I did a bit of a mental double-take when I saw this article about Russia planting a flag on the North Pole seabed to claim the land as Russian, because it seemed a century or two out of date. On reading it, it turns out that I am not the only one who thought so:
In a record-breaking dive, the two craft planted a one metre-high titanium Russian flag on the underwater Lomonosov ridge, which Moscow claims is directly connected to its continental shelf.
However, the dangerous mission prompted ridicule and scepticism among other contenders for the Arctic’s energy wealth, with Canada comparing it to a 15th century colonial land grab.
The appeal of the underwater site is as access to a significant gas and oil reserve, to which Canada, Norway, Russia, the US, and Denmark all have claim to based on proximity. It sounds like the submarine expedition to the bottom was actually fairly dangerous and sophisticated, and it was not undertaken only to plant a flag but to collect samples to compare to established Russian geology – the flag was merely symbolic. It is interesting seeing a “first-ones there” approach to claim staking still taking place on Earth, though, and not just in space.