Fantasy Friday – Hans Island

This story is hilarious – just the way the author writes about it, really.

Hans Island – perhaps the dispute between Canada and Denmark will endure time…

Noted Arctic historian and published author Kenn Harper walks us through Hans’ past so we may understand its possible future.

By Kenn Harper

The island is barren and steep-sided. No-one lives there. No-one except scientific parties ever have. The question one is inclined to ask is not, “Who owns it?” but rather, “Who would want it?” But this island is different from other interruptions in the surface of the Arctic sea. This is Hans Island, two square kilometers of rock situated at 80° 49′ N and 66° 26′ W, smack-dab in the middle of Kennedy Channel, mid-way between Ellesmere Island and Greenland. It has become the focus of a bizarre border dispute between Canada and Denmark, an issue that has simmered for three decades and finally boiled over in 2005.


Canada showed Hans Island as Canadian territory on a map for the first time only in 1967. Six years later, during negotiations on a Danish-Canadian agreement over division of the continental shelf, Canada voiced its claim to Hans Island but efforts to reach a solution regarding ownership were unsuccessful. Both parties agreed to stop the median line referred to in that agreement at the low-water mark on the south coast of the island and start it again at the low-water mark on the north shore. Because these lines reach the island, the agreement noted that “the island has no territorial sea.”

In 1983, both countries signed an agreement on co-operation in marine environmental matters. They also considered a reciprocal arrangement for processing applications to conduct research on and around Hans Island. Although that agreement was not signed, the respective ministers reaffirmed their common interest in avoiding acts prejudicial to future negotiations. But the unsigned agreement had already been violated.

That year I met a scientist from Dome Petroleum in Resolute, Northwest Territories. Embroidered in bold letters on his knitted Inuit-style hat was the name HANS ISLAND, N.W.T. I asked him about his sartorial claim to an island that I regarded as part of Greenland and was surprised to learn that he had just spent the summer on the island doing ice research.

Dome Petroleum, it turned out, had been doing research on this tiny island for some years. It planned to build offshore artificial islands on which to position drilling rigs in the Beaufort Sea, 1,700 kilometres away. Hans Island was a surrogate for an artificial island. Huge ice floes, some several kilometers in diameter and up to eight metres thick, flow southward each summer through the large funnel that is Kennedy Channel. The first obstacle they meet is Hans Island. With its steep sides, it provided a perfect location in which to determine how strong an artificial island needed to be to withstand the force of multi-year ice coming down from the Arctic Ocean.

Read more on this HUGELY fascinating island at Canadian Geographic

My favorite quote from this article:

The question one is inclined to ask is not, “Who owns it?” but rather, “Who would want it?”

Hey – you know what? Why not.

Why not make this my fantasy for the day. How many people can say they have been to THE Hans Island? Home to one of Canada’s most intense fighting matches.

Fantasy Friday – Finding Santa

Yep, it’s possible to take a vacation in the North Pole. Possible, but only a reality to people with a ton of money just hanging around for a snowy day. Check out the prices on some of these tours!

You COULD pay me to do that….because I can’t afford it. Sounds spectacular though, imagine how few eyes have seen the wonders of the North Pole.


Fantasy Friday – Learning about responsibility in the Arctic

I am still able to tolerate this cold weather that has swept Toronto, and I am nervous that this high spirit I have about snow and cold and warm drinks may go away at any moment, so I better daydream about a cold weather travel adventure while I can!


Along with this cold weather adventure, I have also been supporting the Spirit Bear Youth Coalition‘s recent issues with a proposed pipeline through a very ecologically sensitive area, an area where the spirit bear lives. Oil tankers might soon be using the waters in the area where the bear lives, which consists of areas that are very dangerous and difficult to navigate through. How absolutely ridiculous this idea is to me, and to many others out there. (please help them, it’s easy, or even just learn about the spirit bear, it’s facinating!).

Does Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline know that there is a perfectly fine pipeline infrastructure (Kinder Morgan) ALREADY in place to Vancouver harbour that is much safer to use? Easier all around? I am baffled why this is so hard for Enbridge to figure out.

As a result of my daydreaming this week, I declare my fantasy trip today to be:

1. chilly

2. include a possibility of seeing white bears (polar bears in this dream, not spirit bears just yet…that’s for a special occasion!)

3. be environmentally responsible.

Responsible Travel seems like a great site to use if you have the money to spare, and like guided tours. They claim to provide ‘respectable, environmentally-friendly and safe expeditions in the Arctic’.

Sounds positive and right up my alley in the adventure category.

For their sustainable tour of the Arctic, this is what they invite us to partake in:

Spitsbergen; with its rugged mountains, sweeping tundra and ancient glaciers, is part of the Svalbard archipelago in the High Arctic and lies just 600 miles from the North Pole. This true Arctic wilderness represents a remote and fragile Arctic realm, steeped in history and rich in wildlife.

Spitsbergen is undoubtedly one of the most interesting and exciting of all Arctic destinations, acting as an important hunting and breeding ground for its population of more than 2,000 polar bears. Large numbers of walruses, Svalbard reindeer and Arctic foxes, as well as huge colonies of Arctic seabirds are also found across the island. The combination of long daylight hours and ice-free shores help facilitate the exploration of the unspoilt natural beauty of this area.

Our trips are led by experienced natural history experts and well-equipped zodiacs are used to navigate deep inside dramatic fjords and hike across spectacular tundra, dotted with an array of both plant and animal life.

A voyage on the waters of the Arctic seas is not one you merely take to reach your destination but one to savour in itself; giving you time and space to remove those urban cobwebs and revitalise the mind. From the outset, the seascape is both rich and expansive, where one may marvel as colossal whales raising their tail flukes from the water; follow beautiful skuas wheeling through the skies after smaller birds or watch as iconic polar bears walk along frozen pack ice in search of seals.

We provide you with the opportunity to explore Spitsbergen by sailing on a beautiful one hundred year old schooner. This charismatic light ship accommodates twenty passengers in comfortable surroundings and as the sails unfurl and catch the winds, a touch of exploration and romanticism is added to your Arctic adventure. All of these trips include a programme of lectures by noted naturalists and the leadership of experienced expedition staff.

Our exclusive Around Spitsbergen natural history voyage provides our longest exploration of this polar archipelago and the greatest opportunity to include all that you hope to see on one trip. On this 16 day trip, there is ample opportunity to see the very best of the Arctic wildlife, including beluga whales along the western coast, walruses up north, polar bear breeding grounds on the eastern shores and fin whales and Arctic foxes towards the southern end of the island, as well as the opportunity to visit some truly immense colonies of seabirds.

We are running this voyage 28th July – 12th Aug, when we can expect both to circumnavigate Spitsbergen, yet find sizeable areas of sea ice which provide ideal hunting grounds for polar bears. In this brief window, the Arctic summer brings with it immense numbers of rare and beautiful seabirds, often nesting in colonies exceeding one hundred thousand in number. This is also the season when Arctic foxes have their pups and mother polar bears emerge from their dens with their young cubs for the first time. Sailing around Spitsbergen experiencing the phenomenon of the ‘Midnight Sun’ allows you to watch for wildlife, enjoy landscapes of coastal mountains and glaciers, and truly experience the Arctic realm at your leisure.