Hans Island

Hans Island

Infobox Islands
name = Hans Island
"Hans Ø"
"Île Hans"

image caption = Map of part of Kennedy Channel, with the disputed Island.
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native name = "Tartupaluk"
native name link = Inuktitut
nickname =
location = In the Kennedy Channel, between Greenland and Ellesmere Island
coordinates = coord|80|49|41|N|66|27|35|W|display=inline,title
archipelago =
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area = convert|1.3|km2|sqmi|abbr=on
highest mount =
elevation =
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country admin divisions title 1 =
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country admin divisions title 2 =
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country capital city =
country largest city =
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population = Uninhabited
population as of =
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Hans Island (Greenlandic/Inuktitut: "Tartupaluk"; Danish: "Hans Ø"; French: "Île Hans") is a small, uninhabited barren knoll measuring 1.3 km² (0.5 sq mi), located at approximately coord|80|49|41|N|66|27|35|W| in the centre of the Kennedy Channel of Nares Strait—the strait that separates Ellesmere Island from northern Greenland and connects Baffin Bay with the Lincoln Sea. Hans Island is the smallest of three islands located in Kennedy Channel; the others are Franklin Island and Crozier Island.

The island is claimed by both Canada and Denmark.


The island is named after Hans Hendrik (sometimes called Heindrich), whose native name is "Suersaq". Hendrik was a Greenlandic Arctic traveller and translator who worked on the American and British Arctic expeditions of Elisha Kent Kane, Charles Francis Hall, Isaac Israel Hayes and George Strong Nares, from 1853 to 1876.

The island was probably named somewhere between 1871 and 1873 during Charles Francis Hall's third North Pole expedition. The first written reference to the name, and indeed to the island at all, appears in Charles Henry Davis's book "Narrative of the North Polar expedition" (1876), which is a narrative of Hall's third North Pole expedition. On page 407 it suddenly appears, without any previous introduction, under the date 13 August 1872. A map accompanying the book is where the island made its first cartographic appearance. Charles Henry Davis writes,

This writing is about the ship "Polaris"'s return voyage south down the Kennedy channel. It does not give any answer to when it was named; however, the ship doctor and leader of the scientific part of the expedition, Emil Bessels, wrote his own book, "Die amerikanische Nordpol-Expedition" (1879 in German). He mentions on page 124 that on August 29 1871, on the voyage up north through Kennedy Channel, the ship sailed between Grinnell-land (Ellesmere Island) and an unknown little island which they would later name Hans Island, after Hans Hendrik, the native Greenlandic helper.

Previous Hans Island

A previous mention of a Hans Island is found in "Arctic Explorations: The Second Grinnell Expedition, 1853,’54,’55, by Elisha Kent Kane" (1857), pages 317–319, making the year 1853 often cited as the date of the discovery and naming of Hans Island, including in the letter by the Danish Ambassador to Canada, published in the "Ottawa Citizen", 28 July 2005. Actually reading the relevant passage from the book makes it very clear that this is not the same Hans Island, as Kane is still in Smith Sound.

Littleton Island (Greenlandic: "Pikiuleq") is approximately convert|1|km|mi|1|abbr=on from Greenland’s coast right in Smith Sound. It is about convert|300|km|mi|-1|abbr=on south of the island today called Hans Island. Around it and the coast of Greenland lay dozens of tiny Islands, and Kane names one of them Hans Island after Hans Hendrik, the native Greenlandic helper he had with him on the trip. That this is the current Littleton Island is testified by Kane mentioning Edward Augustus Inglefield, who indeed named Littleton Island.

Region names

The names of many places in this region have changed or been altered during the last 100 years. For example, the name of Nares Strait (named after George Strong Nares), separating Ellesmere Island and Northern Greenland, was not agreed upon between the Danish and Canadian governments until 1964.

History and disputed sovereignty

Early history

Inuit living in Northern Greenland or Canada had likely crossed this area for centuries. Up to the early 19th century, the northern area of Greenland and Canada remained completely unexplored by Europeans.

From 1850 to 1880, the area in which Hans Island is situated was explored by American and British expeditions. These expeditions were a response partly due to the popular search for the missing British explorer John Franklin, and partly to search for the elusive Northwest Passage and/or reach the North Pole.

The Danish "Celebration Expedition" of 1920 to 1923 accurately mapped the whole region of the Northern Greenland coast from Cape York ("Kap York") to Denmark Sound ("Danmark fjord").

In 1933, the Permanent Court of International Justice declared the legal status of Greenland in favour of Denmark. Denmark claims that geological evidence points to Hans Island being part of Greenland, and therefore that it belongs to Denmark by extension of the Court's ruling.

Since the 1960s, numerous surveys have been undertaken in the Nares Strait region, including seismic, ice flow, mapping, archeological and economic surveys. Canadian-based Dome Petroleum Ltd. made surveys on and around Hans Island from 1980 to 1983, to investigate the movement of ice masses.

1972–73 border treaty

In 1972, a team consisting of personnel from the Canadian Hydrographic Service and Danish personnel working in the Nares Strait determined the geographic coordinates for Hans Island. During negotiations between Canada and Denmark on Northern maritime boundaries in 1973, Canada claimed that Hans Island was part of its territory. No agreement was reached between the two governments on the issue.

The border is established in the delimitation treaty about the continental shelf between Greenland and Canada, ratified by the United Nations on December 17, 1973, and in force since March 13, 1974. At that time, it was the longest shelf boundary treaty ever negotiated and may have been the first ever continental shelf boundary developed by a computer program.

The treaty lists 127 points (latitude and longitude) from Davis Strait to the end of Robeson Channel, where Nares Strait runs into Lincoln Sea, to draw geodesic lines between, to form the border. The treaty does not, however, draw a line from point 122 (80° 49' 2 - 66° 29' 0) to point 123 (80° 49' 8 - 66° 26' 3), a distance of 875 metres (0.54 mi). Hans Island is situated in the centre of this area.

1980s joint administration

In 1984 Kenn Harper, a historian from Iqaluit, Nunavut, wrote an article about Hans Island which was published in the local newspaper "Hainang", ["Hainang newspaper", Qaanaaq - according to "Newspapers on microfilm", 24th edition, 2004, Statsbiblioteket, Denmark – existed 1964-1982, so it might have been named different in 1984, or it might be a different newspaper altogether.] in Qaanaaq (Thule) in northwestern Greenland. This article was picked up by a Danish newspaper in Copenhagen, and by CBC Radio in Canada, which gave Hans Island its first fleeting publicity.Fact|date=February 2007

This article was sparked because of a chance encounter on the ice near Resolute, Nunavut, in the Canadian Arctic in the autumn of 1983. According to Kenn Harper he met a man wearing a hat with bold letters around the side of the hat saying "HANS ISLAND, N.W.T.". This man was a scientist with Dome Petroleum who had just spent the summer on the island doing ice research. Dome Petroleum did research on and around the island from 1980 to 1983.

Oil companies build artificial islands in the sea on which to position their drilling rigs. Hans Island was apparently the perfect setting to test such artificial islands' strength to withstand the force of being hit by large floes of multi-year ice.Fact|date=February 2007

Simultaneously, the Danish and Canadian governments were in the process of signing a cooperation agreement in relation to the marine environment in Nares Strait. The agreement was signed and put into force on August 26, 1983. (The treaty was extended even further in 1991.)

One of the items also discussed was the possibility of establishing a reciprocal arrangement for processing applications to conduct research on and around Hans Island. This was never signed; however, Canadian John Munro, at that time Minister for Northern Affairs and Development, and Danish Tom Høyem, at that time Minister for Greenland, agreed, in common interest, to avoid acts that might prejudice future negotiations.

However, unknown to the politicians, Dome Petroleum was already doing research on the island. According to Kenn Harper, the Canadian Department of External Affairs conducting these negotiations with the Danes might not even have been aware that Dome Petroleum was already doing research on the island. Kenn Harper claims that in 1984 a senior official of Energy Mines and Resources, Canada, wrote him, saying, "To my knowledge the Department of Energy, Mines & Resources did not confer with the Department of External Affairs over the use of the island by Dome Petroleum."

When Kenn Harper’s article of 1984, mentioning Dome Petroleum and Hans Island, found its way to the Danish newspapers, it is not difficult to see why Tom Høyem in 1984 chartered a helicopter from Greenland and went to Hans Island. It might indeed have been something so simple as a misunderstanding and breach in communications.Fact|date=February 2007

In 1984, the Danish Minister for Greenland planted the Danish flag on the Island and left a little message saying "Velkommen til den danske ø" (English: Welcome to the Danish Island). [ [http://www.cbc.ca/story/world/national/2005/09/19/hans-island-20050919.html Canada, Denmark agree to resolve dispute over Arctic island, CBC News 19 September 2005] It is also said he left a bottle of cognac. [ [http://www.cbc.ca/story/world/national/2005/09/19/hans-island-20050919.html Canada, Denmark agree to resolve dispute over Arctic island, CBC News 19 September 2005]

2004 to present

The dispute suddenly came to popular attention through Canadian press stories during late March 2004. Within days, it spread to other newspapers worldwide. Shortly after, Internet newsgroups, weblogs and forums began to start new threads and entries on the subject. Satirical headlines like "Canada being invaded" and "Denmark massing troops on Canadian territory" were typical.

The issue came to light on March 25, 2004, when Adrian Humphreys of the Canadian "National Post" newspaper wrote an article entitled "Five-year plan to 'put footprints in the snow' and assert northern sovereignty". Humphreys made a brief mention of the dispute over Hans Island, and that the Danes had sent warships to the island.

While Canada wanted to assert sovereignty of its northern territories for a variety of reasons unrelated to this dispute, Hans Island soon became the focus of the debate, and was presented as the main reason for this new Canadian policy.Fact|date=February 2007

The Arctic sea region has long been a subject of dispute. In this matter, Canada, Denmark, Russia and Norway all share a common interest because they regard parts of the Arctic seas as "national waters". The United States and most European Union countries, on the other hand, officially regard the region as international waters.

Further items in the Canadian media led to the issue being picked up by international news organizations.Fact|date=February 2007

The Canadian federal government's 2004 budget was introduced on March 23, 2004, two days before the issue gained widespread attention. It proposed minimal increases to spending on national defence. The issue of Hans Island was raised in the Canadian Parliament by opposition foreign affairs critic Stockwell Day to highlight the government's failure to provide more funding for the military.

A new article by Adrian Humphreys on March 30, 2004, also in the "National Post", entitled "Danes summon envoy over Arctic fight — the solution of the dispute is not going to be military", drew even more attention to the issue. The article claimed that Brian Herman, Canada’s only diplomat in Denmark (ambassador Alfonso Gagliano having been recently recalled as a result of an unrelated Canadian scandal), was called before the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to comment about his country's intentions in the dispute, which had, according to the article, recently been inflamed by Danish sailors occupying Hans Island.

On March 31, 2004, the Danish and Canadian governments denied that Herman or any other Canadian official was summoned to the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Both governments stated that the dispute was a long-standing issue, and that nothing had changed in the matter.

The last time Danish seamen visited the island had been on August 1, 2003, but this information was not brought to the public's attention during the discussion. Comments posted on internet newsgroups and forums suggested that Danish seamen had just landed on the Island, despite the fact that this had occurred seven months before.

A Canadian military exercise, named "Narwhal 04", inflamed the issue further. Some saw this as a response to the Danish flag planting. However, this exercise had been in the planning stage since September 2003, and it took place around Pangnirtung, Baffin Island, convert|2000|km|mi|-1|abbr=on south of Hans Island. The Canadian military denied that the exercise had anything to do with the Danish–Canadian territorial dispute. The exercise took place from August 9 to August 30, 2004, involving about 160 soldiers from the army, various aircraft, helicopters and one frigate, warship|HMCS|Montréal|FFH 336. About 600 Canadian Forces personnel were involved in total.

A new development came to light after Canadian Defence Minister Bill Graham visited the island on July 20, 2005. Peter Taksø-Jensen, the head of the International Law department at Denmark's foreign ministry, said the following in an interview with Reuters on July 25 in response to the event:

This is the first time a Danish government official has claimed that the island is solely Danish territory and is not in dispute. The Danish government has also said that it plans to return to Hans Island in the near future to re-erect its flag.

On August 18, 2005, Canadian frigate warship|HMCS|Fredericton|FFH 337 left Halifax for an Arctic cruise. [ [http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/1124378985606_119788185/?hub=TopStories CTV.ca | HMCS Fredericton leaves Halifax for Arctic patrol ] ] Canadian officials said the month-long patrol was unrelated to the Hans Island dispute. The "Kingston" class patrol vessels HMCS "Glace Bay" and HMCS "Shawinigan" are also scheduled to patrol the Arctic this year. [http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/1124451989435_49/?hub=Canada CTV.ca | Canada has claim to Hans Island: Pettigrew ] ]

In July 2007, owing to updated satellite imagery, Canadian authorities admitted that the island is not solely in Canadian territory, but recognized that the international border lies roughly in the middle of the island. [http://www.cbc.ca/technology/story/2007/07/26/hans-technology.html Satellite imagery moves Hans Island boundary: report ] ]

Google fight

"Google fight" or "Google war" is the name given to a number of advertisements on the internet search engine Google which promoted either Danish or Canadian sovereignty over Hans Island.

According to an article in the "Ottawa Citizen" on July 27, 2005, Toronto resident Rick Broadhead saw an ad on Google stating "Hans Island is Greenland. Greenland natives have used the island for centuries" and which linked to a Danish foreign affairs webpage that stated that Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs had sent a note to Canada's ambassador to Denmark on July 25, 2005 expressing Denmark's regret that "the Canadian Minister of National Defence had paid a visit to Hans Island without prior notification of the Danish Government." [http://www.um.dk/en/servicemenu/News/FrontPageNews/HansIslandDanishNoteToCanadianAmbassador.htm] Poul Erik Dam Kristensen, Denmark's ambassador to Canada, told the press that the paid advertisement was not a Danish government initiative and whoever placed it was acting alone.

According to the article, this prompted Broadhead to put up his own ad on Google which linked to his own site, [ [http://www.rickbroadhead.com/hans.htm Hans Island Belongs to Canada ] ] which promoted the Canadian claim to the island, on July 26.

Neither ad has been reported to have been seen on Google since July 29, 2005. A snapshot of Broadhead's advertising campaign is still visible on an Indian newspaper site [ [http://www.dlamedia.com/epapermain.aspx Dla Media Digital Edition ] ]


* 1980-1983 - Canadian firm Dome Petroleum did research on and around the island.
* 1984 - Tom Høyem, Danish Minister for Greenland, chartered a helicopter to the Island.
* 1988 - The Danish Arctic Ocean patrol cutter warship|HDMS|Tulugaq|Y388 arrived at the island, built a cairn and placed a flagpole and Danish flag on the island.
* 1995 - The Danish liaison officer and crew working at Thule Air Base flew in and placed another flagpole and flag.
* Late August 1997 - The Danish Arctic/Ocean patrol cutter warship|HDMS|Agpa|Y387 tried to reach the island, but was forced to turn around convert|241|km|mi|0|abbr=on from the Island, owing to extreme ice.
* 2001 - Keith Dewing and Chris Harrison, geologists with the Geological Survey of Canada who were mapping northern Ellesmere Island, flew by helicopter to the island.
* August 13, 2002 - The Danish inspection ship warship|HDMS|Vædderen|F359 arrived and erected a new cairn, flagpole and flag, finding the 1988 flag missing and the 1995 flag in pieces, likely owing to weather.
* August 1, 2003 - The crew of the Danish frigate warship|HDMS|Triton|F358 landed on the island and replaced the Danish flag again.
* July 13 2005 - Canadian soldiers land on the Island, placing a traditional Inuit stone marker (Inukshuk) with a plaque and a Canadian flag.
* July 20, 2005 - As a symbolic move, Canadian Defence Minister Bill Graham set foot on the island. [ [http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20050723.hans23/BNStory/National/ globeandmail.com: National ] ]
* July 25, 2005 - A Danish government official announced that Denmark would issue a letter of protest to Canada.
* July 26, 2005 - Deputy premier of Greenland, Josef Motzfeldt, stated that the island had been occupied by Canada, stating that experts should determine which country the island belongs to. [http://ekstrabladet.dk/VisArtikel.iasp?PageID=303659] [http://www.sikunews.com/art.html?artid=348&catid=6]
* July 28, 2005 - The Danish Ambassador to Canada published an article in the "Ottawa Citizen" newspaper regarding the Danish view on the Hans Island issue. [ [http://www.ambottawa.um.dk/en/menu/PressAndCulture/News/ArticleabouttheHansIslandissue.htm Article about the Hans Island issue - Embassy of Denmark Canada ] ]
* August 4, 2005 - The Danish Arctic/Ocean patrol cutter warship|HDMS|Tulugaq|Y388 was sent from Naval Station Grønnedal to Hans Island to assert Danish sovereignty. The cutter was expected to arrive in three weeks' time. [http://www.dr.dk/nyheder/indland/article.jhtml?articleID=267507]
* August 8, 2005 - Danish newspapers reported that Canada wished to open negotiations regarding the future of Hans Island. The news was welcomed by Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen who stated that "It is time to stop the flag war. It has no place in a modern, international world. Countries like Denmark and Canada must be able to find a peaceful solution in a case such as this." [http://www.jp.dk/indland/artikel:aid=3191024/]
* August 16, 2005 - According to Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Møller, Denmark and Canada agreed to reopen negotiations regarding the future of Hans Island. Denmark would immediately begin geological surveys in the area, and Per Stig Møller would meet his Canadian counterpart Pierre Pettigrew in New York in the middle of September. Should they fail to reach an agreement, both governments have agreed to submit the dispute to the International Court of Justice in the Hague. The government of Greenland agreed to this course of action. Regarding the Danish patrol cutter warship|HDMS|Tulugaq|Y388 then en route to Hans Island, the minister stated "I have instructed the ship to sail there, but they will not go ashore tearing down [the Canadian] flag and replacing it with a new one. It would be a somewhat childish [behaviour] between two NATO allies." [ [http://www.bt.dk/nyheder/artikel:aid=381220/ Ø-farcen er slut ] ]
* August 20, 2005 - Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister, Pierre Pettigrew, stated that Canada's claim to the island had a firm basis in international law and would likely not end up before a world court. "Our sovereignty over the island has a very strong foundation," the minister said in a telephone interview with a Canadian Press journalist.
* September 19, 2005 - According to Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister, Pierre Pettigrew, Canada and Denmark have agreed on a process to resolve the dispute over the island. Pettigrew and his Danish counterpart, Per Stig Møller, met in New York on this day. Pettigrew said the two countries would work together "to put this issue behind us." However Pettigrew reiterated that Canada has sovereignty over the island. [ [http://www.cbc.ca/story/world/national/2005/09/19/hans-island-20050919.html Canada, Denmark agree to resolve dispute over Arctic island ] ]
* August 16, 2006 - A Vancouver geologist has received a prospecting permit for Hans Island from the Canadian government. [ [http://www.cbc.ca/canada/north/story/2006/08/16/hans-island-prospect.html Geologist to prospect on disputed Hans Island in Arctic ] ]
* March 17, 2007 - Scientists from the University of Toronto and the Technical University of Denmark announced plans to install an automated weather station on the island, some time in the summer of 2007. [ [http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20070315.whans0315/BNStory/National/home globeandmail.com: National ] ]
* July, 2007 - Canada update satellite photos and recognize international border as crossing through the middle of Hans Island, not to the east of the island as previously claimed.


The apparent insignificance of the island in relation to the media storm surrounding it has led to the appearance of at least a couple of web sites hoping to make satirical hay of the situation. The so-called Hans Island Liberation Front [ [http://www.hansislandliberationfront.com/ the Hans Island Liberation Front ] ] seeks to free the two lonely inhabitants from either Danish or Canadian domination. Radio Free Hans Island [ [http://www.radiofreehansisland.com Welcome to Radio Free Hans Island! ] ] documents an apocryphal radio station said to be broadcasting from the chilly north.

On July 27, 2006 the Swedish radio show "Morgonpasset" of Sveriges Radio's channel P3 made a series of prank calls to the Danish and Canadian foreign ministries regarding the dispute. [ [http://sr.se/cgi-bin/p3/programsidor/index.asp?ProgramID=2315] Dead link|date=March 2008] The Danish foreign minister was reached by Måns Nilsson, one of the radio show hosts, who announced that Sweden was also making a claim to the island and that a bottle of banana liqueur had been buried on the island and that a statue of famous Swedish TV-personality Lennart Hyland was to be erected over the spot. A call was also made to the Canadian Foreign Ministry, where Nilsson with a fake Danish accent claimed to be "the Danish foreign minister" and a request was made to pass on a message to the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs to cease the conflict and share the island equally with Denmark.

In 2006, a play was staged in the Canadian province of Quebec, centred on the island, entitled [http://www.michelmontreuil.com/textes.html Hans Island Forever] .

ee also

* List of islands of Canada
* List of islands of Denmark


External links

* [http://www.canadiangeographic.ca/hansisland/ Hans Island: A border dispute between Denmark and Canada] - Background, maps, timeline about the Hans Island dispute.
* [http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4797368 NPR's Morning Edition, Friday, Aug. 12, 2005] - Summary of the dispute.
* [http://forsvaret.dk/SOK/Nyt+og+Presse/Nyhedsarkiv/Nyheder/2003/2003-08-08.htm Newsletter No.3 HDMS Triton] - about the 1 August 2003 landing on the island.
* [http://www.sfu.ca/casr/id-arcticviking1.htm CASR] - article on the dispute by the Canadian American Strategic Review.
* [http://www.mun.ca/biology/delta/arcticf/car/www/caarru.htm Caryophyllaceae of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago]
* [http://www.mun.ca/biology/delta/arcticf/_ca/www/badrsu.htm Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago]
* [http://newark.cms.udel.edu/~cats/ Canadian Archipelago Throughflow Study]
* [http://independentsources.com/2005/07/31/hans-island-spat-roundup/ Crisis in the Arctic!]
* [http://www.ghostofaflea.com/archives/001723.html Canadian perspective, March 29, 2004 (updated)]
* [http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20050815.whans0815/BNStory/International/ The Globe and Mail: Denmark won't provoke 'flag war' over Hans Island]
* [http://www.gov.tu.net/ Principality of Tartupaluk] A student claiming the island.


* United Nations: Delimitation Treaties. "Agreement between the Government of the Kingdom of Denmark and the Government of Canada relating to the Delimitation of the Continental Shelf between Greenland and Canada", 17th December 1973,
* U.S. Department of State: Bureau of Intelligence and Research "Limits in the Seas" No. 72 "Continental shelf Boundary: Canada – Greenland", Issued by the Geographer, 4th August 1976.
* "Hans Island rightfully belongs to Greenland, Denmark" - Kenn Harper, Article, Nunatsiaq News, April 9, 2004.
* "Agreement between the Government of Canada and the Kingdom of Denmark for Cooperation relating to the Marine Environment", August 26, 1983.
* "Narrative of the North Polar expedition" : U.S Ship Polaris, Captain Charles Francis Hall commanding, edited under the direction of G.M. Robeson by C.H. Davis. Washington, G.P.O., 1876.

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