The Secretary of State to the Minister in Norway (Swenson)

No. 331

Sir: With further reference to the Department’s instruction No. 297, dated August 25, 1926,2 and the Legation’s reply No. 870, dated October 1, 1926,3 regarding the Island of Jan Mayen, there is transmitted herewith for your information a copy of a letter dated September 8, 1926, from Mr. Hagbard Ekerold.4

It is stated that the Polarfront Company, of which Mr. Ekerold is President, has established two fox farms on unoccupied land, on the Island of Jan Mayen upon which Mr. Ekerold in 1922 had placed claim stakes in his name, and that this property is outside of the section previously claimed by Mr. Ekerold on behalf of the Norwegian Meteorological Institute. It is further stated that permanent structures have been erected on both farms, that employees have been sent there in charge of the work and supplied with provisions for two years, and that Mr. Ekerold has instructed his men to raise the American flag over each station. He also states that his representatives on the Island have been ordered by certain Norwegians connected with the operation of the radio station not to fly the American flag, and that they have made other representations in regard to the matter.

In the Legation’s despatch No. 870 of October 1, 1926, the Norwegian Foreign Office, in referring to the note of the Norwegian Minister at this capital, dated May 17, 1926,4a forwarding the notice of the Norwegian Meteorological Institute that it had extended its occupation to the entire Island of Jan Mayen, stated that there had been no occupation of the Island on the part of the Norwegian state, but that the recent activities of the Meteorological Institute had greatly increased Norwegian interests.

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The Polarfront Company contends that the Island has heretofore been acknowledged as “terra nullius,” that its occupation of a portion of the land is as valid an acquisition of property rights as those claimed by or on behalf of the Norwegian Meteorological Institute, and it is desirous of securing recognition and protection of its property rights. Mr. Ekerold has made inquiry of the Department relative to the advisability of his sending a formal notice of annexation, in connection with which he desires to know whether he can be assured of the support of this Government in taking such action.

It is the opinion of this Department that the interests of the United States are not of such a nature as to permit the consideration of annexation. But the Department is also of the opinion that there is no paramount Norwegian interest which would justify an annexation to the exclusion of the recognition and protection of existing property rights of American nationals on the Island.

There is enclosed for your information a copy of the communication addressed to Mr. Ekerold in reply to his inquiry.5

It is desired that you should inform the Norwegian Foreign Office that the Polarfront Company, an American corporation, has established two fox farms upon the Island of Jan Mayen and makes claim to the land occupied. You should also bring the substance of the foregoing informally to the attention of the Norwegian Foreign Office and inform this Department by mail of the result of your action.

I am [etc.]

For the Secretary of State:
Joseph C. Grew