Greenland Geography

Greenland Geography and Population

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

  • Nuuk
  • Sisimiut
  • Ilulissat
  • Maniitsoq
  • Asia
  • Qaqortoq

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 educational matters.


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 angling.

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 processed here.

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.

Regional description

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 ice-covered areas.

South Greenland

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 business.

Disco Bay

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 suburbs

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.

The territory

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 the expedition.

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 too high.

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 and Qaanaaq.

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 growth.

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 now)

After the bedrock shield had been formed, raised and partially degraded, various layers of sediments and volcanic rocks were deposited on top of this, including:

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.

Economic geology

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 carnivorous bladderwort.

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 lichens.

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.

Land mammals

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.

Marine mammals

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.

Insects etc.

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.

Stock fluctuations

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, e.g. cod.

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.

Greenland Geography