North

Canadian, Danish researchers to work on disputed Hans Island

Scientists from Canada and Denmark want to build a joint weather station on Hans Island, the isolated rock in the High Arctic that has been at the centre of a long-running territorial dispute between the two countries.

Scientists from Canada and Denmark want to build a joint weather station on Hans Island, the isolated rock in the High Arctic that has been at the centre of a long-running territorial dispute between the two countries.

Kent Moore, a physics professor at the University of Toronto, said he wants to move ahead with setting up a weather station on the 1.3-square-kilometre uninhabited island on the Nares Strait between Ellesmere Island and the northwest coast of Greenland. Both Canada and Denmark have claimed the island as their own.

Moore's group, and scientists with the Technical University of Denmark, have presented a joint proposal to the two governments, and he expects it to be approved.

"This weather station would give a very valuable set of data to understand essentially how the wind patterns help to blow sea ice down through Nares Strait. So I just want to get this done and if it needs to be done jointly, that's fine," Moore told CBC News on Thursday.

"I value my Danish colleagues and they'll be able to contribute to the interpretation of the data, so that's essentially a very positive thing as well. And I'll leave it up to the politicians to decide who actually owns Hans Island."

Would be ready by August

The weather station will be about three metres high and contain scientific instruments, as well as a solar panel and batteries to help it survive the winter.

Moore said they want to evaluate how much fresh water is flowing from rivers into the Arctic Ocean — and into the North Atlantic Ocean — and what the fresh water isdoing tothe salt content in the ocean.

From that, researchers want to see what effect that has on nearby species and on thermohaline circulation, which transports heat northward from the equator.

Canada and Denmark had agreed in 1973 to create a border through Nares Strait, halfway between Greenland and Ellesmere Island. But they were unable to agree which country would have sovereignty over Hans Island. In the end, they decided to work out the question of ownership later.

The territorial dispute over the island had since simmered, but it was rekindled in July 2005, when then-defence minister Bill Graham landed there and erected a Canadian flag. Denmark retaliated a month later by sending a warship to plant a Danish flag on the island, claiming an earlier one had blown off.

Moore said he had originally proposed last year that Canada set up the weather station on its own, but the federal government turned down the idea.

If the proposal is approved by both governments, Moore said he hopes to have the weather station installed in August. Canada will assume most of the costs involved in the project.

now