Greenland is the largest island in the world, almost completely covered by ice, so its territory has never been sufficiently explored.
Greenland’s climate is unfriendly to humans. Despite this, for thousands of years settlers from all over the world have flocked here.
The largest island in the world
Greenland’s main population, the Eskimos, are a Mongoloid race: their ancestors came to Greenland from Asia, via Canada, 2500-5000 years ago. It is assumed that at that time the climate was less harsh than it is now. Various ethnic groups from Asia continued to settle Greenland later when climatic conditions began to worsen, approaching those we see today. The new Eskimo settlers who arrived on the island at the end of the 1st millennium A.D. belonged to the Neo-Eskimo Tule culture.
The first Europeans to discover the island in 875 A.D. were the Vikings.
Greenland was indeed a “green country” with rich pastures which attracted settlers. The colony existed for several centuries, the number of inhabitants reached 3,000. Between the XIV and XV centuries, when Greenland, apparently because of a serious cold snap, it became impossible to farm as before, many Europeans left the island. Judging by the results of archaeological excavations, some of those who remained died from the cold and clashes with the Eskimos, and some mingled with the local population.
Today the bulk of Greenland’s population are Greenlanders, that is, the descendants of the Eskimos and European colonizers, mostly Norwegians and Danes. In addition there live here indigenous Eskimos and Danes, colonized the island at the beginning of the XVIII century. Greenland officially became a Danish colony in 1814, and in 1953, the status of the Danish overseas territory with autonomous administration. In 1979, Greenland received broad autonomy. In 2009, autonomy was further expanded. However, Denmark continues to manage the foreign policy of Greenland, subsidizes its budget and takes care of its safety.
The Eskimos call Greenland Kalaallit Nunaat, meaning land of the people. Meanwhile, only 57,600 people live on the ice-covered land. Therefore, the population density is 0.026 people/km2. The very fact that an entire island is under a blanket of ice is, at first glance, surprising. After all, to other areas located at the same geographic latitudes, nature is more benevolent. The reason lies in the topography of Greenland. The central part of the island is occupied by a sea 250 m deep, surrounded on all sides by high mountains. Thus, the ice from the last ice age is stored as in a huge refrigerator, preventing it from melting as it did in some areas of Canada, Norway and Russia. The interior of the country is covered by a layer of ice, sometimes as thick as 300 meters. Accordingly, humans could only survive in the coastal zone. The west coast, where the climate is milder, is the most populated. The name Greenland translates as “green land” and comes from the Vikings who settled on the island at the end of the X century, when the climate was much warmer. And the name has survived to this day.
Despite the eternal ice, the shores of Greenland are covered by subarctic meadows all summer long, and some plants bloom even in temperatures down to -20ºC.
- Area: 2,175,600 km2.
- Area under the ice cover: 1,726,000 km2.
- Populated area: 88,000 km2.
- Highest point: Gunbjørn (3,700 m).
- Population: 57,600 as of July 2009.
Climate and weather
- In the north and in the interior the average temperature reaches -30ºC.
- The record minus temperature is -65 ºC.
- Winds reach speeds of up to 320 km/hour.
- In the southern part of the island, which resembles the mainland in dimensions, the climate is subpolar (influenced by warm air currents) with an average temperature of -4°C (minimum -29°C, maximum +28°C).
- In the north, the polar night lasts up to four months.
- Minerals: oil, gas, zinc, tin, molybdenum, uranium, coal, iron, nickel, graphite, gold, rubies and diamonds.
- Fishing: mainly shrimps, halibut, capelin, crabs, sea bass, cod, pinnacle, salmon.
- Hunting: is permitted to the local population for personal purposes, the objects are walrus, seal, arctic fox, polar bear, deer, polar birds.
- Tourism: is in its infancy.
- Greenland receives economic aid from Denmark and the European Union.
- The interior of the island, covered with ice;
- Ruins of Gardar of the Viking Age in the village of Igaliku;
- Kassiarsuk village, Korok fjord, glaciers.
- In the dialect of the Canadian Indians, the word “Eskimo” means “person who eats raw meat.” And they call themselves Inuit, which means “real people.”
- The largest national park in the world was opened in Greenland in 1974. It is the North-East Greenland National Park, which covers an area of 972 km2.
- The waters surrounding Greenland are home to eight species of whales.