on December 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm not sure an Icelandic national identity existed at the time.

I was half-kidding, but this does raise the question of when a national identity begins to exist. He was born in Iceland, and when he settled Greenland it wasn't under the Danish crown and wouldn't be for centuries. Icelanders, Norwegians and Danes all claim the guy as their native son. Maybe this is why he's often just called "Norse" in English texts about him.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 6:03 AM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Isn't the legend/myth/actual story that Bjarni Herjolfsson took a trip to Greenland to visit his pa, got blown off course, saw America but deemed it too uninteresting to land on and explore and went back to Greenland? This all before Leifur and the boys landed in Canada, set up camp and quickly discovered some grapes to make wine with (priorities, priorities).
posted by Wordshore at 6:11 AM on December 16, 2014

Iceland had only been settled for about a century when Leif Erikson was born - I'm not sure an Icelandic national identity existed at the time.

Are you sure about that? Just taking a cursory look around sources available on the web would seem to indicate that the Icelandic Commonwealth at the very least quite intentionally formed a distinct legal identity from other Norse nations of the time and did not subordinate itself to anyone else. That was the impression I got from a college professor at an American university who had taken a research interest in the Icelandic Sagas.
posted by XMLicious at 6:50 AM on December 16, 2014

Yeah, Iceland was a catch-all refuge for all kinds of Scandos (and some Irish, albeit many were brought here involuntarily) and was its own entity from the late 9th until the mid-13th century. Then things get complicated.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 6:59 AM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

It seems astonishing to me that the only reason these waters are navigable is global warming, and so the first thing that rushes to everyone's mind is "Hey! This new situation will allow us to exploit new oil reserves. Nothing can go wrong, because more cheap oil will only ensure more global warming will only ensure an ice-free arctic! All systems go!"

Humanity should declare the whole Arctic ocean as a wildlife reserve, oil untapped, as punishment for our stupidity.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 9:55 AM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Humanity should declare the whole Arctic ocean as a wildlife reserve, oil untapped, as punishment for our stupidity.

Sadly that same stupidity renders the idea unrealistic.
posted by Dysk at 9:57 AM on December 16, 2014

This would be a good time to assert any archeological evidence for an ancient trans-arctic culture, comprising various northern tribes and peoples. After all, the northern people can see all of these countries from there. They can elect a representative to the UN, and by the way, the toll for trans-arctic shipping lanes, when they are established, will make the fees paid for using the Suez and Panama canals look like chicken feed. And they can put casinos around the toll booths.

Also, punishment for our stupidity is being exacted on us already. We're just too stupid to notice.
posted by mule98J at 10:03 AM on December 16, 2014

MetaFilter: Punishment for our stupidity.
posted by Wordshore at 10:50 AM on December 16, 2014

Ok so it belongs to Inuits.

Exactly. Denmark is claiming the North Pole for Greenland. I think the timing (if there is a timing) has to do with the very complicated political situation in Greenland right now, where it is probably a good idea for the Danish government to demonstrate its willingness to go very, very far for Greenland.

The government in Greenland has practically collapsed because of political scandals and catastrophically bad economy, and right now, nobody really knows where that will lead. It's really complicated, but fundamentally, Greenland is dependent on large payments from Denmark, (which are completely uncontested in Denmark). If Greenland were to have complete independence, they would have to sell their mineral rights to the highest bidder, and accept massive immigration in order to exploit the ressources.

Living in Greenland is really tough, and I don't think anyone there wants to go back to the old ways. Healthcare, education and other welfare services are fair rights in Greenland as in Denmark.
Fishing is still a livelihood, as is the fish-packing industry, but it cannot feed the entire country. The ancient culture of seal hunting, where every part of the seal was used, and the furs could be sold for Western consumption took a huge blow because of Brigitte Bardot and Greenpeace who conflated the Greenlandic furs with the Canadian baby-seal furs.

National security in Greenland is the huge elefant in the room. Defending Greenland's waters is much more than any population of 56.000 can handle, and while Greenlanders know the US and Canada are friendly nations, well, there is Hans Ø, and there is the problem of an American bomber with nuclear weapons gone missing in Thule. And also: how is it Inuits are seen in both the US and Canada? I may be mistaken, but I believe Greenland is the only truly autonomous Inuit nation - and even if I have overlooked some place, even the most anti-Danish Greenlanders I have met acknowledge that Greenland is ruled by Greenlanders.

As I understand it, the ideological discussion in Greenland is very much about how to get from dependency on Denmark to independence without allowing big ressource companies to colonize the country. But some radical populists within Greenland and in Denmark believe the new capitalist colonizers will bring wealth to Greenland, and that there will be no backside to the ressource projects. I think the idea is that the Greenlanders will be like the original Persian Gulf inhabitants, who all live like princes while foreign workers do the menial work.

The political consensus in Denmark is that it is the government in Greenland who decides which pace the movement towards greater autonomy should have.
But I suppose that specially in the light of the recent political scandals in Greenland, a lot of officials in Denmark are thinking that the combination of vast ressources, corrupt populist politicians and a struggling population has never proved positive, and they may be trying to help some Greenlandic politicians they see as moderate. (And obviously, their assumptions may be right or wrong..)

The reason support for Greenland is so wide-spread in Denmark is that knowledge of and love for Greenland and Greenlanders crosses all age-groups, classes and regions. Fishermen are landing fish in the Greenlandic harbours, nurses and doctors are going there for training, teachers go there, mechanics go there. For some years, the head of psychiatry in Greenland was a refugee from Somalia.

One of the large issues concerning independence for Greenland is that in a population of 56.000 , spread out over a huge area with little acces to healthcare and education, finding well-educated leaders who can lead the country, negotiate international deals, defend the nation and manage businesses is a challenge. Young Greenlanders are getting educated at an amazing speed, and there is a lot of talent. In spite of being a tiny, tiny nation, Greenland has internationally renowned artists and scientists - and before Greenland became self-governed and created a university, several important "Danes" were actually Inuit.
However, there is also a huge task to take on. And the really sad thing about the recent scandals is that it seams that the older generation's culture of corruption has spread to at least some of the young politicians we were all hoping to change the ways things are done.

Anyway: the best way to support Greenland is to go there, meet the people, see the magnificent nature, discuss the environmental issues in a respectful way. Apart from fishing, the only real alternative to mining and drilling in Greenland is tourism, and Greenland is a great destination.

BTW: Michael Byers' suggestion that we should not provoke Russia, because scary stuff, is not likely to win a lot of approval on either side of the Atlantic, since Russia is quite busy doing it's own provoking right now, including fighter planes with transponders off going into the paths of passenger planes between Denmark and other Baltic countries.
posted by mumimor at 11:21 AM on December 16, 2014 [10 favorites]

Bonus info: the Danish minister of foreign affairs, Martin Lidegaard, has an elder brother, Bo Lidegaard, who was born in Greenland and now is the editor in chief of the daily Politiken, which is quoted in two of the FPP links because Politiken was the source for the Michael Byers interview. This complicates conspiracy thinking a lot. Is there a disagreement between the brothers, or is the interview some sneaky plant meant to engage support for Greenland?

Brother Bo is well-known for being a spokesman for appeasement, but also for being a head civil servant in the government of war-monger and Bush-hand-doll, later NATO secretary Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

So much to think about. But I prefer the (relatively) simple version above.
posted by mumimor at 11:45 AM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh, sorry DelusionsofGrandeur - I now see that you have the timing right
posted by mumimor at 11:51 AM on December 16, 2014

The response to the ice cap disappearing due to global warming is to leap on all the fossil fuels underneath it and burn them too.

The human race is insane.
posted by Drexen at 11:59 AM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

mumimor: thanks for the detailed comments just now.
posted by Wordshore at 12:21 PM on December 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Dysk: "And maybe Canada should belong to Denmark, since after all, we discovered it."

My first Nation ancestors would beg to differ.
posted by Mitheral at 7:14 PM on December 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Quite rightly. It was a throw-away joke, and I apologise.

(I imagine your First Nation ancestors would also take issue with the notion of Norway discovered the North Pole, which is what I was throw-away-jokingly responding to?)
posted by Dysk at 3:40 AM on December 17, 2014

Since we touched upon Iceland and its identity, thought I'd drop this here:

Viking women were most certainly not stay-at-home moms
The boats weren't just filled with hairy men in helmets.
One test showed that, if the genetic contribution of Norwegians is subtracted from Icelandic mtDNA data, what remains is most similar to Orkney and the Western Isles of Scotland. So it seems likely that Gaelic women from these islands arrived in Iceland with the Vikings, or else had been integrated into these colonial Viking communities in previous generations and passed down their mtDNA to those that made the voyage to Iceland.
posted by XMLicious at 9:20 PM on December 21, 2014

Dysk: "I imagine your First Nation ancestors would also take issue with the notion of Norway discovered the North Pole"

Sorry for the snark, struck an unexpected nerve there I guess. We were more prairie dogs than polar bears. I'd be interested if anyone knows whether any First Nation claims aboriginal title to the north pole.
posted by Mitheral at 4:38 PM on December 23, 2014

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