Hans Island
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The Hans of Time

1300s - The Greenland Inuit likely used Hans Island as a vantage point both for hunting, and to monitor ice floes in the Kennedy Channel.

1850s- 1880s - British and American explorers lead expeditions in the general vicinity of Hans Island. Some were in pursuit of the elusive Northwest Passage, others the North Pole, while others searched for survivors of British explorer John Franklin’s1845 expedition.

1871- American explorer Charles Francis Hall sets sail for North Pole, on the ill-fated Polaris. He hires a Greenlander by the name of Hans Hendrik as his hunter and guide. On their way through the Kennedy Channel, Hall notices a tiny island between Ellesmere Island and the Greenland Coast, unnamed on maps made by earlier American explorer Elisha Kent Kane. Hall names the island “Hans Island” after his guide, and this name appears on a map published in 1874.

1933 - The Permanent Court of International Justice declares Greenland to be part of the Kingdom of Denmark. The status of Hans Island is not addressed in the ruling. Today, Denmark claims that Hans is part of the same geological formation as Greenland, and therefore is Danish soil. Denmark also argues that Hans Island is closer to Greeland than it is to Ellesmere Island, Canadian soil.

1971- Canada claims that Hans Island is part of its territory during negotiations with the Danes over the maritime boundary between Greenland and Canada. A treaty that delimits the Continental Shelf between the two countries is signed, but no boundary is drawn over or around Hans Island.

1980 -1983 - Dome Petroleum, a Canadian-based company, conducts research on Hans Island without the knowledge of the Danes. The Canadian government says they had no knowledge of the company operating in the area.

July 28,1984 - Denmark’s minister of Greenlandic affairs, Tom Høyem, flies by helicopter to Hans Island and plants a Danish flag on the island. The Canadian government protests.

1988 - HDMS Tulugaq, a fishing patrol vessel, transports a crew to Hans Island. They erect a flagpole and a Danish flag on the island.

1995 - A Danish crew stationed at the U.S. Thule Air Base erect another flagpole and flag on Hans.

2000 - Geologists with the Geological Survey of Canada fly to Hans Island as part of their survey of North Ellesmere island.

August 13, 2002 - Danish ship HDMS Vœdderen stops at Hans Island and replaces the tattered 1995 flag.

August 1, 2003 - The crew of Denmark’s HDMS Triton lands on Hans and, again, the Danish flag is replaced.

July 13. 2005 - Canadian soldiers land on Hans, erect a Canadian flag and an Inukshuk (a traditional Inuit stone figure) on the island.

July 20, 2005 - Canadian Defence Minister Bill Graham visits Hans Island during his tour of Canada’s arctic military outposts. Denmark issues a Letter of Protest to Canada.

July 28, 2005 - The Danish ambassador to Canada, Poul E.D. Kristensen, publishes a letter in the Ottawa Citizen stating that Hans Island belongs to the Kingdom of Denmark.

August 4, 2005 - Denmark again sends HDMS Tulugaq to Hans Island to assert Danish sovereignty.

August 8, 2005 - Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen says Canada has agreed to negotiate with Denmark over Hans Island. Foreign ministers from Canada, Denmark and Greenland will meet in New York in September during the UN General Assembly.

August 15, 2005 - The Danish foreign ministry announces that  HDMS Tulugaq will not visit Hans Island this year, in order to cool increasing diplomatic tensions between Canada and Denmark.

September 19, 2005 - At the 60th anniversary summit of the United Nations, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew says an agreement has been made with the Danish officials on a process to end the dispute over Hans Island.