Territorial Sovereignty in the Arctic: Encyclopedia Arctica 11: Territorial Sovereignty and History

Author Stefansson, Vilhjalmur, 1879-1962

Territorial Sovereignty in the Arctic


January 1, 1950
Elmer Plischke, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Government and Politics University of Maryland College Park, Maryland
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.
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
  • 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–
  • 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
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
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
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
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
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 effected.
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
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
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– ritory.
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
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.
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 Denmark.
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
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 owner.
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.
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.
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 Circle.
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
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 Lakhtine.
Breitfuss divided the Arctic into five sectors . ^ (2, 3): ^
  • 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 extent).
  • 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
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 Canadian.
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
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.
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
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
mining rights and the judicial settlement of disputes. But it also became evident that no interested power would permit any other to take undisputed possession.
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
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
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
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:
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
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 Canada.
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
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
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,
  • 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,
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,
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
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.
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,
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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 formations.
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.
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 .
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 continue.
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.

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