Map of who owns the Arctic

Posted to Maps  |  Nathan Yau

Do you know who owns the Arctic? As it turns out, it’s a pretty messy subject:

In August 2007 Russian scientists sent a submarine to the Arctic Ocean seabed at 90° North to gather data in support of Russia’s claim that the North Pole is part of the Russian continental shelf. The expedition provoked a hostile reaction from other Arctic littoral states and prompted media speculation that Russia’s action might trigger a “new Cold War” over the resources of the Arctic.

Luckily things are at least a little more in control now though. Well, sort of. Canada, Denmark and the US still need to define their continental shelf limits. Keep in mind that the shelf can be more than 200 nautical miles from these countries’ coastal baselines.

The International Boundaries Research Unit provides this map [pdf] of claimed boundaries and areas that will potentially be claimed in the future.



  • I would say this is actually a very bad visualization example… that map did not clarify anything regarding who owns the Arctic, at least for me!! hehe

  • Yeah, I agree with LeoH – this could be a lot clearer. It’s left me with a bit of a headache!

  • Yeah….you left off the key. Without it there is no way to tell what the map means at all. The linked pdf clarified the mess.

  • Even with the key, it’s still a bit of a challenge. I mean, those (Notes)?! Sheesh. I think maybe a less literal map and some rationalising of the data needs to happen here. To understand this visualisation, there’s a hell of a lot of reading required…

  • I think that the bondaries are pretty clear, even without the key. I could tell right away that the colored areas represented claimed ownership by the associated countries. The only thing that wasn’t immediately clear was the striped area, which I at first took to be contested ownership, but which is instead the assumed continental shelf. Although in this case I suppose those are the same thing.

    The footnotes really just provide the historical and legal justification for the boundaries.

  • I think we all know that Santa owns the arctic. Anyone who disagrees will find no presents under their tree this year.

    • Does he own the whole Arctic? I thought he only owned a large plot of land at the North Pole.

      • Nope, pretty much the whole Arctic. Also the United States purchased Alaska from Santa in 1867, not the Russian Empire. Santa used the funds to bankroll a marketing campaign he had started a few years prior in 1863 with the help of Thomas Nast. The money also helped him bankroll a small soda company in the late 19th century. The rest is history.

      • Here I thought Santa was all about giving. Now you tell me he’s this money-hungry businessman? My view of the world has changed completely and life will never be the same.

      • It’s not really like that, Santa was the original Social Entrepreneur. Global distribution of free high quality children’s toys takes serious cash. He retains just a modest salary, pays the elves well for their hard work, but mostly it all just goes into gifts for all good boys and girls.

  • There was a National geographic magazine map that had similar information, I think about a year ago. I can’t find info about it online, though to link to it

  • Looks like Russia has some domination going on there.


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