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March 29, 2004

Hans Island

Update: July 26, 2005 Canada's defence minister has a walkabout on Hans Island having arrived by kayak or some such conveyance while Viking rovers ply the seas in Thetis-class frigates (follow this link for the update).


Viking incursions into Canada's northern wastes are to be confronted with a northern walkabout by the Canadian military. Colby Cosh suggests this may be a step forward from our Liberal government's comprehensive danegeld foreign policy.

TINY HANS ISLAND, COVETED BY DANES TYPIFIES A REGION'S UNCERTAIN BORDERS: The arrow and circle at bottom right indicate Hans Island, which sits halfway between Ellesmere Island, left, and Greenlad, top right, just above the 80th parallel. Denmark has gone so far as to send warships to the island and plant it's flag on the frozen soil.

And then... Dr. Rob Heubert comments at Maritime Affairs.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at March 29, 2004 10:32 AM


Please e-mail to me information about articles in the Canadian newspapers about the Hans Island dispute between Denmark and Canada.

Posted by: Jon M.Wilhelmson at March 31, 2004 09:36 AM

Here is a suggestion. Go to Google, click on "news" and run a search for "Hans Island". This should pull up every article that is on-line currently from a Canadian news source. I would do this fairly quickly because many newspapers cycle their articles into pay-only archives.

Posted by: Ghost of a flea at March 31, 2004 10:43 AM

Wednesday March 31, 03:20 PM

Denmark and Canada in Arctic isle spat
COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - A territorial dispute looms between NATO allies Canada and Denmark over a small, frozen rock in the Arctic circle as both nations hope one day to find potentially lucrative natural resources.

"In our opinion Hans Island is part of Danish territory, but the Canadians seem to hold the view the island is theirs," Head of Department of International Public Law at Denmark's Foreign Ministry, Peter Taksoe-Jensen, told Reuters on Wednesday.

While both nations downplay the issue, they both stand firm on their claims to the island, where Canada plans a military exercise in the middle of the year.

Canada's Foreign Minister Bill Graham has strongly asserted sovereignty over the island in Canadian media.

Despite the rock's modest size and unappealing climate, spokesmen from both countries acknowledge it may be home to hidden reserves of precious natural resources such as oil.

"This is of potential significance as one never knows what untapped resources there are that have yet to be discovered," Taksoe-Jensen said.

Hans Island measures about 1.3 square km (half a square mile) and lies between Greenland and Canada's Ellesmere Island, about 1,000 km (620 miles) from the North Pole.

The foundations for the dispute were laid in 1973, when borders drawn between Greenland -- which has limited home rule under the Danish crown -- and Canada ignored Hans Island.

Since then the two sides have expressed their claim by hoisting flags, with Danes leaving bottles of schnapps behind for the next troupe of flag-bearing Canadians, who leave bottles of whiskey in return.

"The whole matter has been blown out of proportion," said Canadian Embassy spokesman Erik Rosenstand.

"As the Danes themselves have said, it's too cold up there, and relations between Canada and Denmark are too warm for this matter to become an issue."

But Denmark is cautious about signing away sovereignty over any territory, after the Nordic country was forced to look on as neighbouring Norway discovered massive oil reserves just within its borders shortly after those were drawn in the North Sea forty years ago.

Posted by: Kevin Wright at April 2, 2004 11:46 AM

This a link to a page about danish military history, some of it in english:


You may find it interesting.

Posted by: Erik Jensen at September 23, 2004 12:48 PM

You stinkin Danes are crooks. Hans Island blatantly belongs to Canada so give it up or the Canadians will bomb your little country!

Posted by: Rob at November 28, 2004 06:07 PM

Its most unlikely that Canada would bomb a fellow ally of the NATO.

I think Denmark is very affaid to loose any future earnings with regard to possible oil findings. I would suggest that Denmark & Canada split the Island in two and share any possible earnings 50/50.

Posted by: Markus Sorensen [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 13, 2005 06:53 AM

Unfortunately Canada cannot let this issue go unsolved due to the increasing pressure to our northern sovereignty. Canada will flex its muscles over this. Our boundaries have been crossed before by submarines we could not identify. In this case we know who is challenging us and I believe Canada is determinded to protect its territiory.

Posted by: Patrick [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 28, 2005 07:06 PM

It is with Heavy guilt that I add my comment to this Gulliver's Travels Diplomacy disgrace while children are suffering and dying in misery and pain in so many places during our *enlightened* age.

*Hans Island is ours* announces Canadaís defense minister Bill Graham. The Danes express disappointment and present a letter of protest to the Canadian embassy.

What a pathetic and embarrassingly stupid example of primitive behaviour between two supposedly mature and moderate nations. Hope China does not get *rigid* re: Taiwan.

Is this nearsighted rigidity the example we want to set for China to settle differences with Japan and Taiwan?

Hans Island is closer to Greenland than it is to Canada.
Why does it seem like sharing this little three kilometer piece of rock is the obvious solution?

We couldnít ask for a better partner in the Danes.
Hans Island is the ideal spot for a joint submarine and hydro monitoring station.
Is a joint venture with the Danes So impossible? Heaven help us if it is.

A lady professor of international affairs was droning on and on about how we must assert our sovereignty over Hans Island on CBC Radio yesterday. She sounded very much like a child earnestly grasping at a toy.

I realize that with global warming, Hans Island can become very important, but I still say freezing out the Danes is wrong. Joint ownership would be far more an advantage to Canada than otherwise.

Itís a disgrace that this ever became a public tiff in the first place. What ever happened to effective diplomacy anyway?
Must we always behave like knuckle-draggers?

Are we becoming more stupid as time goes by? Solidarity is important in the face off with Al-Qaida. The shame. ÖÖ. 73s TG at BendGovt.blog.ca

Posted by: TonyGuitar [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 28, 2005 08:00 PM

Hola TonyGuitar,

How does this strike you for a theory:

As someone already noted, Denmark had to watch as Norway discovered oil near their borders shortly after they were set. The Danes are understandably very reluctant to give up a claim over Hans Island to another nation (I'm not going to comment on the validity of either Canada's or Denmark's claim except to say that both in isolation are convincing). Both Canada and Denmark agreed to disagree and the subject fell to the back burner until.... well, every now and then. Recent events have led Norway to declare that they are willing to negotiate a "shared" sovereignty (at least I assume they are - people usually don't offer to negotiate and then demand everything).

So what's my theory? It has to do with what I think will be Canada's reluctance to negotiate with Denmark. You see, time is on Canada's side. Even if the Danes setup a permanent station on the island, Canada could still wait them out. It is Denmark's best interest to negotiate a claim in the near future, but not Canada's.

The reason for this is Greenland. FDI and local initiatives in Hydrocarbon and mineral exploitation are booming. If global warming leads to the opening of the arctic waters then it is very conceivable that Greenland will be able to stand on the strength of its own economy and lose its protectorate status. Greenland is almost certain to become a complete, independent nation in the future. The "almost" part is just if they want it.

Which takes us back to Denmark. If Denmark negotiates a treaty with Canada, the wording that spells out the "sharing" is most assuredly going to include references to Denmark, not just Greenland. If/when Greenland took/takes independence, Hans Island (and whatever's underneath it) would probably be split 3 ways, not 2, due to the treaty. If Canada plays its cards right it will either wait for something to be discovered in the region that necessitates an official agreement, or it will wait until Greenland is the only other party at the negotiating table. My theory - Denmark is simply trying to solidify a share for itself, in preparation for when it can no longer lay claim through its Greenland proxy.

Posted by: dswrdr [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 29, 2005 01:38 PM

Leave our Island alone. It belongs to Canada and if you danes try and take it, we will send our row boat up there and oh yeah we have arrows to. And rocks eh! Bob and Doug wouldnt approve of anyone messing with our Great White North. Just be happy with the land you have called Denmark, all 4 square miles of it. HAHAHA GO CanucKs! Largest most beautiful country in the world! CANADA

Posted by: Iacobucci [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 29, 2005 06:21 PM

I'm an American. I must say I'm split in two.

Canada and Denmark both need it, for almost the same reasons. I think Greenland is the roadblock of this issue- the fact that it has the ability to become an independent nation, therefore, if Denmark and Canada divide Hans Island in two and Greenland becomes independent, Denmark loses Greenland AND Hans Island. If Canada or Denmark takes Hans Island as a whole, there'd always be some tension between the two countries.

The whole resources thing is also a big deal. I can see why. But who needs it more? Canadians might say 'Canada needs it!', Danes might say 'Denmark needs it more!', but I say 'Both need it equally!'

Perhaps the two can work out a deal, where GREENLAND owns it, but allows both Canadian and Danish miners to mine it's resources. It's kind of like Svalbard in Norway. If I'm not mistaken, Norway owns the islands, but they allow Russians to mine and settle. It works for the Norwegians and Russians, why can't it work for the Canadians and Danes?

Posted by: Lindsay [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 30, 2005 08:27 PM

Perhaps it is time for europe to allow the remainder of its colonies to go free from the imperialism of the past five centuries. Welcome to the new millenium, Denmark.

Posted by: D_Crockett [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 1, 2005 03:52 PM

sorry you got it wrong

This is about media and politics, the Danish people and government do not give a ratís ass about Hans Island.

Its local Greenland politicians (they have their government), that went to the press and pissed and moaned about the Danish government (which handles Greenlandís foreign affairs, territory..) not caring about protecting Greenlandís interests. It looked bad for the prime minister and his supporting party was twisting his arm in the media to help them out.

Itís because there is a lot discussion here about giving Greenland 100% sovereignty (and if they found oil, they would be able to actually pay for it without going bankrupt. The message has allways been if they wanted 100% independence they can have it as long as they pay the show themselves!)

So let the UN/Haag decide about hans island, or spilt it in half!

Posted by: zerozero23 [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 3, 2005 03:58 PM

Greenland independent? FAR FAR AWAY.
Atleast 20% of the population is danish or 2. generation from denmark.
The population is only 60.000. We put in A LOT ot money. Without us they would not survive. The things is that they are really just a hole in the pocket. Nice people and all but expensive for us.
It is all about Greenland. Since they are not allowed to have their own foreign policy we are negotiating on behalf of them.
The dansih people do not really care about that piece of rock, but it is our duty to represent greenland.
If Canada would claim the faroe island I am sure that all danes would hand it over. We would even pay you.

Posted by: Dahlbom [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 10, 2005 08:33 AM

Be careful you don't want to many people on the island... it might sink.

Posted by: AJ [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 17, 2005 03:10 AM

At least this island will disappear. In fact, erosion and global warm may cover it. But the dispute for sovereignty will continue?

Posted by: Alden Maurice [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 27, 2005 06:22 PM