Hans Island PCArticle by Fanney Ingvadóttir: Hans Island, also known as Tartupaluk in Greenlandic, is a small (1.2km2), barren island situated in the middle of the Kennedy Channel between Greenland and Canada’s Ellesmere Island.

Despite its unassuming appearance and lack of valuable mineral reserves, Hans Island has been the subject of a unique and prolonged border dispute between Denmark and Canada that lasted from 1973 to 2022. This territorial disagreement, known humorously as the Whisky War or Liquor Wars, never escalated to violence, instead being characterized by good-natured exchanges of flags and alcoholic beverages.

The origins of the dispute date back to 1973 when Denmark and Canada created a border through the Nares Strait but could not agree on the sovereignty of Hans Island. The Canadian claim was based on the 1880 purchase of Hudson's Bay Company land, which included the island, while Denmark argued that Hans Island was integral to the local Greenlandic Inuit populations for fishing.

In 1984, the Whisky War gained its name when Canadian soldiers planted their national flag on Hans Island and left a bottle of Canadian whisky. Shortly afterward, the Danish Minister of Greenland Affairs visited the island, raised the Danish flag, left a bottle of schnapps, and a note welcoming visitors to the Danish island. This began a tradition of the two countries taking turns planting their flags and leaving bottles of spirits on the island.

Despite the light-hearted nature of these exchanges, the issue remained unresolved for decades. Both nations maintained a friendly rivalry, often seen as a humorous diplomatic standoff. It was not until 2005 that Canada and Denmark agreed on a process to resolve the dispute, which culminated in a formal agreement in 2022. This settlement, announced during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, was intended as a symbolic demonstration of how international disputes can be settled peacefully.

The resolution established a border across Hans Island, dividing it between the Canadian territory of Nunavut and the Danish autonomous territory of Greenland. This agreement marked the first time Canada and Denmark shared a land border, with Canada no longer bordering only the United States and Denmark no longer bordering only Germany.

The Danish Parliament ratified the agreement on December 19, 2023, formally ending the dispute from Denmark's perspective. The resolution not only settled the land division but also addressed maritime boundaries around the island, potentially significant as global warming could open new Arctic shipping routes. Additionally, the settlement preserved indigenous access and rights of use to Hans Island.

The Whisky War stands as a testament to the possibility of resolving territorial disputes amicably. As Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod stated, it sends a clear signal that border disputes can be resolved pragmatically and peacefully, an important message in times of global conflict.

Source: The Canadian Encyclopedia

Greenland MAP 2024 LRes


Related articles:

The Diomede Islands – Tomorrow & Yesterday Isle


Faroe Islands


The tags below provide an opportunity to view previously posted related news within the selected category

Arctic Portal.org - 2024 © All rights reserved.

When quoting, reusing or copying any material on the arcticportal.org or any of its sub-sites including but not limiting to: information, news, articles, data, maps or images, in part or in full, a citation stating the origin and a hyperlink to www.arcticportal.org is required.