Denmark, Canada end 50-year ‘war’, share the booty — a 1.2 sq km island

What makes the Hans Island 'peace pact' special is that it now gives Canada a land border, albeit a minuscule one, with Denmark; plus, 'no one died'

The uninhabited Arctic island, Hans Island, is only 1.2 sq km in area, but has been at the centre of the ‘Whisky Wars’ which started in 1971. Pic: Twitter

A ‘friendly fight’ over an island between Denmark and Canada that lasted over five decades has finally come to an end. The two nations decided to split the kidney-shaped piece of land into two.

The uninhabited Arctic island, Hans Island, is only 1.2 sq km in area, but has been at the centre of the ‘Whisky Wars’ which started in 1971. The land is about 18 km from each of the two countries, giving both of them enough reasons to claim their rights over the tiny island.

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For years, the two countries have conducted special campaigns to plant alcohol bottles on the lonely island. Now, the two NATO allies have compromised and decided to split Hans Island halfway between Nunavut and Greenland, said media reports.

Canadian and Danish officials signing the peace pact. Pic: Twitter

What makes the deal special is that it now gives Canada a land border, albeit a minuscule one, with Denmark. “No one died or got injured in this war,” was the refrain on Twitter.

How did it all start?

The prank war started in 1973, when the leaders of the two countries met for the first time to settle the dispute in the Nares Strait, a 35 km channel that separates Canada from Greenland. They agreed to divide the strait but could not reach any agreement over Hans Island.

In 1984, Canada made the first move towards starting what people now call the ‘whisky wars’. It landed its troops on the island. The Canadian army personnel put up their national flag on the rocky island and, on the way back, buried a bottle of Canadian whisky.

Denmark retaliated by sending its troops to Hans Island, weeks after the Canadian misadventure. It duly replaced the Canadian flag with the Danish one, and also placed a bottle of Copenhagen’s best schnapps. Also, the Danish troops put up a paper note: “Welcome to Danish Island.”

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This started the “Whisky Wars”, which has continued for about 50 years. People from both countries visit the island frequently, putting up their national flags and planting a bottle of their local brew.

First serious efforts towards resolving the dispute began in 2018, when the two governments set up a joint working group.

The island will be split into two after the parliaments of Denmark and Canada put their stamps of approval on the deal.

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