As a nuclear-powered icebreaker crunched through 10 feet of August ice at the North Pole, Russian sailors readied two deepwater submersibles for their two-and-a-half-mile descent. Dubbed Mir 1 and Mir 2 (mir meaning “world”), the subs were aptly named—their deployment was about to catch the world’s attention. A hole opened in the ship’s wake, and the subs were lowered. At the bottom of the Arctic Ocean, one sub took seabed samples, the ostensible purpose of the mission, while the other deposited a titanium capsule containing a Russian flag, symbolically claiming this undersea turf for its homeland.
Moscow’s 2007 stunt was mocked widely for its ostentatious flouting of diplomatic etiquette but had its intended effect: other countries were rattled. Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper scurried to the Arctic for a sovereignty tour, and the Danish science minister released preliminary findings that the North Pole was, in fact, Danish.
This article was originally published with the title Arctic Landgrab.