The expedition, led by Swedish icebreaker Oden, set off from Norway on Sunday. It is being led jointly by Martin Jakobsson of Stockholm University and Christian Marcussen of the Geological Survey of Denmark.
The Danes claim that the ridge is on the same continental shelf as Greenland, which is a Danish territory. They hope that the expedition will prove the country’s claim to the area.
According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Denmark has until 2014 to assert claims over unclaimed parts of the Arctic. Estimates by the US Geological Survey suggest the region contains 25 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas. The melting of the polar ice cap means that shipping lanes could one day be created across the region, linking the Atlantic and Pacific.
Norway, Canada and the US also have claims in the Arctic.
Danish Science Minister Helge Sanders told Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter earlier this week: “Our understanding is that the North Pole belongs to Denmark.”
While the expedition itself is a joint Swedish-Danish effort, the Swedish scientists taking part say that their primary interest is research on climate change. Jakobsson told DN that the Danish part of the expedition “feels completely uncontroversial. The researchers are just going to measure,” he said, adding it was up to politicians to deal with territorial questions.