Arctic Whisky War is Finally Over

For half a century, Canada and Denmark have been waging a largely good-natured spat - not fought with guns, but with flags and booze – for Hans Island.


Split image showing Canadian and Danish flags on Hans Island
Credit: Canadian Department of National Defence

For decades, the two nations have been embroiled in a so-called "whisky war" over a tiny, barren outcrop in the Arctic - with both country's claiming the uninhabited Hans Island as part of their territory.


Happily, the feud has finally come to an amicable conclusion, with the two sides agreeing to equally divide the rocky outcrop and, effectively, creating the first land border between Canada and Europe.


The dispute over the 0.5 square mile Hans Island, located between Canada's Ellesmere Island and the semi-autonomous Danish territory of Greenland, dates back to 1973, when the two sides agreed on a boundary between the Nares Strait.


The strait lies, halfway between Greenland and Canada, but the two countries were unable to agree which would have sovereignty over Hans Island, which is equidistant between the two.


Since then, Danes and Canadians have travelled to the tiny outcrop to lay claim to it, leading to diplomatic protests, online campaigns and even a Canadian call to boycott Danish pastries.


During the trips, each side would remove the other country's flag and plant their own, even leaving behind a bottle of Canadian whisky or Danish schnapps for their counterparts to find, along with comical notes, leading to the feud being dubbed the "whisky war".


Dividing up the island and resolving the jovial battle was held up as a model for peacefully resolving territorial disputes during a formal signing ceremony in Ottawa with the Canadian and Danish foreign ministers.


Mr Kofod, the Danish foreign minister, said that its resolution came at a time when "the rules-based international order is under pressure" and democratic values "are under attack".


Alluding to the war in Ukraine, he said: "We have demonstrated how long-standing disputes can be resolved peacefully by playing by the rules", adding that he hoped Canada and Denmark's experience would "inspire other countries to follow the same path".

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