By Ben Radstein, Staff Reporter

Have you ever heard of Hans Island? Many people in Denmark and Canada have. This rocky piece of land comprising only half a square mile (1.3 sq. km) near the North Pole is claimed by both nations. In spite of the fact that it is uninhabitable and has no exploitable natural resources, the dispute over whose territory it is has heated up. This dispute started in 1973 when a line was drawn on a map to determine the border between Canada and Greenland (technically part of Denmark, but has home rule) that did not take the tiny island into consideration.

Both nations have been erecting flags on the rock and hurling insults at each other over the internet for several years, but now the Danes are donning Viking garb, and preparing to board swan boats as Canadians prepare to mobilize their Navy.

The most recent provocation came when Canadian Defense Minister, Bill Graham traveled to the barren rock on Friday July 22. Since the Danes view Hans Island as theirs, they were angry that a foreign official did not ask permission to visit, or even announce his intentions beforehand. Danish officials called this visit an occupation. They immediately complained to Canada's Ambassador saying, "We maintain the position that according to the normal principles of international law, that this is Danish territory."  Canada's response was, "We have reiterated to them our own position, which is, given the fact that Hans Island is part of Canadian territory, we don't have to give prior notification, we are drawing the line in the sand."

Is this diminutive rock that Inuit occasionally use to hunt marine mammals really worth fighting for? That is a question that only the Danes and Canadians can answer, but if the answer is yes, there will be blood on the rocks and red ice!

Update 8/23/05: Canada has sent two war ships to the region, the Shawinigan and the Glace Bay. They will reinforce their territorial claims in this portion of the Arctic with a display of power.

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