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50-Year "Whisky War" Ends With First Land Border Between Canada And Europe

After decades of ridiculous conflict, the two nations have decided to share the tiny uninhabited Hans Island.

author

Dr. Alfredo Carpineti

Senior Staff Writer & Space Correspondent

clockJun 17 2022, 08:10 UTC
Hans Island seen from the air. Image Credit: Toubletap via Wikimedia Commons
Hans Island seen from the air. Image Credit: Toubletap via Wikimedia Commons

The friendliest (or most passive-aggressive) war never fought has come to an end. After 50 years of claims of sovereignty over Hans Island, which is located in the Arctic Circle and measures just 1.3 square kilometers (0.5 square miles), Denmark and Canada have decided to split it, creating effectively the first-ever Canada-Europe land border.

Let’s rewind the clock to 1972. Canadian and Danish scientists were tasked with determining the geographic coordinates of the tiny island and where it fell with respect to the totally arbitrary maritime boundaries. The following year both countries claimed that the island was on their side.

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For several years, the dispute was not on anybody’s mind until a Canadian oil company did some research on and around the island. This happened while an agreement was being explored by the two nations about the marine regions of the Nares Strait where Hans Island was located. The agreement was signed in 1983 and the news of the Dome Petroleum exploration reached Denmark in 1984.

The then Minister for Greenland, Tom Høyem, is said to have flown by helicopter to Hans Island, planting a flag, leaving a bottle of liquor (possibly Schnapps), and providing the following message: Velkommen til den danske ø Welcome to the Danish Island. The Canadians then did the same, removing the flag, and leaving a bottle of Canadian whisky, from which the good-natured war takes its name. This back and forth went on for years.

The war got the attention of the press again in 2004 and since then, the two nations set out to find a solution. After many years, they decided to go with the most obvious one: split the uninhabited island in two. 

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This has now created one of the smallest borders in history and the first land border between Canada and Europe. Both Canada and Denmark have instantly doubled the number of nations they are bordering with. Before, they both had a single neighbor, the United States and Germany, respectively.

Several people have wondered if sharing a land border with Europe will now allow Canada to enter the Eurovision Song Contest, but as the below tweet demonstrates a border with or actually being part of  Europe, is not a necessary requirement.


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