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

(and largest city)
Nuuk (Godthåb)
64°10′N 51°44′W / 64.167°N 51.733°W / 64.167; -51.733
Official language(s) Greenlandic (Kalaallisut)
Ethnic groups  88% Inuit (including Inuit-Danish mixed)
12% Europeans,
mostly Danish
Demonym Greenlanders, Greenlandic
Government Parliamentary democracy within a constitutional monarchy
 -  Monarch Margrethe II
 -  High Commissioner Søren Hald Møller
 -  Prime Minister Kuupik Kleist
Autonomous constituent country
within the Kingdom of Denmark
 -  Norwegian sovereignty[a] 1261 
 -  Contact re-established 1721 
 -  Ceded to Denmark[b] 14 January 1814 
 -  Status of amt 5 June 1953 
 -  Home rule 1 May 1979 
 -  Self rule 21 June 2009[1] 
 -  Total 2,166,086 km2 (13th)
836,109 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 83.1[c]
 -  July 2009 estimate 57,600[2] 
 -  Density 0.027/km2 (241st)
0.069/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2001 estimate
 -  Total $1.1 billion (not ranked)
 -  Per capita $20,000[d] (not ranked)
HDI (1998) 0.927[3] (high) (n/a)
Currency Danish krone (DKK)
Time zone GMT (UTC+0 to -4)
Drives on the right
Internet TLD .gl
Calling code +299
a. ^ Danish monarchy reached Greenland in 1380 with the reign of Olav IV in Norway.

b. ^ Greenland, the Faeroes and Iceland were formally Norwegian possessions until 1814 despite 400 years of Danish monarchy beforehand.
c. ^ = As of 2000: 410,449 km² (158,433 sq. miles) ice-free; 1,755,637 km² (677,676 sq. miles) ice-covered. Density: 0.14 /km² (0.36 /sq. mi) for ice-free areas.

d. ^ = 2001 estimate.

Greenland (Danish: Grønland; Kalaallisut: Kalaallit Nunaat, meaning "Land of the people")[4] is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark, located between the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Though physiographically a part of the continent of North America, Greenland has been politically associated with Europe (specifically Denmark-Norway) for about a millennium.

In 1979, Denmark granted home rule to Greenland, with a relationship known in Danish as Rigsfællesskabet [The community of the Kingdom], and in 2008 Greenland voted to transfer more competencies to the local government. This became effective the following year, with the Danish royal government remaining in charge only of foreign affairs, security and financial policy, and providing a subsidy of DKK 3.4 billion ($633m), or approximately US$11,300 per Greenlander, annually.

Greenland is, by area, the world's largest island that is not a continent.[5] It is the least densely populated country in the world.[6]

The bedrock in the centre of Greenland has been pressed below sea level by the weight of the ice sheet. Thus, if the ice melted, much of central Greenland would be under water.[7]



Early Paleo-Eskimo cultures

In prehistoric times Greenland was home to several successive Paleo-Eskimo cultures known primarily through archaeological findings. From around 2500 BC to 800 BC, southern and western Greenland was inhabited by the Saqqaq culture. Most findings of Saqqaq period archaeological remains have been around Disko Bay. From 2400 BC to 1300 BC the Independence I culture existed in northern Greenland. It was a part of the Arctic small tool tradition.

Around 800 BC, the Saqqaq culture disappeared and the Early Dorset culture emerged in western Greenland and the Independence II culture in northern Greenland. The Dorset culture was the first culture to extend throughout the Greenlandic coastal areas, both on the west and east coasts, and it lasted until the arrival of the Thule culture in 1500 AD. The Dorset culture population lived primarily from whale hunting. The Thule culture people are the ancestors of the current Greenlandic population. They started migrating from Alaska around 1000 AD, reaching Greenland around 1300 AD. The Thule culture was the first to introduce to Greenland such technological innovations as dog sleds and toggling harpoons.

The Kingdom of Norway, circa 1300

Norse settlement

From 986 AD, Greenland's west coast was colonised by Icelanders and Norwegians in two settlements on fjords near the southwestern-most tip of the island.[8] They shared the island with the late Dorset culture inhabitants who occupied the northern and eastern parts, and later with the Thule culture arriving from the north. Norse Greenlanders submitted to Norwegian rule in the 13th century, and the kingdom of Norway entered into a personal union with Denmark in 1380 and from 1397 as a part of the Kalmar Union.[9]

The settlements, such as Brattahlið, thrived for centuries but disappeared some time in the 15th century, perhaps at the onset of the Little Ice Age.[10] Interpretation of ice core data suggests that between 800 and 1300 AD the regions around the fjords of southern Greenland experienced a mild climate, with trees[citation needed] and herbaceous plants growing and livestock being farmed. Barley was grown as a crop up to the 70th degree [11] What is verifiable is that the ice cores indicate Greenland has experienced dramatic temperature shifts many times over the past 100,000 years.[12]

These Icelandic settlements vanished during the 14th and 15th centuries, probably due to famine and increasing conflicts with the Inuit.[13] 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 in the course of farming, turf-cutting, and wood-cutting,
  • a decline in temperatures during the Little Ice Age,
  • armed conflicts with the Inuit.[10]

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 (deteriorating) climate, resulted in recurring famine which led to abandonment of the colony.[10] 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.[14]

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 1500, King Manuel I of Portugal sent Gaspar Corte-Real to Greenland in search of a Northwest Passage to Asia which, according to the Treaty of Tordesillas, was part of the Portuguese area of influence. In 1501 Corte-Real returned with his brother, Miguel Corte-Real. Finding the Sea frozen, they headed south and arrived in Labrador and Newfoundland.

However, after the Norse settlements died off, the area was de facto controlled by various Inuit groups; but the Danish government never forgot or relinquished the claims to Greenland that it had inherited from the Norwegians, and when contact with Greenland was re-established in the early 18th century, Denmark asserted its sovereignty over the island. In 1721 a joint mercantile and clerical expedition led by Danish-Norwegian missionary Hans Egede was sent to Greenland, not knowing whether a Norse civilization remained there. The expedition can be seen as part of the Danish colonization of the Americas. After 15 years in Greenland, Hans Egede left his son Paul Egede in charge of the mission in Greenland and returned to Denmark where he established a Greenland Seminary. This new colony was centered at Godthåb ("Good Hope") on the southwest coast. Gradually, Greenland was opened up to Danish merchants, and closed to those from other countries.

Treaty of Kiel to World War II

Eventually, when the union between Denmark and Norway was dissolved in 1814 (Treaty of Kiel), the dependencies of Greenland, Iceland, and the Faroe Islands became part of the reorganised "Kingdom of Denmark".

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.[15]

Greenland's connection to Denmark was severed on 9 April 1940, early in World War II, when Denmark was occupied by Germany. Greenland was able to buy goods from the United States and Canada by selling cryolite from the mine at 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 several German weather stations and alerted American troops who then destroyed them.

Greenland had been a protected and very isolated society until 1940. The Danish government, which governed Greenland as its colony, had been convinced that this 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 reform of the system. Two years later, the first step towards a change of 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.


During the Cold War, the United States developed a geopolitical interest in Greenland, and in 1946 the United States offered to buy Greenland from Denmark for $100,000,000, but Denmark refused to sell.[16][17]

Greenland became an integral part of the Kingdom of Denmark in 1953. It was granted home rule by the Parliament of Denmark in 1979. The law came into effect on 1 May 1979. The Queen of Denmark, Margrethe II, remains Greenland's Head of State. In 1985, Greenland left the European Economic Community (EEC) upon achieving self-rule, in view of the EEC's commercial fishing regulations and a EEC ban on seal skin products.[18] A referendum on greater autonomy[19] was approved on 25 November 2008.[20] On 21 June 2009, Greenland assumed self-determination with responsibility for self-government of judicial affairs, policing, and natural resources. Also, Greenlanders were recognized as a separate people under international law.[21] Denmark maintains control of foreign affairs and defense matters. Denmark upholds the annual block grant of 3.2 billion Danish kroner, but as Greenland begins to collect revenues of its natural resources the grant will gradually be diminished. It is a step towards full independence from Danish rule. Greenlandic became the sole official language of Greenland at the historic ceremony.[22][23][24][25] [26]


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 Kuupik Kleist.

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

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.

Economics and Business

About half of public spending on Greenland is funded by block grants from Denmark which in 2007 totaled over 3.2 billion kr. Additional proceeds from the sale of fishing licenses and the annual compensation from the EU represents 280 million dkr per year. Greenland's economy is based on a narrow professional basis with the fishing industry as the dominant sector with some 90% of its exports. In a few years, quarrying and tourism could complement the fisheries that depend on the changing prices of fish and fishing opportunities. The long-range divides the domestic market into many small units that have high operating costs. Most of the fish factories are owned by Royal Greenland.

One special thing about Greenland is that land ownership is not established.

Geography and climate

Geography of Greenland

The average annual temperatures of Nuuk, Greenland vary from -9 degrees Celsius (16 Fahrenheit) to 7 degrees Celsius (45 Fahrenheit)

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 across Baffin Bay. Greenland also contains the world's largest national park, and is the world's largest island and the largest dependent territory by area in the world. However, since the 1950s, scientists have postulated that the ice sheet covering the country may actually conceal three separate island land masses that have been bridged by glaciers over the last geologic cooling period.[27][28][29]

Southeast coast of Greenland

The total area of Greenland is 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).[30] The highest point on Greenland is Gunnbjørn Fjeld at 3,700 metres (12,119 ft). However, the majority of Greenland is under 1,500 metres (5,000 ft) elevation.

The weight of the massive Greenland ice sheet has depressed the central land area to form a basin lying more than 300 m (1,000 ft) below sea level.[31] 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 on the ice sheet in the ice-covered central part of Greenland (indicated as pale blue in the map to the right): 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 melt away completely, the world's sea level would rise by more than 7 m (23 ft)[32] 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.[33] The glaciers of Greenland are also contributing to a rise in the global sea level at a faster rate than was previously believed.[34] Between 1991 and 2004, monitoring of the weather at one location (Swiss Camp) showed that the average winter temperature had risen almost 6 °C (11 °F).[35] 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.[36]

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 that 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 not have existed in Greenland any later than 2.4 million years ago. These DNA samples suggest that the temperature probably reached 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit) in the summer and -17 °C (1 °F) in the winter. They also indicate that during the last interglacial period, 130,000–116,000 years ago, when temperatures were on average 5 °C (9 °F) higher than now, the glaciers on Greenland did not completely melt away.[37]

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 a glacier. This glacier was discovered in 2002 to be shrinking rapidly, and by 2007 had completely melted away, leaving the exposed island.[38] The island was named "Place of the Year" by the Oxford Atlas of the World in 2007.[39] 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.[40]

alt text
Greenland without an ice sheet


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 Grœnland ("Greenland") in the hope that the pleasant name would attract settlers.[41][42] 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 green in the summer and was probably even greener in Erik's time during the Medieval Warm Period[citation needed].


About 81% 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.[citation needed] Elevations rise suddenly and steeply near the coast.[43]


Colorful houses dot the town of Ittoqqortoormiit.
Public housing in Ilulissat

Greenland today is critically dependent on fishing and fish exports. 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.

Mining of ruby deposits began in 2007. Other mineral prospects are improving as prices are increasing. These include uranium, aluminium, nickel, platinum, tungsten, titanium, and copper.

The public sector, including publicly owned enterprises and the municipalities, plays a 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.

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).


Air transportation exists both within Greenland and between the island and other nations. There is also scheduled boat traffic, but the long distances lead to long travel times and low frequency. There are no roads between cities because the coast has many fjords that would require ferry service to connect a road network.[citation needed]

Kangerlussuaq Airport on the West coast is the major airport of Greenland and the hub for domestic flights. Intercontinental flights connect mainly to Copenhagen. In May 2007, Air Greenland initiated a seasonal route to and from Baltimore in the United States[44], but on March 10, 2008, the route was cancelled due to financial losses[45]. Air Iceland will begin operating a twice-weekly Keflavík-Ilulissat route in July 2009.[46] In addition to these routes there are scheduled international flights between Narsarsuaq and Copenhagen, between Kulusuk on the east coast and Reykjavík, and between Nuuk and Keflavík.

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


Greenland has a population of 57,600 (July 2009 estimate),[2] 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 has a relatively mild climate.[47] Approximately 15,000 Greenlanders reside in Nuuk, the capital city.


Both Greenlandic (Kalaallisut) and Danish have been used in public affairs since the establishment of home rule in 1979, and the majority of the population speak both languages. Greenlandic, spoken by about 50,000 people, some monolingual, became the sole official language in June 2009.[48] A minority of Danish migrants with no Inuit ancestry speak Danish as their first, or only, language, and Danish, which was formerly one of the official languages, now remains a language of higher education. A minority of the population of Inuit ancestry speaks Danish as their first language. English is widely spoken as a third language.[49] The country has a 100% literacy rate.[2]

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 Tunumiisut, spoken in eastern Greenland.


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 continue the Inuit tradition of ice-fishing and there are annual dog-sled races. Fishing by traditional methods has been increasingly replaced by the use of firearms and modern technology.


Football match in Uummannaq

Association football (soccer) is the national sport of Greenland. The nation is not yet a member of FIFA because it cannot grow grass for regulation grass pitches. It is a member of the NF Board.

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, as well as the biennial Arctic Winter Games. Golf is also a popular sport in Greenland.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c "Greenland". CIA World Factbook. 2009-10-28. Retrieved 2009-11-05. 
  3. ^ United Nations Island Directory
  4. ^ Stern, Pamela (July 2004). "The Dictionary". Historical dictionary of the Inuit. Lanham, Maryland: The Scarecrow Press, Inc.. p. 89. ISBN 0810850583. OCLC 54768167. 
  5. ^ Joshua Calder's World Island Info
  6. ^ The 2008 Revision Population Database
  7. ^ map (map on p. 4)
  8. ^ The Fate of Greenland's Vikings, by Dale Mackenzie Brown, Archaeological Institute of America, February 28, 2000
  9. ^ Boraas, Tracey (2002). Sweden. Capstone Press. p. 24. ISBN 0-7368-0939-2. 
  10. ^ a b c Diamond, Jared M. (2006). Collapse: how societies choose to fail or succeed. Harmondsworth [Eng.]: Penguin. ISBN 0-14-303655-6. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ Alley P, Mayewski P, Peel D, Stauffer B (1996). "Twin Ice Cores From Greenland Reveal History of Climate Change, More" (). Earth in Space 9 (2): 12–13. 
  13. ^ Inuit and Norsemen in Arctic Canada 1000 to 1400 AD
  14. ^ Arneborg, J.; Heinmeier, J.; Lynnerup, N.; Nielsen, H. L.; Rud, N.; Sveinbjörnsdóttir, Á. E. (2002). C-14 dating and the disappearance of Norsemen from Greenland. Europhysics news.
  15. ^ Legal Status of Eastern Greenland, PCIJ Series A/B No. 53 (1933)
  16. ^ "Deepfreeze Defense". Time Magazine. 1947-01-27.,9171,778870,00.html. 
  17. ^ Miller, John J. (2001-05-07). "Let's Buy Greenland! — A complete missile-defense plan". National Review's National Political Reporter (National Review). 
  18. ^ Stern, 2004, pp. 55–56
  19. ^ "Greenland Vote Favors Independence". New York Times. 2008-11-26. 
  20. ^ "Vejledende folkeafstemning om selvstyre ∙ 25-11-2008" (in Greenlandic). SermitValg. 2008-11-26. Retrieved 2008-11-26. 
  21. ^
  22. ^ "Self-rule introduced in Greenland". BBC News. 2009-06-21. Retrieved 2009-06-21. 
  23. ^ "Nearly independent day". The Economist. 2009-06-20. Retrieved 2009-06-20. 
  24. ^ "Greenland set for self-rule". The Australian. 2009-06-19.,25197,25659553-26040,00.html. Retrieved 2009-06-20. 
  25. ^ Boswell, Randy (2009-06-19). "Greenland takes big step towards full independence". Canwest News Services. Retrieved 2009-06-20. 
  26. ^
  27. ^ San Francisco Chronicle: "Greenland's Huge Ice Sheet Is Melting Far Faster Than Scientists Expected"
  28. ^ Ellensburg Daily Record (Google News): Greenland Icecap Bridges Three Islands
  29. ^ U.S. Climate Emergency Council: "Greenland's Ice Sheet Is Slip-Sliding Away"
  30. ^ IPCC Climate Change 2001: Working Group I: The Scientific Basis
  31. ^ DK Atlas, 2001.
  32. ^ Greenland Melt May Swamp LA, Other Cities, Study Says
  33. ^ Alley, 2000
  34. ^ Roach, John (February 16, 2006). "Greenland Glaciers Losing Ice Much Faster, Study Says". National Geographic. Retrieved 2006-09-13. 
  35. ^
  36. ^ Satellite shows Greenland's ice sheets getting thicker The Register
  37. ^ 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. 
  38. ^ An island made by global warming — Climate Change, Environment —
  39. ^ Place of the Year
  40. ^
  41. ^ Retrieved 12-Feb-2007
  42. ^ Þorgilsson, Ari. "Íslendingabók." from Íslendinga Sögur. Reykjavik: Sigurður Kristjánsson, 1891. p. 10, Retrieved 29-May-2009
  43. ^ Schneider D (2003). "American Scientist Online — Greenland or Whiteland?". Sigma Xi. Retrieved 2008-03-03. 
  44. ^ Historical Maiden Flight US-Greenland — Official national guide by Greenland Tourism and Business Council
  45. ^ News — Air Greenland
  46. ^ Air Iceland to open new route to Ilulissat in 2009, The Official Tourism and Business Site of Greenland
  47. ^ Greenland
  48. ^ Effective on 21 June
  49. ^ Greenland Representation to the EU, Greenland Home Rule Government


  • 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.
  • Bardarson, I. (ed. Jónsson, F.) "Det gamle Grønlands beskrivelse af Ívar Bárðarson (Ivar Bårdssön)", (Copenhagen, 1930).
  • 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).
  • Stern, Pamela R. Historical dictionary of the Inuit. Scarecrow Press, 2004. ISBN 978-0810850583

External links

General information

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Quick Facts
Capital Nuuk (Godthåb)
Government Parliamentary democracy within a constitutional monarchy
Currency Danish krone (DKK)
Area total: 2,166,086 km2
land: 2,166,086 km2 (410,449 km2 ice-free, 1,755,637 km2 ice-covered) (est.)
Population 56,344 (July 2007 est.)
Language Greenlandic (Kalaallisut), Danish, English
Religion Evangelical Lutheran
Calling Code +299
Internet TLD .gl
Time Zone UTC to UTC-4

Greenland (Greenlandic: Kalaallit Nunaat; Danish: Grønland) is the world's largest non-continental island, in the far northeast of North America, largely within the Arctic Circle. Although it is still part of the Kingdom of Denmark, it was granted self-government effective in 1979, more recently it voted for more autonomy, in effect making it a separate country with formal ties to Denmark. Some inhabitants are now projecting the eventual road to independence. Copenhagen remains responsible for its foreign affairs, and of course is a source of investment. The closest neighbouring countries are Iceland to the South-East, Canada to the West and Svalbard in Norway to the North-East.

The Greenland Tourism and Business council's official website provides a wealth of information for the would-be visitor. [1]


Although some maps with flat projections of the globe tend to make Greenland look the size of Africa, it is actually "only" about the size of Mexico. Greenland has the world's lowest population density.

It represents some 97% of the area of the Kingdom of Denmark. The Danish territorial claim is rooted in the 10th-century explorations of the Vikings, though administrative power has changed hands several times over the centuries due to developments in Europe. The native Greenlanders, or Kalaallit, are Inuit descendants of nomads from northern Canada. ("Eskimo" is offensive in some parts of the Arctic.)

According to the Icelandic Sagas, Erik the Red chose the name "Greenland" to entice settlers from Iceland. In fact, Greenland has far more ice cover (about 84% of its immense surface area) than Iceland does. This may only be legend: the southern coasts the Vikings settled are green in summer, and were likely more so during the Medieval Warm Period.

Be careful with maps of Greenland, as many Greenlandic names simply reference a particular geographical feature. For example, "Kangerlussuaq" means "Big Fjord" and so is not only the Greenlandic name for Søndre Strømfjord.

When visiting a city or village don't be afraid to ask for directions of shops, places to eat or somewhere to sleep, even if you think there might not be any. Most places (even Nuuk) are small enough for everyone to know where everything is, and therefore no one bothered to put up a sign. Don't be surprised to find a fully equipped supermarket inside a grey factory-like building in the middle of nowhere.


Greenlandic places generally have two names: the (traditional and now official) Greenlandic, or Kalaallisut, and the (once but no longer official) Danish. Greenlandic is abbreviated 'kl;' Danish is 'da.'

  • The Summit - the highest point on the ice cap, and a very inhospitable place, but nonetheless well visited by scientists drilling into the ice
Regions of Greenland
Regions of Greenland
Southern Greenland
Nicknamed "Sineriak Bananeqarfik" (Banana Coast) by the locals, this is the most easily accessed part of Greenland and the one subject to the least extreme temperatures
Western Greenland
Location of the capital Nuuk (Godthåb).
Eastern Greenland
Sparsely populated, the gateway to the national park
Northern Greenland
Northern Greeland is the northernmost inhabited region, much of it occupied by the Northeast Greenland National Park

Get in


Danish and other Scandinavian citizens do not need a visa for Greenland, but your passport needs to be valid for at least three months after your visit.

Generally, if you need a visa for entering Denmark, you also need to apply for a special visa for entering Greenland. Visas for entering the Schengen-area (including Denmark) do not automatically apply for Greenland; visas are available from the Danish embassy or where you usually would apply for a Danish visa so make sure that you mention that you are going to Greenland. If you stay for more than three months, you need to apply for a residence permit at the police station.

If you stay on the typical tourist paths you do not need any permissions, but any expeditions (including any trips to the national park, which by definition are expeditions) need a special permit from the Danish polar center. If travelling with an agency they will usually take care of the paperwork for you. If you are entering or travelling through Thule Air Base, you also need a permission from the Danish department of foreign affairs, since it is a US military area (doesn't apply for children u. 15, Danish police and military, US military or US diplomats). See Qaanaaq for details.

By plane

Flights to Greenland will almost always go to one of two airports: Kangerlussuaq (Danish: Søndre Strømfjord, English: Sondrestrom) or Narsarsuaq. From there local flights or boats will take you to your final destination, Scientific and technical personnel travelling from North America for research purposes typically fly into Kangerlussuaq aboard New York Air National Guard C-130s. If you are looking for the airport, the name of Greenland's airport service is Mittarfeqarfiit. Note that SAS ceased its operations to Greenland in 2009.

  • Air Iceland [3] operates a regular flight from Reykjavik to Kulusuk, Kangerlussuaq, and Nuuk; one to Ittoqqortoormiit, and another to Narsarsuaq, Air Iceland will begin flying direct to Ilulissat summer 2009. (Note that they use the Danish place names for some of these.) One popular day excursion is to fly from Reykjavik to Nanortalik, where traditional handicrafts are on sale, before returning to the comparative comforts of Iceland. Reykjavik has direct connections to North America, making this the shortest civilian route between North America and Greenland.

By boat

Realistically, there is no ferry service from Europe or North America.

There are cruise ships from both continents that visit Greenland.

Get around

There is no road or rail system. The easiest way to get around Greenland is by plane, particularly Air Greenland. In the summer, Arctic Umiaq Line [6] passenger ships provide service to destinations between Narsarsuaq and Uummannaq along the west coast.

  • Icebergs and glaciers (especially the Ilulissat Icefjord)
  • Animal life - Whales, seals, walruses, musk oxen, reindeer/caribou and polar bears.
  • The Midnight sun - In the northern 2/3 of Greenland, the sun stays above the horizon for days or even several weeks in the summer. In the remainder, the weeks around the summer solstice (June 21, a national holiday) see the sun dip below the horizon for only a short while each night, with the sky never getting truly dark. (Of course the reverse is true in the winter.)
  • Driving a dog-sled
  • Hiking
  • Kayaking
  • Mountain climbing


The official language - Greenlandic (Kalaallisut) - is actually that of the more populated western coast. The eastern dialect is slightly different. Both are highly challenging languages to learn, as words are very long and often feature "swallowed" consonants. Try uteqqipugut or Ittoqqortoormiit on for size.

The good news is that almost all Greenlanders are bilingual Danish speakers, and many will even have a functional command of English. Greenlandic words may come in handy for travellers wanting to experience the "real Greenland", though.

Greenlandic is different enough from Inuktitut, the language of the Canadian Inuit who share similar historical roots to the Greenlanders, that the two peoples have difficulty understanding each other. However, attempts are being made to unify the Inuit language, and Greenlandic - with its existing libraries of translated Shakespeare and Pushkin - seems like the most natural option.

  • Inuit art and crafts
  • Sealskin -- which the Great Greenland fur company has fashioned into everything from coats to thick belts to purses and pencil cases.
  • Duty-free -- most flights land at Kangerlussuaq, one of those lovely places on earth where you can buy duty-free after landing. Stock up on cheap booze, smokes and everything else at prices far lower than the rest of Greenland. Important: Greenland is not a member of the EU, so although you may be traveling from Denmark, the custom rules are the same as for a trip out of the EU.


These are the names to look for, if you need to buy groceries:

  • Pilersuisoq - Chain of larger supermarket usually found in small villages. Has a little bit of everything.
  • Pisiffik - Chain of larger supermarkets present in the cities.
  • Spar - Dutch supermarket chain with a few shops in Greenland.
  • Brugsen - Danish supermarket chain with a few shops in Greenland.


Food in Greenland is generally not that different from American or continental European tastes. Restaurants carry typical European fare. Local food can be purchased at local markets in each town. Many Greenlandic restaurants combine traditional foods (locally-caught fish, shrimp and whales; also muskox and reindeer) with more familiar dishes. Expect to find whale meat at a Thai restaurant and caribou in a Chinese joint. Nuuk also has several burger joints and a couple of very high-end restaurants, most notably Nipisa, which specializes in (very expensive) local delicacies. Prices are high everywhere, but servings are generally large, especially with fries.


A local specialty is Greenlandic coffee. Its creation in some places is pure performance and it hits hard: its coffee laced with liberal amounts of kahlua, whisky and Grand Marnier. One of the best places to buy is at the Sukhumvit Thai Restaurant, for about $22CAD.


Greenland is expensive. Nice hotels exist in all of the more visited areas (Hotel Hans Egede in Nuuk, Hotel Arctic - with its igloo rooms - and Hotel Hvide Falke in Ilulissat), but cheaper options exist. Try for the Seaman's Home hotel in Maniitsoq, Nuuk, Qaqortoq, Sisimiut and Aasiaat. Also check with the Nuuk Tourism office for its hostel program, where locals have rooms they will rent out for a third the price of the town's hotels. They usually speak Danish and Greenlandic, along with very rudimentary English.

Stay safe

Crime, and ill-will toward foreigners in general, is virtually unknown in Greenland. Even in the towns, there are no "rough areas." So long as the visitor uses basic common sense and etiquette, he or she should be fine.

Stay healthy

During the northern summer, the days in Greenland are very long. Always make sure that you get as much sleep as you're used to, as sleep deprivation can lead to all manner of health problems.

During the summer, also watch out for the Nordic mosquitoes.


As mentioned above, the word "Eskimo" is considered pejorative by many Arctic peoples, especially in Canada. While you may hear the word used by Greenlandic Natives, its use should be avoided by foreigners.

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Study guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiversity

Scale of justice 2 new.jpeg Subject classification: this is a law resource .

Part of the Comparative law and justice Wikiversity Project Green-37 20:38, 29 November 2009 (UTC)


Basic Information

Flag of Greenland.svg
Map of Greenland

Greenland is the world's largest island and has the majority of its land covered in ice. Greenland is 2,166,086 square kilometers, with 410,449 square kilometers ice free and 1,755,637 square kilometers covered completly with ice. Because it is such a large island, Greenland has an expansive 44,087 square kilometer coast line. The climate is Arctic with an average temperature of not more than 10°C in the warmest month.[1]

Despite around 81% of the massive island being ice-capped, it has a total population of 56,194 people as of January 1, 2009. Of this population, 29,809 are male and 26,385 are female. The population density is 0.14 persons per square kilometer in the ice free area. The capital city of Nuuk has the largest population density with 15,105 inhabitants. [2] Of the total population 84% live in urban areas.[3]

The inhabitants of Greenland are known as Greenlanders. Gleenlanders are composed of two different ethnic groups; Greenlanders who are Inuits and Greenland born whites who taken together make up 88% of the population and Danish and others making up 12% of the total population. The median age of the total population is 33.5 years old. Male median age is slightly higher than the total median falling at 34.9 years old. The median age for Greenlandic females is slightly lower than both other medians at 31.9 years old. The age bracket of 0-14 years old represents 23% of the population. The majority, 70.1%, falls into the 15-64 bracket and 6.9% of the population is 65 years old or older.[4]

The official language spoken in Greenland is Greenlandic (or East Inuit) and some inhabitants speak English as well as Danish. The new Coalition Government recognizes that "not all citizens speak Greenlandic. In order to ensure the highest level of involvement from all citizens, it is important to improve access to learning the Greenlandic language. This is to be followed up by an integration policy, which aims at a more effective integration of new citizens. Greenland is not alone in the world. There will therefore still be a need to improve skills in Danish, English and other languages."[5] The official and main religion of the island is Evangelical Lutheran. The Coalition Agreement states that," With a government that is based on holistic thinking, the spiritual life of people is central, thus Naalakkersuisut intends to strengthen the conditions of the church parishes and in this connection will work closely with everyone within the church and the parishes."[6]

Brief History

In the 10th century, Greenland was inhabited by Vikings who had migrated from Iceland. The Danes started to colonize the island during the 18th century and Greenland was eventually,in 1953, made a part of Denmark. Greenland joined the European Community(EU) with Denmark in 1973. However, they withdrew from the EU in 1985 over a dispute concerning stringent fishing quotas. Home rule was granted to Greenland in 1979 by Denmark and was enacted in 1980. Self-government was established on June 21st, 2009.[7]

Economic Development, Health, and Education

Gross Domestic Product [8]
Date Rank in World
Purchasing Power Parity 2001 est. $1.1billion 195
Real Growth Rate 2005 est. 2% 162
Per Capita 2001 est. $20,000 62

Greenland has few main industries with most of them spawned from the country's expansive coastline. The economy relies on a substantial subsidy - about $700 million in 2008-09 - from the Danish Government, which supplies about 60% of government revenues. Employment in the public sector, including publicly-owned enterprises and the municipalities, plays the dominant role in the economy. [9] Fish processing is a large industry in the country, with shrimp and halibut the most popular. Small shipyards litter the coastline and handicrafts as well as hides and skins are sold. Greenland's geography is utilized by several mining industries including gold, niobium, tantalite, uranium, iron and diamonds.

The largest export in Greenland is fish and fish related products comprising 94% of their total exports according to a 2001 estimate. Denmark, Japan, Canada and China are all export partners. The largest imports are machinery and transport equipment, manufactured goods, food, and petroleum products. Greenland is import partners with Denmark, Sweden, Norway and the UK.[10]

Greenland has an infant mortality rate of 10.72 deaths per 1,000 lives births and falls as the 151 in comparison to the world. There is slighty higher male infant mortality rate at 12.26 deaths to every 1,000 live births compared to 9.1 deaths of female infants to every 1,000 live births. Greenlanders total populations life expectenct at birth is 70.07 years. Males life expectancy is slightly lower than females in Greenland. Males can expect to live to be 67.44 on average while females can expect to live up to 72.85 on average.[11]

First day in shool for the new pupils in first grade at the Prinsesse Margrethe School in Upernavik, Greenland. All pupils are wearing the national costumes of Greenland on this special day.
First day in shool for the new pupils in first grade at the Prinsesse Margrethe School in Upernavik, Greenland. All pupils are wearing the national costumes of Greenland on this special day.

The minimum working age in Greenland is fifteen and compulsory education ends at age sixteen.[12] Childcare institutions or day-care centers are available throughout Greenland. In the larger towns facilities exist for day-care, nursery, kindergarten and after-school care of children. Cost is determined by parents´ income.After-school teaching and other leisure activities are available for children and young people of between 6 and 19. These centers are open to children during the daytime and also to 15-19 year olds during the evening. Schools are municipal and the responsibility of the Greenland Home Rule government. Schooling is divided into a preparatory year, 8 years of primary education, 2 years continuation, and a final course year of school. School is compulsory for the nine calendar years following the child´s sixth birthday, and most schools can offer nine years of schooling, although not in the settlements. The oldest settlement children are sent to town schools which have boarding facilities or a student residence.High School education is available in three towns: Aasiaat, Nuuk, and Qaqortoq, and takes three years to complete. Graduation gives access to further education in both Greenland and Denmark. Vocational schools offer courses of study similar to training available in other countries. Further education is available at the University of Greenland, and teacher training at Greenland´s Teacher Training College. Both of these institutions are in Nuuk. Cooperation agreements have been signed with Danish and foreign educational institutions so that study can be taken abroad. [13] Greenland has a literacy rate of 100% meaning every male and female over the age of 15 can read and write.[14]


Queen Margrethe II of Denmark September 2004
Prime Minister Kuupik Kleist July 2009

Greenland is part of the Kingdom of Denmark and acts as a self-governing overseas administrative division of Denmark.It is a parliamentary democracy within a constitutional monarchy. The laws of Denmark and the Danish Constitution apply unless otherwise stated in those documents. The Chief of State since January 14, 1972 is Queen Margrethe II of Denmark who is represented by High Commissioner Soren Moller since April 2005. The monarchy is hereditary while the high commissioner is appointed by the monarch. The head of the government is a Prime Minister who is elected by the Greenlandic Parliament. As of the June 12, 2009 election, the Prime Minister is Kuupik Kleist. The next election is scheduled for 2014. Two representatives were elected to the Danish Parliament or Folketing on November 13, 2007 by general election and the next election for these positions will be held in November 2011.[15]

There are six political parties in Greenland. The Siumut is the largest party and was founded in 1977. The oldest party was founded in 1976 and is called the Inuit Atugatigiit. In the late 1970s the Atassut was founded. In 2002 the Demokraatit was created. 2005 brought forth the creation of the Kattussegaitigiit Partiiat and in 2008 the newest political party called the Sorlaat Partiiat was founded.

In 1953 the Danish Constitution was expanded to encompass Greenland. At that point in time Greenland sent two representatives to the Danish Parliment. In 1955 the Ministry of Greenland was established under the Danish Prime Ministers Office. The purpose of the Danish constitution was to give Greenland and Denmark equal footing. In 1960 the Danish Government established the Greenland Committee which aimed to strengthen efforts to make equality more effective. The Danish state would be responsible for the social programs and physical infrastructure. In 1979 Greenland was granted Home Rule.

In 1979 the Greenlandic Parliment and Greenland Government sat for the first time under the Home Rule Act. The Home Rule Act said that the Danish Government has responsibility for foreign policy, defence and security policy, the legal system and monetary policy while the other areas of responsibility fall under the jurisdiction of Greenland Home Rule. The Home Rule Government included Greenland’s internal administration, direct and indirect taxes, the established church, fishing in the territory, hunting, agriculture and reindeer breeding, social welfare, labour market affairs, education and cultural affairs, vocational education, other matters relating to trade, health services, the housing area and protection of the environment.[16] Greenland Home Rule worked closely in coordination and cooperation with the High Commission of Greenland and the Prime Ministers office as well as other Ministrys.

Greenland has a unicameral (one chamber) Parliament or Landstinget (31 seats; members are elected by popular vote on the basis of proportional representation to serve four-year terms) ,Cabinet, municipal councils and two representatives to the Danish Parliment.[17] The Cabinet is divided into nine ministries, each headed by a minister. In the ministries, departments handle the practical administrative work. The ministers are politically responsible for the work of these departments. These ministries include:

  • The Premier’s Office
  • Ministry of Housing, Infrastructure and Transport
  • Ministry of Finance
  • Ministry of Fisheries, Hunting and Agriculture
  • Ministry of Industry and Miniral Resources
  • Ministry of Social Affairs
  • Ministry of Health
  • Ministry of Culture, Education, Research and The Church
  • Ministry of Domestic Affairs, Nature and Environment[18]

In November 2008 a referendum on self government was passed and then ratified by the Danish parliment. Entitled the "Act on Greenland Self-Government", this act was established on June 21, 2009. Under this act, the Danish Parliment asserted that it was "Recognising that the people of Greenland is a people pursuant to international law with the right of self-determination, the Act is based on a wish to foster equality and mutual respect in the partnership between Denmark and Greenland. Accordingly, the Act is based on an agreement between Naalakkersuisut [Greenland Government] and the Danish Government as equal partners." The Act further provides that Greenland will have legislative, executive and judicial power in the fields of responsibility that they have assumed. The legislative power lies with Inatsisartut [Greenland Parliament], the executive power with Naalakkersuisut and judicial powers with the courts of law. The Act further provides two lists of responsibility that may be transfered to the Greenlandic government. The first list may be transferred at points in time determined by the Naalakkersuisut and the second list requires approval and negotiation with the Danish Realm before transfer.Items from the first list include:

    • Industrial injury compensation
    • The remaining areas under the health care area
    • The road traffic area
    • The law of property and obligations
    • The commercial diving area

Items from the second list requiring further approval are:

    • Prison and probation service
    • Police and prosecution service as well as related parts of the administration of criminal justice
    • Administration of justice, including the establishment of courts of law
    • Criminal law, Family Law, Sucession Law,Law of Capacity
    • The aliens area and border controls
    • Passports
    • Law practice
    • The weapons area
    • Radio-based maritime emergency and security services)
    • The radio communications area
    • The company, accounting and auditing area
    • The food and veterinary area
    • Aviation
    • Intellectual property and copyright
    • Shipwreck, wreckage and degradation of depth
    • Security at sea
    • Ship registration and maritime matters
    • Charting
    • The buoyage, lighthouse and pilotage area
    • Marine environment
    • Financial regulation and supervision
    • The mineral resource area
    • The working environment
    • Meteorology

The Greenland government and the Danish realm agreed further that any items not covered by these lists but directly related to the affairs of Greenland may be transferred. These items will be financed by Greenland upon their assumption. Denmark will continue to provide an annual subsidy and revenue from mineral resources will accrue to Greenland. Naalakkersuisut may act in international affairs which exclusively concern Greenland and entirely relate to fields of responsibility taken over by them. Both governments will cooperate on foreign affairs with a view to safeguarding the interests of both groups. This does not however limit the Danish responsibility in foreign and security policy areas. The Naalakkersuisut is required to inform the Danish Government of any negotiations under consideration before these are initiated and of the development of the negotiations before agreements under international law are concluded or terminated. Conversely, the Danish government is required to inform Naalakkersuisut before negotiations are initiated regarding agreements under international law which are importantant to Greenland. In matters which exclusively concern Greenland, the Government may authorize Naalakkersuisut to conduct the negotiations, with the cooperation of the Foreign Service.Further, the Act requires that any Danish bills that will affect Greenland must be submitted to the Naalakkersuisut for comments., Disputes between the two governments are to be settled by a board that consists of two members from each government and three judges from the Supreme Court. Additionally, any further moves towards independence are at the discretion of the Greenlandic people.[19]


Greenland Municipalities
Greenland Municipalities

Voting rights are available for all citizens reaching the age of eighteen.[20]

The Home Rule government is composed of 31 elected representatives. They are elected every four years and the Parliment meets at least twice a year in the spring and autumn. A speaker is appointed by the parliment and has his or her own secratariate. There are numerous permanent committies and the Parliment elects an executive responsible for central administration.

There are 18 local authorities in Greenland that are responsible for local affairs. There are popularly elected district councils who serve for four years and elect a mayor. The District Councils form together to create a national association which takes responsibility for the common interests within the home rule government. Each settlement elects a settlement commitee every four years.[21]

Judicial Review

Judicial branch: High Court or Landsret (appeals can be made to the Ostre Landsret or Eastern Division of the High Court or the highest court in the country, the Supreme Court (Højesteret).[22]

Legal System

The Greenlandic and Danish legal systems are inquisitorial. They are a type of civil law system. Judges have a very active role under this system..[23]

Branches of Law

The law is divided into two branches, public law and civil law. Public law is divided into constitutional law, international law, administrative law, criminal law, and the law of procedure.Civil law regulates reciprocal relations between citizens and between natural persons and legal persons, e.g. companies and institutions. Areas in civil law are the law of contracts and torts, the law of property and the law of capacity, family law and the law of wills and succession.One particular feature of Danish law is that there are not civil codes, but that the civil law rules are found in specific legislation or are established by practice.[24]

Sources of Law

There is a hierarchial system of laws in place. At the apex are Constitutional Acts that regulate the interelationship between government and civil liberties. These Acts can only be changed by special procedure. The next layer is laws or legal precedent that control citizen's actions. Acts in this layer can only be changed or repealed by the passage of a new Act. Case law is used areas where there is no legislation and in found in the next layer. The final layer is made up of customary law. There is also and influence from natural law and from German jurisprudence.[25]

Court System

The courts of Greenland are composed of the High Court of Greenland and 18 magistrates' courts. Magistrates' court decisions are made by a magistrate and two lay judges, none of whom holds a law degree. The magistrates' courts hear all civil and criminal cases. Under certain circumstances, the High Court of Greenland may take over the hearing of a case if it is found to require special legal insight or other expertise. Appeal against a decision made by a magistrates' court lies to the High Court of Greenland. Major cases are, however, brought directly before the High Court of Greenland. Appeal can be made to the High Court of Eastern Denmark.[26]Usually, all cases may be tried in two instances. First in a magistrate's, and then in front of the High Court. Minor cases may only be heard in one instance, by the magistrate's court, without any access to appeal to the High Court. The High Courts serve as courts of original jurisdiction in serious criminal cases, in which 12-person juries are impaneled. Eight votes are need for conviction in this case. In some non-jury criminal cases, lay judges sit alongside professional judges and have an equal vote.[27]Special courts, so-called undersøgelsesretter (investigative courts), can be established to determine a course of events. In addition to the ordinary courts there are courts which on a permanent basis deal with special areas of law, such as the Maritime and Commercial Court. There is no separate constitutional court.[28]

Legal Personnel

To be admitted to the Master’s degree program, you must have completed a Bachelor’s degree in law.The Bachelor's degree program requires a qualifying examination as well as several specific subject levels and an upper secondary leaving certificate. The Bachelor of Laws education consists of a number of legal science subjects and culminates in an LLB degree. It is a three year program with a defined curricular path. Students must sit for 1st-year examinations prior to the end of the first year and must pass the examinations prior to the end of the second year. All courses require passing of an exam. The Master’s degree in law is a two-year degree program that leads to an LLM degree. As an LLM, you can become employed at the courts and within public prosecution or become qualified to practice as a lawyer after working for three years as a lawyer’s clerk and passing an exam.[29]The judges of the High Court and all judges in Denmark have to get university law degrees in order to even have appointment be considered by the Ministry of Justice. The Constitution makes it so that if a judge works in the courts for over ten years they will automatically be appointed for life or until retirement.[30]

Criminal Law

The age of criminal responsibility is fifteen years old.[31]


The Criminal Code describes the penalty applicable for a particular crime and the upper range of its duration. The court then has the oppurtunity for choosing a penalty within the range. The penalties employed are fines, lenient prison (7-30 days), prison (1 month-16 years or imprisonment for life)and community service orders. Lifetime imprisonment is prescribed for homocide and a few other crimes of equal gravity. In effect most of these lifetime sentences will receive a conditional royal pardon after approximently 12-14 years of imprisonment. Other prison sentences and fines may be suspended with conditions such as probation, payment of damages, and abstaining from drug use. The typical offense will receive a penalty within the lower half of the range for that crime. Certain circumstances may increase the penalty from this lower half of the range. If a particular case incompases more than one criminal act the penalty will be within the range of the most serious offense.[32] There are two types of prisons that are utilized in incarceration. Open prisons are used for the majority of sentences. Closed prisons with stricter rules are used for longer sentences and escape risks.[33]

Law Enforcement

Historically Greenland was considered an independent police district operating under the Danish Ministry of Justice. Within this independent district, there are seventeen police districts under the command of the Chief Constable in Nuuk. The Chief Constable has responsibility for not only routine police work but also holds the position of public prosecuter.[34] Since June of 2009 under the Home Rule Act the law enforcement function is handled by the Legal and Justice Department within the Office Of the Premier.[35] The police in Denmark, in the Faroe Islands and in Greenland constitute one national force, employed directly by the state.This police structure represents a single centralized structure under Bayleys typology. According to the 2009 Corruption Perspective Index (CPI) of Transparency International, Denmark was one of the highest scorers at 9.3. This scores reflect political stability, long-established conflict of interest regulations and solid, functioning public institutions.[36]

Law enforcement officers undergo a three year training program. The training includes both classroom and field work at a police acadamy. To be excepted into the training program applicants must be between 21 and 29 years of age, hold citizenship, and not have any convictions. Additionally, they must be in good physical condition as well as good personal and economic condition. Good grades in school are also required. To advance to the level of chief of police the canidate must hold a masters degree in law. Within the law enforcement structure the police are subdivided into plain clothes criminal investigators, uniformed patrolmen, traffic police officers, immigration police, and other catagories. There is a divide between the state police and military police with the military police only having authority over soldiers.[37]

Crime Rates and Public Opinion

In comparision to the United States, Greenland has a low crime rate. For the year 2006, the U.S. had a percent rate per 1000 households of 25.4 for personal crimes and 160.5 for property crimes.[38] U.S. cities comparably sized to Greenland's population had rates per 1000 of 4.68 for personal crimes and 36.41 for property crimes in 2007.[39]The same rates for Greenland were 9.97 for personal crimes and 28.86 for property crimes.

Convicted Criminal Offences [40]
1998 2000 2002 2004 2006
Offences,Total 3,478 4,010 3,627 3,942 3,470
Sexual Offences,Total 114 175 172 160 101
Rape and Attempted Rape 48 64 56 58 44
Incest 5 11 4 3 1
Sexual Offences Against Minors 21 40 39 44 28
Other sexual offences 40 60 73 55 28
Crimes of Violence,Total 404 461 452 495 459
Assault 391 431 426 477 439
Homicide and Attempted Homicide 7 14 13 13 10
Other Offences Against Life or Body 6 16 13 5 10
Offences Against Property,Total 1,711 1,957 1,727 1,951 1,622
Theft 1,243 1,377 1,287 1,455 1,240
Fraud,Embezzlement,Etc. 112 179 96 80 52
Malicious Damage 287 318 264 331 239
Other Offences Against Property 69 83 80 85 91
Other Offences,Total 222 266 265 279 214
Offences Against Special Legislation 1,027 1,151 1,011 1,057 1,074
Selling and Smuggling of Narcotics 401 347 238 372 348
Number of Charged Persons 1,861 2,112 1,918 2,091 1,953


Family Law

As the supreme administrative authority in Greenland, the High Commissioner is in charge of matters concerning family law, including separations and divorce, adoption, determination of alimony and maintenence to spouse and children, and new surnames. Outside the capital,Nuuk, the local police act on behalf of the High Commissioner. In Nuuk, the High Commissioner is contacted directly. In addition the High Commissioner is in charge of matters concerning supervision of the funds of minors and persons of incompetence, permission to contract marriage where the joint fortunes of spouses in a former marriage has not been divided, granting permission to contract marriage despite status as a minor, matters involving a risk of a child being taken out of the Realm against the wish of one of the custody holders, marriage contracted outside municipalities are carried out locally following authorisation from the High Commissioner. [41]


The Danish Adoption (Consolidation) Act outlines the steps to adoption in Denmark however this act does not extend to Greenland except that some of its provisions may be used in Greenland with variations. [42]


Both parties must be over the age of 18 to marry. If either party is under the age of 18, permission to marry must be obtained from the prefect of the county where you reside.In 1989, the Danish Parliament approved a law that allows same-sex couples to enter into registered partnerships which provide most of the rights of married couples to same-sex couples, although not allowing them to adopt children.Greenland accepted Denmark 's registered partnership legislation in 1996.[43]


The Danish rules governing legal separation and divorce do not apply in full in Greenland. In Greenland attendence is mandatory at a meeting to negotiate the terms for divorce or legal separation, and there must be agreement about custody before a separation or divorce can be granted by the High Commissioner. Agreement must be reached on the following basic conditions before a grant for separation or divorce is issued:

  • The obligation to pay spousal maintenance and for how long.
  • Which spouse is to continue the lease for rented accommodation (including housing association property).
  • Compensation if one of the spouses owns separate property, etc.

After a year of legal separation a couple may be divorced. However, if both parties are in agreement, a divorce may be granted after a six month separation. An immediate divorce can be granted under the following conditions:

  • if one of the parties has committed adultery
  • if the parties have lived apart for two years due to irreconcilable differences
  • violent abuse has been committed
  • one of the joint children has been abducted to a foreign country
  • there has been bigamy.

An application for legal separation/divorce must be filed with the regional state administration. A divorce granted by the regional state administration costs DKK 500 and the fee is non-refundable.[44]

Human Rights

The Danish Constitution contains several sections that protect human rights that apply also to Greenland. These rights are found in Part VIII of the Constitution and are as follows:

§ 71

  • (1) Personal liberty shall be inviolable. No Danish subject shall, in any manner whatsoever, be deprived of his liberty because of his political or religious convictions or because of his descent.
  • (2) A person shall be deprived of his liberty only where this is warranted by law.
  • (3) Any person who is taken into custody shall be brought before a judge within twenty-four hours. Where the person taken into custody cannot be immediately released, the judge shall decide, in an order to be given as soon as possible and at the latest within three days, stating the grounds, whether the person taken into custody shall be committed to prison; and in cases where he can be releasedon bail, shall also determine the nature and amount of such bail. This provision maybe departed from by statute as far as Greenland is concerned, if for local considerations such departure may be deemed necessary.
  • (4) The pronouncement of the judge may be separately appealed against at once to a higher court of justice by the person concerned.
  • (5) No person shall be remanded in custody for an offence which can involve only punishment by fine or mitigated imprisonment (hæfte).
  • (6) Outside criminal procedure, the legality of deprivation of liberty not executed by order of a judicial authority, and not warranted by legislation relating to aliens, shall at the request of the person so deprived of his liberty, or the request of any person acting on his behalf, be brought before the ordinary courts of justice or other judicial authority for decision. Rules governing this procedure shall be provided by statute.
  • (7) The persons referred to in sub-section (6) shall be under supervision by a board set up by the Folketing, to which board the persons concerned shall be permitted to apply.

§ 72

  • The dwelling shall be inviolable. House search, seizure, and examination of letters and other papers, or any breach of the secrecy that shall be observed in postal, telegraph, and telephone matters, shall not take place except under a judicial order, unless particular exception is warranted by statute.

§ 73

  • (1) The right of property shall be inviolable. No person shall be ordered to surrender his property except where required in the public interest. It shall be done only as provided by statute and against full compensation.
  • (2) Where a Bill has been passed relating to the expropriation of property, one-third of the members of the Folketing may, within three weekdays from the final passing of such Bill, demand that it shallnot be presented for the Royal Assent until new elections to the Folketing have been held and the Bill has again been passed by the Folketing assembling thereafter.
  • (3) Any question of the legality of an act of expropriation, and the amount of compensation, maybe brought before the courts of justice. The hearing of issues relating to the amount of the compensation may by statute by referred to courts of justice established for such purpose.

§ 74

  • Any restraint on the free and equal access to trade, which is not based on the public interest, shall be abolished by statute.

§ 75

  • (1) In order to advance the public interest, efforts shall be made to guarantee work for every ablebodied citizen on terms that will secure his existence.
  • (2) Any person unable to support himself or his dependants shall, where no other person is responsible for his or their maintenance, be entitled to receive public assistance, provided that he shall comply with the obligations imposed by statute in such respect.

§ 76

  • All children of school age shall be entitled to free instruction in primary schools. Parents or guardians making their own arrangements for their children or wards to receive instruction equivalent to the general primary school standard shall not be obliged to have their children or wards taught in a publicly provided school.

§ 77

  • Any person shall be at liberty to publish his ideas in print, in writing, and in speech, subject to hisbeing held responsible in a court of law. Censorship and other preventive measures shall never again be introduced.

§ 78

  • (1) Citizens shall, without previous permission, be free to form associations for any lawful purpose.
  • (2) Associations employing violence, or aiming at the attainment of their object by violence, by instigation to violence, or by similar punishable influence on persons holding other views, shall be dissolved by court judgement.
  • (3) No association shall be dissolved by any government measure; but an association may be temporarily prohibited, provided that immediate proceedings be taken for its dissolution.
  • (4) Cases relating to the dissolution of political associations may, without special permission, be brought before the Supreme Court of Justice of the Realm.
  • (5) The legal effects of the dissolution shall be determined by statute.

§ 79

  • Citizens shall, without previous permission, beat liberty to assemble unarmed. The police shall be entitled to be present at public meetings. Open-air meetings may be prohibited when it is feared that they may constitute a danger to the public peace.

§ 80

  • In the event of riots the armed forces may not take action, unless attacked, until after the crowd has three times been called upon to disperse in the name of the King and the law and such warning has gone unheeded.

§ 81

  • Every male person able to bear arms shall be liable with his person to contribute to the defence of his country under such rules as are laid down by statute.

§ 82

  • The right of municipalities to manage their own affairs independently, under State supervision, shall be laid down by statute.

§ 83

  • All legislative privileges attaching to nobility, title, and rank shall be abolished.

§ 84

  • No fiefs, estates tail in land, or estates tail in personal property shall in future be created.

§ 85

  • The provisions of sections 71, 78, and 79 shall be applicable only to the defence forces, subject to such limitations as are consequential to the provisions of military laws.


The Coalition Agreement poses the Greenland Mission Statement as follows: "Our vision and shared goal is to create a society where everyone is needed and everyone has a place. With determination and hope, we will build a society where we reinforce each other as individuals and as a people. Through dialogue and interaction with the people we will create the foundation for a dignified life where everyone has the opportunity to develop and sustain life through active self-provision. Together with the people and by applying a robust leadership, we will create the framing conditions for a healthy society in transition. With solidarity and equality as our fundamental principles, we will all contribute according to ability and capacity. Accordingly those in need of help will receive support." [46] "The Greenlandic Philosophy of Life is based on the appreciation of the “inter-connectedness of everything and all things” – be it with the human persons’ inseparable physical and spiritual connection with each other, with nature, the natural resources or the universe – a connectedness that reaches far beyond the individual person."[47] "Everyone is born with unique abilities, by which everyone should have the opportunity to develop throughout a life-long learning process. Accordingly, these abilities should at all times and in all circumstances be used to provide for oneself and one’s families. Taking responsibility and exerting influence over one’s own life and actions as well as participating as citizens in the development of a democratic society is a right as well as a duty. All people want the opportunity to provide for themselves and their families, and thus the freedom to unfold their lifes as well as their innovative and creative potentials and interests. All people wish to engage in social communion with others and to contribute positively to those. This human perspective entails a society, where everyone takes part in the community at large as equals and in which there is room for the individual’s capabilities, wishes and needs." [48] "Self Government characterized by solidarity, cooperation and strength shall be created through an open and democratic dialogue. This demands that people are active participants and take their share of responsibility for a societal development that is based on the fundamental belief that all people are equal in dignity and worth. The communal bonds between people shall be strengthened and contribute to a societal development which is based on the Greenlandic culture. Changes must be created by paying due respect to the principles of collective and sustainable management and utilization of all living and non-living resources."[49]

Works Cited

  1. Greenland Home Rule, Ministry of Foreign Affairs February 2000 Facts about Greenland. //
  2. Greenland in Figures 2009.//
  3. The World Factbook 2009. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency,
  4. The World Factbook 2009. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency,
  5. Official draft translation Government of Greenland’s Coalition Agreement for 2009 - 2013.June 10,2009.//
  6. Official draft translation Government of Greenland’s Coalition Agreement for 2009 - 2013.June 10,2009.//
  7. The World Factbook 2009. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency,
  8. The World Factbook 2009. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency,
  9. The World Factbook 2009. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency,
  10. The World Factbook 2009. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency,
  11. The World Factbook 2009. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency,
  12. Understanding Children's Work UNICEF.//
  13. Greenland Home Rule, Ministry of Foreign Affairs February 2000 Facts about Greenland. //
  14. The World Factbook 2009. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency,
  15. The World Factbook 2009. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency,
  16. United NAtions Economic and Social Council.March 2009.//
  17. Greenland in Figures 2009.//
  18. Government of Greenland Departments.//
  19. Translation. Act on Greenland Self-Government.2009.Act no.473.//
  20. The World Factbook 2009. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency,
  21. Greenland Home Rule, Ministry of Foreign Affairs February 2000 Facts about Greenland.
  22. The World Factbook 2009. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency,
  23. Comparative Criminal Justice Systems.Philip L. Reichel.2008.New Jersey.p265
  24. Denmark - Official Denmark - The Legal System.The Royal Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.Elisabeth Thuesen et al.//
  25. Denmark - Official Denmark - The Legal System.The Royal Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.Elisabeth Thuesen et al.//
  26. The Courts of Greenland. December 26,2006. //
  27. Jurist Legal Inteliigence World Law Denmark. Bernard Hibbits.2003.//
  28. Denmark - Official Denmark - The Legal System.The Royal Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.Elisabeth Thuesen et al.//
  29. Academic regulations for Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.).Aarhus University.2008.//
  31. Comparative Criminal Justice Systems.Philip L. Reichel.2008.New Jersey.p345
  33. Kriminal Forsorgen.//
  34. Greenland Home Rule, Ministry of Foreign Affairs February 2000 Facts about Greenland.
  35. Government of Greenland Departments.//
  36. What is new in the 2009 Corruption Perceptions Index.Transparency International.//
  37. About the Police.August 2007.//
  38. Matson, Cathy and Patsy Klaus. 2008. Criminal Victimization in the United States, 2006: Statistical Tables. Bureau of Justice Statistics NCJ 223436.//
  39. Crime in the United States.US Department of Justice.Fedeal Bureau of Investigation.Table 16.September 2008.//
  40. Greenland in Figures 2009.//
  41. Family Law Matters Statsministeriet.//
  42. The Danish Adoption (Consolidation) Act The Ministry of Family and Consumer Affairs, Act. no. 928 of 14 September 2004.//
  43. Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Denmark.Marriage in Denmark.November 7, 2006.//
  44. Getting Divorced. The Department of Family Affairs. November 2007.//
  45. INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND SECURITY NETWORK.The Constitutional Act of Denmark.June 5, 1953. //
  46. Official draft translation Government of Greenland’s Coalition Agreement for 2009 - 2013.June 10,2009.//
  47. Official draft translation Government of Greenland’s Coalition Agreement for 2009 - 2013.June 10,2009.//
  48. Official draft translation Government of Greenland’s Coalition Agreement for 2009 - 2013.June 10,2009.//
  49. Official draft translation Government of Greenland’s Coalition Agreement for 2009 - 2013.June 10,2009.//

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

GREENLAND (Danish, &c., Gronland), a large continental island, the greater portion of which lies within the Arctic Circle, while the whole is arctic in character. It is not connected with any portion of Europe or America except by suboceanic ridges; but in the extreme north it is separated only by a narrow strait from Ellesmere Land in the archipelago of the American continent. It is bounded on the east by the North Atlantic, the Norwegian and Greenland Seas-Jan Mayen, Iceland, the Faeroe Islands and the Shetlands being the only lands between it and Norway. Denmark Strait is the sea between it and Iceland, and the northern Norwegian Sea or Greenland Sea separates it from Spitsbergen. On the west Davis Strait and Baffin Bay separate it from Baffin Land. The so-called bay narrows northward into the strait successively known as Smith Sound, Kane Basin, Kennedy Channel and Robeson Channel. A submarine ridge, about 300 fathoms deep at its deepest, unites Greenland with Iceland (across Denmark Strait), the Faeroes and Scotland. A similar submarine ridge unites it with the Cumberland Peninsula of Baffin Land, across Davis Strait. Two large islands (with others smaller) lie probably off the north coast, being apparently divided from it by very narrow channels which are not yet explored. If they be reckoned as integral parts of Greenland, then the north coast, fronting the polar sea, culminates about 83° 40' N. Cape Farewell, the most southerly point (also on a small island), is in 59° 45' N. The extreme length of Greenland may therefore be set down at about 1650 m., while its extreme breadth, which occurs about 77° 30' N., is approximately Boo m. The area is estimated at 827,275 sq. m. Greenland is a Danish colony, inasmuch as the west coast and also the southern east coast belong to the Danish crown. The scattered settlements of Europeans on the southern parts of the coasts are Danish, and the trade is a monopoly of the Danish government.

The southern and south-western coasts have been known, as will be mentioned later, since the 10th century, when Norse settlers appeared there, and the names of many famous arctic explorers have been associated with the exploration of Greenland. The communication between the Norse settlements in Greenland and the motherland Norway was broken off at the end of the 14th and the beginning of the 15th century, and the Norsemen's knowledge about their distant colony was gradually more or less forgotten. The south and west coast of Greenland was then re-discovered by John Davis in July 1585, though previous explorers, as Cortereal, Frobisher and others, had seen it, and at the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th century the work of Davis (1586-1588), Hudson (1610) and Baffin (1616) in the western seas afforded some knowledge of the west coast. This was added to by later explorers and by whalers and sealers. Among explorers who in the 19th century were specially connected with the north-west coast may be mentioned E. A. Inglefield (1852) who sailed into Smith's Sound,' Elisha KentKane (1853-1855) 2 who worked northward through Smith Sound into Kane Basin, and Charles Francis Hall (1871) who explored the strait (Kennedy Channel and Robeson Channel) to the north of this.3 The northern east coast was sighted by Hudson (1607) in about 73° 30' N. (C. Hold with Hope), and during the 17th century and 1 Inglefield, Summer Search for Franklin (London, 1853).

Second Grinnell Expedition (2 vols., Philadelphia, 1856).

Davis, Polaris (Hall's) North Polar Expedition (Washington, 1876). See also Bessels, Die amerikanische Nordpol-Expedition (Leipzig, 1879).

later this northern coast was probably visited by many Dutch whalers. The first who gave more accurate information was the Scottish whaler, Captain William Scoresby, jun. (1822), who, with his father, explored the coast between 69° and 75° N., and gave the first fairly trustworthy map of it. 4 Captains Edward Sabine and Clavering (1823) visited the coast between 72° 5' and 75° 12' N. and met the only Eskimo ever seen in this part of Greenland. The second German polar expedition in 1870, under Carl Christian Koldewey 5 (1837-1908), reached 77° N. (Cape Bismarck); and the duke of Orleans, in 1905, ascertained that this point was on an island (the Dove Bay of the German expedition being in reality a strait) and penetrated farther north, to about 78° 16'. From this point the north-east coast remained unexplored, though a sight was reported in 1670 by a whaler named Lambert, and again in 1775 as far north as 79° by Daines Barrington, until a Danish expedition under Mylius Erichsen in 1906-1908 explored it, discovering North-East Foreland, the easternmost point (see Polar Regions and map). The southern part of the east coast was first explored by the Dane Wilhelm August Graah (1829-1830) between Cape Farewell and 65° 16' N. 6 In 1883-1885 the Danes G. Holm and T. V. Garde carefully explored and mapped the coast from Cape Farewell to Angmagssalik, in 66° N. 7 F. Nansen and his companions also travelled along a part of this coast in 1888.8 A. E. Nordenski?ld, in the " Sophia," landed near Angmagssalik, in 65° 36' N., in 1883.9 Captain C. Ryder, in 1891-1892, explored and mapped the large Scoresby Sound, or, more correctly, Scoresby Fjord.10 Lieutenant G. Amdrup, in 1899, explored the coast from Angmagssalik north to 67° 22' N. 11 A part of this coast, about 67° N., had also been seen by Nansen in 1882.12 In 1899 Professor A. G. Nathorst explored the land between Franz Josef Fjord and Scoresby Fjord, where the large King Oscar Fjord, connecting Davy's Sound with Franz Joseph Fjord, was discovered. 13 In 1900 Lieutenant Amdrup explored the still unknown east coast from 69° 10' N. south to 67° N.14 From the work of explorers in the north-west it had been possible to infer the approximate latitude of the northward termination of Greenland long before it was definitely known. Towards the close of the 19th century several explorers gave attention to this question. Lieutenant (afterwards Admiral) L. A. Beaumont (1876), of the Nares Expedition, explored the coast north-east of Robeson Channel to 82° 20' N 1 5 In 1882 Lieut. J. B. Lockwood and Sergeant (afterwards Captain) D. L. Brainard, of the U.S. expedition to Lady Franklin Bay, ls explored the north-west coast beyond Beaumont's farthest to a promontory in 83° 24' N. and 40° 46' E. and they saw to the north-east Cape Washington, in about 83° 38' N. and 39° 30' E., the most northerly point of land till then observed. In July 1892 R. E. Peary and E. Astrup, crossing by land from Inglefield Gulf, Smith Sound, discovered Independence Bay on the north-east coast in 81° 37' N. and 34° 5' W. 17 In May 1895 4 Journal of a Voyage to the Northern Whale Fishery (1823). Die zweite deutsche Nordpolarfahrt (1873-1875).

s Reise til Ostkysten of Gronland (1832; trans. by G. Gordon Macdougall, 1837).

7 Meddelelser om Gronland, parts ix. and x. (Copenhagen, 1888).

8 The First Crossing of Greenland, vol. i. (London, 1890), H. Mohn and F. Nansen; " Wissenschaftliche Ergebnisse von Dr F. Nansen Durchquerung von Gronland " (1888), Ergnzungsheft No. 105 zu Petermanns Mitteilungen (Gotha, 1892).

9 A. F. Nordenskiold, Den andra Dicksonska Expeditionen til Gronland (Stockholm, 1885).

1° Meddelelser om Gronland, pts. xvii.-xix. (Copenhagen, 1895-1896).

11 Geografisk Tidskrift, xv. 53-71 (Copenhagen, 1899).

12 Ibid. vii. 76-79 (Copenhagen, 1884).

13 The Geographical Journal, xiv. 534 (1899); xvii. 48 (1901),; Tvei Somrar i Norra Ishafvet (Stockholm, 1901).

14 Meddelelser om GrOnland, parts xxvi.-xxvii.

Nares, Voyage to the Polar Sea (2 vols. London, 1877). See also Blue Book, journals, &c., (Nares) Expedition, 1875-1876 (London, 1877).

16 A. W. Greely, Report on the Proceedings of the United States Expedition to Lady Franklin Bay, Grinnell Land, vols. i. and ii. (Washington, 1885); Three Years of Arctic Service (2 vols. London, 1886).

R. E. Peary, Northward over the " Great Ice " (2 vols. New York, 1898); E. Astrup, Blandt Nordpolen's Naboer (Christiania, 1895).

was revisited by Peary, who supposed this bay to be a sound communicating with Victoria Inlet on the north-west coast. To the north Heilprin Land and Melville Land were seen stretching northwards, but the probability seemed to be that the coast soon trended north-west. In 1901 Peary rounded the north point, and penetrated as far north as 83° 50' N. The scanty exploration of !n e Umivik ¦Igdloluarsuk kornutarmiut Umanak Tingmiarmiut Nersen "?>? Ikermiut Puisorr)ok the great ice-cap, or inland ice, which may be asserted to cover the whole of the interior of Greenland, has been prosecuted chiefly from the west coast. In 1751 Lars Dalager, a Danish trader, took some steps in this direction from Frederikshaab. In 1870 Nordenskiold and Berggren walked 35 m. inland from the head of Aulatsivik Fjord (near Disco Bay) to an elevation of 2200 ft. The Danish captain Jens Arnold Dietrich Jensen reached, in 1878, the Jensen Nunataks (5400 ft. above the sea), about 45 m.

from the western margin, in 62° 50' N. Nordensk16ld penetrated in 1883 about 70 m. inland in 68° 20' N., and two Lapps of his expedition went still farther on skis, to a point nearly under 45° W. at an elevation of 6600 ft. Peary and Maigaard reached in 1886 about 100 m. inland, a height of 7500 ft. in 69° 30' N. Nansen with five companions in 1888 made the first complete crossing of the inland ice, working from the east coast to the west, about 64° 25' N., and reached a height of 8922 ft. Peary and Astrup, as already indicated, crossed in 1892 the northern part of the inland ice between 78° and 82° N., o reaching a height of about 8000 ft., and deter mined the northern termination of the icecovering. Peary made very nearly the same journey again in 1895. Captain T. V. Garde explored in 1893 the interior of the inland ice between 61° and 62° N. near its southern 2 termination, and he reached a height of 7080 ft. about 60 m. from the margin.2 Coasts. - The coasts of Greenland are for the most part deeply indented with fjords, being intensely glaciated. The coast-line of Melville Bay (the northern part of the west coast) is to some degree an exception, though the fjords may here be somewhat filled with glaciers, and, for another example, it may be noted that Peary observed a marked contrast on the north coast. Eastward as far as Cape Morris Jesup there are precipitous headlands and islands, as elsewhere, with deep water close inshore. East of the same cape there is an abrupt change; the coast is unbroken, the mountains recede inland, and there is shoal-water for a considerable distance from the coast. Numerous islands lie off the coasts where they are indented; but these are in no case large, excepting those off the north coast, and that of Disco off the west, which is crossed by the parallel of 70° N. This island, which is separated by Waigat Strait from the Nugsuak peninsula, is o lofty, and has an area of 3005 sq. m. Steenstrup in 1898 discovered in it the warmest spring known in Greenland, having a temperature of 66° F.

The unusual glaciation of the east coast is evidently owing to the north polar current carrying the ice masses from the north polar basin 4 south-westward along the land, and giving it an entirely arctic climate down to Cape Farewell. In some parts the interior ice-covering extends down to the outer coast, while in other parts its margin is situated more inland, and the ice-bare coast-land is deeply intersected by fjords extending far into the interior, where they are blocked by enormous glaciers or " ice-currents " from the interior ice-covering which discharge masses of s"aefel's0° icebergs into them. The east coast of Greenland F is in thii respect highly interesting. All coasts in the world which are much intersected by deep fjords have, with very few exceptions, a western exposure, e.g. Norway, Scotland, British Columbia 5 and Alaska, Patagonia and Chile, and even Spitsbergen and Novaya Zemlya, whose west coasts are far more indented than their east ones. Greenland forms the most prominent exception, its eastern coast being quite as much indented as its western. The reason is to be found in its geographical position, a cold ice-covered polar current 68' running south along the land, while not far outside there is an open warmer sea, a circumstance which, while producing a cold climate, must also give rise to much precipitation, the land being C', thus exposed to the alternate erosion of a rough atmosphere and large glaciers. On the east 1 Meddelelser Gronland, part (Copenhagen, 1879). 2 Ibid. part (Copenhagen, 1896).

i pare " a 4, Scale. 1:15.000.000 coast of Baffin Land and Labrador there are similar conditions. The result is that the east coast of Greenland has the largest system of typical fjords known on the earth's surface. Scoresby Fjord has a length of about 180 m. from the outer coast to the point where it is blocked by the glaciers, and with its numerous branches covers an enormous area. Franz Josef Fjord, with its branch King Oscar Fjord, communicating with Davy's Sound, forms a system of fjords on a similar scale. These fjords are very deep; the greatest depth found by Ryder in Scoresby Sound was 300 fathoms, but there are certainly still greater depths; like the Norwegian fjords they have, however, probably all of them, a threshold or sill, with shallow water, near their mouths. A few soundings made outside this coast seem to indicate that the fjords continue as deep submarine valleys far out into the sea. On the west coast there are also many great fjords. One of the best known from earlier days is the great Godthaab Fjord (or Baals Revier) north of 64° N. Along the east coast there are many high mountains, exceeding 6000 and 7000 ft. in height. One of the highest peaks hitherto measured is at Tiningnertok, on the Lindenov Fjord, in 60° 35' N., which is 7340 ft. high. At the bottom of Mogens Heinesen Fjord, 62° 30' N., the peaks are 6300 ft., and in the region of Umanak, 63° N., they even exceed 6600 ft. At Umivik, where Nansen began his journey across the inland ice, the highest peak projecting through the icecovering was Gamel's Nuna ak, 6440 ft., in 6 4° 34' N. In the region of Angmagssalik, which is very mountainous, the mountains rise to 6500 ft., the most prominent peak being Ingolf's Fjeld, in 66° 20' N., about 6000 ft., which is seen from far out at sea, and forms an excellent landmark. This is probably the Blaaserk (i.e. Blue Sark or blue shirt) of the old Norsemen, their first landmark on their way from Iceland to the ester Bygd, the present Julianehaab district, on the south-west coast of Greenland. A little farther north the coast is much lower, rising only to heights of 2000 ft., and just north of 67° 10' N. only to 500 ft. or less.' The highest mountains near the inner branches of Scoresby Fjord are about 7000 ft. The Petermann Spitze, near the shore of Franz Josef Fjord, measured by Payer and found to be 11,000 ft., has hitherto been considered to be the highest mountain in Greenland, but according to Nathorst it " is probably only two-thirds as high as Payer supposed," perhaps between 8000 and 9000 ft.

Along the west coast of Greenland the mountains are generally not quite so high, but even here peaks of 5000 and 6000 ft. are not uncommon. As a whole the coasts are unusually mountainous, and Greenland forms in this respect an interesting exception, as there is no other known land of such a size so filled along its coasts on all sides with high mountains and deep fjords and valleys.

Table of contents

The Inland Ice

The whole interior of Greenland is completely covered by the so-called inland ice, an enormous glacier forming a regular shield-shaped expanse of snow and glacier ice, and burying all valleys and mountains far below its surface. Its area is about 7 1 5,4 00 sq. m., and it is by far the greatest glacier of the northern hemisphere. Only occasionally there emerge lofty rocks, isolated but not completely covered by the ice-cap; such rocks are known as nunataks (an Eskimo word). The inland ice rises in the interior to a level of 9000, and in places perhaps 10,000 ft. or more, and descends gradually by extremely gentle slopes towards the coasts or the bottom of the fjords on all sides, discharging a great part of its yearly drainage or surplus of precipitation in the form of icebergs in the fjords, the so-called ice-fjords, which are numerous both on the west and on the east coast. These icebergs float away, and are gradually melted in the sea, the temperature of which is thus lowered by cold stored up in the interior of Greenland. The last remains of these icebergs are met with in the Atlantic south of Newfoundland. The surface of the inland ice forms in a transverse section from the west to the east coast an extremely regular curve, almost approaching an arc of a wide circle, which along Nansen's route has its highest ridge somewhat nearer the east than the west coast. The same also seems to be the case farther south. The curve shows, however, slight irregularities in the shape of undulations. The angle of the slope decreases gradually from the margin of the inland ice, where it may be I° or more, towards the interior, where it is o°. In the interior the surface of the inland ice is composed of dry snow which never melts, and is constantly packed and worked smooth by the winds. It extends as a completely even plain of snow, with long, almost imperceptible, undulations or waves, at a height of 7000 to 10,000 ft., obliterating the features of the underlying land, the mountains and valleys of which are completely interred. Over the deepest valleys of the land in the interior this ice-cap must be at least 6000 or 7000 ft. thick or more. Approaching the coasts from the interior, the snow of the surface gradually changes its structure. At first it becomes more coarse-grained, like the Firn Schnee of the Alps, and is moist by melting during the summer. Nearer the coast, where the melting on the surface is more considerable, the wet snow freezes hard during the winter and is more or less transformed into ice, on the surface of which rivers and lakes are formed, the water of which, however, soon finds its way through crevasses and holes in the ice down to its under surface, and reaches the sea as a sub-glacial river. Near its margin the surface of the inland ice is broken up by numerous large crevasses, formed by the outward motion of the glacier covering the underlying land. The steep icewalls at the margin of the inland ice show, especially where the motion of the ice is slow, a distinct striation, which indicates the strata of annual precipitation with the intervening thin seams of dust (Nordenskidld's kryokonite). This is partly dust blown on 1 See C. Kruuse in Geografisk Tidskrift, xv. 64 (Copenhagen, 1899). See also F. Nansen, " Die Ostkiiste Gronlands," Erganzungsheft No. 105 zu Petermanns Mitteilungen (Gotha, 1892), p. 55 and pl. iv., sketch No. i 1.

to the surface of the ice from the ice-bare coast-land and partly the dust of the atmosphere brought down by the falling snow and accumulated on the surface of the glacier's covering by the melting during the summer. In the rapidly moving glaciers of the icefjords this striation is not distinctly visible, being evidently obliterated by the strong motion of the ice masses.

The ice-cap of Greenland must to some extent be considered as a viscous mass, which, by the vertical pressure in its interior, is pressed outwards and slowly flows towards the coasts, just as a mass of pitch placed on a table and left to itself will in the course of time flow outwards towards all sides. The motion of the outwardscreeping inland ice will naturally be more independent of the configurations of the underlying land in the interior, where its thickness is so enormous, than near the margin where it is thinner. Here the ice converges into the valleys and moves with increasing velocity in the form of glaciers into the fjords, where they break off as icebergs. The drainage of the interior of Greenland is thus partly given off in the solid form of icebergs, partly by the melting of the snow and ice on the surface of the ice-cap, especially near its western margin, and to some slight extent also by the melting produced on its under side by the interior heat of the earth. After Professor Amund Helfand had, in July 1875, discovered the amazingly great velocity, up to 644 ft. in twenty-four hours, with which the glaciers of Greenland move into the sea, the margin of the inland ice and its glaciers was studied by several expeditions. K. J. V. Steenstrup during several years, Captain Hammer in 1879-1880, Captain Ryder in 1886-1887, Dr Drygalski in 1891-1893, 2 and several American expeditions in later years, all examined the question closely. The highest known velocities of glaciers were measured by Ryder in the Upernivik glacier (in 73° N.), where, between the 13th and 14th of August of 1886, he found a velocity of 125 ft. in twenty-four hours, and an average velocity during several days of 101 ft. (Danish).3 It was, however, ascertained that there is a great difference between the velocities of the glaciers in winter and in summer. For instance, Ryder found that the Upernivik glacier had an average velocity of only 33 ft. in April 1887. There seem to be periodical oscillations in the extension of the glaciers and the inland ice similar to those that have been observed on the glaciers of the Alps and elsewhere. But these interesting phenomena have not hitherto been subject to systematic observation, and our knowledge of them is therefore uncertain. Numerous glacial marks, however, such as polished striated rocks, moraines, erratic blocks, &c., prove that the whole of Greenland, even the small islands and skerries outside the coast, has once been covered by the inland ice.

Numerous raised beaches and terraces, containing shells of marine mollusca, &c., occur along the whole coast of Greenland, and indicate that the whole of this large island has been raised, or the sea has sunk, in post-glacial times, after the inland ice covered its now icebare outskirts. In the north along the shores of Smith Sound these traces of the gradual upheaval of the land, or sinking of the sea, are very marked; but they are also very distinct in the south, although not found so high above sea-level, which seems to show that the upheaval has been greater in the north. In Uvkusigsat Fjord (72° 20' N.) the highest terrace is 480 ft. above the sea. 4 On Manitsok (65° 30' N.) the highest raised beach was 360 ft. above the sea.' In the Isortok Fjord (67° 11' N.) the highest raised beach is 380 ft. above sea-level.' In the Ameralik Fjord (64° 14' N.) the highest marine terrace is about 340 ft. above sea-level, and at Ilivertalik (63° 14' N.), north of Fiskernaes, the highest terrace is about 325 ft. above the sea. At Kakarsuak, near the Bjornesund (62° 50' N.), a terrace is found at 615 ft. above the sea, but it is doubtful whether this is of marine origin.' In the Julianehaab district, between 60° and 61° N., the highest marine terraces are found at about 160 ft. above the sea. 8 The highest marine terrace observed in Scoresby Fjord, on the east coast, was 240 ft. above sea-level. 9 There is a common belief that during quite recent times the west and southwest coast, within the Danish possessions, has been sinking. Although there are many indications which may make this probable, none of them can be said to be quite decisive." [[[Geology]]. - So far as made out, the structure of explored Greenland is as follows: 1. Laurentian gneiss forms the greatest mass of the exposed rocks of the country bare of ice. They are found on both sides of Smith Sound, rising to heights of 2000 ft., and underlie the Miocene and Cretaceous rocks of Disco Island, Noursoak Peninsula and the 2 E. v. Drygalski, Gronland-Expedition der Gesellschaft fitr Erdkunde zu Berlin, 1891-1893 (2 vols., Berlin, 1897).

Meddelelser om Gronland, part viii. pp. 203-270 (Copenhagen, 1889).

Ibid., part iv. p. 230 (Copenhagen, 1883); see also part xiv. pp. 317 et seq., 323.

5 Ibid. part xiv. p. 323 (Copenhagen, 1898).

' Ibid. part ii. pp. 181-188 (Copenhagen, 1881).

7 Ibid. part i. pp. 99-101 (Copenhagen, 1879).

8 Ibid. part ii. p. 39 (Copenhagen, 1881); part xvi. pp. 150-154 (1896).

9 Ibid., part xix. p. 175 (1896).

'° Ibid. part i. p. 34; part ii. p. 40; part xiv. pp. 343-347; part iv. p. 237; part viii. p. 26.

Oolites of Pendulum Island in East Greenland. Ancient schists occur on the east coast south of Angmagssalik, and basalts and schists are found in Scoresby Fjord. It is possible that some of these rocks are also of Huronian age, but it is doubtful whether the rocks so designated by the geologists of the " Alert " and " Discovery " expedition are really the rocks so known in Canada, or are a continuous portion of the fundamental or oldest gneiss of the north-west of Scotland and the western isles.

2. Silurian

Upper Silurian, having a strong relation to the Wenlock group of Britain, but with an American facies, and Lower Silurian, with a succession much the same as in British North America, are found on the shores of Smith Sound, and Nathorst has discovered them in King Oscar Fjord, but not as yet so far south as the Danish possessions.

3. Devonian rocks are believed to occur in Igaliko and Tunnudiorbik Fjords, in S.W. Greenland, but as they are unfossiliferous sandstone, rapidly disintegrating, this cannot be known. It is, however, likely that this formation occurs in Greenland, for in Dana Bay, Captain Feilden found a species of Spirifera and Productus mesolobus or costatus, though it is possible that these fossils represent the " Ursa stage " (Heer) of the Lower Carboniferous. A few Devonian forms have also been recorded from the Parry Archipelago, and Nathorst has shown the existence of Old Red Sandstone facies of Devonian in Traill Island, Geographical Society Island, Ymer Island and Gauss Peninsula.

4. Carboniferous

In erratic blocks of sandstone, found on the Disco shore of the Waigat, have been detected a Sigillaria and a species of either Pecopterisor Gleichenia, perhaps of this age; and probably much of the extreme northern coast of Ellesmere Land, and therefore, in all likelihood, the opposite Greenland shore, contains a clearly developed Carboniferous Limestone fauna, identical with that so widely distributed over the North American continent, and referable also to British and Spitsbergen species. Of the Coal Measures above these, if they occur, we know nothing at present. Capt. Feilden notes as suggestive that, though the explorers have not met with this formation on the northern shores of Greenland, yet it was observed that a continuation of the direction of the known strike of the limestones of Feilden peninsula, carried over the polar area, passes through the neighbourhood of Spitsbergen, where the formation occurs, and contains certain species identical with those of the Grinnell Land rocks of this horizon. The facies of the fossils is, according to Mr Etheridge, North American and Canadian, though many of the species are British. The corals are few in number, but the Molluscoida (Polyzoa) are more numerous in species and individuals. No Secondary rocks have been discovered in the extreme northern parts of West Greenland, but they are present on the east and west coasts in more southerly latitudes than Smith Sound.

5. Jurassic

These do not occur on the west coast, but on the east coast the German expedition discovered marls and sandstones on Kuhn Island, resembling those of the Russian Jurassic, characterized by the presence of the genus Aucella, Olcostephanus Payeri, 0. striolaris, Belemnites Panderianus, B. volgensis, B. absolutus, and a Cyprina near to C. syssolae. On the south coast of the same island are coarse-grained, brownish micaceous and light-coloured calcareous sandstone and marls, containing fossils, which render it probable that they are of the same age as the coal-bearing Jurassic rocks of Brora (Scotland) and the Middle Dogger of Yorkshire. There is also coal on Kuhn Island.

The Danish expeditions of 1899-1900 have added considerably to our knowledge of the Jurassic rocks of East Greenland. RhaeticLias plants have been described by Dr Hartz from Cape Stewart and Vardekloft. Dr Madsen has recognized fossils that correspond with those from the Inferior oolite, Cornbrash and Callovian of England. Upper Kimmeridge and Portlandian beds also occur.

6. Cretaceous

Beds of this age, consisting of sandstones and coal, are found on the northern coast of Disco Island and the southern side of the Noursoak Peninsula, the beds in the former locality, " the Kome strata " of Nordenskiold, being the oldest. They reach moo ft. in thickness, occupying undulating hollows in the underlying gneiss, and dip towards the Noursoak Peninsula at 20°, when the overlying Atanakerdluk strata come in. Both these series contain numerous plant remains, evergreen oaks, magnolias, aralias, &c., and seams of lignite (coal), which is burnt; but in neither occur the marine beds of the United States. Still, the presence of dicotyledonous leaves, such as Magnolia alternans, in the Atanakerdluk strata, proves their close alliance with the Dakota series of the United States. The underlying Kome beds are not present in the American series. They are characterized by fine cycads (Zamites arcticus and Glossozamites Hoheneggeri), which also occur in the Urgonian strata of Wernsdorff.

7. Miocene

This formation, one of the most widely spread in polar lands, though the most local in Greenland, is also the best known feature in its geology. It is limited to Disco Island, and perhaps to a small part of the Noursoak Peninsula, and the neighbouring country, and consists of numerous thin beds of sandstone, shale and coal - the sideritic shale containing immense quantities of leaves, stems, fruit, &c., as well as some insects, and the coal pieces of retinite. The study of these plant and insect remains shows that forests containing a vegetation very similar to that of California and the southern United States, in some instances even the species of trees being all but identical, flourished in 70° N. during geological periods comparatively recent. These beds, as well as the Cretaceous series, from which they are as yet only imperfectly distinguished, are associated with sheets of basalt, which penetrate them in great dikes, and in some places, owing to the wearing away of the softer sedimentary rocks, stand out in long walls running across the beds. These Miocene strata have not been found farther north on the Greenland shore than the region mentioned; but in Lady Franklin Bay, on the Grinnell Land side of Smith Sound, they again appear, so that the chances are they will be found on the opposite coast, though doubtless the great disintegration Greenland has undergone and is undergoing has destroyed many of the softer beds of fossiliferous rocks. On the east coast, more particularly in Hochstetter Foreland, the Miocene beds again appear, and we may add that there are traces of them even on the west coast, between Sonntag Bay and Foulke Fjord, at the entrance to Smith Sound. It thus appears that since early Tertiary times there has been a great change in the climate of Greenland.

Nathorst has suggested that the whole of Greenland is a "horst," in the subordinate folds of which, as well as in the deeper " graben," the younger rocks are preserved, often with a covering of Tertiary or later lava flows.' - J. A. H.] Minerals. - Native iron was found by Nordenskiold at Ovifak, on Disco Island, in 1870, and brought to Sweden(1871)as meteorites. The heaviest nodule weighed over 20 tons. Similar native iron has later been found by K. J. V. Steenstrup in several places on the west coast enclosed as smaller or larger nodules in the basalt. This iron has very often beautiful Widmannstatten figures like those of iron meteorites, but it is obviously of telluric origin.' In 1895 Peary found native iron at Cape York; since John Ross's voyage in 1818 it has been known to exist there, and from it the Eskimo got iron for their weapons. In 1897 Peary brought the largest nodule to New York; it was estimated to weigh nearly loo tons. This iron is considered by several of the first authorities"on the subject to be of meteoric origin,' but no evidence hitherto given seems to prove decisively that it cannot be telluric. That the nodules found were lying on gneissic rock, with no basaltic rocks in the neighbourhood, does not prove that the iron may not originate from basalt, for the nodules may have been transported by the glaciers, like other erratic blocks, and will stand erosion much longer than the basalt, which may long ago have disappeared. This iron seems, however, in several respects to be unlike the celebrated large nodules of iron found by Nordenskiold at Ovifak, but appears to resemble much more closely the softer kind of iron nodules found by Steenstrup in the basalt;' it stands exposure to the air equally well, and has similar Widmannstaten figures very sharp, as is to be expected in such a large mass. It contains, however, more nickel and also phosphorus. A few other minerals may be noticed, and some have been worked to a small extent - graphite is abundant, particularly near Upernivik; cryolite is found almost exclusively at Ivigtut; copper has been observed at several places, but only in nodules and laminae of limited extent; and coal of poor quality is found in the districts about Disco Bay and Umanak Fjord. Steatite or soapstone has long been used by the natives for the manufacture of lamps and vessels.


The climate is very uncertain, the weather changing suddenly from bright sunshine (when mosquitos often swarm) to dense fog or heavy falls of snow and icy winds. At Julianehaab in the extreme south-west the winter is not much colder than that of Norway and Sweden in the same locality; but its mean temperature for the whole year probably approximates to that on the Norwegian coast 600 m. farther north. The climate of the interior has been found to be of a continental character, with large ranges of temperature, and with an almost permanent anti-cyclonic region over the interior of the inland ice, from which the prevailing winds radiate towards the coasts. On the 64th parallel the mean annual temperature at an elevation of 6560 ft. is supposed to be - 13° F., or reduced to sea-level 5° F. The mean annual temperature in the interior farther north is supposed to be - Do° F. reduced to sea-level. The mean temperature of the warmest month, July, in the interior should be, reduced to sea-level, on the 64th parallel 32° F., and that of the coldest month, January, about - 22° F., while in North Greenland it is probably - 40° reduced to sea-level. Here we may probably find the lowest temperatures of the northern hemisphere. The interior of Greenland contains both summer and winter a pole of cold, situated in the opposite longitude to that of Siberia, with which it is well able to compete in extreme severity. On Nansen's expedition temperatures of about - 49° F. were experienced during 1 See A. G. Nathorst, " Bidrag till nordostra Gronlands geologi," with map Geologiska Foreningens i Stockholm Forhandlingar, No. 257, Bd. 23, Heft 4, 1901; O. Heer, Flora fossilis Arctica (7 vols., 1868-1883), and especially Meddelelser om Gronland for numerous papers on the geology and palaeontology.

Medd. om GrOnl., part iv. pp. 115-131 (Copenhagen, 1883).

See Peary, Northward over the " Great Ice," ii. 604 et seq. (New York, 1898).

See loc. cit. pp. 127-128.

the nights in the beginning of September, and the minimum during the winter may probably sink to-90° F. in the interior of the inland ice. These low temperatures are evidently caused by the radiation of heat from the snow-surface in the rarefied air in the interior. The daily range of temperature is therefore very considerable, sometimes amounting to 40°. Such a range is elsewhere found only in deserts, but the surface of the inland ice may be considered to be an elevated desert of snow.' The climate of the east coast is on the whole considerably more arctic than that of the west coast on corresponding latitudes; the land is much more completely snowcovered, and the snow-line goes considerably lower. The probability also is that there is more precipitation, and that the mean temperatures are lower. 2 The well-known strangely warm and dry fain- winds of Greenland occur both on the west and the east coast; they are more local than was formerly believed, and are formed by cyclonic winds passing either over mountains or down the outer slope of the inland ice. 3 Mirage and similar phenomena and the aurora are common.

Fauna and Flora

It was long a common belief that the fauna and flora of Greenland were essentially European, a circumstance which would make it probable that Greenland has been separated by sea from America during a longer period of time than from Europe. The correctness of this hypothesis may, however, be doubted. The land mammals of Greenland are decidedly more American than European; the musk-ox, the banded lemming (Cuniculus torquatus), the white polar wolf, of which there seems to have been a new invasion recently round the northern part of the country to the east coast, the Eskimo and the dog - probably also the reindeer - have all come from America, while the other land mammals, the polar bear, the polar fox, the Arctic hare, the stoat (Mustela erminea), are perfectly circumpolar forms. The species of seals and whales are, if anything, more American than European, and so to some extent are the fishes. The bladder-nose seal (Cystophora cristata), for instance, may be said to be a GreenlandAmerican species, while a Scandinavian species, such as the grey seal (Halichoerus grypus), appears to be very rare both in Greenland and America. Of the sixty-one species of birds breeding in Greenland, eight are European-Asiatic, four are American, and the rest circumpolar or North Atlantic and North Pacific in their distribution. 4 About 310 species of vascular plants are found, of which about forty species are American, forty-four European-Asiatic, fifteen endemic, and the rest common both to America and Europe or Asia. We thus see that the American and the European-Asiatic elements of the flora are nearly equivalent; and if the flora of Arctic North America were better known, the number of plants common to America might be still more enlarged.5 In the south, a few goats, sheep, oxen and pigs have been introduced. The whaling industry was formerly prolific off the west coast but decayed when the right whale nearly disappeared. The white whale fishery of the Eskimo, however, continued, and sealing is important; walruses are also caught and sometimes narwhal. There are also important fisheries for cod, caplin, halibut, red fish (Sebastes) and nepisak (Cyclopterus lumpus); a shark (Somniosus microcephalus) is taken for the oil from its liver; and sea-trout are found in the streams and small lakes of the south. On land reindeer were formerly hunted, to their practical extinction in the south, but in the districts of Godthaab, Sukkertoppen and Holstensborg there are still many reindeer. The eider-duck, guillemot and other sea-birds are in some parts valuable for food in winter, and so is the ptarmigan. Eggs of sea-birds are collected and eider-down. Valuable fur is obtained from the white and blue fox, the skin of the eider-duck and the polar bear.

At Tasiusak (73° 22' N.), the most northern civilized settlement in the world, gardening has been attempted without success, but several plants do well in forcing frames. At Umanak (70° 40' N.) is the most northern garden in the world. Broccoli and radishes grow well, turnips (but not every year), lettuce and chervil succeed sometimes, but parsley cannot be reared. At Jacobshavn 1 H. Mohn, " The Climate of the Interior of Greenland," The Scott. Geogr. Magazine, vol. ix. (Edinburgh, 18 93), pp. 1 4 2 - 1 45, 199 Mohn and F. Nansen, " Wissenschaftliche Ergebnisse," &c. Erganzungsheft No. 105 zu Petermanns Mitteilungen (1892), p. 51.

On the climate of the east coast of Greenland see V. WillaumeJantzen, Meddelelser om Gronland, part ix. (1889), pp. 285-310, part xvii. (1895), pp. 171-180.

3 See A. Paulsen, Meteorolog. Zeitschrift (1889), p. 241; F. Nansen, The First Crossing of Greenland (London, 1890), vol. ii. pp. 49 6 -497; H. Mohn and F. Nansen, " Wissenschaftliche Ergebnisse," &c. Erganzungsheft No. 105 zu Petermanns Mitteilungen (1892), p. 51.

4 H. Winge, " Gronlands Fugle," Meddelelser om Gronland, part xxi. pp. 62-63 (Copenhagen, 1899).

' See J. Lange, " Conspectus florae Groenlandicae," Meddelelser om Gronland, part iii. (Copenhagen, 1880 and 1887); E. Warming, " Om Gronlands Vegetation," Meddelelser om Gronland, part xii. (Copenhagen, 1888); and in Botanische Jahrbiicher, vol. x. (1888-5889). See also A. Blytt, Englers Jahrbiicher, ii. (1882), pp. 1-50; A. G. Nathorst, Otversigt of K. Vetenskap. Akad. Forhandl. (Stockholm, 1884); " Kritische Bemerkungen fiber die Geschichte der Vegetation Gronlands," Botanische Jahrbiicher, vol. xiv. (1891).

(69° 12' N.), only some m. from the inland ice, gardening succeeds, very well; broccoli and lettuce grow willingly; the spinach produces large leaves; chervil, pepper-grass, leeks, parsley and turnips. grow very well; the radishes are sown and gathered twice during the summer (June to August). In the south, in the Julianehaab district, even flowering plants, such as aster, nemophilia and mignonette, are cultivated, and broccoli, spinach, sorrel, chervil, parsley, rhubarb, turnips, lettuce, radishes grow well. Potatoes give fair results when they are taken good care of, carrots grow to a thickness of IIin., while cabbage does poorly. Strawberries and cucumbers have been ripened in a forcing frame. In the " Kongespeil " (King's mirror) of the 13th century it is stated that the old Norsemen tried in vain to raise barley.

The wild vegetation in the height of summer is, in favourable situations, profuse in individual plants, though scanty in species. The plants are of the usual arctic type, and identical with or allied to those found in Lapland or on the summits of the highest British hills. Forest there is none in all the country. In the north, where the lichen-covered or ice-shaven rocks do not protrude, the ground is covered with a carpet of mosses, creeping dwarf willows, crow berries and similar plants, while the flowers most common are the andromeda, the yellow poppy, pedicularis, pyrola, &c. besides the flowering mosses; but in South Greenland there is something in the shape of bush, the dwarf birches even rising a few feet in very sheltered places, the willows may grow higher than a man, and the vegetation is less arctic and more abundant.

Government and Trade

The trade of Greenland is a monopoly of the Danish crown, dating from 1774, and is administered in Copenhagen by a government board (Kongelige Gronlandske Handel) and in the country by various government officials. In order to meet the double purposes of government and trade,. the west coast, up to nearly 74° N., is divided into two inspectorates, the southern extending to 67° 40' N., the northern comprising the rest of the country; the respective seats of government being at Godthaab and Godhavn. These inspectorates are ruled by two superior officials or governors responsible to the director of the board in Copenhagen. Each of the inspectorates is divided into districts, each district having, in addition to the chief settlement or coloni, several outlying posts and Eskimo hunting stations, each presided over by an udligger, who is responsible to the colonibestyrer, or superintendent of the district. These trading settlements, which dot the coast for a distance of r000 m., are about sixty in number. From the Eskimo hunting and fishing stations blubber is the chief article received, and is forwarded in casks to the coloni, where it is boiled into oil, and prepared for being despatched to Copenhagen by means of the government ships which arrive and leave between May and November. For the rest of the year navigation is stopped, though the winter months form the busy seal-killing season. The principle upon which the government acts is to give the natives low prices for their produce, but to sell them European articles of necessity at prime cost, and other stores, such as bread, at prices which will scarcely pay for the purchase. and freight, while no merchandise is charged, on an average,. more than 20% over the cost price in Denmark. In addition the Greenlanders are allowed to order goods from private dealers. on paying freight for them at the rate of 22d. per io lb. or is. 6d. per cub. ft. The prices to be paid for European and native articles are fixed every year, the prices current in Danish and Eskimo being printed and distributed by the government. Out of the payment five-sixths are given to the sellers, and onesixth devoted to the Greenlanders' public fund, spent in " public works," in charity, and on other unforeseen contingencies. The object of the monopoly is solely for the good of the Greenlanders - to prevent spirits being sold to them, and the vice,. disease and misery which usually attend the collision between natives and civilization of the trader's type being introduced. into the primitive arctic community. The inspectors, in addition to being trade superintendents, are magistrates, but serious crime is very rare. Though the officials are all-powerful, local councils or parsissaet were organized in 1857 in every district. To these parish parliaments delegates are sent from every station. These parsissoks, elected at the rate of about one representative to 120 voters, wear a cap with a badge (a bear rampant), and aid the European members of the council in distributing the surplus profit apportioned to each district, and generally in advising as, to the welfare of that part of Greenland under their partial control. The municipal council has the disposal of 20% of the annual profits made on produce purchased within the confines of each district. It holds two sessions every year, and the discussions are entirely in the Eskimo language. In addition to their functions as guardians of the poor, the parish members have to investigate crimes and punish misdemeanours, settle litigations and divide inheritances. They can impose fines for small offences not worth sending bef ore the inspector, and, in cases of high misdemeanour, have the power of inflicting corporal punishment.

A Danish coloni in Greenland might seem to many not to be :a cheerful place at best; though in the long summer days they would certainly find some of those on the southern fjords comparatively pleasant. The fact is, however, that most people who ever lived some time in Greenland always long to go back. There are generally in a coloni three or four Danish houses, built of wood and pitched over, in addition to storehouses and a blubber-boiling establishment. The Danish residents may include, besides a coloni-bestyrer and his assistant, a missionair or clergyman, at a few places also a doctor, and perhaps a carpenter and a schoolmaster. In addition there are generally from twenty to several hundred Eskimo, who live in huts built ' of stone and turf, each entered by a short tunnel. Lately their houses in the colonis have also to some extent been built of imported wood. Following the west coast northward, the trading centres are these: in the south inspectorate, Julianehaab, near which are remains of the early Norse settlements of Eric the Red and his companions (the Oster-Bygd); Frederikshaab, in which district are the cryolite mines of Ivigtut; Godthaab, the principal settlement of all, in the neighbourhood of which are also early Norse remains (the Vester-Bygd); Sukkertoppen, a most picturesque locality; and Holstenborg. In the north inspectorate the centres are: Egedesminde, on an islet at the mouth of Disco Bay; Christianshaab, one of the pleasantest settlements in the north, and Jacobshavn, on the inner shores of the same bay; Godhavn (or Lievely) on the south coast of Disco Island, formerly an important seat of the whaling industry; Ritenbenk, Umanak, and, most northerly of all, Upernivik. On the east coast there is but one coloni, Angmagssalik, in 65° 30 N., only established in 1894. For ecclesiastical purposes Danish Greenland is reckoned in the province of the bishop of Zeeland. The Danish mission in Greenland has a yearly grant of £ 2000 from the trading revenue of the colony, besides a contribution of £880 from the state. The Moravian mission, which had worked in Greenland for a century and a half, retired from the country in 1900. The trade of Greenland has on the whole much decreased in modern times, and trading and missions cost the Danish state a comparatively large sum (about £i i,000 every year), although this is partly covered by the income from the royalty of the cryolite mines at Ivigtut. There is, however, a yearly deficiency of more than £6000. The decline in the value of the trade, which was formerly very profitable, has to a great extent been brought about by the fall in the price of seal-oil. It might be expected that there should be a decrease in the Greenland seal fisheries, caused by the European and American sealers catching larger quantities every year, especially along the coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador, and so actually diminishing the number of the animals in the Greenland seas. The statistics of South Greenland, however, do not seem to demonstrate any such decrease. The average number of seals killed annually is about 33,000.1 The 1 Owing to representations of the Swedish government in 1874 as to the killing of seals at breeding time on the east coast of Greenland, and the consequent loss of young seals left to die of starvation, the Seal Fisheries Act 1875 was passed in England to provide for the establishment of a close time for seal fishery in the seas in question. This act empowered the crown, by order in council, to put its provisions in force, when any foreign state, whose ships or subjects were engaged in the seal fishery in the area mentioned in the schedule thereto, had made, or was about to make, similar provisions with respect to its ships and subjects. An order in council under the act, declaring the season to begin on the 3rd of April in ,each year, was issued February 8, 1876. Rescinded February 15, 1876, it was re-enacted on November 28, 1876, and is still operative.

annual value of imports, consisting of manufactured goods, foodstuffs, &c., may be taken somewhat to exceed £40,000. The chief articles of export (together with those that have lapsed) have been already indicated; but they may be summarized as including seal-oil, seal, fox, bird and bear skins, fish products and eiderdown, with some quantity of worked skins. Walrus tusks and walrus hides, which in the days of the old Norse settlements were the chief articles of export, are now of little importance.


The area of the entire Danish colony is estimated at 45,000 sq. m., and its population in 1901 was 11,893. The Europeans number about 300. The Eskimo population of Danish Greenland (west coast) seems to have decreased since the middle of the 18th century. Hans Egede estimated the population then at 30,000, but this is probably a large overestimate. The decrease may chiefly have been due to infectious diseases, especially a very severe epidemic of smallpox. During the last half of the 19th century there was on the whole a slight increase of the native population. The population fluctuates a good deal, owing, to some extent, to an immigration of natives from the east to the west coast. The population of the east coast seems on the whole to be decreasing in number, several hundreds chiefly living at Angmagssalik. In the north part of the east coast, in the region of Scoresby Fjord and Franz Josef Fjord, numerous ruins of Eskimo settlements are found, and in 1823 Clavering met Eskimo there, but now they have either completely died out or have wandered south. A little tribe of Eskimo living in the region of Cape York near Smith Sound - the so-called " Arctic Highlanders " or Smith Sound Eskimo - number about 240.


In the beginning of the 10th century the Norwegian Gunnbjdrn, son of Ulf Kraka, is reported to have found some islands to the west of Iceland, and he may have seen, without landing upon it, the southern part of the east coast of Greenland. In 982 the Norwegian Eric the Red sailed from Iceland to find the land which GunnbjOrn had seen, and he spent three years on its south-western coasts exploring the country. On his return to Iceland in 985 he called the land Greenland in order to make people more willing to go there, and reported so favourably on its possibilities that he had no difficulty in obtaining followers. In 986 he started again from Iceland with 25 ships, but only 14 of them reached Greenland, where a colony was founded on the south-west coast, in the present Julianehaab district. Eric built his house at Brattalid, near the inner end of the fjord Tunugdliarfik, just north of the present Julianehaab. Other settlers followed and in a few years two colonies had been formed, one called Osterbygd in the present district of Julianehaab comprising later about 190 farms, and another called Vesterbygd farther north on the west coast in the present district of Godthaab, comprising later about 90 farms. Numerous ruins in the various fjords of these two districts indicate now where these colonies were. Wooden coffins, with skeletons wrapped in coarse hairy cloth, and both pagan and Christian tombstones with runic inscriptions have been found. On a voyage from Norway to Greenland Leif Ericsson (son of Eric the Red) discovered America in the year 1000, and a few years later Torfinn Karlsefne sailed with three ships and about 150 men, from Greenland to Nova Scotia to form a colony, but returned three years later (see Vinland).

When the Norsemen came to Greenland they found various remains indicating, as the old sagas say, that there had been people of a similar kind as those they met with in Vinland, in America, whom they called Skraeling (the meaning of the word is uncertain, it means possibly weak people); but the sagas do not report that they actually met the natives then. But somewhat later they have probably met with the Eskimo farther north on the west coast in the neighbourhood of Disco Bay, where the Norsemen went to catch seals, walrus, &c. The Norse colonists penetrated on these fishing expeditions at least to 73° N., where a small runic stone from the 14th century has been found. On a voyage in 1267 they penetrated even still farther north into the Melville Bay.

Christianity was introduced by Leif Ericsson at the instance of Olaf Trygvasson, king of Norway, in r000 and following years. In the beginning of the 12th century Greenland got its own bishop, who resided at Garolar, near the present Eskimo station Igoliko, on an isthmus between two fjords, Igaliksfjord (the old Einarsfjord) and Tunugdliarfik (the old Eriksfjord), inside the present colony Julianehaab. The Norse colonies had twelve churches, one monastery and one nunnery in the Osterbygd, and four churches in the Vesterbygd. Greenland, like Iceland, had a republican organization up to the years 1247 to 1261, when the Greenlanders were induced to swear allegiance to the king of Norway. Greenland belonged to the Norwegian crown till 1814, when, at the dissolution of the union between Denmark and Norway, neither it nor Iceland and the Faeroes were mentioned, and they, therefore, were kept by the Danish king and thus came to Denmark. The settlements were called respectively Oster Bygd (or eastern settlement) and Vester (western) Bygd, both being now known to be on the south and west coast (in the districts of Julianehaab and Godthaab respectively), though for long the view was persistently held that the first was on the east coast, and numerous expeditions have been sent in search of these " lost colonies " and their imaginary survivors. These settlements at the height of their prosperity are estimated to have had 10,000 inhabitants, which, however, is an over-estimate, the number having probably been nearer one-half or one-third of that number. The last bishop appointed to Greenland died in 1540, but long before that date those appointed had never reached their sees; the last bishop who resided in Greenland died there in 1377. After the middle of the 14th century very little is heard of the settlements, and their communication with the motherland, Norway, evidently gradually ceased. This may have been due in great part to the fact that the shipping and trade of Greenland became a monopoly of the king of Norway, who kept only one ship sailing at long intervals (of years) to Greenland; at the same time the shipping and trade of Norway came more and more in the hands of the Hanseatic League, which took no interest in Greenland. The last ship that is known to have visited the Norse colony in Greenland returned to Norway in 1410. With no support from home the settlements seem to have decayed rapidly. It has been supposed that they were destroyed by attacks of the Eskimo, who about this period seem to have become more numerous and to have extended southwards along the coast from the north. This seems a less feasible explanation; it is more probable that the Norse settlers intermarried with the Eskimo and were gradually absorbed. About the end of the 15th or the beginning of the 16th century it would appear that all Norse colonization had practically disappeared. When in 1585 John Davis visited it there was no sign of any people save the Eskimo, among whose traditions are a few directly relating to the old Norsemen, and several traces of Norse influence.' For more than two hundred years Greenland seems to have been neglected, almost forgotten. It was visited by whalers, chiefly Dutch, but nothing in the form of permanent European settlements was established until the year 1721, when the first missionary, the Norwegian clergyman Hans Egede, landed, and established a settlement near Godthaab. Amid many hardships and discouragements he persevered; and at the present day the native race is civilized and Christianized. Many of the colonists of the 18th century were convicts and other offenders; and in 1750 the trade became a monopoly in the hands of a private company. In 1733-1734 there was a dreadful epidemic of smallpox, which destroyed a great number of the people. In 1774 the trade ceased to be profitable as a private monopoly, and to prevent it being abandoned the government took it over. Julianehaab was founded in the following year. In 1807-1814, owing to the war, communication was cut off with Norway and Denmark; but subsequently the colony prospered in a languid fashion.


As to the discovery of Greenland by the Norsemen and its early history see Konrad Maurer's excellent paper, " Geschichte der Entdeckung Ostgronlands " in the report of Die zweite 1 Cf. F. Nansen, Eskimo Life (London, 1893).

deutsche Nordpolarfahrt 1869-1870 (Leipzig, 1874), vol. i.; G. Storm, Studies on the " Vineland " Voyages (Copenhagen, 1889); Extraits des Memoires de la Societe Royale des Antiquaires du Nord (1888); K. J. V. Steenstrup, " Om Osterbygden," Meddelelser om Gronland, part ix. (1882), pp. 1-51; Finnur Jonsson, " Gronlands gamle Topografi efter Kilderne " in Meddelelser om Gronland, part xx. (1899), pp. 265-329; Joseph Fischer, The Discoveries of the Norsemen in America, translated from German by B. H. Soulsby (London, 1903). As to the general literature on Greenland, a number of the more important modern works have been noticed in footnotes. The often-quoted Meddelelser om Gronland is of especial value; it is published in parts (Copenhagen) since 1879, and is chiefly written in Danish, but each part has a summary in French. In part xiii. there is a most valuable list of literature about Greenland up to 1880. See also Geographical Journal, passim.

Amongst other important books on Greenland may be mentioned: Hans Egede, Description of Greenland (London, 1 745); Crantz, History of Greenland (2 vols., London, 1820); Gronlands historiske Mindesmerker (3 vols., Copenhagen, 1838-1845); H. Rink, Danish Greenland (London, 1877); H. Rink, Tales of the Eskimo (London, 1875); (see also same, " Eskimo Tribes " in Meddelelser om Gronland, part xi.); Johnstrup, Giesecke's Mineralogiske Reise i Gronland (Copenhagen, 1878). (F. N.)

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green + land (The origin of the "green" in "Greenland" is disputed; Icelandic saga says that the island was so named by Eric the Red to make the island sound more pleasant than it was in order to lure potential settlers away from Iceland, or that it was much greener in his day; it is also said that his family came from Grønland in Norway, and that he had traveled from a poor, black-stoned field in his homeland to large green meadows in Greenland). 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.


  • (UK, US) IPA: /ˈgriːn.lənd/, /ˈgriːn.lænd/

Proper noun




  1. A large self-governing island in North America that is politically a part of the Kingdom of Denmark.

Derived terms

  • Greenland dove
  • Greenlander
  • Greenland falcon
  • Greenland gerfalcon
  • Greenlandic
  • Greenlandish
  • Greenlandite
  • Greenlandman
  • Greenland poppy
  • Greenland right whale
  • Greenland Sea
  • Greenland seal
  • Greenland spar
  • Greenland turtle
  • Greenland whale



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