Of course, today it's a debate that's framed by an entirely different Arctic environment than the one at the turn of the century. Reaching the North Pole these days is something that can be done by tourists aboard a Russian icebreaker. Full disclosure: one of my father's marriages was right at the North Pole (he's now semi-retired, and regular readers of this blog know he's spent many years aboard research icebreakers as an electronics technician). And just today there was another report from NASA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center stating that more than 90 percent of the ice in the Arctic is only a year or two old, making it thinner and more vulnerable.
Land claims, shipping routes, oil deposits. Global warming, sea levels, wildlife habitats. A day when there is nowhere to stand at the North Pole because there is no ice? Regardless of the lingering discovery debate, it may be far more important than ever before to look to the future at the top of the world rather than its past.