Canada and Denmark End Their Arctic Whisky War

Hans Island is a desolate, kidney-shaped piece of rock in the Arctic. For for 49 years it’s been the source of a rare territorial dispute for Canada because it sits right in the middle of the international boundary between Canada and Greenland, an autonomous territory of Denmark. Over the decades, the dispute between Canada and Denmark has been fought in often whimsical ways. Since Canadian troops began visiting the island in 1984 to plant maple leaf flags and leave behind bottles of Canadian whisky, Danes have been regularly dropping in to replace the whisky and Canadian flags with schnapps and Danish flags. Even cabinet members from both countries have visited the island by helicopter to assert their nations’ competing claims and survey the rock they claim to govern. Finally, the long-running and largely benign diplomatic impasse has reached an end. Canada and Denmark have signed an agreement that formally defines the Arctic marine boundary and settles the question of Hans Island’s ownership. The island will be split, with 60% of the rock becoming Denmark and the remaining 40% becoming Canada. According to Canadian foreign minister Mélanie Joly, “It was the friendliest of wars.”