The modern day "gold rush" is the "oil rush" because it is believed that 25% of the world's oil is beneath the ice in the Arctic Ocean, and it is also believed that the North Pole could melt very soon leaving access to the oil wide open.
Several countries are trying to stake their claim.
Last September, the Northwest Passage was actually clear briefly, due to the big melt.
Scientists now agree that there is a 50/50 chance that it open again this year, much quicker than the original natural global warming trend forecast.
It is also believed that the human contribution to global warming has sped up the process.
There is a division of the United Nations which controls what can happen in this territory. It belongs to no single nation because it is beyond the 200 mile mark of jurisdiction.
The Arctic Ocean's seabed may hold billions of gallons of oil and natural gas—up to 25 percent of the world's undiscovered reserves, according to U.S. Geological Survey estimates—leading some experts to call the region the next Saudi Arabia.
* National Geographic
Last summer (2007), the Russians actually used a minisub to plant their flag on the ocean floor, about 2 1/2 miles beneath the North Pole.
Canada has opened a new military base there.
Denmark and the USA are researching to see if the seabed is an extension linked to their lands.
Flag planting doesn't work today and land extension claims may not work either.
It will be interesting to see what happens next.
* Learn more at the United Nations Environment Program