The following image is circulating on LinkedIn:

Photograph of an island, credited with 'via 9gag.com', and text (quoted below)

There is an island which is disputed territory between Canada and Denmark. The militaries of both countries periodically visit to remove the other guy's flag and leave a bottle of Danish schnapps or Canadian whiskey.
This is what happens when nice countries fight.

So are the following statements true?

  1. There is a disputed island between Denmark and Canada.
  2. Militaries of both countries periodically visit the island to remove flags.
  3. The militaries exchange gifts after removing the opposing party's flag.
  • 21
    I've always thought this was one of the more charming pieces of internet lore. I am glad to find out that it is mainly based on facts.
    – JasonR
    Jul 12, 2016 at 15:39
  • 1
    If you want bizarre resolutions of such disputes, see the border of the tiny island of Märket between Sweden and Finland
    – Henry
    Jul 12, 2016 at 20:07
  • 2
    Both countries are part of NATO and fought in Afghanistan and Iraq. So the last sentence is a mischaracterisation.
    – user29292
    Jul 13, 2016 at 1:02
  • 6
    The picture's claim is wrong because Whisky is spelled Whisky in Canada, not Whiskey. :-) Jul 13, 2016 at 5:50
  • 7
    @Zaibis Most countries have some ugly things in their past. That usually doesn't hinder them from becoming 'nice' countries later on.
    – Mast
    Jul 13, 2016 at 10:39

1 Answer 1


Yes, yes, and maybe. The island in question is Hans Island and is disputed territory between Canada and Denmark due to some historical quirks,

According to World Atlas, Hans Island is located in the middle of the 22-mile wide Nares Strait, which separates Greenland, an autonomous territory of Denmark, from Canada. Due to international law, all countries have the right to claim territory within 12 miles of their shore.

As such, Hans Island is technically located in both Danish and Canadian waters. World Atlas notes that the island was decided to be Danish territory by the Permanent Court of International Justice of the League of Nations in 1933.

However, as the League of Nations fell apart in the 1930s and was then replaced by the United Nations, the ruling on the status of Hans Island carries little to no weight.

It is true that the militaries of the respective claimants visit the island and both leave their national flag and schnapps or whiskey it is unclear if these are meant as gifts or as territorial markers.

In 1984, Canadian troops made a fateful voyage to Hans Island. In addition to planting Canada's flag in the rock, they also left behind a bottle of Canadian whisky. Just one week later, a Danish official visited the island, replacing Canada's flag with Denmark's and replacing the whisky with a bottle of Danish brandy. He also upped the ante a bit, leaving a note that wryly welcomed visitors to Denmark.

"[W]hen Danish military go there, they leave a bottle of schnapps," Danish diplomat Peter Taksøe-Jensen tells WorldAtlas. "And when Canadian military forces come there, they leave a bottle of Canadian Club and a sign saying 'Welcome to Canada.'"

  • 31
    "As such, Hans Island is technically located in both Danish and Canadian waters." That isn't the way it works at all, which rather devalues that source. If it's Danish then Hans Island is part of the reference for measuring the extent of Danish waters; and if it's Canadian then it's part of the reference for measuring the extent of Canadian waters. Since the separation between the coastlines of the two nations is less than 24 nautical miles, the default border would be drawn at the midpoint between the coastlines. Jul 12, 2016 at 16:06
  • 17
    @PeterTaylor I think the point being made is that while the island was undiscovered the (supposed) maritime boundary ran through it, providing a basis for both countries to claim the land. I'm also not sure that it becomes "part of the reference" - nearby Franklin Island on the Greenland side doesn't seem to affect things.
    – Random832
    Jul 12, 2016 at 16:15
  • 6
    Note that the "gifts" part is not actually part of the claim in the image. The image doesn't say anything about the intent behind leaving the beverages. Jul 12, 2016 at 16:22
  • 30
    @JonathanReez Personally, I just read that part to mean that they engage in light-hearted pranks rather than, say, building an airbase on it, trying to ram boats from the other country who get near it, shooting at people from the other country when they get near it, etc. I suppose it could mean either, though.
    – reirab
    Jul 12, 2016 at 18:33
  • 29
    I just needed to add that this isn't a joke. As a Canadian I can tell you that the Canadian military is meaning to appear extraordinarily hostile, because they are not leaving letters apologizing for the claim at the site. I'm on the edge of my seat, who knows where this is headed!?
    – user34380
    Jul 13, 2016 at 6:00

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .