COPENHAGEN - Scientists gathering data to underpin a claim by Denmark to a vast Arctic Ocean tract including the North Pole have harvested crucial new information about the seabed and toasted their arrival at the pole with sparkling wine.
Denmark is pressing ahead with its claim to the area - which is thought to hold untapped oil and gas and is likely to offer new shipping lanes as ice recedes - in the teeth of rival claims from Russia and Canada.
Denmark and its semi-autonomous dependency Greenland are preparing to file a claim to an area extending north of Greenland and encompassing the pole under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) by November 2014.
Much depends on whether Copenhagen can obtain data showing that the Lomonosov Ridge, an underwater formation stretching 1,800 km (1,118 miles) across the pole, is an extension of Greenland's land mass.
"We had a critical gap in the bathymetric (water depth) data, and we have covered that now," Christian Marcussen, the expedition's chief scientist, told Reuters by satellite phone from the Swedish icebreaker "Oden" at the North Pole.
The 45-day expedition, which set out at the end of July, reached the pole on Wednesday and spent the night there, but left no flag behind on the ice when it resumed its voyage on Thursday.