Introduction of Greenland

Greenland-Lessons from the far north

Greenland – Locatation And Size


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Greenland is the largest non-continental island in the world of which over 80 percent covered by an ice cap. This ice sheet is the only present one outside the Antarctica. The ice cap covers nearly 1,833,900 million square kilometres with the centre being close to 3 kilometres thick.

The total area of the country stands at 2,166,086 kilometres squared. Its capital is Nuuk which is also the largest city. All its settlements and towns are situated along the Island’s coast line where there is no ice with the majority of its inhabitants settling on the north coast.

This ice sheet amazingly holds ten percent of the world’s total fresh water reserves. This would result in an over seven meters of the world’s oceans if it were to melt. It is an autonomous country within the country of Denmark and is located between the Atlantic and artic oceans.

It is still considered as part of the Kingdom of Denmark but was given self governance in 1979 and more recently the people of Greenland unanimously passed a referendum that supported its autonomy from Denmark in the year 2008. It still relies on Copenhagen for its foreign affairs and investment.
The head of state of Greenland is Margrethe 2, queen of Denmark who appoints a High commissioner to represent Denmark in Greenland. The people of Greenland elect two representatives to the Danish parliament which has a total of 179 members.

Greenland has its own parliament composed of 31 members and has its government headed by a Prime Minister who is normally the leader of the majority party in parliament.

The country is divided into 4 administrative units which are: sermersooq, kujalleq, Qeqqata and Qaasuitsup.

The Greenland culture


Photo from www.nationalgeographic.


The culture of the country started after the ice age in the second millennium BC by the settlement of the Dorset Inuit. The Norwegian and Icelandic Vikings settled in the southern part of the country in the 10th century. The Thule Inuit culture was brought in from the north and spread to the south.

There was trade between the two cultures as attested by discovered artifacts. The Inuit culture remained dominant up until the 18th century when there was recolonization and introduction of European culture. This leaves the country with a mixture of the Inuit and Scandinavian culture.

The traditional Inuit culture features art from ancient times with a popular art form known as tupilak or an evil spirit object. The region of Ammassalik still practices traditional art using Sperm whale ivory for carving.

The Inuit traditional music also influences the Greenland culture.

The climate in Greenland

Due to the fact that the country lies between the Atlantic and artic oceans mean that there are cold ocean currents. This means that the country can get very cold. The country is also associated with darkness because in the region of Quaanaaq the sun does not rise for three consecutive months but that does not leave it under complete darkness.

In summer the sunlight is not very warm but it brings along some light. The country’s climate is dry which results in similar temperatures bringing different feelings in different parts of the country. The average temperature in a year around the capital Nuuk is between 7 to 9 degrees centigrade.

Population and languages spoken in Greenland

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The Greenlandic is the official dialect and is also referred to as Kalaallisut. It is predominantly spoke by the inhabitants of the west coast. The number of people who speak this language is about 50,000 inhabitants which makes it the highest spoken of the Eskimo-Aleut language family.

The inhabitants of the eastern side of the country speak a slightly different dialect.
The Greenlandic dialect is very different from the Inuktitut language spoken by the Canadian although they come from the same roots historically with the Greenlanders.

These two rarely understand one another but there are attempts to unify the two languages.

Majority of all Greenlanders are bilingual Danish speakers with some speaking English. The percentage of inhabitants who speak Danish is about 12 percent. The Greenlandic and Danish languages have been used since the establishment of home rule in 1979 with the Kalaallisut being made the official language in June 2009.

Over 80 percent of Greenland’s population is Inuit with the rest being Danish at around 12 percent. The entire country has an estimated population of 60,000 inhabitants. Majority of the population lives in the south-west region along the Fjords because the climate is mild. The capital city Nuuk has around 15,000 inhabitants.

Author Kristinsson Th.