A tale of Canadian and Danish diplomacy

With the sun high in the sky on the 14th of August 2010, Albatros Travel landed 62 expedition guests on Hans Island (Tartupaluk in Greenlandic). The small island (1,3 km2) finds itself right on the border between Canada's Ellesmere Island and Greenland (part of the Danish Kingdom), high up north in the arctic waters of the Kennedy channel. The limestone island doesn’t look very special, but its history and placement make it quite dramatic.

A regular war of flags has been going on since the early 00’s, with either navy taking down the other's flag and raising their own and proudly claiming the territory as theirs. The island was never clearly marked and therefore the border runs right over the island, not clearly marking it as either Canadian nor Danish (the dispute is more than 50 years in the making). So as not to actually create a diplomatic crisis, the Canadians would stash some whiskey for the Danish navy when planting their flag. The Danish navy would in return plant their own flag and stash some snaps (akvavit). This tug of war with flags and spirits has since become stuff of legends. In a world of heated border disputes, this story would go viral now and then to show how disputes could be handled in a much lighter spirit.

Albatros staff and guests made the long journey from Kangerlussuaq to Hans island, leaving on the 9th of August 2010 and reaching this historic landmark on the 14th of August. Making landfall with the 62 guests that wished for a landing and as you can see in the background of the picture with the ship Ocean Nova anchored at a distance. Stone cairns were built with stories of the expedition and the names of the participants inside. Last but not least, flags were planted, which luckily did not lead to more disputes than usual.

On the 14th of July, media outlets all over the world told the story of the Danish and Canadian governments finally reaching an agreement on the maritime border between arctic Canada and Greenland. The island itself has the border running through it now, so in a fitting manner it is now part of both countries sovereign area. Sadly there might not be the same amount of spirits for the navy sailors that reach these far arctic areas.

Would you be interested in joining us if we set up a new expedition trip to Hans island and the far north?