Greenland - geography
Greenland consists of 5 municipalities: Kujalleq Municipality, Kommuneqarfik
Sermersooq, Qeqqata Kommunia, Qeqertalik Municipality and Qaasuitsup
Kommunia. Outside the municipal division is the National Park in North and East
Greenland and the base area Pituffik (Thule Air Base).
The population has been fairly stable since the 1990's at around 56,000
people. The Greenlandic population has a birth surplus, but this is offset by an
emigration of to e.g. Denmark.
All settlements are located on the coast, and the six largest cities, all of
which are located on the west coast, accommodate over half of the
residents; the six cities are
The rest of the population inhabits the other towns and more than 130
settlements, stations and sheep farms. In general, the smaller towns and
villages are experiencing a steady decline in population.
Every year there is a large influx of people moving in and out of
Greenland. These include about Greenlandic young people studying in Denmark. A
large part of the annual relocations within Greenland also have a background in
Until 1950, private business was not allowed in Greenland, and the public
sector is still very large. The business structure is dominated by a few
publicly owned companies in the fishing industry (Royal Greenland), wholesale
and retail (KNI, Kalaallit Niuerfiat) and infrastructure (TelePost and Air
Greenland). In addition, approximately 2000 small and large enterprises in the
private business sector. The large public sector is the subject of recurring
debate. Its scope is due in part to the desire for stability and security of
supply in a domestic market that is so small and geographically divided that
there is hardly room for ordinary competition.
Fishing and fishing industry
Fisheries and the fishing industry are Greenland's only significant export
industries. In the 1970's, there was great optimism in fishing, and the fleet
grew rapidly to a large overcapacity in the late 1980's; it has since been
reduced by a third. The trawler fleet is based in the cities with expanded port
facilities, while the settlement fleets consist of smaller vessels, e.g. an
estimated 5,000 dinghies. 1500 people are actual commercial fishermen, but
almost all male residents of Greenland engage in some form of part-time or
Economically, shrimp fishing is by far the most important. Shrimp prices are
highly dependent on shrimp size and treatment; highest prices are obtained for
large, single-frozen prawns for the Japanese market. They are frozen and packed
on board under the supervision of Japanese inspectors.
The home-owned joint-stock company Royal Greenland owns a large part of the
fishing industry; but also private companies such as Polar Seafood and Arctic
Prime Fisheries as well as smaller private companies run procurement and fish
production. Royal Greenland operates factories and procurement plants throughout
Greenland as well as factory plants in e.g. Germany and Poland. The largest
shrimp factories are located on the large shrimp fields off Sisimiut, Ilulissat
and Nuuk, and the most important product is boiled and peeled shrimp. The prawns
are mechanically peeled and bulk-packed, while the retail packing takes place at
the group's factory in Cuxhaven. Furthermore, Royal Greenland owns and operates
shrimp trawlers, which produce sea-cooked prawns and the so-called Japanese
prawns with shells.
In addition to the fishing industry, there are various subsidiaries in the
major cities; repair yards, sewing bindery, etc. In Qaqortoq is the Great
Greenland tannery with its sewing room; all types of Greenlandic skins are
Service and trade
The publicly owned KNI has shops in all settlements and a number of smaller
towns and accounts for approximately one third of the retail trade. The rest of the
retail trade is covered by Kalaallit Nunaani Brugseni, Pisiffik and a number of
smaller, private stores. Until 1993, KNI had a monopoly on the sale of taxable
goods (spirits, tobacco, cosmetics). An important part of the retail trade is
the board, where local catchers and fishermen sell the day's catch
directly to the customer. In the larger cities, rooms and installations have
been arranged for the board, while it is otherwise just an agreed location.
The municipalities are the employer of most public employees. But
self-government also runs large sectors such as healthcare, education and
administration. In addition, there are the many jobs in the self-governing
companies. A large part of the jobs are located in Nuuk.
Outside the cities, there are virtually no roads in Greenland. All transport
between the cities takes place by ship, plane and helicopter. A number of towns
have runways for fixed-wing aircraft and most settlements have landing
facilities. The other settlements can only be reached by small ships, in winter
possibly. with dog sled.
Greenland can be divided into four regions, each with its own business
economic character: South Greenland, the Open Water Area in West Greenland,
Disko Bay and the outer districts. In addition, the completely deserted
The fishing in this region is traditionally for cod, and the area has been
hit hard by large fluctuations in the cod stock. In addition, fishing is
hampered by part of the ice sheet, which in the summer from East Greenland
drifts around Cape Farewell. The region contains almost all of Greenland's sheep
farms and the industries associated with it. Tourism is growing strongly; the
summer weather is usually quite mild and humid, and the landscape suitable for
hiking tourism. Near Qaqortoq is the Hvalsey church ruin and other memories of
the Norse period.
The open water area
The four southernmost ports can all be sailed all year round, a large part of
the fishing fleet is at home here, and fishing is important everywhere. The
region houses half of Greenland's population, and the vast majority live in the
four largest cities, while there are only a few settlements. Kangerlussuaq at
the bottom of the long, narrow Søndre Strømfjord is a hub for Greenland's air
traffic. The former US air base is a civilian airport administered by the
Greenland Home Rule Government. Among other things, on tourism and conference
This is the area for the smaller, inland shrimp trawlers as well as fishing
for halibut. Due to ice in the winter, a raw material warehouse must be built
up at the shrimp factories in the summer, so that there is also work during the
winter months. Kangia (Jakobshavn Isfjord) empties into Disko Bay; it is the
most productive glacier in the northern hemisphere, and every year it sends 15
km 3 of icebergs out into the bay.
The area houses less than a fifth of the country's population. Here, the
traditional hunting profession continues to play a central role, and a large
part of the population lives in settlements with a high degree of
self-sufficiency economy. Uummannaq, Upernavik and most recently Qaanaaq also
have a growing fishery for halibut.
After lengthy negotiations, an agreement has been reached between Greenland
and Iceland on the border of the territorial waters. The small
skerry Kolbeinsey, which Iceland had kept artificially above water for decades
using concrete, has given Iceland 30% of the sea area, which until now has been
a so-called gray zone, the distribution of which could not be agreed upon.
In 2001, the Danish and Greenlandic flags were planted on the small Tobias
Ø 70 km off the coast of Northeast Greenland. The island, which has been rumored
to be known as the Fatamorgan Islands since the Denmark
expedition 1906-1908, was rediscovered by German researchers in 1993. It is
named after Tobias Otto Mikael Gabrielsen (1879-1945), who was a sled driver on
Economy and society
In addition to the block subsidy from Denmark, the Greenland shrimp fishery
is still the cornerstone of the economy. The fishing for halibut continues to
grow, and in addition there is a marked fishing for e.g. cod
and catfish provided a substantial contribution to the economy. Seal product
production plays a role in the domestic market, but an attempt to market seal
products in China ended in a major economic scandal, with expectations set far
Development of the Greenlandic raw materials and energy resources represents
a great potential, but the desire to invest is weakened by the large costs under
the harsh natural conditions. Exploration wells off Nuuk and Disko have shown
good indications of oil and gas deposits, but still not secure enough for
companies to invest in exploration on a larger scale. On a smaller scale,
production has begun of rubies and pink sapphire at Qeqertarsuatsiaat as well
as anorthosite at Kangerlussuaq. Mining is, however, hampered by e.g. price
fluctuations in the world market and the high extraction costs. The management
of the raw materials area was taken over by the self-government in 2010.
There has been some privatization of the Greenlandic business
community. Formerly home-owned companies such as the shipyards have been
transformed into private companies, just as KNI's stores in the big cities have
been privatized. Infrastructure has been improved by the construction of runways
for fixed-wing aircraft in the cities
of Paamiut, Maniitsoq, Sisimiut, Aasiaat, Qaarsut/Uummannaq, Upernavik
The Danish population share in Greenland reached a maximum in 1989, when
approximately 10,000 people were born outside Greenland. Since then, the number has
been declining, in 2020 to around 5,000.
Greenland - paleontology
In Greenland, numerous important fossil finds have been made. In Isua by
Godthåbsfjorden, the probably oldest traces of life have been discovered,
approximately 3.8 billion years old (see Earth and life). Poorly preserved plant
remains from Devon are known in East Greenland, and rich fossilized flora from
the Late Triassic and Early Jurassic, Cretaceous and Tertiary have been
excavated in East and West Greenland.
Rich fauna of a large number of invertebrates are known from North, East and
West Greenland. The first trilobites are from the Early Cambrian, while the
Middle Cambrian is dominated by both brachiopods and trilobites. In the
Ordovician, snails, squid and graptolites appear, and in Silurian corals are
also seen. Skin armor plates from jawless fish from Early Devon have been
collected in North Greenland.
In East Greenland, a number of vertebrate finds have been made, from Sen
Devon such as armored sharks (placodermer), tassel-finned fish, lungfish and
famous early amphibians (tetrapods) such as Acanthostega
and Ichthyostega. Bonefish are known from the Late Permian and dominate the
Early Triassic, where sharks also occur. On the other hand, whale
lizards (ichthyosaurs) and swan lizards (plesiosaurs) are common in the
Early Jurassic. Finally, important finds from the Late Triassic of some of the
world's earliest mammals should be mentioned (see mammals (evolution)).
Greenland - climate
The whole of Greenland is in the polar climate zone. Winter temperatures
often drop below −50 °C, and in summer it rarely exceeds 10-15 °C. However,
Greenland's extent is so large that there is a significant difference between
South Greenland's climate, which is characterized by the surrounding seas, and
North Greenland's harsh high arctic climate.
Precipitation in the northern parts of Greenland is sparse, less than 250 mm
per year; large areas are arctic desert. Further south, more and more
precipitation falls, and the southernmost regions get 1000-2000 mm. The
prevailing wind direction here is northeast; these winds bring dry and cold
polar air down from the Arctic Ocean.
The ice sheet is of great importance for the climate. The white surface
reflects 90 percent of the solar radiation, and the ice forms a cold reservoir
for the whole of Greenland. Winds from the Ice Sheet can be strong, cold gusts, piteraq,
which with hurricane force hit especially the coastal towns in East Greenland
with devastating consequences, but they can also be dry winds, hot,
dry winds, which often appear suddenly with marked weather changes. The dryness
occurs when winds from high pressure on the east coast pass across the Inland
Ice to low pressure in Baffin Bay. Also, the dryer can cause extensive damage
when it temporarily melts the snow, which then freezes to a solid crust that
cannot be penetrated by grazing sheep, musk oxen or reindeer.
The ocean currents around Greenland also have an impact on the climate. Along
the east coast, a cold ocean current flows from the north, which causes large
amounts of drift ice. Both summer and winter, East Greenland has significantly
lower temperatures than corresponding latitudes in West Greenland, which is
characterized by an ocean current coming from the south, the Irmingerstrømmen. A
lot of storis drift around Cape Farewell, but melt on the way north along the
west coast. Thus, the southern coast of West Greenland has more ice problems
than the central stretch of coast, the Open Water Area.
The inner parts of the deep West Greenland fjords have very stable
weather. Thus, Kangerlussuaq (Søndre Strømfjord) is known as an airport that is
extremely rarely closed due to bad weather. Some protected valleys in South
Greenland have a warmer climate, and here there are areas with low, forest-like
Greenland - geology
Greenland's geological history of creation spans approximately 4 billion year.
Most of Greenland consists of a complex composite Precambrian bedrock shield
with gneisses, granites and metamorphic shales. These are formed 10-40 km down
in the earth's crust at 400-700 °C, but are later raised so that they can now
be observed at the earth's surface. The bedrock shield is gradually built up
through a series of mountain range formations. The oldest archaic part of the
shield is made up of rocks that are between 3870 and 2600 million. years old,
and is seen in the Akulleq Beltat Nuuk; a large part of it has, however,
later been worked up by Proterozoic mountain range formations for
approximately 2000-1850 mio. years ago. At the same time, several newly formed
mountain range strokes were welded together with the old core. In the last
approximately 1750 million years, the bedrock shield has been stable and has only been
affected by younger formations and crustal movements in the peripheral areas.
Layer series on top of the bedrock (approximately 1600-400 million years before
After the bedrock shield had been formed, raised and partially degraded,
various layers of sediments and volcanic rocks were deposited on top of this,
1) A 4-5 km mighty layer series of continental sandstones and basalts in
North Greenland and a series of marine deposits in East Greenland (approximately
1400-1000 million years old).
2) A 3.5 km thick layer series in South Greenland (Gardar Province) with
continental sandstones, basalts and a large amount of intrusive formations
(approximately 1300-1120 million years old).
3) Several sedimentary basins with shallow deposits of sandstone, clay and
limestone in North and East Greenland (approximately 800-540 million years old). These
layer series reach in East Greenland, where they are called Eleonore Bay
Supergroup, a total thickness of more than 15 km.
4) A 4 km mighty limestone series near the continental shelf in the east-west
Franklin Basin along North Greenland, deposited in the Cambrian-Silurian
(540-408 million years before now). Further out there is a peer approximately 8 km
mighty deep-sea deposit consisting of clay and sandstone.
5) In approximately 4 km thick limestone series in the north-south extending East
Greenland basin deposited for approximately 540-450 million years ago.
Paleozoic folding belts (approximately 450-400 million years)
The Caledonian mountain range, which took place in the Ordovician Silurian in
a collision between Europe-Africa on the one hand and North America-Greenland on
the other, can be traced in Greenland as a 1200 km long north-south belt along
the northern half of east coast. The folding belt affects the entire eastern
edge zone of the Greenlandic bedrock shield, and the deposits in the
superimposed sedimentary basins are compressed and deformed and are included in
excess cover and folds. The underlying bedrock has been transformed and
reactivated and parts of it remelted into granitic intrusions.
An east-west mountain range in North Greenland, the Ellesmerian Folding Belt,
can be traced far into Canada. It mainly affects the deep-sea sediments of the
Franklin Basin. The folding style of the folding belt is characterized by
near-surface deformations that primarily affect the upper 5-10 km of the
sediments on top of a rigid, underlying crust material.
Younger sedimentary basins (approximately 380-50 million years)
From Devon to the Tertiary, a series of sedimentary basins emerged along East
and Northeast Greenland in connection with the opening of the North
Atlantic. The oldest deposits (Devon-Carbon) include a 6-8 km mighty series of
continental sandstone deposits. After this, the sea penetrated over the area,
and from Perm a up to 5-6 km mighty series of marine sandstones and clayey rocks
were deposited. Some of these are especially rich in fossils (mussels, snails
and ammonites), and finds in East Greenland show that the area has moved from
tropical to temperate conditions, a stretch of over 3000 km to the north.
In the area around Disko Bay in West Greenland, a sedimentary basin was
formed from the end of the Cretaceous to the beginning of the Tertiary, the
southern part of which consists of continental sandstones with ball deposits. In
the northern part of the basin, sandy and clayey marine sediments containing
remnants of organic material were deposited.
Tertiary volcanism (approximately 60-50 million)
The opening of the North Atlantic by seabed dispersal at the beginning of the
Tertiary period was marked by the formation of two large volcanic provinces in
resp. The Disko Bay area and the areas north and south of Scoresby Sound in East
Greenland. In both of these areas there are lava layer series with total
thicknesses of 5-10 km, formed at the edge of the old continent on the border of
the newly formed ocean area. In East Greenland, in the same phase, a series of
coastal-parallel, steeply basaltic corridors were formed, the total volume of
which is almost half as large as the volume of the basalts. The basalt decks are
not only found in rural areas, but also cover very large areas of the seabed off
the central parts of both West and East Greenland.
Quaternary ice age formations
At the beginning of the last ice age, Greenland was for approximately 2 mio. years
ago totally covered by an ice cap comparable to the current Inland Ice. The
previous distribution of the ice can be traced to far out on the continental
shelf. Through the Quaternary ice has size and distribution varied greatly,
depending on the climatic fluctuations, but the ice throughout the period
covered at least 2/3 of Greenland. 14,000-10,000 years
ago, the ice began to retreat from almost the entire land area to a position
that was slightly within the current boundary of the Inland Ice. The ice-free
land areas today are everywhere characterized by the former ice cover with forms
of erosion and deposits that clearly reflect the glacial conditions.
The seabed areas
The seabed around Greenland comprises an inner, shallow part, the subsoil of
which consists of continental crust, and an outer deep sea part, which is mainly
made up of ocean floor crust material. The oceanic crust around Greenland has
formed gradually over the last 55 million years. years in line with the ocean
floor spread. The material consists of volcanic formations comparable to the
basalts found on land in the tertiary volcanic provinces.
The sea-covered continental crust areas can be considered as a continuation
of the land areas. Next to the bedrock areas, the zone closest to the coast
consists mostly of bedrock. Further out, a number of younger sedimentary basins
have formed in both East and West Greenland, mainly with layer series that are
approximately 245-5 mio. years old, and which can reach heights of 3-10 km.
Mining in Greenland has taken place since 1858, when cryolite was mined in
Ivittuut NV for Qaqortoq in southwest Greenland. An intense raw material
exploration is underway, and the potential for gold, platinum, uranium, zinc,
lead, iron, chromium, molybdenum, coal, diamond, etc. has been demonstrated. In
2004, Greenland's first gold mine, Nalunaq, opened.
Since the beginning of the 1970's, a large number of oil geological surveys
have been carried out, especially of the seabed areas off both East and West
Greenland. So far, no actual deposits have been detected, but the existence
of widespread younger sedimentary basins shows that there is a potential for oil
and gas deposits.
Greenland - plant growth
Greenland's flora comprises approximately 500 species of higher plants,
ie. flowering plants, ferns, horsetails and wolf's foot plants. Of the other
groups, lichens are the largest with about 950 species; of great fungi 600-700
species are known; of mosses and trapped algae somewhat fewer. Most of
Greenland's higher plants are widespread, especially in Arctic and alpine areas,
and only a dozen species of stonewort and hawthorn are endemic. A few
species have been brought in by the northerners, such as mouse voles.
Greenland extends over two plant belts, the largest of which is the Arctic,
where the climate is too cold for tree growth. In the warmest valleys in
southwest Greenland, however, there is a sparse tree growth, which is why these
areas rather belong to the northernmost part of the boreal plant belt. The
Arctic plant belt is often divided into a low-arctic and a high-arctic part, the
latter of which lacks arrow scrub. The low-arctic part of the country reaches
Upernavik on the west coast and Scoresby Sound on the east coast.
Inland between Nanortalik and Ivittuut there are smaller areas of mountain
forest consisting of multi-stemmed downy birch, Greenlandic rowan
and blue-gray willow; the highest up to 10 m high. Shrubs of blue-gray
willow are very widespread and reach a height of 3-4 m inland. Scrub of mountain
occurs in the fjords between Ivittuut and Maniitsoq.
Dwarf shrub heath is the most widespread plant community in
Greenland. The low coastal heaths are dominated by mountain whiting, while the
heaths a little further inland are somewhat higher and are dominated by
small-leaved bog. Inland, the heath vegetation is knee-high and lush, and here
dwarf birch and bog posture dominate, in South Greenland, however, glandular
birch and Greenlandic post. In northern Greenland you can also find heaths
dominated by heather, grouse and alpine rose. Finally, heaths of mountain
mulberry rice are found in northern East Greenland.
At the top of steep clocks you will often find herbaceous plants in lava arctic
regions with a wealth of lush plants, such as a number of ferns, orchids such as
satyr flower, coral root, Greenlandic cuckoo lily and heart-leafed lobe, as well
as black top, mountain quail, rose root and lion's foot. The vegetation at most
of the hot springs is reminiscent of the herbaceous plants.
In lowlands and on slopes, where in winter particularly large amounts of snow
accumulate, snow deposits can form with e.g. dwarf willow,
three-fingered herb and dwarf willow flower.
Steppe develops in areas with so little rainfall that grasses and
semi-grasses, often tufted, dominate at the expense of herbs and dwarf
shrubs. Blue-gray willow, however, often appears as scattered, low shrubs, while
steppe stars, brush cobresia and purple reed warblers dominate.
The vegetation in grasslands is similar to that of the steppe, but
is more herbaceous and includes species such as mountain lion's foot and
mountain hawk. Most South Greenlandic grasslands are grazed by sheep. Fjeldmark is
found everywhere in the country where there is a strong wind and cold impact,
and the extremely sparse vegetation consists of of arctic willow,
tuelimurt, mountain ornament and species of stonecrop and draba.
On moist and unstable soil, notch vegetation is often seen with arctic reeds,
polar marsupials and stiff-topped reed warblers. In more humus-rich and
nutrient-poor ponds, bog star and narrow-leaved peat wool also grow. Along the
shores of smaller lakes and ponds you can often see ponytails and shiny stars as
well as in the southern part of the country buckthorn and crow's feet. On lower
water in nutrient-rich ponds and lakes, e.g. species of bream, watercress and
Along most coasts one can find larger or smaller tufts of beach roadside and
creeping annel grass; on sandy and rocky beaches also soft mare straw and
beach heritage. In shallow and sheltered coves, salt marshes sometimes develop,
which are flooded daily by the tide.
The low vegetation
Greenland. On cliffs all over Greenland, there are low-lying communities
dominated by red and orange-yellow wall and orange lichens. The rock here is
basalt and can be found at Innarsuaq (Skarvefjeld) near Qeqertasuaq on
Disko. The rock is fertilized by ravens and snow sparrows and is overgrown with
northern wall lichen (Xanthoria borealis), which is spread by wind and birds,
and mountain wall lichen (X. elegans). The latter is one of the most common
species in the far north of Greenland, where it grows on dolomite and
ancient bones; furthermore, it has been found on fragments of the Ella Ø
meteorite on the ferrous mineral grains of the fracture surfaces.
The lichens are a very conspicuous part of the Greenlandic vegetation. More
than 2/3 of the approximately 950 Greenlandic lichens
belong to the group of crustal lichens, while the rest consist of shrub and leaf
The rock-dwelling lichens are heated by the sun-drenched rocks, and the
temperature of the foliage can reach over 60 °C. Despite this, they grow very
slowly, but can in turn become very old; thus, 9000-year-old specimens of
yellow-green maple lichen, Rhizocarpon geographicum, are known. By
measuring the size and thus age of crustal lichens on rocks in front of
glaciers, one can reconstruct the retreat rhythm of glaciers.
Some lichens grow on rocks fertilized by birds, for example below bird
cliffs, while others grow on strongly ferrous rocks; these often have a rust-red
foliage and are capable of absorbing and accumulating metals such as copper and
iron. Calcium- and magnesium-rich rocks house a particularly calcareous lichen
flora, some of which can also be found on old musk ox and reindeer bones. The
earth-dwelling lichens are included as an important element in many dwarf
shrubs. Many lichens, especially reindeer lichen, play a major role as reindeer
winter food, of which they can account for up to 60%.
Several species are used as environmental indicators. The effect of decreases
in the atmospheric ozone content is measured using mild reindeer lichen, Cladonia
mitis, which is continuously examined for damage caused by UV-B radiation,
and at the now closed mine in Maarmorilik, snow moss lichen, Flavocetraria
nivalis, has been used to measure lead dust deposition. At the Zackenberg
research station in Northeast Greenland, climate-related changes in low
vegetation are measured.
Greenland - wildlife
Greenland's fauna is species-poor, but the individual species often occur
with large populations. The sea is rich in fish and invertebrates, especially in
the milder West Greenlandic waters, and a large part of the Greenlandic animal
world is linked to the sea's production, e.g. large colonies of
seabirds. Striking is the big game fauna of seals, whales, musk ox, reindeer and
polar bear. The terrestrial fauna consists predominantly of animals that have
spread from North America or for a number of birds and insects from Europe.
Greenland's isolated position has made it difficult for immigrants to land
land mammals, of which there are eight: polar bears, polar foxes, reindeer,
snow hares, musk ox, collar lemming, ermine and wolves. The last four are
naturally found only in East Greenland, immigrated from Ellesmere Island. The
musk ox was exposed in West Greenland in the 1960's with great success. The
reindeer became extinct in East Greenland around 1900, and the West Greenlandic
wild reindeer probably originated from Baffin Island. Domestic reindeer were
introduced from Norway in 1952.
The polar bear lives in connection with drift ice and pakis, and the core
areas are Melville Bay and the area around Avanersuaq (Thule). In addition, it
is found in connection with the drift ice along the east coast, possibly with a
permanent population in the East Greenland National Park. Catching polar bears
is reserved for resident hunters who kill approximately 150 annually.
Of marine mammals, the ringed seal, which has been of central importance in
the development of the Inuit captive culture, must be highlighted. Another true
Arctic seal is the walrus, which is found in the edge zone of the Arctic
Ocean. Small flocks are found north of Scoresby Sound and in West Greenland off
the central parts as well as in the Avanersuaq area. Strap seal is an arctic
seal that occurs scattered in the drift ice. In the summer, harp seals and
hooded seals migrate up Davis Strait and Baffin Bay from eastern and southern
winter breeding grounds. The harbor seal appears scattered in West Greenland.
All North Atlantic whale species can occur in southwest Greenland waters, but
only some are regular summer visitors. Among the toothed whales can be mentioned
the guinea pig, which often drowns in salmon nets in southwest Greenland. Herds
of humpback whales are seen every now and then, and there have been occasional
significant catches of them. The killer whale is taken in all seasons, while
sperm whales are a rarer guest. Two arctic toothed whales, often associated with
drift ice and pakis, are narwhals and belugas. Both species are caught in
March-May in northwest Greenland. Sometimes the ice blocks a number of whales
inside the watchtower, where they are killed (sawn). Among the baleen whales
are blue whales, fin whales, saithe whales, minke whales andhumpback
whale Atlantic summer visitors in Davis Strait. The minke whale often occurs in
fjords and near the coast. The bowhead whale is an arctic species that is a rare
visitor to Greenland at the edge of the drift ice.
The fish fauna
approximately 225 fish species are known from the waters around Greenland. Of
these, 150 species are associated with the relatively warm Atlantic waters
around South and Southwest Greenland, while 50 species are high arctic with a
main distribution north of the submarine ridge between the Cumberland Peninsula
and West Greenland and near East Greenland.
The Atlantic fish include herring, cod, halibut and common catfish. The
High Arctic fish include a large number of squid and eel tusks, polar cod,
cod and arctic stingray. Some fish with a boreal distribution are cold-water
species, eg Greenland shark, common squid, halibut,
striped catfish and capelin. In freshwater, only four species of fish
occur. Three-spined dogtail is common in both brackish and fresh water. Mountain
trout (in Greenland called salmon) are found in streams and lakes everywhere. A
small stock of Atlantic salmon spawns in the Kapisillit River near Nuuk. In
South Greenland, American eel is sometimes caught.
Cod, redfish, halibut and salmon are economically important. However, fishing
for deep-sea prawns in West Greenland is most important.
The bird fauna
The bird fauna consists of species that are widespread throughout the polar
region, as well as migrants and migratory birds from Canada or
Europe. approximately 60 species breed regularly in Greenland, while 160 species are
summer visitors. The abundant plankton and fish deposits have made the seabirds
a dominant element.
On steep mountain slopes, large colonies of auks and gulls breed, and
especially the short-billed guillemot and sea king are hunted
intensively. Common ducks include eider, sea urchin and the more Arctic
king eider, as well as in West Greenland white-fronted goose and in East
Greenland short-billed goose and barnacle goose, all three with winter quarters
in the British Isles. Breeding migratory birds are also snow
sparrow, lapland warbler, large daisy, red-throated loon and odinshane. Of
land birds that are normally sedentary, can be highlighted arctic redpoll,
ptarmigan, owl, snowy owl, gyrfalconas well as in West Greenland sea eagles.
The terrestrial fauna of small animals is species-poor, and many animal
groups are completely lacking, such as amphibians and reptiles and among insects
ants, locusts, dragonflies and goats. The insect fauna, a total of approximately 700
species, dominated by dancing mosquitoes, stinging mosquitoes, mites and
flies. In addition, there are 50 beetle species, two bumble bee species, five
high-arctic butterflies as well as a number of meters and owls. The tick Nysius
groenlandicus is widespread throughout grouse heather. Of
spiders, there are approximately 60 species. Four land snails and two freshwater
snails are known.
It is characteristic that there are large fluctuations in the populations of
the individual species. In East Greenland, it is " lemming year " at 3-5 year
intervals. It affects the populations of ermine, polar foxes and snowy
owls. Similar large stock fluctuations at perhaps decades intervals are known
for musk ox and pure. The availability of food varies, and in particular the
course and severity of winter are crucial for many species. Long-term climatic
fluctuations are also crucial for the stocking density of many fish species,
Greenland - population and ethnography
The population in modern Greenland can be divided into four main groups: West
Greenlanders, North Greenlanders (polar Eskimos), East Greenlanders and
Danes. Permanent Danes are not usually perceived as Greenlanders, while children
of mixed marriages usually see themselves as Greenlanders if they grow up in
Greenland. The West Greenlanders make up approximately 80% of the total
population; less than 6% are East Greenlanders, and the North Greenlanders in
Avanersuaq (Thule) Municipality make up approximately 1.5% corresponding to
approximately 800 people.
Before colonization, which began in 1721, the population of Greenland
consisted of a number of regional groups, and the great geographical distances
limited the contact between them. The Polar Eskimos reportedly had no contact
with the West Greenlanders in the 1800's, and the East Greenlandic population was
similarly isolated when people in Southeast Greenland moved to the west coast
during the 1800's.
Traditionally, people subsisted on catching marine mammals, especially ringed
seals, but also fish, birds and land mammals such as reindeer, foxes and hares
were included as prey. The hunt was supplemented by the collection of bird eggs,
berries, herbs and seaweed. There were large regional differences; in the arctic
climate to the north, they hunted on the ice with dog sleds and
harpoons. Further south, seal hunting from kayaks and whaling from wife boats, umiak,
played the most important role during the summer period, while in the autumn
reindeer were hunted with bow and arrow inland. The Greenlanders were heavily
dependent on the catch; from here you got food and skins for clothes, bedding
and straps. Most tools were made of bone, horn and tooth, and as the only source
of light and heat, lard lamps were used.
The dependence on the catch necessitated scattered settlements and seasonal
mobility. In the winter, several families lived together in houses of stone and
peat, while the rest of the year was spent in various fishing grounds, where
people lived in leather tents in smaller family units. The kinship system was
bilateral, ie. descent followed both the maternal and paternal line, and
collaboration was often based on kinship relationships.
Greenlandic society has undergone drastic changes during the
1900's. Traditional hunting and hunting have lost much of their economic
importance, but have become a central element in the creation of a national
identity. The idea of Greenlanders as one people has its origins in the period
1910-20, when a debate arose about what a "real" Greenlander is. The identity
debate intensified in the late 1960's, when more and more politically active
Greenlanders reacted to the pre - Danish policy pursued in Greenland. With the
introduction of the Greenland Home Rule Government in 1979, the national
consciousness in Greenland has been strengthened, at the same time as the
relationship between Greenlanders and Danes has become less tense. The debate
about Greenlandic culture and identity has at times been marked by
intolerance, and the emphasis on the Greenlandic language and the special
cultural identity has had costs for e.g. the Greenlanders who have Danish as
their mother tongue.
Greenland - language
The official language of Greenland is Greenlandic, ie. West
Greenlandic. Greenlandic is spoken by the vast majority of the Greenlandic
population. Statistics Greenland does not have register statistical information
on the population's language use (2016), but according to their last language
survey in 1999, just over 78% of the population considered themselves to be
mainly Greenlandic, while 12% considered bilingual with Danish as a parallel
language; less than 10% of the population had Danish as their main
language. Bilingualism among the younger cohorts was in decline. The use of
Greenlandic in all contexts has been steadily increasing, in contrast to the
situation for other Inuit languages.