Canada and Denmark are playing tug-o-war with a wee bit of territory in the Arctic, and they’re doing so in the most goddamn adorable manner: by staking claim with bottles of liquor.
According to the New York Times, the land in question—Hans Island—is really more of a rock situated in the Nares Strait: the 22-mile-long channel that separates Canada and Greenland. Greenland, as you may recall from geography class, is considered an autonomous territory of Denmark. Because Hans Island is located within 12 miles of both shores, international law dictates that Canada and Denmark have equal right to the territory. So, what to do?
In 1973, the two countries sought to establish a border through the Nares Strait, but they were stumped by how to parcel out Hans Island. They finally decided on a action of which I’m particularly fond — figuring it out later. In the meantime, the diplomatic relationship remained tranquil.
But in 1984, Canada decided it was time to take a stand and lay claim to that rock. National troops paid a visit to Hans Island, planted the Canadian flag—no flag, no country, says Eddie Izzard—and also left behind a bottle of Canadian whiskey. Done and done.
Aha, but Denmark was not to be so easily thwarted! Their minister of Greenland affairs took a trip to the island, armed with a Danish flag and a bottle of Danish schnapps. The Canadian flag and whiskey were replaced with these markers of the Danish nation, along with a note that read, “Welcome to the Danish Island.”
Since then, Denmark and Canada have turned this quibble into a game, occasionally visiting Hans Island to remove the other country’s flag and liquor and replace them with their own. In 2005, the countries thought about taking meaningful action to establish boundaries, but they’ve made little progress. (It’s likely each country has other more pressing matters to handle, like say, literally anything else.)
In 2015, it was suggested by two scholars that Canada and Denmark share the island which, honestly, makes the most sense. If nothing else, citizens of both nations will finally be able to drink together on their cozy little Arctic rock.