I was looking at a map the other day and noticed Greenland, which appeared as little more than a white-colored land-mass. I was fairly sure there were Inuit residents and there was some Norse history, and I imagined a lot of ice and snow, maybe mountains and some polar bears; instead of guessing, I did a little bit of research:
In pre-historic times Greenland was populated with the Saqaqq people (a Paleo-Eskimo culture). Around 800 BC the Saqqaq were supplanted by the Dorset, who lasted until the Thule (closely related to the Inuit) migrated from the North American Arctic mainland about 900 AD, before the first Norsemen arrived. According to legend, Erik the Red was banished from Iceland and found the rumored land to the north-west, which he and his extended family settled and called Grœnland (Greenland is so named, I assume, because the Norsemen landed on the southern shore, in a sub-arctic region).
A Norwegian priest, Hans Eged, arranged an expedition to Greenland in 1721, which marked the beginning of colonialism. In 1953 the people of Greenland became Danish citizens, with a home-rule government and two representatives within Danish Parliament (the Folketing). Currently, approximately eighty percent of Greenland’s population is Inuit and the rest are Danish.
Greenland, the world’s largest island (with the world’s largest park), is located where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Arctic Ocean, and the island’s arctic climate is generated by relentlessly cold ocean currents and chill emanations from the inland ice cap.
Greenland’s ice cap contains ten percent of the Earth’s fresh water, covers eighty-five percent of the Island’s land area; and, at its center, the ice can build to a thickness of 3 km (almost ten thousand feet). If Greenland’s ice cap completely melted, the Earth’s oceans would rise by seven meters (twenty-three feet). The ice caps are forbidding to most species, but the island is home to diverse varieties of flora and fauna (these plants and animals live in a delicate niche and are highly vulnerable to global warming).
There are sub-arctic regions within the confines of Greenland (at the island’s southernmost tip and within the interior fjords) and it is in these locations where the most plentiful flora is found. But the mountain regions are home to vegetation similar to various plants in Northern Scandinavia, and in arid, inland regions the vegetation is similar to certain species in central North American mountains.
Hunting — recreational and as a fundamental food-source — is ingrained in Greenland’s culture, and whaling was, at one time, a major industry. Depletion of resources (in particular, the right whale population) has resulted in a steep decline in the whaling business. The narwhal and the walrus have also been over-hunted — for their tusks — and their populations are now predominantly located in the north and east coastal regions.
Most of Greenland’s two-hundred and twenty-odd avifauna species are migratory, but the island is home to about sixty species of breeding birds. There are a number of resident land animals, including musk-ox, reindeer, Arctic fox, polar-bear, Arctic hare, Arctic wolf, collared lemming, and ermine. And, aside from the many (~ 300) species of fish, the marine species that populate the coastal waters include hooded seals, grey seals, walruses, and whales.
Whale-watching is a popular eco-tourism option because the waters surrounding Greenland are home to abundant species: fin, blue, humpback, narwhal, white, lesser rorquals, sperm, and pilot.
Some other popular activities are snowmobiling, skiing (pristine cross-country trails, some alpine, and heliskiing), fishing (in particular, river-fishing for Greenlandic char, and ice-fishing for halibut), kayaking, hiking, and perusing cultural museums and exhibitions.
Autumn in Greenland showcases the extraordinary sights of the Aurora Borealis, but the summer months provide poor viewing; during the summer, beyond the Arctic Circle, daylight lasts around the clock and the Aurora Borealis light-show is projected on the bright sky of the midnight sun.
[Image found at theguardian]