After nearly fifty years, the Whiskey War is finally over. Canada and Denmark have officially settled the world’s friendliest territorial dispute by agreeing to split Hans Island, a tiny unoccupied rock located between Nunavut and Greenland that the two countries have claimed in a lighthearted dispute since 1973. The new agreement is meant to emphasize friendship between the two countries in a time of heightened global tensions.
The world’s friendliest border dispute is finally resolved
Hans Island, a 1.2 square kilometer mound of Arctic rock, has been at the center of both a border dispute and an amusing international tradition for decades now.
Actual ownership of the island is almost inconsequential as it is uninhabited and has no real value to either country. When the British Empire transferred control of its Arctic territory to Canada in the 19th century Hans Island was forgotten as it didn’t even show up on most maps.
The two nations neglected to settle the status of the rocky outcrop in a 1973 agreement that drew up the aquatic boundary between Canada and Greenland.
Canada struck first in the “war” in 1984, when it landed troops on the disputed island in defiance of Denmark’s claim.
The Canadians planted the maple leaf flag, a bottle of Canadian whiskey, and a sign that read “Welcome to Canada” on Hans Island during their brief campaign before returning home in triumph.
The Danes quickly responded by replacing the Canadian flag with the Danish flag and leaving a bottle of Danish schnapps in place of the whiskey. To cement their victory, the Danes left a note reading “Welcome to the Danish Island.”
Whiskey war ends with a fitting exchange
Since that time, the Canadian and Danish militaries have continued the “war” by stopping by from time to time to leave their respective flag and alcohol and to liberate the latest bottle deposited by their adversaries.
This entirely inconsequential dispute between two NATO allies could have gone on indefinitely, but even an extremely lighthearted feud was too much for some politicians and government officials.
The problem was that neither country has been willing to abandon its claim to the island and concede defeat in the Whiskey War.
Along with their general unwillingness on principle to drop an Arctic claim there is always the possibility that some use could eventually be found for the currently useless rock.
Prompted in part by a renewed desire for international cooperation in the West thanks to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Denmark and Canada have finally agreed that even a joke war ought to be settled.
The island will be split into even halves, meaning that Canada can technically boast that it shares a land border with Europe. The foreign ministers celebrated the deal by exchanging bottles one last time in Ottawa.