According to Getzipcodes, Greenland (Danish Grønland) is the largest Arctic land and the largest island on Earth (2,175,600 km 2, including 44,800 of the coastal islands, with 57,600 residents in 2009), located between the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, from which it separates it Davis Strait (and to which it approaches NW of about twenty km), and Iceland, from which it is separated by the Denmark. It has the shape of a trapezoid, with a maximum length of 2650 km (from the Capo Morris Jesup at Cape Farvel) and a maximum width of 1050 km.
A Danish colony since 1721, Greenland has been a county of Denmark (capital Godthåb) since 1953, administered by a governor and represented in parliament by two deputies. Since 1979 it has enjoyed internal autonomy, with its own legislative assembly and government. In 2008, greater autonomy was approved by referendum, with the possibility of directly managing natural resources, a prelude to total independence from Denmark. Formally autonomous from Denmark since June 2009, in 2013 Greenland took an important step towards greater independence from Copenhagen: in October the local parliament approved the decision to drop the ban imposed by Denmark on the extraction of uranium and rare earths, and open the doors to foreign investment. The decision appears to be the expression of a more decisive desire for independence from the motherland, which has control over foreign and security policy decisions and which grants substantial economic subsidies. Although the decision of the Nuuk parliament requires ratification by the Danish parliament, it already clarifies the orientation of the social democratic government of Aleqa Hammond: Greenland is becoming aware of the great potential of its territory and intends to gain a say in the wider dispute over the exploitation of the natural resources of the Arctic lands.
It was discovered around 900 AD by Norwegian settlers from Iceland and Erik the Ross or settled there between 982 and 984, naming it Grønland (“Green Land”); other settlements followed along the SW coast, where the island was better accessible. Around 1000 Christianity was introduced there. In the 13th century. the settlers, Icelandic and Norwegian, were 2000 or 3000 and lived on fishing. But towards the end of the 15th century. communications with Europe became more rare, also following the worsening of climatic conditions, and the settlers partly perished and partly merged with the indigenous Inuit. From the 16th century. was again a destination for sailors (Gaspar de Corte-Real, M. Frobisher, J. Davis and W. Baffin) who were looking for the Northwest Passage. Danes and Norwegians also sailed to the island. In 1721 HP Egede, a Norwegian, settled on the west coast, and during the 18th century. missionaries, merchants, government agents extended the occupation.
With the 19th century. the problem of coastal recognition arose and the Danish Navy began precision surveys. The first fundamental scientific study of the colonized strip is due to the Danish HJ Rink between 1848 and 1855. EA Inglefield, English, in 1858 discovered the entrance to the Smith Sound (today’s Nares Strait). Despite the ice barriers, knowledge of the east coast was also improving: WA Graah (1828) traveled it from Cape Farewell up to 65 ° 30 ‘; the Scotsman W. Scoresby (1827) measured the profile between 69 ° 15 ‘and 75 ° 12’. In 1898-99 the Danish GC Amdrup explored the stretch between 65 ° and 70 ° and the Swedish AG Nathorst made new discoveries in the Franz Joseph fjord. At the beginning of the 20th century. the gaps between the northern extremes of the east and west coasts were filled, defining the coastal features towards the Arctic basin. F. Nansen was the first to cross the great internal glacier in 1888, after having traveled 560 km.
Gneiss and granites form the base of the Greenland, on the margins of which Mesozoic and Cenozoic sedimentary rocks and Cenozoic basaltic flows were deposited. The island is covered for 6/7 by inlandsis, an ice sheet with an average thickness of 1500 m, which extends for 1,650,000 km 2. This blanket has an asymmetrical profile, because the highest part is closer to the eastern coast (Monte Forel, 3360 m; Monte Petermann, 2940 m) than to the western one. Inlandsis is, on the whole, very monotonous. However, there are various higher areas separated by large depressions; at 75 ° N you go over 3000 m, in the center you reach 3150 m and S you go over 2700 m. After Tibet, Greenland is the largest land region over 2000 m high. Towards the dell’inlandsis margin protrude nunataks, isolated rocky ridges (perhaps remains of the Caledonian folds). Inlandsis is crossed in summer by melting streams and ends mostly with tongues of ice that reach the sea to the West and NE (not to the N, where the Land of Peary is largely uncovered) and from which the icebergs detach. The narrow, ice-free coastal strip is sculpted by glacial erosion and features deep fjords, valleys and towering moraines.
Two are the most notable facts in the climate of Greenland: the existence of the vast mass of ice and the persistence, which follows, of an area of high pressure between marginal depressions, which forms one of the major centers of action of the circulation North American atmospheric. The resulting atmospheric currents, as descendants, take on aspects of alpine Föhn, producing similar consequences (arid streaks between the edge of the ice region and the coastline, löss and aeolian erosions). The climate is polar: on the whole, there are very rigid and long winters, and summers that are gradually shorter as you proceed towards the N, where averages above 0 ° C are recorded only for three months a year. Likewise, rainfall decreases towards the N.
The fauna includes numerous mammals (polar bear, blue fox, reindeer, musk ox, polar hare, seals) and birds, especially palmipeds (gulls, glacial petrel, guillemots, loons, alks). There is a lack of reptiles and amphibians. The vegetation is made up of birch and willow bushes up to about 62 ° latitude, in the rest by shrub land (in which suffrutics of ericaceous prevail, interspersed with tall grasses, mosses and lichens) and tundras. The protected areas are extensive.
Population and economy
The population is made up of Inuit – who are usually divided into three groups: Eastern, Western and Polar Greenlanders – and Europeans, mostly settled in the centers of the southwestern coast. The structure of the economy, once only a subsistence period, has changed considerably following a gradual softening of the climate of the coastal area. In fact, the increase in the average temperature of marine waters has determined a strong increase in the fish stock, and therefore fishing, especially deep-sea fishing, is practiced with increasingly modern methods. Thus, ports and centers for cod processing and conservation (Christianshåb and Jakobshavn) have been created. Reindeer, polar fox and sheep breeding is developed, the latter mainly in the center of Julianehåb. Among the mineral resources, Ivigtut ; lead, zinc and graphite are also extracted. Greenland is connected to Denmark by regular air services and by navigation services during the summer season. It is then flown over by some polar routes.
At the end of the Viking Age Greenland was attracted to the sphere of Scandinavian interests, as in 985 the Icelanders founded two colonies, Vesterbygd and Österbygd. It was a Norse population, devoted to agriculture and then to hunting and fishing. Norse society existed until around 1500 and the remains of more than 400 farms are now known. The basic construction materials were rough stone and peat; wood, scarce on the island, was present only as floated timber or as imported material. The building tradition of Greenland was Icelandic, but over time specific variants developed there, such as the centralized farm, where all functions were united under one roof. Buildings with dry stone masonry represented another variant, British Isles. These constructions were never houses, but churches or production facilities; Irrigation systems must also be included among the plants used for production functions.