The Arctic rush is well and truly on. Hot on the heels of Russia and Canada, Denmark has now started a new polar expedition to explore the region.

The aim is to gather data showing whether there is a basis for a possible future Danish claim to parts of the Arctic. If evidence is found to prove that the North Pole is geologically linked to Greenland – part of Denmark for more than 600 years – then the kingdom could stake a claim to the pole itself.

The prospect of oil in Greenland has led a growing number of Greenlanders to call for independence from Denmark. A Danish government commission is set to publish recommendations on the future status of Greenland next month. And the North Pole is not the only source of potential riches in the region. According to the US Geological Survey, the north of Greenland could hold the richest untapped oil and gas reserves.

The Danish Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, has said he is following the polar expedition with great interest. “It’s not a good thing that various nations are making claims to the North Pole,” Mr Rasmussen said. “Now, I am not an expert, but I tend to think that the North Pole is shared property for the whole world.”

However, Science Minister Helge Sander has said Denmark has joined the race because Danish scientists believe the North Pole does belong to their country.