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Cold facts about staking claims

August 10, 2007

Re "Finders keepers in the Arctic?" Opinion, Aug. 6

The Russians are not the first to place a marker on the sea floor at the North Pole, potentially related to a claim of geographic ownership. U.S. Navy Adm. Robert E. Peary did so in April 1909 and left a permanent marker on the sea floor. In the process of taking a water depth sounding at the North Pole, his mile-long alloyed steel cable ran off of its reel and fell to the sea floor; it remains there today.

In that era, Arctic explorer Otto Sverdrup set an example by claiming Canada's northeastern high Arctic islands for Norway in 1902. Peary followed suit and claimed northern Greenland for the United States. In 1917, the U.S. exchanged this claim with Denmark for its Virgin Islands in the Caribbean Sea. Peary's claim for the sea floor north of Greenland and Canada's adjacent Ellesmere Island for the U.S. may still have some validity.

Donald M. Taub

Huntington Beach

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