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Kalaallit Nunaat
Flag of Greenland Coat of arms of Greenland
Flag Coat of arms
AnthemNunarput utoqqarsuanngoravit (Greenlandic)
"You Our Ancient Land!"

Location of Greenland
(and largest city)
Nuuk (Godthåb)
64°10′N 51°43′W / 64.167°N 51.717°W / 64.167; -51.717
Official languages Greenlandic (Kalaallisut) (from June 2009)[citation needed]
Ethnic groups  88% (Inuit and Inuit-Danish mixed ), 12% Europeans, mostly Danish
Demonym Greenlander, Greenlandic
Government Parliamentary democracy within a constitutional monarchy
 -  Monarch Margrethe II
 -  Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen
 -  First Minister Hans Enoksen
Autonomous country of the Kingdom of Denmark
 -  Home rule 1979 
 -  Total 2,166,086 km2 (13th)
836,109 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 81.11
 -  July 2007 estimate 57,564[1] 
 -  Density 0.027/km2 (241st)
0.069/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2001 estimate
 -  Total $1.1 billion (not ranked)
 -  Per capita $20,0002 (not ranked)
HDI (1998) 0.927[2] (high) (n/a)
Currency Danish krone (DKK)
Time zone GMT (UTC+0 to -4)
Drives on the right
Internet TLD .gl
Calling code 299
1 As of 2000: 410,449 km² (158,433 sq. miles) ice-free; 1,755,637 km² (677,676 sq. miles) ice-covered.
2 2001 estimate.

Greenland (Kalaallisut: Kalaallit Nunaat, meaning "Land of the Greenlanders"; Danish: Grønland) is a member country of the Kingdom of Denmark located between the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Though physiographically and ethnically an Arctic island country and geographically a part of the continent of North America, politically and historically Greenland is associated with Europe, specifically Iceland, Norway, and Denmark. In 1979, Denmark granted home rule to Greenland, with a relationship described by the Rigsfællesskabet, and in 2008 Greenland voted to become a separate country within the Kingdom of Denmark, effective June 2009. Greenland is, by area, the world's largest island that is not a continent in its own right.[3]


[edit] History

In prehistoric times Greenland was home to a number of Paleo-Eskimo cultures. From AD 986, it was colonised by Icelanders in two settlements on fjords near the southwesternmost tip of the island.[4] The settlements, such as Brattahlid, thrived for centuries but disappeared sometime in the 1400s, at the time of one given date for the outbreak of the Little Ice Age.[5]

Data from ice cores indicate that between AD 800 and 1300 the regions around the fjords of southern Greenland experienced a mild climate, with trees and herbaceous plants growing and livestock being farmed.[citation needed]

These Icelandic settlements vanished during the 14th and 15th centuries, likely due to famine and increasing conflicts with the Inuit.[6] The condition of human bones from this period indicates that the Norse population was malnourished, probably because of soil erosion resulting from the Norsemen's destruction of natural vegetation to allow for farming, turf-cutting, and wood-cutting, because of a decline in temperatures during the Little Ice Age, and because of armed conflicts with the Inuit.[5] Jared Diamond suggests that cultural practices, such as rejecting fish as a source of food and relying solely on livestock ill-adapted to Greenland's (degrading) climate resulted in recurring famine which led to abandonment of the colony.[5] However, isotope analysis of the bones of inhabitants shows that marine food sources supplied more and more of the diet of the Norse Greenlanders, making up between 50% and 80% of their diet by the 1300s.[7] There is little evidence that they hunted seals or other sea mammals for food, as was common practise amongst their Inuit neighbours.

The last written records of the Norse Greenlanders are of a marriage in 1408 in the church of Hvalsey — today the best-preserved Norse ruins in Greenland.

In the 16th century Greenland was visited by Corte-Real and according to the Treaty of Tordesillas part of the Portuguese area of influence. It is possible that some Portuguese settlements were created there in that period, as attested in some maps. [8]

Norway occupied and claimed parts of the then-uninhabited eastern Greenland (also called Erik the Red's Land) in July 1931, claiming that it constituted Terra nullius. Norway and Denmark agreed to submit the matter in 1933 to the Permanent Court of International Justice, which decided against Norway.

Greenland's connection to Denmark was severed on April 9, 1940, when, early in World War II, Denmark was occupied by Germany. Greenland was able to buy goods from the United States and Canada by selling cryolite from the mine in Ivittuut. During this war, the system of government changed: Governor Eske Brun ruled the island under a law of 1925 that allowed governors to take control under extreme circumstances; Governor Aksel Svane was transferred to the US to lead the commission to supply Greenland. A sledge patrol (in 1942, named the Sirius Patrol), guarding the northeastern shores of Greenland using dog sleds, detected and alerted American troops who then destroyed several German weather stations, giving Denmark a better position in the postwar turmoil.

Greenland had been a protected and very isolated society until 1940. The Danish government, which governed Greenland as its colony, had been convinced that the society would face exploitation from the outside world or even extinction if the country was opened up. But wartime Greenland developed a sense of self-reliance through self-government and independent communication with the outside world.

However, a commission in 1946 (with the highest Greenlandic council, the Landsrådene, as a participant) recommended patience and no radical reformation of the system. Two years later, the first step towards changing the government was initiated when a grand commission was established. A final report (G-50) was presented in 1950: Greenland was to be a modern welfare state with Denmark as sponsor and example. In 1953, Greenland was made an equal part of the Danish Kingdom. Home rule was granted in 1979.

[edit] Sovereignty

Norse Greenlanders submitted to Norwegian rule in the 13th century, and Norway entered into a personal union with Denmark in 1380 and from 1397 as a part of the Kalmar Union[citation needed]. After the Norse settlements died off, the area was de facto controlled by various Inuit groups. Eventually, the dependencies of Greenland, Iceland and the Faroe Islands became part of the reorganised "Kingdom of Denmark" after the Napoleonic Wars.

In the early 20th century, the United States was believed to have claims made good by discovery and exploration of the Peary expeditions. In 1933, Norway attempted to claim eastern Greenland, but the Permanent Court of Arbitration decided that the entire island belonged to Denmark. During the Cold War, the United States developed a geopolitical interest in Greenland, and therefore in 1946, the United States offered to buy Greenland from Denmark for $100,000,000, but Denmark refused to sell.[9][10]

Greenland became an integral part of the Kingdom of Denmark in 1953. It was granted home rule by the Folketing (Danish parliament) in 1979. The law went into effect on May 1, 1979. The Queen of Denmark, Margrethe II, remains Greenland's Head of State. Greenlandic voters subsequently chose to leave the European Economic Community upon achieving self-rule, because they did not want to allow European fishing fleets in Greenlandic waters.[citation needed] A referendum on greater autonomy[11] was approved on 25 November 2008.[12]

[edit] Politics

Greenland's Head of State is currently Margrethe II. The Queen's government in Denmark appoints a Rigsombudsmand (High commissioner) representing the Danish government and monarchy.

Greenland has an elected parliament of thirty-one members. The head of government is the Prime Minister, who is usually the leader of the majority party in Parliament. The current Prime Minister is Hans Enoksen.

As part of the realm of the Kingdom of Denmark, Greenlanders elect two representatives who sit in the Danish parliament.

In 1985, Greenland left the European Community (EC), unlike Denmark which remains a member. The EC later became the EU (European Union) when it was renamed and expanded in scope in 1992. Greenland retains some ties with the EU via Denmark. However EU law largely does not apply to Greenland except in the area of trade.

[edit] Geography and climate

Geography of Greenland

The Atlantic Ocean borders Greenland's southeast; the Greenland Sea is to the east; the Arctic Ocean is to the north; and Baffin Bay is to the west. The nearest countries are Iceland, east of Greenland in the Atlantic Ocean, and Canada, to the west and across Baffin Bay. Greenland is the world's largest island, and is the largest dependent territory by area in the world. It also contains the world's largest national park.

Southeast coast of Greenland

The total area of Greenland measures 2,166,086 km² (836,109 sq mi), of which the Greenland ice sheet covers 1,755,637 km² (677,676 sq mi) (81%) and has a volume of approximately 2,850,000 cubic kilometres (680,000 cu mi).[13] The coastline of Greenland is 39,330 km (24,430 miles) long, about the same length as the Earth's circumference at the Equator. The highest point on Greenland is Gunnbjørn at 3,694 metres (12,119 ft). However, the majority of Greenland is under 1,500 metres (5,000 ft) elevation.

The weight of the massive Greenlandic ice cap has depressed the central land area to form a basin lying more than 300 m (1,000 ft) below sea level.[14] The ice flows generally to the coast from the center of the island.

All towns and settlements of Greenland are situated along the ice-free coast, with the population being concentrated along the west coast. The northeastern part of Greenland is not part of any municipality, but is the site of the world's largest national park, Northeast Greenland National Park.

At least four scientific expedition stations and camps had been established in the ice-covered central part of Greenland (indicated as pale blue in the map to the right), on the ice sheet: Eismitte, North Ice, North GRIP Camp and The Raven Skiway. Currently, there is a year-round station, Summit Camp, on the ice sheet, established in 1989. The radio station Jørgen Brøndlund Fjord was, until 1950, the northernmost permanent outpost in the world.

Southern Greenland scenery, near Nanortalik, where fjords and mountains dominate the landscape.
View from the air

The extreme north of Greenland, Peary Land, is not covered by an ice sheet, because the air there is too dry to produce snow, which is essential in the production and maintenance of an ice sheet. If the Greenland ice sheet were to completely melt away, sea level would rise by more than 7 m (23 ft)[15] and Greenland would most likely become an archipelago.

Qaqortoq town in southern Greenland.

Between 1989 and 1993, U.S. and European climate researchers drilled into the summit of Greenland's ice sheet, obtaining a pair of 3 km (2 mi) long ice cores. Analysis of the layering and chemical composition of the cores has provided a revolutionary new record of climate change in the Northern Hemisphere going back about 100,000 years and illustrated that the world's weather and temperature have often shifted rapidly from one seemingly stable state to another, with worldwide consequences.[16] The glaciers of Greenland are also contributing to global sea level rise at a faster rate than was previously believed.[17] Between 1991 and 2004, monitoring of the weather at one location (Swiss Camp) found that the average winter temperature had risen almost 6 °C (11 °F).[18] Other research has shown that higher snowfalls from the North Atlantic oscillation caused the interior of the ice cap to thicken by an average of 6 cm/yr between 1994 and 2005.[19]

However, a recent study suggests a much warmer planet in relatively recent geological times:

Scientists who probed two kilometers (1.2 miles) through a Greenland glacier to recover the oldest plant DNA on record said the planet was far warmer hundreds of thousands of years ago than is generally believed. DNA of trees, plants and insects including butterflies and spiders from beneath the southern Greenland glacier was estimated to date to 450,000 to 900,000 years ago, according to the remnants retrieved from this long-vanished boreal forest. That view contrasts sharply with the prevailing one that a lush forest of this kind could only have existed in Greenland as recently as 2.4 million years ago. The existence of those DNA samples suggest the temperature probably reached 10 degrees C (50 degrees Fahrenheit) in the summer and -17 °C (1 °F) in the winter. They also indicated that during the last interglacial period, 116,000–130,000 years ago, when temperatures were on average 5 °C (9 °F) higher than now, the glaciers on Greenland did not completely melt away.[20]

Scoresby Sund in eastern Greenland, the longest fjord in the world.

In 1996, the American "Top of the World" expedition found the world's northernmost island off Greenland: ATOW1996. An even more northerly candidate was spotted during the return from the expedition, but its status is yet to be confirmed.

In 2007, the existence of a "new" island was announced. Named "Uunartoq Qeqertoq" (English: Warming Island), this island has always been present off the coast of Greenland, but was covered by an ice sheet. This ice sheet was discovered to be shrinking rapidly in 2002, and by 2007 had completely melted away, leaving the exposed island.[21] The island was named "Place of the Year" by the Oxford Atlas of the World in 2007. Ben Keene, the atlas's editor, commented: "In the last two or three decades, global warming has reduced the size of glaciers throughout the Arctic and earlier this year, news sources confirmed what climate scientists already knew: water, not rock, lay beneath this ice bridge on the east coast of Greenland. More islets are likely to appear as the sheet of frozen water covering the world’s largest island continues to melt."

Some controversy surrounds the history of the island, specifically over whether the island might have been revealed during a brief warm period in Greenland during the mid-20th century.[22]

[edit] Etymology

The name Greenland comes from Scandinavian settlers. In the Icelandic sagas, it is said that Norwegian-born Erik the Red was exiled from Iceland for murder. He, along with his extended family and thralls, set out in ships to find the land that was rumoured to be to the northwest. After settling there, he named the land Grænland ("Greenland").[23] Greenland was also called Gruntland ("Ground-land") and Engronelant (or Engroneland) on early maps. Whether green is an erroneous transcription of grunt ("ground"), which refers to shallow bays, or vice versa, is not known. The southern portion of Greenland (not covered by glacier) is indeed very green in the summer and was likely to have been even greener in Erik's time because of the Medieval Warm Period.

[edit] Topography

About 81 percent of Greenland's surface is covered by the Greenland ice sheet. The weight of the ice has depressed the central land area into a basin shape, whose base lies more than 300 metres (984 ft) below the surrounding ocean. Elevations rise suddenly and steeply near the coast.[24]

[edit] Economy

Colorful houses dot the town of Ittoqqortoormiit.

Greenland today is critically dependent on fishing and fish exports.[citation needed] The shrimp fishing industry is by far the largest income earner.[citation needed] Despite resumption of several interesting hydrocarbon and mineral exploration activities, it will take several years before hydrocarbon production can materialize. The state oil company NUNAOIL was created in order to help develop the hydrocarbon industry in Greenland. The state company Nunamineral has been launched on the Copenhagen Stock Exchange to raise more capital to increase the production of gold, started in 2007.[citation needed] Exploitation of ruby deposits began in 2007.[citation needed] other mineral prospects are improving as prices are increasing;[citation needed]. These include uranium, aluminium, nickel, platinum, tungsten, titanium, and copper.[citation needed] Tourism is the only sector offering any near-term potential and even this is limited due to a short season and high costs.[citation needed] The public sector, including publicly owned enterprises and the municipalities, plays the dominant role in Greenland's economy. About half the government revenues come from grants from the Danish Government, an important supplement to the gross domestic product (GDP). Gross domestic product per capita is equivalent to that of the weaker economies of Europe.[citation needed]

Greenland suffered an economic contraction in the early 1990s, but since 1993 the economy has improved. The Greenland Home Rule Government (GHRG) has pursued a tight fiscal policy since the late 1980s which has helped create surpluses in the public budget and low inflation. Since 1990, Greenland has registered a foreign trade deficit following the closure of the last remaining lead and zinc mine that year. More recently, new sources of ruby in Greenland have been discovered promising to bring new industry and a new export to the country. (See Greenland Ruby).[citation needed]

[edit] Transport

Air transport is the most important method of travel inside Greenland, and to and from the island. There is also scheduled boat traffic, but the long distances cause long travel times and low frequency. There are no roads between cities because the coast has too many fjords which would need ferries.

Kangerlussuaq Airport on the West coast at Kangerlussuaq is the major airport in Greenland. Intercontinental flights connect mainly to Copenhagen. As of May 2007, Air Greenland initiated a seasonal route to and from Baltimore in the United States.[25] However, on March 10, 2008, the route was cancelled due to financial losses.[26] Air Iceland is opening a new route, Keflavík-Ilulissat, operated twice weekly from July 2009.[27] In addition to these routes there are scheduled international flights between Narsarsuaq and Copenhagen, between Kulusuk on the east coast and Reykjavík, and between Keflavík and Nuuk. Kangerlussuaq is the hub for domestic flights within Greenland.

Sea passenger and freight transport is served by the coastal ferries operated by Arctic Umiaq Line. It has only one round trip per week which takes 80 hours per direction.

[edit] Demographics

Greenland has a population of 57,564 (2008),[1] of whom 88% are Inuit or mixed Danish and Inuit. The remaining 12% are of European descent, mainly Danish. The majority of the population is Evangelical Lutheran. Nearly all Greenlanders live along the fjords in the south-west of the main island, which have a relatively mild climate.[28]

[edit] Languages

Both Greenlandic (Kalaallisut) and Danish have been used in public affairs since the establishment of home rule in 1979, and most of the population speak both of the languages. Greenlandic, spoken by about 50,000 people, some monolingual, will be the sole official language from June 2009. A minority of Danish migrants with no Inuit ancestry speak Danish as their first, or only, language, and Danish, which is presently one of the official languages, will remain a language of higher education. English is widely spoken as a third language[29]. The country has a 100% literacy rate.[30]

The Greenlandic language is the most populous of the languages of the Eskimo-Aleut language family and it has as many speakers as all the other languages of the family combined. Within Greenland, three main dialects are recognized: the northern dialect Inuktun or Avanersuarmiutut spoken by around 1000 people in the region of Qaanaaq, Western Greenlandic or Kalaallisut which serves as the official standard language, and the Eastern dialect Tunumiit oraasiat or Tunumiutut spoken in eastern Greenland.

[edit] Culture

An Inuit family in Greenland, 1917.

The culture of Greenland has much in common with Inuit tradition, as the majority of people are descended from Inuit. People still go ice-fishing and there are annual dog-sled races in which everyone with a team participates. Nevertheless, for some time now, fishing by traditional methods has been increasingly replaced by the use of firearms and modern technology.

[edit] Sport

Association football is the national sport of Greenland. In January 2007, Greenland took part in the World Men's Handball Championship in Germany, finishing 22nd in a field of 24 national teams.

Greenland competes in the biennial Island Games.

[edit] See also

[edit] Footnotes

  1. ^ a b CIA - The World Factbook - Greenland
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ Joshua Calder's World Island Info
  4. ^ The Fate of Greenland's Vikings, by Dale Mackenzie Brown, Archaeological Institute of America, February 28, 2000
  5. ^ a b c Diamond, Jared M. (2006). Collapse: how societies choose to fail or succeed. Harmondsworth [Eng.]: Penguin. ISBN 0-14-303655-6. 
  6. ^ Inuit and Norsemen in Arctic Canada AD 1000 to 1400
  7. ^ C-14 dating and the disappearance of Norsemen from Greenland
  8. ^
  9. ^ Time Magazine Monday, Jan. 27, 1947 “Deepfreeze Defense”:
  10. ^ National Review May 7, 2001 "Let’s Buy Greenland! -- A complete missile-defense plan" By John J. Miller (National Review's National Political Reporter):
  11. ^
  12. ^ >"Vejledende folkeafstemning om selvstyre ∙ 25-11-2008" (in Greenlandic). SermitValg. 2008-11-26. Retrieved on 2008-11-26. 
  13. ^ IPCC Climate Change 2001: Working Group I: The Scientific Basis
  14. ^ DK Atlas, 2001.
  15. ^ Greenland Melt May Swamp LA, Other Cities, Study Says
  16. ^ Alley, 2000
  17. ^ Roach, John (February 16, 2006). "Greenland Glaciers Losing Ice Much Faster, Study Says". National Geographic. Retrieved on 2006-09-13. 
  18. ^
  19. ^ Satellite shows Greenland's ice sheets getting thicker The Register
  20. ^ Willerslev, E.; et al. (2007). "Ancient biomolecules from deep ice cores reveal a forested southern Greenland". Science 317 (5834): 111–4. doi:10.1126/science.1141758. PMID 17615355. 
  21. ^ An island made by global warming - Climate Change, Environment -
  22. ^
  23. ^ Retrieved 12-Feb-2007
  24. ^ Schneider D (2003). "American Scientist Online - Greenland or Whiteland?". Sigma Xi. Retrieved on 2008-03-03. 
  25. ^ Historical Maiden Flight US-Greenland - Official national guide by Greenland Tourism and Business Council
  26. ^ News - Air Greenland
  27. ^ Air Iceland to open new route to Ilulissat in 2009, The Official Tourism and Business Site of Greenland
  28. ^ Greenland
  29. ^ Greenland Representation to the EU, Greenland Home Rule Government
  30. ^ "Greenland". CIA World Factbook. 2008-06-19. Retrieved on 2008-07-11. 

[edit] References

  • Alley, Richard B. The Two-Mile Time Machine: Ice Cores, Abrupt Climate Change, and Our Future. Princeton University Press, 2000, ISBN 0-691-00493-5.
  • CIA World Factbook, 2000.
  • Lund, S. 1959. The Marine Algae of East Greenland. 1. Taxonomical Part. Meddr Gronland. 156(1), pp.1-245.
  • Lund, S. 1959. The Marine Algae of East Greenland. 11. Geographic Distribution. Meddr Gronland. 156, pp.1-70.
  • Steffen, Konrad, N. Cullen, and R. Huff (2005). "Climate variability and trends along the western slope of the Greenland Ice Sheet during 1991-2004," Proceedings of the 85th American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting (San Diego).
  • Bardarson, I. (ed. Jónsson, F.) "Det gamle Grønlands beskrivelse af Ívar Bárðarson (Ivar Bårdssön)", (Copenhagen, 1930).

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