Greenland, officially Kaluallit Nunaat, the world's largest and most northerly island. Although largely self-governing, Greenland is part of the Kingdom of Denmark, from which it is separated by 1,900 miles (3,100 km) of ocean. The Danish name of the island is Gronland.
Greenland lies northeast of mainland North America, between northern Canada on the west, and the islands of Iceland and Svalbard on the east. Greenland is bounded on the north by the Arctic Ocean, on the east by the Greenland Sea and Denmark Strait, on the south by the Atlantic Ocean and Labrador Sea, and on the west by Davis Strait and Baffin Bay.
Greenland's area is 840,000 square miles (2,175,600 km 2). More than 85 per cent of the island is covered by a gigantic ice cap, the ice-free area being mainly along the southwest coast. Greenland's greatest length (north-south) is 1,660 miles (2,670 km 2); its greatest width, 750 miles (1,200 km 2).
|Facts in brief about Greenland|
|Capital: Nuuk (Godthab).|
|Official languages: Danish and Greenlandic.|
|Area: 836,331 mi2 (2,166,086 km2). Greatest distances—north-south, 1,660 mi (2,670 km); east-west, 750 mi (1,210 km). Coastline—8,650 mi (13,920 km).|
|Elevation: Highest—Gunnbjorn Fjeld (Mount Gunnbjorn), 12,139 ft (3,700 m). Lowest—sea level along the coast.|
|Population: Current estimate—57,000; density, 7 per 100 mi2 (3 per 100 km2); distribution, 83 percent urban, 17 percent rural. 2005 official estimate—56,969.|
|Chief products: Agriculture—sheep. Fishing—crabs, halibut, shrimp. Hunting—seals, whales.|
Mountain ranges, either partly or totally buried by ice, fringe the jagged coasts. Gunnbjörn Fjeld, in the east, is the highest known peak—12,139 feet (3,700 m) above sea level. Greenland's interior is largely covered with glacial ice, in places more than 11,000 feet (3,350 m) thick. Scattered mountains also occur in the interior, but only occasionally do their peaks project above the icy plain. The coasts are marked by barren, rocky islands; majestic fjords; treeless slopes; and towering glaciers at the ocean's edge. Because of its high latitude, roughly between the Arctic Circle and the North Pole, Greenland has a harsh arctic type of climate. Summers are short and cool, winters long and severe. Average February temperatures range from 18° F. (–8° C.) in the south to –9° F. (–23° C.) in the north; corresponding July temperatures are about 50° and 41° F. (10° and 5° C.).
Fishing is the principal occupation, providing the island's chief export as well as food for domestic consumption. The catch is mainly shrimp, cod, halibut, and Atlantic salmon. Most of the catch is frozen, canned, or salted for export. There is some trapping, especially for fox, and sealing is carried on in the north. Greenland's reserves of zinc and lead have been largely depleted. The country has other mineral resources, including gold, which have not yet been exploited. Sheep raising is of some significance in the south and reindeer herding has been introduced. The main industry is the processing of fish. Greenland receives a significant amount of financial aid from Denmark. Tourism accounts for a small per centage of Greenland's economy.
Land transportation is difficult, owing to the ice and rugged terrain. The island has few roads and no railways. Domestic travel is mainly by dogsled, ship, and helicopter. International air service is provided at Söndre Strömfjord, at Godthåb, and at Narsarssuaq, near Julianehåb.
Nearly all of the people of Greenland live along the southwestern coast. Godthåb (officially Nuuk) is the capital and main town. Thule is the site of a large American air base.
Most Greenlanders are of mixed Inuit (sometimes called Eskimo) and Danish ancestry. There are also a small number of Inuits and Danes. Most of the people are Lutherans. Kalaallisut or Greenlandic (a form of Inuit language) and Danish are the official languages. Nearly the entire population is literate, but there is little education offered beyond the secondary level. Nuuk has a university and training school for teachers, but advanced education is usually obtained in Denmark.
Greenland is largely a self governing or home rule government. The government is run by a 31-member parliament called the Landsting and a 7-member ruling council called the Landsstyre. Members of the ruling council, which is led by a premier, are elected by the parliament. Parliament members are elected by the people. Voters also elect two representatives to serve in Demark's parliament.