The global political atmosphere currently does not provide the impetus for the peaceful resolution of conflicts. Great, bloody wars continue. After all, the small but ten-year border dispute between Denmark and Canada has now been resolved peacefully. It is about the island of Hans in the Arctic. After long negotiations, it is now divided – ending the so-called “whiskey war”.
It’s not an awful lot. Right around a boulder in the polar sea with an area of 1.3 square kilometers. 1,100 kilometers from the North Pole, between Danish Greenland and the large Canadian island of Ellesmere.
Nobody lives on the island of Hans, and there is no vegetation. On the other hand, there are oil and gas deposits around the islet. But they’re still hard to exploit, at least for now: they’re too deep, and too many icebergs are making mining difficult.
Nevertheless, the settlement of the Hans Island dispute is not trivial. It has a symbolic meaning. At a small ceremony in Ottawa, Canada’s Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly spoke of “the end of a dispute that lasted more than fifty years and that had to be dealt with by a total of 26 foreign ministers.” According to her Danish counterpart Jeppe Kofod, “even a bloodless territorial conflict must eventually be ended.”
It is happening now. The island is divided. Denmark and Canada suddenly share a land border.
The conflict was also fought with alcohol, which is why it is known as the “whiskey war”: Danish government officials raised the Dannebrog flag during their short visits and buried a bottle of bitter Gammel Dansk vodkas. Their Canadian counterparts raised the maple flag and deposited a bottle of Crown Royal whiskey.
Caption: Rare satellite image of Hans Island without snow and ice. The island is called Tartupaluk in Greenlandic and means “kidney-shaped”. It lies in the Kennedy Channel, the mostly frozen strait between Ellesmere Island and northern Greenland. The highest point of the island, with an area of 1.25 square kilometers, reaches 183 meters above sea level. Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Caption: A bottle of Sortilège (Canadian whiskey liqueur and maple syrup) stands next to a handwritten note from Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly to Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofoda after the land border signing ceremony between Canada and Denmark on Hansa Island: “We end the whiskey war. “imago images
Legend: Hansa Island (Tartupaluk) is located in the Nares Strait between Ellesmere Island (Canada) and Greenland. It connects the Atlantic with the Arctic Ocean. The northern part of the island was assigned to the Nunavut region of Qikiqtaaluk (Baffin, Canada), and the southern part to the Greenlandic commune of Avannaata Kommunia. data wrapper
Signature: Greenlandic hunter and dog trainer Suersaq signed “Hans Hendrik” when he was working for overseas expeditions from 1853-1883. His adventures are recorded in his 1878 Hans Hendrik’s Memoirs, The Arctic Traveler. imago images
Sometimes both countries even advertised around the world with Google ads. All this to at least symbolically build up their territorial claims. This is the end – and this is how the last border dispute in the northern polar region has been resolved, says Katarina Kertysova, an Arctic expert at the European Leadership Network and Polar Institute. At the same time, it may be a positive signal as regards finding diplomatic solutions in the future in the fight for economic zones and spheres of influence in the Arctic sea.
Danish Foreign Minister Kofod also underlines the importance of the current agreement. Especially now that the rules-based world order is shaking elsewhere. “We see authoritarian leaders using military force to push frontiers,” said Mélanie Joly, Canada’s foreign minister. Canada and Denmark thus provide evidence that there is another way. The bloodiest war in the world is over.
Who was “Hans”?
Open the box. Close the box
Legend: Suersaq («Hans Hendrik») pictures imago
Greenlandic hunter and dog trainer Suersaq (* 1834, † 1889) signed “Hans Hendrik” when he worked for foreign expeditions from 1853-1883. His adventures are recorded in his Memoirs of Hans Hendrik, The Arctic Traveler, translated from Greenland in 1878. Suersaq settled in northern Greenland and found life there with walruses, seals and bears.