July 26, 2005
It's mine! No, mine!
The recent visit of the Canadian defence minister to barren Arctic Hans Island has stirred up an old Canada/Denmark border dispute.
The border in the Nares Strait was drawn up in 1973 between Ellesmere Island, which is Canadian, and Greenland, which is a semi-autonomous Danish territory. Bleak little Hans Island kind of slipped into the gap between the ice.
Danish minister Tom Høyem may well have started the current trouble brewing when he visited the island in 1984 and raised the Dannebrog, at the same time planting a slightly tongue-in-cheek "welcome to Denmark" note and a bottle of brandy at the base of the flagpole. The Danes (without Høyem) have made return visits in 2002 and 2003 for flag maintenance purposes (and maybe to take a slug of brandy).
It also seems that Canadian troops have been popping by the island in recent months and, rumour has it, leaving whiskey at their own flagpole.
The issue is interesting in that it a) raises military issues over Canada's ability to defend its Northernmost borders ; b) raises legal issues over ownership of valuable fishing grounds for turbot and shrimp in that part of the Arctic ; and c) could determine who controls passage through the strategically important Nares Strait.
A surprising amount has been written by concerned Canadians about Danish activity around Hans Island over the last few years.
One thing's for sure : with all the bottles of booze lying around under flagpoles, whoever does finally get control of the island can celebrate with a mighty piss-up.
Denmark is also engaged in other more important border disputes concerning small islands in the middle of nowhere.
Posted by daen at July 26, 2005 01:52 AM