Denmark has launched an extraordinary bid for ownership of the North Pole, one of the world's last untapped sources of oil and natural gas.
In recent decades the remote polar region has largely been left to a few explorers and tourists. Now, however, the effects of climate change have dramatically raised the stakes.
Scientists estimate that the ice in the Arctic Ocean is melting at a rate of three per cent a year - in time allowing the economic exploitation of a region that is almost totally unexplored.
In the words of one Danish scientist: "The Vikings hope to get there first."
At present, the North Pole is considered international territory. The Danish bid is based on new geological data claiming to show that the Pole and Greenland - which has been owned by Denmark since 1814 - are linked by a 1,240km underwater mountain range, the Lomonosov Ridge.
This would give Copenhagen a legitimate right to the North Pole's abundant natural resources. According to the United Nations Convention of the Sea, countries can claim economic rights to waters up to 370km from their shores. "There is a chance that the North Pole could become Danish," confirmed Helge Sander, Denmark's science and technology minister, "it could give us access to oil and gas."
Yet the Danish claim, which will be formally made once a survey of the Lomonosov Ridge is complete, has prompted an unseemly scramble among Canadian and Russian scientists who are busily preparing rival arguments over sovereignty...