The Whiskey War between Denmark and Canada is over, after 49 years. And now the two countries share a land border.
Anyone looking at a map would assume that Canada and Denmark have little to do with one another, being on either sides of the Atlantic. But look at a globe instead, and the two share a long sea border between the shores of Ellesmere Island (Canadian) and Greenland (Danish). There’s just one little gap in the border. Hans Island.
Hans Island, also known as Tartupaluk by the Inuit and the Greenlandic, isn’t much to see. Utterly barren, a pancake of layered rock less than half a mile square, with no harbor, beach, or plant. It lays 10.8 miles from Greenland, and 12 miles from Canada. Neither side was willing to cede it to the other, but neither was it important enough to hold up the border negotiations. So the document detailing the border merely has a gap in it across the island. The two governments intended to work it out later, but it really just wasn’t worth the work.
Then people got involved.
In 1985, the Danish minster of Greenland affairs took a helicopter to the island, planted a Danish flag and a bottle of whiskey on Hans’s highest point, and the Whiskey War was born. Every few years since then, Danish and Canadian officials have visited the island, switching out the flags and always leaving a friendly libation for their opponent.
The so-called war has always been friendly. But with unrest threatening Europe in ways it hasn’t since the 1940s, the two countries decided to settle their fun little squabble at last. Tuesday June 14, Canada and Denmark decided to divide Hans Island right down the middle, with Canada adding to the Northwest half to the province of Nunavut and Denmark making the Southwest half part of Greenland. As soon as the paperwork is complete, the two countries will, at last, share a peaceful land border.
Two-thirds of a mile long.