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    Territorial Sovereignty in the Arctic

    Encyclopedia Arctica 11: Territorial Sovereignty and History

    Unpaginated      |      Vol_XI-0005                                                                                                                  









            January 1, 1950


    Elmer Plischke, Ph.D.

    Associate Professor of

    Government and Politics

    University of Maryland

    College Park, Maryland

    001      |      Vol_XI-0006                                                                                                                  



            The struggle for sovereign rights in the Arctic has been under

    way for several centuries, and reached its climax in the nineteenth

    century. Today there is little if any territory in the Arctic that

    is legally "unpossessed," inasmuch as the various known islands and

    archipelagoes have been officially claimed and, with one or two ex–

    ceptions, existing pretensions generally are uncontested. In part

    this is due to reluctance on the part of the United States, Denmark,

    and Norway to press competing claims to such territories as Elles–

    mere Island and Axel Heiberg Land and to the north of Canada and to Franz

    Josef Land and Wrangel Island. The most critical jurisdictional

    dispute in recent years was occasioned by Norway's claim to Eastern

    Greenland, which was amicably resolved by arbitration. Except for

    Greenland, Iceland, and Spitsbergen, major Arctic islands are claimed

    by the Soviet Union and the Dominion of Canada.



            In order to understand the legal principles and problems con–

    cerned with the acquisition and exercise of sovereign rights over

    Arctic territory it is essential to understand the principles of inter–

    national law governing sovereign jurisdiction over landed territory

    ( terra firma ) in general. International law is dynamic and changes

    with the times. Individual pretensions therefore must be weighed in

    the light of the contemporary validity of the legal principles on which

    they are founded.

    002      |      Vol_XI-0007                                                                                                                  

            The acquisition of territorial rights involves the following two

    elements: the animus , that is to say, the intention of the state to

    acquire and retain the territory and subject it to its jurisdiction;

    and secondly, the corpus , or the physical act by which that intention

    is manifested in fact. The animus is the mental act of sovereign

    authority, determined by that branch of government which is constitu–

    tionally competent to assume jurisdiction over territory. The corpus ,

    on the other hand, is performed by any agent properly acting in the

    name of the state . (29, p.284).

            Except in cases of conquest of cession, described below, the terri–

    tory to be acquired must at the time of its acquisition be either un–

    inhabited, or, if peopled by native tribes which are not politically

    organized under any government possessing the marks of responsibility

    under international law, it must have remained unappropriated by any

    other state. For a territory to be terra nullius --that is, unpossessed

    by a recognized state, and therefore appropriable--it must not be in–

    habited by a political society accepted as an equal in the Family of

    Nations. Areas which may be considered to constitute terra nullius

    include uninhabited lands, territories inhabited by individuals not

    permanently united for political action, and derelict areas that have

    been abandoned by former possessory states. All of these have been con–

    cerned in resolving issues of Arctic sovereignty.


    Legal Methods of Territorial Acquisition

            In the twentieth century there are five clearly recognized modes

    by which a state may acquire valid title to territory:

    • 1. Conquest or subjugation, which means the incorporation of

      003      |      Vol_XI-0008                                                                                                                  
      foreign territory after its subjection by force, evidenced by some

      overt act, such as a decree of annexation, indicating the intention to

      appropriate the territory, and a demonstrated ability to maintain per–

      manent possession. In the Arctic little territory has been acquired in

      this fashion, except where sovereign control has been wrested from a

      native group by an imperial power.
    • 2. Cession , which consists of the formal transfer by treaty of

      territory from one state to another, whether it be voluntary or forcible.

      It may be achieved by a peace treaty signed under duress, by simple

      cession, or by sale. Thus, the American purchase from Russia of the sub–

      Arctic territory of Alaska was consummated by treaty (1867) and it is

      possible that Denmark may some day sell Greenland to the United States.

      Of a somewhat similar nature, though strictly speaking not a matter of

      cession, territory may be acknowledged as belonging to a state by general

      multilateral convention. In this fashion Norway acquired a clear title

      to Spitsbergen and Bear Island in 1920.
    • 3. Prescription, which is defined as the acquisition of rights

      over territory by virtue of a protracted and uncontested exercise of

      jurisdiction--or adverse holding--engendering the general conviction

      that such possession is entirely in keeping with proper international

      order. It commonly is agreed that long-continued and uninterrupted

      possession purges a title which may originally have been in question.

      Prescription is likely to be of increasing significance in matters of

      polar jurisdiction today, especially for the Canadian and Soviet is–

      lands of the Arctic . (38).
    • 4. Accretion , which is of comparatively minor importance, particu–

      004      |      Vol_XI-0009                                                                                                                  
      larly in the Arctic, since it involves the increase or enlargement of

      landed territory through the alluvial action of rivers or the ocean.

      New promontories or islands created by alluvial deposits accrue auto–

      matically to the littoral state.
    • 5. Effective occupation, by which a state intentionally appropriates

      terra nullius through the practical exercise of jurisdictional authority

      over it, as described more fully below. It is of fundamental importance

      in determining Arctic sovereignty. Discovery , symbolic appropriation ,

      contiguity , and continuity sometimes also are mentioned as according

      valid jurisdiction al titles, and, whereas they enjoyed some validity in

      the past, today they are subject to serious question.

            Broadly speaking, the history of international law governing the

    acquisition of terra nullius may be divided into three periods: (a)

    The era prior to the sixteenth century, when papal grants constituted

    the chief source of territorial pretentions, (b) The sixteenth and

    seventeenth centuries, during which the validity of papal grants was

    attacked, chiefly by those states that were too late to benefit thereby

    or were unable to do so for religious reasons, and when discovery and

    symbolic appropriation were propounded as the basis of jurisdictional

    claims. (c) The period commencing with the beginning of the eighteenth

    century, when the principle of effective occupation was developed by

    international law writers and incorporated into general practice.


    Papal Line of Demarcation

            Papal edicts conveyed title to territory until the end of the

    fifteenth century, when they reached a climax with the expansive grants

    of the 1490's . (7, 41, and 54). Following the discoveries of Columbus and his return

    005      |      Vol_XI-0010                                                                                                                  
    to Spain, in May, 1493, Pope Alexander VI awarded to Ferdinand and

    Isabella exclusive control over discovered and undiscovered islands and

    continental areas to the west of a line drawn 100 leagues west of the

    Azores and the Cape Verde Islands, simultaneously warning other coun–

    tries, under threat of excommunication, from entering the regions ex–

    cept with permission of the monarchs of Spain.

            When Portugal objected that this line was drawn too far to the

    east, Spain agreed to the Treaty of Tordesillas on June 3, 1494, shift–

    ing the line of demarcation 270 leagues farther west to 370 leagues

    west of the Cape Verde Islands, which was confirmed by Pope Julius II

    in 1506, twelve years after its consummation. The papal line of demar–

    cation ostensibly extended from pole to pole, thereby dividing the globe

    into two gigantic sectors.

            Spain and Portugal do not currently claim title to Arctic or

    Antarctic territory on the basis of papal grants. But the practice of

    prescribing geographical areas bounded by astronomical or artificial

    boundaries, within which is claimed all terra nullius , recently has

    been revived and applied to the polar regions by a number of publicists.

    This procedure currently is known as the sector principle, or, if the

    presumption may be made to use a new term, as polar "sectorism."



            Opposition to the papal grants soon developed on a widespread scale,

    led particularly by the English, French, and Dutch — the new maritime and

    commercial states. In part their argument was that if Spain and Portugal

    could disregard papal bulls--as they did when they negotiated the Treaty

    of Tordesillas--other states had even more reason to ignore them. The

    006      |      Vol_XI-0011                                                                                                                  
    states which did not benefit under the papal grants introduced the counter–

    claim of discovery as giving a more substantial title to new territory. It

    seems quite logical that discovery came to be regarded as a more tangible

    jurisdictional right in an era when half a dozen of the more powerful Euro–

    pean states were competing to the point of war for the lands of the New

    World and the East.

            Discovery therefore became the basis of title to terra nullius in the

    sixteenth century . (6, 41, and 42). With the discovery of the immense American continent, the

    nations of Europe were eager to appropriate as much territory as they could,

    and, in order to avoid conflicting settlements and consequent war with one

    another, it was necessary to establish a recognized principle of law by which

    the rights of acquisition should be regulated as between themselves. This

    principle provided that discovery gave jurisdictional title to the government

    under whose authority it was made, was effective against all other European

    governments, and might be consummated by actual possession.

            There are many illustrations evidencing reliance upon discovery as the

    basis of sovereign rights. The British Government relied upon it to justify

    its claims to Virgi [ ?] a, New England, and Canada. France and the Netherlands

    also claimed portions of North American territory on the basis of discovery,

    while Spain and Portugal asserted pretensions to the southern part of North

    America, Central America and the Caribbean, and South America . (44, pp.113 ff.). However, as

    claims conflicted in interior areas, other legal tenets had to be found, lead–

    ing to the development of the principle of effective occupation.

            Since the eighteenth century when state practice and international law

    treatises commenced to recognize effective occupation as the most valid title

    to terra nullius , discovery was relegated to the background. To what extent

    007      |      Vol_XI-0012                                                                                                                  
    discovery currently conveys sovereign rights is not definitively settled in

    international law, but it generally is agreed that it does not in and of it–

    self afford a genuine title. At most, it is inchoate , the discovering state

    merely acquiring the right to occupy effectively the discovered territory,

    provided this is done within a reasonable time, and that in the interim other

    states are conversely barred from occupying such territory . (6, p.67; 29, p. 137; 45, p. 48).


    Symbolic Appropriation

            As a matter of fact, it appears that even in the days of its ascendency

    discovery often was accompanied by an overt act of appropriation in order to

    furnish proof of jurisdiction. At any rate, it is certain that in territorial

    conflicts, states tended to fortify titles to discovered lands by asserting

    that they had "taken possession" of them . (11).

            A real or effective possession was not demanded at the outset; a ficti–

    tious or formal act of appropriation was considered to be sufficient. Claims

    thus were founded upon seemingly trivial and sometimes isolated acts, such as

    reading a proclamation of appropriation, reciting the explorer's letters patent

    or commission, setting up a pillar or erecting a cross, sometimes bearing the

    royal coat of arms or a marker with an inscription attesting to the appropria–

    tion, raising a national standard or marching ashore with flag unfurled,

    celebrating a religious service, performing the truf and twig ceremony (the

    presentation to a representative of the sovereign of a clod of earth and a

    twig to indicate acceptance of jurisdiction), and recording in a signed docu–

    ment the ceremony performed . (20).

            States varied the procedure, but one or another of these ceremonies was

    practiced in most cases. For example, James Poole erected a cross with an

    inscription on Bear Island for Great Britain in 1610, and much the same procedure

    008      |      Vol_XI-0013                                                                                                                  
    was followed by Captain William Baffin in Spitsbergen in 1613. William

    Barents set up a post bearing the Dutch arms in the same archipelago in 1596, Captain John

    Cunningham utilized the turf and twig ceremony on Greenland in 1605,

    appropriating it for Denmark, Russian practice included such acts as the

    levying of tribute in Siberia, the erection of a cross and the building

    of huts by Ataloff on Kamchatka in 1697, the leaving of trinkets and

    coins at Kayes Island by Vitus Bering in 1743, the exaction of tribute

    in Alaska by Bering the same year, and the buriel of copper plates and

    the erection of crosses by Ismaelof and Betsharoff at Kodiak Island in

    1788. Additional illustrations are referred to below.


    Effective Occupation to 1884

            The principle of effective occupation began to assert itself with

    considerable emphasis in the literature of the eighteenth century . (11, 40).

    Concomitantly it was denied that discovery and symbolic appropriation

    continued to prove rights of jurisdiction. It was necessary for a state

    to take the territory into effective and real possession in order to estop

    other states from laying claim to it. Virtually all authors came to require

    an effective act of appropriation to render jurisdictional title complete . (45, pp. 16–17). .

            But states did not universally adopt this principle in actual prac–

    tice until somewhat later, and even then their usage was marked by vacilla–

    tion. By the early nineteenth century, however, they began enforcing the

    principle as a matter of recognized jurisprudence in their mutual relations,

    and it was more and more frequently applied as the century advanced.

            North America. The Nootka Sound controversy of the late eighteenth

    century, involving jurisdictional pretensions over the Pacific coast of

    North America, resulted in one of the first major capitulations to the

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    principle in this hemisphere. As a consequence, imperial Spain, still

    struggling to maintain its monopolistic control over the Pacific, grounded

    on papal bull, finally was obliged to admit other states to the area, pro–

    vided that the principle of effectiveness was strictly observed.

            Subsequently, it also was involved in the dispute of the United States

    and Spain over the boundaries between Louisiana and Texas, in the conflict

    with Russia concerning her wholesale pretensions to the northwest coast of

    North America, and in the Oregon question. In the Louisiana issue both

    Spain and the United States sought desperately to prove the prior establish–

    ment of effective occupation. Rejecting the Russian decree of September,

    1821, laying exclusive claim to the Bering Sea and the Pacific area of

    North America down to 45° 50′ N. latitude, both the United States and

    Great Britain insisted upon effective occupation. Ultimately Russia

    acquiesced, as evidenced by the limitations she accepted by treaty with the

    United States (1824). During the Oregon dispute, the United States and

    Great Britain agreed that discovery was insufficient to convey full title

    to the territory. Both approved the principle of effectiveness, and the

    dispute consequently centered about the priority and degree of occupation


            Latin America . Effective occupation also was resorted to in Latin

    America territorial questions. When the United States requested Peru to

    define the status of the Lobos Islands in 1852, for example, the Peruvian

    Government convincingly argued that its rights rested on substantial and

    unequivocal acts of jurisdiction and possession exercised from time imme–

    morial, which satisfied the United States Government completely. Navassa

    Island, off the southeast coast of Haiti, was explored by an American in

    010      |      Vol_XI-0015                                                                                                                  
    1857, guano was taken, and thereafter, despite Haitian contestation, it

    was claimed to come under United States jurisdiction on the grounds that

    when possession was taken the island was entirely unoccupied and unused

    by the Haitians.

            One of the most protracted territorial disputes in Latin America

    concerns the Falkland Islands. It commenced early in the nineteenth cen–

    tury. Although Great Britain has been in actual possession of the archi–

    pelago for over a century, Argentina still challenges the validity of

    British sovereignty, and both countries base conflicting Antarctic sectoral

    claims on the islands.

            Africa . In the case of Baluma Island, off the mouth of the Rio Grande

    River on the west coast of Africa, Portugal and Britain submitted the ques–

    tion of title to arbitration by the President of the United States. The

    award prepared by Mr. J. C. Bancroft Davis, Assistant Secretary of State,

    in 1870 accorded the island to Great Britain on the grounds of real pos–

    session, settlement, and actual use. In the dispute between Britain and

    Portugal concerning Delagoa Bay in 1875, the president of France, as arbiter,

    supported the Portuguese claim for a variety of reasons, including the ex–

    ercise of possessory rights for three centuries, and the temporary interrup–

    tion of such occupation was held to be insufficient to negate a title in

    existence for so long.

            The Pacific . Preliminary rules of occupation as understood in the

    Roman law were laid down as the criteria for determining jurisdictional

    rights in the dispute between Spain and Portugal over the Molucca Islands

    in the early sixteenth century. Three centuries later, Britain and Germany

    recognized Spain's jurisdiction over such parts of the Sulu archipelago as

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    were effectively occupied, but refused to do so for the remainder.


    Berlin Conference , 1884–1885

            Such was the status of effective occupation when the Berlin

    Conference convened to deal with African territorial affairs, to which

    all of the states of Europe (except Switzerland) and the United States

    were invited. In Article 35 of the General Act of Berlin, signatory

    powers recognized the obligation to assure, in African coastal territories

    occupied by them, the existence of an authority sufficient to cause acquired

    rights to be respected. Excepting the United States, which had no imperialist

    interests in Africa, all signatory states ratified the Act in 1886. Effec–

    tive occupation therefore became binding international law for African ter–


            The principle was renewed in somewhat broader scope for a number of

    states in 1919. Article 10 of the Convention Revising the General Act of

    Berlin, agreed to at St. Germain-en-Laye, provided that the signatory powers

    recognize the legal obligation to maintain authority and police forces suf–

    ficient to ensure protection of persons and property and, if necessary, free–

    dom of trade and transit. This agreement was ratified by Belgium, the British

    Empire, France, Italy, Japan, Portugal, and the United States, reaffirming the

    fundamental principle of effective occupation.


    Effective Occupation Since 1885

            Since the Berlin Conference the principle of effectiveness has

    universally been relied upon. Many illustrations may be cited, such as

    the bitter British Guiana-Venezuela boundary affair which lasted for some

    years and even threatened to precipitate war. The arbitral award in this

    dispute, although not emphasizing the reasons upon which it was based, drew

    012      |      Vol_XI-0017                                                                                                                  
    the compromise boundary line in such a way as to give each party the

    territory in which it was able to prove the more effective control.

    The award of 1911 resolving the Anglo-German conflict over Walfisch

    Bay in southwest Africa was based on the principle of effective oc–

    cupation, asserting that the exercise of police jurisdiction and the

    granting of pardons evidences such occupation.

            Palmas and Clipperton Islands . The United States and the Nether–

    lands contested jurisdiction over Palmas Island, lying between the

    Philippines and the Dutch East Indies. The award of the Hague Tribunal

    (1928) recognized Dutch hegemony founded on the continued occupation

    and exercise of governmental jurisdiction for some time as being of

    greater legal significance than the inherited rights of the United States

    grounded on discovery and contiguity.

            In the Clipperton Island arbitration between Mexico and France,

    King Victor Emmanual of Italy (1931) awarded the island to France by

    virtue of its appropriation and effective occupation, and rejected

    Mexico's argument that the general conviction that the island belonged

    to her constituted effective occupation.

            Eastern Greenland . The dispute between Norway and Denmark over

    Eastern Greenland involved some of the aspects of the problem that arise

    to-be-faced in the Arctic, and it serves as one of the landmarks in decid–

    ing the legal principles governing the acquisition of polar territory . (28, 37).

    The real issue was whether Denmark actually enjoyed complete possession

    of the entire island, including the eastern part between Carlsberg Fiord on the

    south and Bessel Fiord on the north, lying between the sea and the inland

    ice cap.

    013      |      Vol_XI-0018                                                                                                                  

            Denmark asserted jurisdiction on the grounds that she enjoyed pos–

    session for an extended period of time without contestation until Norway

    propounded her claim, and, secondly, that Norway recognized Danish rights

    by treaty. Norway replied that in fact the Danish Government did not ex–

    ercise jurisdiction over the portion of the island annexed and occupied

    by Norway in 1931. The Permanent Court of International Justice held that

    display of authority — the basis of the Danish claim — involves two elements,

    each of which must be shown to exist, namely, the intention to act as

    sovereign, and some actual exercise or display of governmental authority.

    The court took a very liberal view with respect to the latter, holding that

    complete policing or settlement was unnecessary and that merely the establish–

    ment of administration for the area and the enforcement of regulations was

    adequate to validate the title. The court therefore decided in favor of


            Conclusions . As illustrated by state practice particularly since the

    Berlin Act of 1885, international law requires the establishment of

    effective occupation for a genuine acquisition of terra nullius . With very

    few exceptions, state practice adheres to the principle, and a number of

    important arbitral decisions have liberalized its interpretation considerably.

    As a consequence, recent disputes have been less concerned with the determina–

    tion of the legal principle to be applied than with an interpretation of the

    degree of effectiveness required in each particular case.



            The validity of prescriptive title to territory has universally

    been recognized by international publicists and in international practice.

    Prescription on the part of one state presupposes the existence, at least

    014      |      Vol_XI-0019                                                                                                                  
    in theory, of an earlier title held by another. The new title is acquired

    on the ground of a presumed abandonment of the territory by the original


            One of the most uncertain features of the principle is the length of

    time required to render title effective. But this is understandable, be–

    cause it varies with circumstances. No general rule can be laid down, but

    when the Anglo-Venezuelan boundary dispute in Guiana was submitted to arbi–

    tration in 1897, it was agreed that adverse holding for fifty years should

    consummate a good title. The same period was proposed by the Russian Govern–

    ment in the controversy over northwest North America in the 1820's.


    Contiguity and Continuity

            On some occasions the geographic position of territory is alleged to

    create rights of sovereignty . (56) Such geographical relationship is variously

    known as territorial proximity or propinquity, of which there are two types,

    namely, contiguity and continuity. They are differentiated in that contiguity

    refers to territories separated by water whereas continuity is concerned with

    continuous territory not separated by water . (56, p. 520).

            Contiguity . The preponderant number of international law publicists

    reject the principle of contiguity as according sovereign rights, except

    for either the minor islands of archipelagoes in which the main islands are

    effectively occupied or islands located within the confines of territorial

    waters . (29, pp.228–229; 33, p. 244; 35, pp. 77–78). Contiguity is said to create merely an inchoate or presumptive title,

    and then only for comparatively small or moderate areas. State practice also

    recognizes that islands lying within territorial waters are appropriable,

    but the position of governments is more difficult to determine with respect

    to islands located close to the mainland but beyond the marginal belt.

    015      |      Vol_XI-0020                                                                                                                  
    The United States Government has consistently denied the validity of

    contiguity, as it did in the controversies concerning the Lobos Islands,

    Aves and Navassa Islands, and the Falkland Islands, and the same opinion

    was acknowledged in the Palmas Island award.

            Continuity . The principle of continuity — or the hinterland doctrine —

    which has reference to the extension of possessions landward from a

    tract effectively occupied, has had a somewhat different development. In

    the days of the great explorations it was common for charters to grant

    jurisdiction from "sea to sea." When American diplomats were discussing

    the limits of the Louisiana Territory in 1805, they supported the principle

    by arguing that the hinterland embraced interior count r y drained by all

    rivers and their tributaries to their very sources. The principle also was

    of importance in the Oregon controversy, in the scramble for African territory,

    and in the Venezuelan boundary dispute.

            Neither contiguity nor continuity, in and of itself, affords a perfect

    right to adjacent territory. Contiguity is definitely rejected, and, at best,

    continuity may create a presumptive title which, within a reasonable time,

    must be followed by effective occupation. Whereas it was incorporated into a

    number of African territorial treaties, it nevertheless was superseded by

    effective occupation in arguing a case before an arbitral body and in the

    awards of the arbiters. A contemporary version of these principles has made

    its appearance in connection with the polar regions, as described in the fol–

    lowing section.

    016      |      Vol_XI-0021                                                                                                                  



            In recent decades a new legal concept has been developed by a number

    of writers for the solution, in advance, of problems of polar jurisdiction.

    This generally is referred to as the sector principle. It has both geographic

    and juridical implications. Geographically, a sector means a triangular

    slice of polar territory, with its apex at the pole, bounded by two meridians

    of longitude, and usually having a parallel of latitude or a territorial coast–

    line as its base. Arctic sectors converge at the North Pole whereas Antarctic

    sectors meet at the South Pole. However, in some cases a longitudinal line

    must deviate to circumvent foreign territory; both Greenland and Spitsbergen

    necessitate such deviations.

            The sectors differ in the two polar regions for geographic reasons.

    In the Arctic, where there are great sub-polar land masses, the base of the

    sector supposedly is formed by the northern boundary of the subjacent con–

    tinental territory abutting upon the Arctic. In the Antarctic, on the other

    hand, where there are no prominent land masses (the southern coasts of Africa,

    Australia, and South America being neither large nor subjacent to the polar

    area), more or less arbitrary parallels of latitude are selected as the

    northern bases of the sectors, while the sides are extended to the widest expanse

    possible under existing claims of discovery, exploration, and symbolical

    annexation. The bases of Antarctic sectors therefore bear no relationship

    to the width of the possessions of the claimant state outside the Antarctic



    Delineation of Arctic Sectors

            In the past, six Arctic sectors have been demarcated, one assigned

    respectively to each of the following: Norway (based on Spitsbergen and

    017      |      Vol_XI-0022                                                                                                                  
    Jan Mayen Island), Finland, the Soviet Union, the United States (based on

    Alaska), Canada, and Denmark (based on Greenland and Iceland). Since the

    poleward extension of the prewar Finnish longitudinal boundaries was in–

    terrupted by the Spitsbergen Archipelago, some sectorists eliminated Finland

    from the list. Today, in any case, she would be excluded by virtue of her

    cession of the Arctic coastal Petsamo District to the Soviet Union in the

    Peace Treaty of 1947. Since the establishment of the complete independence

    of Iceland, it appears might be urged that a logical representation of polar sectorism in

    the Arctic would require a separate sector for her, so that six Arctic

    sectoral states would remain.

            As a juridical theory, the sector principle originally was propounded

    on February 20, 1907, by Canadian Senator P. Poirier, who allocated sectors

    to Norway, Russia, the United States, and Canada. Although the idea did not

    originate with him, David Hunter Miller, an American statesman, apparently was

    one of the first to actually slice the Arctic pie into definite sectors . (32, 33). He

    delineated three of them--the Russian, lying between an "undefined" line in

    the neighborhood of 30° or 40° E. longitude and 169° W. longitude; an American,

    between 169° and 141° W. longitude; and a Canadian, between 141° and 60° W.

    longitude. The remainder of the Arctic, between 60° W. and 40° E. longitude

    would, so far as the theory goes, be unassigned, but it seems to contain no

    land north of Spitsbergen and Greenland.

            Subsequently two publicists presented somewhat more detailed theories

    concerning the principle and sought to justify them with legal, historical,

    and pragmatic arguments. These are Leonid Breitfuss and Vladimir Leont'evich


            Breitfuss divided the Arctic into five sectors . (2, 3):

    018      |      Vol_XI-0023                                                                                                                  

    • 1. Joint Norwegian-Finish: from 10° W. longitude to 32°

      4′ 35″ E. (42° in extent).
    • 2. Soviet: from 32° 4′ 35″ E. longitude to 168° 49′ 30″

      W. (158° in extent).
    • 3. Alaskan: from 168° 49′ 30″ W. longitude to 141° W.

      (29° in extent).
    • 4. Canadian: from 141° W. longitude to 60° W. (81° in

    • 5. Greenland (Danish): from 60° W. longitude to 10° W.

      (50° in extent).

            Lakhtine, on the other hand, established six sectors, giving Nor–

    way and Finland each a separate slice . (24, 25). His divisions included:

    • 1. Norwegian: between 10° E. longitude and a line fixed by

      the Paris Convention of 1920.
    • 2. Finnish: 31° E. longitude to 32° 4′ 35″ E. longitude

      (which ceases at Spitsbergen).
    • 3. Soviet: 32° 4′ 35″ E. longitude (which curves to about

      35° E. longitude in the vicinity of Spitsbergen) to

      168° 49′ 32″ W. longitude.
    • 4. American: 168° 49′ 32″ W. longitude to 141° W.
    • 5. Canadian: 141° W. longitude to 60° W. (which curves

      along the western coast of Greenland).
    • 6. Danish: 60° W. longitude to 10° E. longitude.

            Lakhtine briefly listed the known territories that lie within each

    of these sectors . (25, pp. 705–707). Thus, the Norwegian portion includes Spitsbergen, Bear

    Island, and Jan Mayen Island, whereas that of Finland contains no discovered

    019      |      Vol_XI-0024                                                                                                                  
    territory. The Soviet sector embraces the entire group of islands and

    archipelagoes north of the Soviet mainland. No islands of importance

    are to be found in the Alaskan sector. The Canadian segment includes

    vast territories comprised of the archipelago lying to the north of the

    Dominion, and that of Denmark is comprised of Iceland and the entire

    island of Greenland.

            Since 1928 a number of additional writers have supported the prin–

    ciple. Ernst Sorge, a German geographer, accepts the five-fold division

    of Breitfuss . (48). He distinguishes a Norwegian sector (embracing Spitsbergen),

    a Soviet sector (including all islands within the entire area between 32°

    4′ 35″ E. longitude and 168° 49′ 30″ W. longitude), an American sector

    (Alaska, for which he specifies no Arctic lands), a Canadian sector (the

    Franklin Archipelago), and a Danish sector (Greenland). Like Breitfuss,

    he omits Finland from the roster.

            Professor Bruce Hopper, who has written extensively on the work of

    the Soviets in the Arctic, cuts the Arctic into six slices . (12). He refrains

    from defining exact longitudinal delineations but gives the sizes of these

    sectors: Norwegian--21° Finnish--2° Soviet--159° United States--28°

    Canadian--81° Danish--69°. Comparing this division with that of Breitfuss,

    it is noted that there is agreement on the size of only one sector — the


            Arctic sectors also are identified by latitudinal sizes in the

    publications of the Canadian writer, D. M. Le Bourdais . (26, p.9). He omits Finland,

    but acknowledges a Norwegian sector of 20° in width; a Soviet sector of

    160° an[d?] American of 30° a Canadian of 80° and a Danish of 45°.

            The prominent Norwegian jurist Gustav Smedal, in his excellent

    020      |      Vol_XI-0025                                                                                                                  
    study of polar jurisdiction, says that if the Arctic were to be divided

    into sectors--the juridical validity of which he strongly denies--then

    Norway, Finland, the Soviet Union, the United States, Canada, and Denmark

    would be entitled to segments. But he does not attempt any specific

    delimitation . (45).

            A number of these publicists appear to accept the principle without

    attempting to justify its validity. It is interesting to note that, while

    all of these exponents pretend to explain the same principle, each employs

    his own subjective interpretation, and consequently they fail to agree on

    the allocation of the sectoral lines and the number and size of the sectors.

    As a matter of fact, there is very little agreement even among Soviet

    authorities, except as far as the Canadian sector is concerned, which is

    held to comprise the polar area between 60° and 141° W. longitude.


    Legal Validity of Sector Principle

            In and of themselves, the opinions of publicists do not create law,

    however. Its existence must be validated by international usage and

    treaties. No general conventions have been agreed to by the interested

    powers acknowledging polar sectorism. Nor is it commonly accepted in inter–

    national practice in the Arctic (although it is more widely adhered to in

    the Antarctic). The Soviet Union is the only subjacent state that actually

    incorporated it into its municipal or national law. Others either have

    clearly rejected it, or, as in the case of Canada, where a number of public

    officials openly approved the principle, the government has neither manifestly

    denied nor condoned it. Individual state action is described in greater

    detail below.

    021      |      Vol_XI-0026                                                                                                                  



            Having summarized the basic legal principles governing the exercise

    of sovereign jurisdiction in general, it is necessary to apply them specifi–

    cally to Arctic territory and to analyse state practice in this area. Norway,

    the Soviet Union, the United States, the Dominion of Canada, and Denmark cur–

    rently are the states of chief concern. Although the peculiarities of Arctic

    island territory may suggest a new legal principle, such as the sector theory,

    it will be noted that in an actual conflict of claims, effective occupation

    is resorted to whenever possible and that, in reality, it is the final test

    of sovereign authority.



            The Norwegian Government has not accepted the sector principle for

    the Arctic. As a matter of fact, it rather has categorically denied its

    validity. As noted above, those writers who delineate a Norwegian sector

    differ widely in their specific interpretations. Gustav Smedal, a Norwegian

    upholding the interests of his homeland, flatly repudiates the principle and

    denies that Norway ever claimed a sector in the Arctic . (45, p. 73).

            The present Arctic possessions of Norway include Spitsbergen, together

    with Bear Island, and Jan Mayen Island. From the legal point of view these

    islands play an important role in two respects. In the first place, it is

    argued that Norway claimed and obtained jurisdiction over them by virtue of

    the sector principle. Secondly, it is contended that the Norwegian sector

    is founded on the i s la n ds. Though publicist s may debate these premises, the

    facts disp or ro ve their validity beyond a doubt

            Spitsbergen . The history of Spitsbergen may readily be divided into

    022      |      Vol_XI-0027                                                                                                                  
    three periods. In the first, lasting until 1871, Denmark-Norway established

    preponderant interests in the archipelago; in the second, continuing until

    1920, the islands were declared to be terra nullius by the interested powers;

    and, in the third, Norway actually acquired complete sovereignty under the

    multilateral Spitsbergen Treaty of 1920.

            There has been some dispute over the discovery of the archipelago,

    involving a Norwegian claim that Vikings discovered "Svalbard" in 1194, a

    Russian visit to the islands prior to 1435, "rediscovery" of the islands by

    William Barents, chief pilot of a Dutch expedition in 1596 accompanied by

    symbolic annexation, and annexation by symbolic act a few years later by a

    British expedition sailing under a charter granted the Muscovy Company. Early

    interest in the islands was due to their location in choice whaling grounds.

            By the mid-seventeenth century the question of jurisdiction declined

    in importance owing to the departure of the whales. Despite the competing

    claims of Britain, the Netherlands, and Russia, it appears that Denmark–

    Norway possessed the strongest pretension. This was confirmed by a letter

    King Christian addressed to various powers in 1616 in which he affirmed his

    sovereignty over the archipelago, and a number of agreements conceding this

    were signed with the interested states, except Russia. Throug h out this period

    the latter asserted no claim to the islands, and, despite an increasing interest

    in them during the eighteenth century, it was not until 1871 that the Russian

    Government alleged historical grounds for possession.

            For almost three-fourths of the nineteenth century Spitsbergen played

    a minor part in international affairs, when about 1870 attention of the world

    was directed to the mineral wealth of the islands. There was no satisfactory

    governmental administration providing for the granting of land titles and

    023      |      Vol_XI-0028                                                                                                                  
    mining rights and the judicial settlement of disputes. But it also became

    evident that no interested power would permit any other to take undisputed


            In 1872 Norway-Sweden and Russia agreed that they would regard Spits–

    bergen as terra nullius , allowing free right to establish scientific and

    industrial enterprise. Other states did not contest this arrangement. Since

    Denmark voiced no objection at the time, presumably she surrendered her

    original claims through dereliction.

            Norway then began to sponsor a series of international conferences

    concerning the matter of jurisdiction in the archipelago. After several

    abortive attempts, she met with Sweden and Russia in a secret conference at

    Christiania in 1910, where a proc è s verbal was negotiated, outlining the inter–

    national status of the islands and providing for a tripartite scheme of govern–

    ment. A more detailed protocol was agreed to by the three states two years

    later. Finally, in 1914 Norway convoked a general conference, which rapidly

    adjourned, however, to permit participating states to examine the plan for–

    mulated at the preliminary tripartite conferences. World War I intervened,

    accentuating interest in the archipelago for both its strategic position and

    its mineral resources.

            When the Paris Peace Conference met, therefore, the Norwegian Govern–

    ment requested it to consider the Spitsbergen question. The Supreme Council

    appointed a special Spitsbergen Commission, which decided to place the archi–

    pelago under Norwegian jurisdiction. This was embodied in the Spitsbergen

    Treaty signed early in 1920. It received almost universal acceptance, with

    the exception of the Soviet Union which was not represented at the conference,

    but Moscow acceded in 1924. Upon the acquisition of Spitsbergen, the Norwegian

    024      |      Vol_XI-0029                                                                                                                  
    Government immediately rendered its title effective by a series of public

    proclamations and the establishment of administrative services.

            Bear Island . Bear Island — located between North Cape (Norway) and

    South Cape (Spitsbergen) — also was acquired by Norway under the 1920 Spits–

    bergen Treaty. Despite differences in matters of detail, the history of this

    island tends to parallel that of Spitsbergen. Without a doubt it constituted

    terra nullius at the time of its acquisition.

            Aside from Viking-Norwegian discovery in the late tenth century, "re–

    discovery" by William Barents (Dutch) in 1596, a formal claim by the English

    Muscovy Company in 1609, hoisting of the Russian flag in the late nineteenth

    century, and active German interest at the end of the nineteenth century,

    Norway and Russia were the chief contenders for the island by the time of the

    Paris Peace Conference. But neither possessed claims sufficient to justify

    possession. Although the matter was not especially pressing in 1920, the

    island also was placed under Norwegian sovereignty.

            Jan Mayen Island . Norway's acquisition of Jan Mayen Island provides

    a somewhat different and far less complicated story . (36). The island probably was

    known to the Norwegians at an early date, since there is evidence that Norse

    hunters frequented its waters. When Norway declined as a seafaring nation

    in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the island was forgotten, and she

    lost the claims she then may have possessed.

            Jan Mayen was "rediscovered" in the seventeenth century. It is dif–

    ficult to assign credit because a number of independent discoveries probably

    were made at about the same time, each guarded as a secret to prevent rival

    whalers from using the island's waters. Henry Hudson formerly was regarded

    as having first "rediscovered" the island in 1607, but today it is believed

    025      |      Vol_XI-0030                                                                                                                  
    that the true discovery was that of the Dutch voyager Jan Jacobsz

    May in July, 1614. The first authenticated English visit was made

    in 1615. Other claims lack substantiating evidence. With the de–

    cline of whaling the island once more was abandoned, so that only

    an occasional traveler visited the island after 1642. Although

    early in the seventeenth century the island presumably was the un–

    disputed possession of the Dutch, whose occupation lasted into the

    following century, nevertheless rights created during this early

    period were forfeited by dereliction.

            A new phase of the jurisdictional development of the island

    began with its occupation by a Norwegian subject in 1920 and the

    erection of an official Norwegian wireless and meteorological sta–

    tion the following year. On the basis of these and additional acts

    of effective occupation for eight years without opposition, the

    Norwegian Government formally annexed the island on May 8, 1929.

    Appropriation apparently was made without objection. Valid title

    therefore was created by effective occupation substantiated by uni–

    versal acquiescence. Upon annexation the Norwegian Government imme–

    diately proceeded to render its jurisdiction certain by applying its

    civil and criminal law and judicial procedure to the island, and by

    placing its administration under the Governor of Spitsbergen.


    The Soviet Union

            The Soviet Union has taken a stronger official position in support

    of the sector theory for the Arctic than any other state, and its

    action is the only instance of incorporating the principle into nation–

    al legislation for the Arctic . (53).

            Russian Pretentions, 1916 . The first step was taken on October 3,

    1916, when the Russian Foreign Minister notified the allied and friendly

    026      |      Vol_XI-0031                                                                                                                  
    powers that the Russian Empire embraced the following Arctic territory (25, p. 708; 32, p.53):

    Vilkitski Island; Tsar Nicholas II Land (now Severnaia Zemlya);

    Tsesarevicha Alekseya Island (now called Small Taimyr); Starokadomski

    and Novopashennyi Islands; Henrietta, Jeanette, Bennett, Herald, and

    Viedinenia Islands; the New Siberian Islands; Wrangel Island; and

    others situated near the Asiatic coast of the Empire. The Russian

    Government did not judge it necessary to include in this notifica–

    tion Novaya Zemlya, Kolguev, Vaigatch and other smaller islands locat–

    ed near the European coast of the Empire, because they were universally

    recognized as Russian territory.

            This decree embraced the known islands lying to the north of

    continental Russia, with the glaring omission of Franz Josef Land.

    There is no evidence to indicate that either Britain (or Canada),

    the United States, or Norway made formal objection to the decree

    when it was announced. The Soviet Government renewed this claim in

    1923, and on November 4, 1924, a special memorandum was addressed to

    the governments of several states, repeating the notification of 1916

    and affirming that the Arctic islands mentioned were part of the

    territory of the Soviet Union.

            Soviet Sectoral Decree . The definitive delineation of a Russian

    Arctic sector, however, was made in 1926, when on April 15th, the

    Presidium of the Central Executive Committee decreed (53, p.320):

            All discovered lands and islands, as well as

    all those that may in the future be discovered,

    which are not at the date of the publication of this

    decree recognized by the Government of the U.S.S.R.

    as the territory of a foreign Power, are declared to

    be territories belonging to the U.S.S.R., within the

    following limits:

    027      |      Vol_XI-0032                                                                                                                  

            In the Northern Arctic Ocean, from the northern

    coast of the U.S.S.R. up to the North Pole, between

    the meridian 32° 4′ 35″ east longitude from Greenwich,

    passing along the eastern side of Vaida Bay through

    the triangulation mark on Kekursk Cape, and meridian

    168° 49′ 30″ west longitude from Greenwich, passing

    through the middle of the strait which separates

    Ratmanov and Kruzenstern Islands of the Diomede

    group of islands in the Bering Straits.

            The text of this decree was communicated to the interested

    governments. No express official declarations of acquiescence were

    made, but aside from the question of the validity of the sector

    principle as legal dogma, there seems to be little opposition to the

    Soviet pretension. The two territories which have occasioned the most

    poignant discussion are Wrangel Island and Franz Josef Land.

            Wrangel Island . The development of the jurisdictional wrangel

    over Wrangel Island is an interesting episode in Arctic history.

    A Russian heard of the island in 1824, and several unsuccessful attempts

    were made to find it, including the four-year explorations of Lieu–

    tenant (later Baron) Wrangel. An Englishman, Captain Henry Kellett

    of the Herald , first saw the island in 1849. In 1867 it was given

    its name by Captain Thomas Long of the American whaling bark Nile,

    and in this same year much of the American whaling fleet operated

    in the region and saw the island.

            Another American, Captain Calvin L. Hooper of the Corwin , was

    first to land on the island, in August, 1881, raising the American

    flag, depositing a record of the visit in a cairn, and claiming the

    island for the United States. A few weeks later Lieutenant Robert M.

    Berry of the United States Navy made the second land ing , remained 19 days,

    and explored much of the coastline. Britain and the United States

    thus acquired the strongest, though still imperfect, claims to the

    028      |      Vol_XI-0033                                                                                                                  
    island. The first Russian visit was that of Captain Konstantin V.

    Loman, of the Vaigatch , in 1911, which is poorly reported and fails

    to prove Russian intention to acquire jurisdiction.

            The initial attempt to establish claims founded on effective

    occupation was made in 1914, when seventeen survivors of the wrecked

    Karluk , icebound flagship of the Canadian Arctic Expedition, succeeded

    in landing on the island early in March and remained throughout the

    summer. On July 1, three members of the party raised the Canadian

    flag and claimed the island as a British possession. In attempting

    further to perfect the Canadian title, the Arctic explorer Vilhjalmur

    Stefansson organized the Arctic Exploration and Development Company

    and sent a small expedition to the island, 1921–1923. Upon landing,

    the party issued a proclamation declaring the island to belong to


            These occupational pretensions were not substantiated by the

    Canadian Government, however, inducing Stefansson to sell his company

    to an American, Carl Lomen, in 1924. A United States expedition

    proceeded to the island to take possession, but because of unfavorable

    ice conditions it failed to get through. Meanwhile the American

    Government announced that temporarily no effort would be made to assert

    United States jurisdiction in the Arctic.

            Canadian and American defection paved the way for the assertion

    of Soviet pretentions. In 1924 the Krasny Octiabr , a gunboat carry–

    ing a company of infantry, managed to get through to the island,

    raised the Soviet flag, and took formal possession without contesta–

    tion by Britain, Canada, or the United States. Two years later Soviet

    authorities adopted a policy of settlement and continuous occupation

    029      |      Vol_XI-0034                                                                                                                  
    for the island. Parties have been left on the island, wrieless sta–

    tions erected, and the island is included in Soviet administrative and

    aerial defense establishments. Despite the 1926 sectoral decree,

    perhaps particularly for strategic reasons, the Soviet Government is

    not relying upon sectorism for its title.

            Franz Josef Land . Franz Josef Land was discovered in 1873 by

    an Austro-Hungarian expedition, in quest of the Northeast Passage by

    sailing around the northern tip of Novaya Zemlya. But the Austro–

    Hungarian Government pressed no claim to legal rights. Throughout

    the next decades the islands were regarded as one of the preferred

    jumping off points in the race to reach the North Pole. The most

    significant pole-bound expeditions that used the archipelago were

    the Jackson-Harmsworth Expedition, 1894–1897 (British), the Wellman

    Expedition, 1898–1899 (American), the Duke of Abruzzi Expedition,

    1899–1900 (Italian), and the two Ziegler Expeditions, 1901–1902 and

    1903–1905 (American). None, as far as is known, however, gave rise

    to jurisdictional pretensions to these islands.

            From 1905 to the end of World War I, Franz Josef Land lost

    much of its appeal, primarily because it was no longer considered

    a suitable route to the Pole, which, in any case, had been reached

    a few years before the outbreak of hostilities. During the war years,

    no state appears to have sought possession on the basis of discovery,

    exploration, or symbolic annexation. Even Russia, despite several

    expeditions, seemed unconcerned over the status of the archipelago,

    as evidenced by its omission from the 1916 decree.

            By 1923 interest in the islands was reawakened, with the Soviet

    Union and Norway assuming the leading roles, the latter ultimately

    gaining the ascendency. Five Norwegian expeditions set out for the

    030      |      Vol_XI-0035                                                                                                                  
    islands between 1923 and 1931, three of which reached their goal.

    During the 1920's the Soviet Union also inaugurated a new series of

    expeditions and in 1929 that led by Professor Otto Y. Schmidt raised

    the Soviet flag and erected a scientific station. Thereafter the

    Soviet Union maintained continuous and effective occupation and con–

    structed a number of weather and air stations, bases, and other faci–

    lities. Furthermore, since 1931, it appears, no non-Soviet expedi–

    tion has visited the islands. Whereas the pretensions of Soviet

    Russia to Franz Josef Land were virtually non-existent prior to 1929,

    in view of her actual occupation, she has since established a stronger

    claim to the archipelago than any other state.

            Effective Occupation . Clearly evidencing Soviet reluctance to

    rely upon polar sectorism to substantiate its title to Arctic terri–

    tory is the variety of administrative measures undertaken in the

    past quarter century (13, 46, 47). Briefly these include:

    • 1. Central Administrative Supervision . Integrated direction

      dates back several decades to the establishment of the All-Union

      Arctic Institute (a scientific enterprise) and the Northern Sea

      Route Administration ( Glavsevamorput ), to exploit the resources of

      the northern sea route . (53, pp. 74 ff.)
    • 2. Colonization . The principle of colonization is practiced

      wherever it is feasible and desirable for the extraction of resources,

      the erection and maintenance of meteorological and air stations, or

      the pursuance of scientific investigation (46)
    • 3. Discovery , Exploration , and Annexation . The Soviet Government

      is carrying out a wholesale, centrally controlled program of explora–

      tion and annexation . (2, 3). When new land is explored the Soviet flag is

      raised and possession is formally taken. Meanwhile the Soviet

      Government has sought to arouse popular enthusiasm for the Arctic,

      031      |      Vol_XI-0036                                                                                                                  
      emphasizing the concept of mastery over polar elements.
    • 4. Arctic Stations . While information is incomplete, it goes

      without saying that the Soviet Government is establishing whatever

      scientific, weather, and air stations are feasible and necessary.

      At the same time an Arctic air service is in operation, connecting

      posts and providing communications and transport facilities . (2, 46).
    • 5. Administration . Soviet polar islands have been brought

      within the jurisdiction of various agencies of the Soviet Government

      in an attempt to completely Sovietize the economy and political affairs

      of the islands, and bring them under Soviet law and judicial procedure [ . ?] (53).

            Thus, although asserting claims to territorial jurisdiction

    founded on sectorism, in actual practice the Soviet Union is proceed–

    ing to substantiate her claims with effective occupation wherever pos–

    sible. Tacit acquiescence in her actions by other states at least

    creates the presumption of the validity of her title, which is in the

    process of being perfected by effective state administration.


    United States

            In 1867 the United States purchased Alaska from Russia for

    $7,200,000. Article 1 of the treaty of sale defines the territory

    ceded, prescribing a dividing line through Bering Strait which

    "proceeds due north, without limitation, into the same Frozen Ocean...."

    (original French provides: " en ligne directe , sans limitation , vers

    le Nord
    , jusque'a ce qu'elle se perde dans la mer Glaciale ....").

            The question whether this treaty delineates an Arctic sector and

    therefore proves United States support of the principle has been dis–

    puted at length. A number of writers cite the treaty words as indicat–

    ing beyond a doubt that the United States and Russia thereby fixed

    indisputably their territorial rights in this area (25, pp. 307–708; 53, pp. 331, 333). Others, on the

    other hand, favor interpreting the treaty as meaning that the demarca–

    tion line extends only up to the Arctic; that, if extended to the pole,

    032      |      Vol_XI-0037                                                                                                                  
    at most it merely fixed the territory acquired from Russia in 1867

    which could not have conveyed title to territory then unpossessed;

    and that, in any event, the treaty could in no way obligate the United

    States to admit its approval of the then unknown sector system . (15).

            United States Interests in the Arctic . Officially the United

    States Government has not condoned the sector theory either in theory

    or in practice, nor has it recognized any hypothetical Arctic sectoral

    divisions claimed by another state. Occasionally, in direct viola–

    tion of polar sectorism, American pretensions have controverted the

    claims of other powers.

            Although premature, late in the 1870's Congress considered a

    proposal submitted by Senator Henry W. Howgate to support officially

    an expedition to reach the North Pole, and to go about it by establish–

    ing a base of operations at Lady Franklin Bay, on the northeastern tip

    of Ellesmere Island, connecting with Robeson Channel. The recommenda–

    tion was to establish there a "colony" to be supplied by the United

    States Navy . (14).

            Somewhat later an American polar expedition led by Lieutenant–

    Commander George W. De Long of the United States Navy, on its return

    southward after its vessel, the Jeanette , floundered, discovered

    Jeanette, Henrietta, and Bennett Islands, landed on the last two,

    and formally took possession of Bennett Island in July, 1881. These

    islands lie to the north of Siberia, northeast of the New Siberian

    Islands. The same year Captain C. L. Hooper, sailing in the cutter

    Corwin , took possession of Wrangel Island in the name of the United

    States, as indicated above, to which Russia raised no objection.

            In 1909, the Committee on Foreign Relations recommended that the

    Guano Act of 1856 be amended so that whenever an American citizen

    discovers a deposit not only of guano, but also of phosphates, coal,

    033      |      Vol_XI-0038                                                                                                                  
    or other minerals, on any island or portion of an island not within

    the lawful jurisdiction of any other government, and takes possession

    and occupies the island, the United States Government could, at the

    discretion of the President, consider it as appertaining to the United

    States. The movement was engendered by growing interest in Spitsber–

    gen coal. The proposal was passed by the Senate in 1910, but was

    again referred to committee where it ultimately died. Had it become

    law, perhaps many claims to Arctic lands would have been filed in the

    name of the United States.

            In the 1920's, Soviet fears were aroused by a number of American

    activities beyond the Soviet sectoral line. For example, in 1920

    a United States Coast and Geodetic Survey magnetic observation station

    was erected in the Bay of Emma, on the Chukot (or Chukotski) Penin–

    sula, west of St. Lawrence Island in Bering Strait, and on several

    occasions was visited by the American cruiser Bear . The Soviet Govern–

    ment objected strenuously to this action in 1924, to which no reply

    appears to have been made. On another occasion, the crew of the

    American gasoline schooner Herman under Captain Louis Lane hoisted

    the American flag on Herald Island, claiming it for the United States.

    But, significantly, the United States Government failed either to

    comment upon or to substantiate the act.

            As preparations were being made for the MacMillan Expedition

    to visit the Arctic "White Spot" north of Alaska in 1925, in con–

    ferring with President Calvin Coolidge, MacMillan urged the American

    Government to appropriate territory near the North Pole. According to

    the press, the Canadian Government consequently informed Washington

    that any territory which might be discovered to the north of the

    Dominion would be claimed by Canada. MacMillan also asked the De–

    partment of State whether Canada possessed a valid title to Axel

    Heiberg Land and if a permit therefore should be obtained from the

    034      |      Vol_XI-0039                                                                                                                  
    Dominion for the landings expected to be made, and, secondly, whether

    the hypothetical land expected to be discovered should be claimed as

    American territory. It appears that no communication was forwarded

    to the Canadian Government requesting permission for our Navy planes

    to fly over territory claimed by the Dominion. With respect to the

    second question, the State Department replied that our government was

    not then disposed to pass upon the matter of jurisdiction of newly

    discovered territory.

            In practice, the United States apparently recognizes the juris–

    diction of Canada over known territory to the north of her mainland.

    Our main consideration in this area in the post-war period is strate–

    gic, and that is being resolved by bilateral agreements establishing

    the Canadian-American Joint Board of Defense and providing for the

    mutual use of polar territory for the establishment of bases purposes .

            For some time the United States also has manifested an active

    interest in the disposition of Greenland. After the purchase of

    Alaska, Secretary William H. Seward was concerned over the matter

    because at the time the United States was believed to possess inchoate

    rights. In 1910 the American Minister to Denmark, on the inducement

    of Danish friends, recommended to the Department of State that in

    return for Greenland and the Danish West Indies, the United States

    cede the Island of Mindanao (Philippines) to Denmark, which the latter

    could then cede to Germany in return for Northern Schleswig. Other

    complicated proposals for the acquisition of Greenland were made from

    time to time. The explorer Robert E. Peary, however, simply urged

    the outright purchase of the island by the United States. But in

    that very year the American Government recognized the Danish exten–

    sion of its political and economic interests to the whole of the island.

    035      |      Vol_XI-0040                                                                                                                  

            For strategic reasons, American interest in Greenland is today

    as acute as ever. During the war years the United States occupied

    both Greenland and Iceland in order to forestall German control of

    the North Atlantic, in each case with specific consent based on an

    understanding that American authority would be withdrawn at the close

    of the war. Early in 1947, it was rumored that Denmark contemplated

    selling the island to the United States, but these rumors were offi–

    cially denied. Because of the heavy administrative expenses for Den–

    mark and the island's important strategic location for the United

    States, the potential sale of the island to the United States remains

    a distinct possibility.



            Canada claims title to the entire archipelago lying to the north

    of her mainland. This includes Axel Heiberg, Baffin, Banks, Bathurst,

    Borden, Byam Martin, Cornwallis, Devon, Ellesmere, King William,

    Lougheed, Melville, Prince Patrick, Prince of Wales, Somerset,

    Sverdrup, Victoria, and other islands. Such wholesale claims, pre–

    cluding sovereign rights of other states, though never officially

    founded on the sector principle, nevertheless convey the appearance

    of polar sectorism.

            Sector Principle . As early as 1895 the Canadian Government

    notified other states that all territory between 141° W. longitude

    and a line running west of Greenland appertains to the Dominion.

    Twelve years later, in 1907, Senator P. Poirier proposed a resolution

    in the Canadian Senate to the effect that the time had arrived for

    Canada to make a formal declaration of possession of the islands

    located to the north of the Dominion, extending to the North Pole.

    He gave four arguments for such an assertion, including discovery,

    036      |      Vol_XI-0041                                                                                                                  
    purchase (by the Hudson 's Bay Company), effective occupation--and

    the sector principle.

            The tacit acceptance of jurisdiction between the limits sug–

    gested by Poirier seems to be implicit in the implementation of

    Canadian policy on a number of occasions--sometimes even by high–

    ranking public officials. To mention but a few, Captain Joseph

    Elzear Bernier, commander of a Canadian expedition, erected a copper

    plate on Melville Island in 1909, commemorating the taking of pos–

    session for Canada of the entire "Arctic Archipelago" to the North

    Pole between 60° and 141° W. longitude. It was preceded and suc–

    ceeded by a number of expeditions which annexed more specific por–

    tions of the archipelago . (19). Thus, in 1904 possession was taken of

    Ellesmere Island at Cape Herschell; in 1906 Cornwallis, Griffith,

    Bathurst, Byam Martin, Melville, Prince Patrick, and the Parry

    Islands were annexed; in 1908–1909 possession was taken of Corn–

    wallis, Bathurst, Byam Martin, Banks, and Victoria Islands; and in

    1913–1918 the Stefansson Canadian Arctic Expedition took possession

    of Borden, Lougheed, and other islands. All of these acts were con–

    doned by the Canadian Government.

            Among the Canadian statesmen referring on occasion to the sec–

    tor principle are the Dominion Secretary of the Interior Charles

    Stewart who asserted claim to all territory between 60° and 141° W.

    longitude in an address to the Canadian Parliament in 1925; Minister

    of the Interior Thomas G. Murphy, who in his 1931 annual report refer–

    red to the "Arctic sector" north of the Canadian mainland; and Minister

    of Mines and Resources T. A. Crerar, who went so far as to tell the

    House of Commons in 1938 that polar sectorism, and the Canadian sec–

    tor in particular, were universally acknowledged.

            In view of the attitude taken by the United States and Norway,

    the latter statement is subject to serious doubt. But it cannot

    037      |      Vol_XI-0042                                                                                                                  
    be denied that Canada has claimed in the past and claims today all

    known territory lying north of its mainland as far as the pole, be–

    tween the meridional lines drawn northward from its longitudinal

    extremities, and publicists generally acknowledge this claim . (4, p.170; 31, p.50; 32, p.50).

            But Canadian territorial interests outside the island territory

    to th e north of her mainland would appear to belie any official reli–

    ance on the sector principle. Thus, Wrangel Island was claimed as a

    Canadian possession in 1914 and an occupation was undertaken by the

    Stefansson party in 1921 with the support of the Dominion Ministry.

    The establishment of Canadian jurisdiction over the island was taken

    for granted by both Prime Minister Arthur Meighen and his successor,

    Mackenzie King. In 1922 and again in 1938, however, members of the

    Cabinet had to admit lack of Canadian sovereignty.

            Canada also has evidenced interest in expanding eastward into

    Greenland. This possibility was broached on a number of occasions and

    reached its climax during World War I, when shortly after the American

    purchase of the Virgin Islands it was rumored that Denmark also con–

    templated selling the polar island to the United States. The British

    Government, speaking for both Canada and itself, declared that it would

    be extremely undesirable for Greenland to pass out of the hands of

    Denmark into those of any other power, and that in the event of the

    disposition of the island, Britain would have a prior claim. Soon

    thereafter the British Government recognized Danish sovereignty over

    the entire island with the reservation that Britain must be consulted

    in the event that Denmark contemplated disposing of the island . (19, p. 37). Thus

    the governments of Canada and Britain were opposed to the disposal

    of Greenland to any other state.

            In the meantime other states have refused to recognize a Cana–

    dian polar sector by asserting pretensions to portions of the North

    American archipelago. The United States refrained from recognizing

    038      |      Vol_XI-0043                                                                                                                  
    Canadian jurisdiction by not applying for flying permits to traverse

    Ellesmere Island and Axel Heiberg Land at the time of the MacMillan

    expedition. At an earlier period, American explorers actually took

    possession of the central portion of Ellesmere Island in the name of

    the United States, a claim that was reasserted in 1914 but has subse–

    quently been abandoned.

            Nor has Norway acknowledged a Canadian sector. In 1899 the

    Norwegian Government claimed jurisdiction over Axel Heiberg and the

    Ringnes Islands, discovered by Otto Sverdrup, and to the northern

    and western sections of Ellesmere Island. But these claims were

    abandoned in 1930 with the specific provision that this action was

    not founded on any sector principle. In 1918 Denmark also claimed

    part of Ellesmere Island, regarding it as terra nullius and therefore

    subject to acquisition by any state through effective occupation.

    Canada protested against this attitude in 1920, to which the Danish

    did not reply.

            Effective Occupation . As in the case of the Soviet Union, the

    Dominion of Canada is careful to fortify its juridical position by

    means of the various techniques of state control applicable to the

    polar regions, thereby establishing valid claims on the basis of effec–

    tive occupation . (8, 15, 19, 34, 49, 52). Illustrative of its practice are the propounding of

    hunting and trapping controls and the issuing of appropriate licenses,

    the granting of flying and landing licenses, and particularly the es–

    tablishment of law and order by the Eastern Arctic Patrol and the

    Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The latter is engaged in carrying out

    a plan of occupation and police control, enforcing both criminal and

    civil law throughout the Northwest Territory which embraces the island

    empire. It also administors justice, carries mail, and aids the sick.

    039      |      Vol_XI-0044                                                                                                                  
    In order to fulfill its responsibilities, it maintains a network of

    posts, out of which Mounted Police patrols operate.

            There scarcely is any doubt today that Canada possesses a valid

    claim to the known Arctic islands to the north of her mainland terri–

    tory. This claim is not founded on the sector principle, however, but

    rather on effective occupation, aside from such original rights as

    may have been based on discovery and symbolical annexation. Canadian

    pretensions are the more certain because other states, such as the

    United States, Norway, and Denmark, have permitted their tenuous

    claims to lapse by dereliction. Though some states, relying upon

    effective occupation, occasionally have refused to recognize the vali–

    dity of Canadian pretensions, this was due rather to the belief that

    Dominion occupation was inadequate than to a failure to recognize

    the validity of the principle. In other words it simply is a matter

    of time for the Canadian title to become absolute.



            Danish polar territory has been comprised of the sub-polar islands

    of Greenland and Iceland, over which jurisdiction was acquired many

    centuries before sectorism was first conceived. Iceland was occupied

    as early as the ninth century, and Greenland was discovered and colon–

    ized from Iceland about the end of the tenth century. The Icelandic

    Althing (Parliament) took an oath of allegiance to King Haakon of

    Norway in 1262. Norwegian rights to these islands followed it into

    the joint Scandinavian state when the three kingdoms of Norway, Den–

    mark, and Sweden formally united under one king by the Kalmar Act of

    Union in 1397. From the fifteenth to the early eighteenth century

    Greenland was left largely to itself and the European population dis–

    appeared, but in 1721 the island was recolonized by a party of Norwe–

    gians. Sweden left the tripartite union in the sixteenth century

    040      |      Vol_XI-0045                                                                                                                  
    while Norway, with Greenland and Iceland, remained united with Den–

    mark. When the latter ceded Norway to Sweden by the Treaty of Kiel

    in 1914, the islands continued under Danish jurisdiction.

            Greenland . It is obvious from history that jurisdiction over

    Greenland and Iceland can scarcely be attributed to the sector prin–

    ciple. As a matter of fact, even the most ardent sectorists, with

    the exception of Lakhtine, hesitate to ascribe a polar sector to Den–

    mark based on Greenland. On occasion the Danish Government has laid

    claim to territory lying to the north of Canada, as indicated above.

            Danish jurisdiction over Greenland, despite an absence of complete

    effective occupation, was recognized by other power s . (50). During World War

    I when the United States purchased the Virgin Islands, the Secretary

    of State thus assured Denmark that the American Government had no ob–

    jection to an extension of her political and economic interests through–

    out the island. In 1919 the Danish Government asked a number of the

    leading states to do the same. On the recommendation of Canada, the

    British Government did so in 1920, subject to the reservation noted

    earlier, and the French, Japanese, Italian, and Swedish governments

    rapidly followed suit, without reservation. Only Norway contested the

    Danish claim to sovereignty over the entire island, which was resolved

    by the Eastern Greenland arbitration in 1933 on the basis of effective

    occupation, as indicated above . (28, 37).

            Iceland . When considered from an international point of view,

    the question of sovereignty over Iceland raises even fewer complica–

    tions than does that of Greenland . (51). Though Iceland has enjoyed sover–

    eign status during various periods of history, for a long time it

    possessed a definite constitutional relationship with Denmark and,

    as such, its early history parallels that of Greenland. The nineteenth

    041      |      Vol_XI-0046                                                                                                                  
    century was marked by a gradual political and economic emancipation,

    however. The island received its first recorded constitution in 1874,

    which was followed by a grant of home rule 30 years later. In 1915

    it achieved virtual autonomy and in 1918 Denmark recognized it as a

    sovereign state with allegiance to a common monarch. Following World

    War II, it separated completely from Denmark, was admitted to member–

    ship in the United Nations, and became a signatory of the North

    Atlantic Treaty.

            Polar Sectorism . Neither the government nor the publicists of

    Denmark subscribe to Arctic sectorism. There is no evidence to sup–

    port Danish adherence to the principle either in pertinent diplomatic

    correspondence or in the arguments of Denmark concerning Eastern Green–

    land before the Permanent Court of International Justice. Denmark

    clearly supports the principle of effective occupation, as was the case

    in the Ellesmere Island affair with Canada. In the Eastern Greenland

    dispute with Norway, effective occupation again was relied upon as

    Denmark's chief bulwark for possession.



            Inasmuch as the Arctic is an oceanic basin, the problem of

    sovereign jurisdiction is concerned not only with landed territory.

    Most of the area is water- or ice-covered, and consequently the legal

    principles governing jurisdiction over the seas and ice formations

    are equally important. While international law concerned itself with

    the former for some centuries, the latter has been given serious con–

    sideration only in the last few decades.


    Arctic Seas

            It is universally agreed today that international law recognizes

    the high seas to be free ( mare liberum ), for the common use of all

    042      |      Vol_XI-0047                                                                                                                  
    nations. It also is commonly held that states exercise sovereign

    jurisdiction over adjacent territorial waters or marginal seas. Per–

    haps the most serious problem associated with territorial waters is

    one of defining their extent. There is no definite international agree–

    ment fixing their width, although the majority of states accept the

    three-mile rule. Nevertheless, it is rather common practice to extend

    marginal jurisdiction for specialized purposes such as the enforce–

    ment of customs restrictions.

            Whereas prior to its appropriation, landed territory constitutes

    terra (or res ) nullius (belonging to nobody, and therefore appropri–

    able), the status of water-covered areas has not been as clearly es–

    tablished. By and large, however, it is contended that it constitutes

    res communis (belonging to all) or res publica (the public property

    of the international community), and therefore, coming under the juris–

    diction of all, cannot be appropriated by any state without the con–

    sent of the others.

            The complexity of the problem of maritime jurisdiction is due

    mainly to the distinction in international law between territorial

    waters and the high seas. Were the sector principle accepted juridi–

    cally, there would be little difficulty, since the elements within a

    given sector, including marginal waters and the high seas, would then

    fall under the jurisdiction of subjacent polar states. But the prin–

    ciple has not been incorporated into international law, and even Soviet

    authorities disagree on the applicability of sectorism to water-covered

    areas . (25, pp. 712 ff.; 53, pp. 346). The Soviet Government itself distinguishes between territorial

    waters and the high seas in the Arctic. The 1926 decree refers only

    to landed territory, and additional Soviet decrees specify the extent

    of Soviet marginal jurisdiction for fishing and other purposes.

            Inasmuch as no special juridical rules have been universally

    adopted for the polar seas, the ordinary principles of law applicable

    043      |      Vol_XI-0048                                                                                                                  
    elsewhere must be applied to the Arctic. Riparian states consequently

    enjoy sovereign rights in territorial waters adjacent to their landed

    territory, but the high seas are free. If the sector principle were

    applied to Arctic waters, there would be the difficult problem of de–

    fining southern latitudinal boundaries in the channels between landed

    territory, as in Bering Strait, between Greenland and the islands to

    the west, and particularly in the Greenland Sea between Greenland and

    Spitsbergen as well as the Barents Sea between Spitsbergen and Norway.


    Arctic Ice Formations

            Polar sovereignty is further complicated by the question of juris–

    diction over ice-covered areas. There frequently is no visible dis–

    tinction between land and sea in the Arctic. The transition from flat,

    snow-covered land to the ice-covered sea often is imperceptible and

    the coastline hardly distinguishable. Because the polar basin is not

    entirely covered by [ o ?] pen water or by ice, the juridical principles

    governing jurisdictional rights over both landed territory and water–

    covered areas sometimes are considered to be inapplicable to ice


            Soviet writers contend that some jurisdiction should be exercised

    over Arctic ice by subpolar states (3, p. 28). S. V. Sigrist (43) and E. A. Korovin (21, 22, 23)

    further agree that the limits of this jurisdiction should be coter–

    minous with sectoral boundaries, while Lakhtine believes in complete

    control over only immobile ice of considerable dimensions . (25, p. 712). Needless

    to say, the meaning of the latter would be difficult to define. The

    majority of non-Soviet writers refuse to acknowledge sovereign rights

    over ice-covered areas of the Arctic Basin, though several are prepared

    to admit some hegemony over coastal permanent ice.

    044      |      Vol_XI-0049                                                                                                                  

            Aside from Lakhtine's complicated and indefinite suggestion,

    three alternatives are possible. In the first place, were polar

    sectorism completely and universally approved, the matter of juris–

    diction over ice would be resolved very simply. But this is not the

    case and even the Soviet sectoral decree of 1926 fails to apply the

    principle to ice-covered areas. Secondly, if no distinction is made

    between ice and water, states exercise jurisdiction over the ice for–

    mations within territorial waters but ice located in the bulk of the

    Arctic Basin is considered as res communis , as are the high seas.

            Thirdly, a compromise might be devised, recognizing jurisdiction–

    al rights over permanent ice attached to the coasts of littoral Arctic

    states and extending to an arbitrarily prescribed maximum distance.

    Such jurisdiction would be limited to 12 or 15 miles, or whatever

    might be commonly agreed upon for the effective administration of re–

    venue, fishing, and other national regulations. This, plus the mar–

    ginal belt should prove sufficient for the enforcement of national

    laws, except in the case of shelf ice (such as the Antarctic Ross

    Barrier), over which jurisdiction would extend to its seaward limits.

    Of course, if the edge of the permanent, coastal fast-ice is less

    than the designated distance from the shoreline, the territorial

    waters would be measured from the edge of the ice.

            If this theory were accepted as law, it would provide for some

    control over a marginal strip of ice, plus the customary extent of

    territorial waters, even though the latter area were likewise ice–

    covered. Sovereign rights over both would be assimilable to juris–

    diction over territorial waters. The remainder of the ice-covered

    area of the Polar Basin would constitute the high seas, subject to

    the laws governing mare liberum .

    045      |      Vol_XI-0050                                                                                                                  

            Admittedly, this suggestion is merely an hypothetical solution

    and is not actual law. Until the community of nations accepts a

    proposal such as this by means of an international convention or some

    other form of "international legislation," the present law remains as

    outlined, namely, that states possess no jurisdiction over ice forma–

    tions beyond the limits of their territorial waters, the degree of

    congelation in no way determining the legitimacy of exercising juris–

    dictional control.

            * * * * *

            The sovereign status of known Arctic territory thus is fairly

    well defined. The juridical disputes of the nineteenth century appear

    to be satisfactorily resolved. With the improvement of trans–

    continental aviation, the atom bomb, rocket propulsion, the guided

    missile, and the possibility of trans-polar warfare, however, it is

    not unlikely that interest in the question of polar sovereignty will


            The Soviet Union will jealously guard her possessions against en–

    croachment, as will the Dominion of Canada. The United States, enjoy–

    ing a poleward bastion to the northwest in Alaska, will seek to but–

    trees her defenses to the north and northeast. Mutual defense agree–

    ments with Canada render the Dominion's islands available for common

    defense arrangements to the north. Interest therefore is likely to

    be concentrated particularly on Greenland and Spitsbergen, and Denmark

    and Norway may be confronted with specific inducements or demands to

    cede sovereignty, or at least base rights, in these polar territories.

    046      |      Vol_XI-0051                                                                                                                  


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    047      |      Vol_XI-0052                                                                                                                  

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    048      |      Vol_XI-0053                                                                                                                  

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    049      |      Vol_XI-0054                                                                                                                  

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    051      |      Vol_XI-0056                                                                                                                  

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