Greenland - Facts and Information
A quick look at the geography and language of Greenland together with some facts and figures
The world's largest island with a smaller population than the Isle of Man and mainly covered in ice.

West Greenland 2007 Index
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Greenland is about 1,500 miles long and 750 miles wide. Its most northerly tip is the closest land to the North Pole, Nunaap Isua (Cape Farewell) in the south is at the same latitude as Shetland. Its area is nearly one-third that of Australia, and around 80% of this is covered by ice up to 9,000 feet thick the weight of which has caused the centre of the island to sink to just below sea level.

Geologically the country is mainly composed of some of the most ancient metamorphic rocks in existence, although in places in the south there are relatively recent rocks formed by volcanic eruptions. Around the ice there are mountainous fringes heavily eroded by ice and frost. Inland occasional nunataks thrust their peaks through the icecap, and the highest point is Gunnbjørnsfjeld at 3,733m, not far short of Mont Blanc.

Winter climate is severe with temperatures in settled areas down to -30°C and lower on the ice. Summers can rise to 15° or more in the south and west, although the east remains cool. However summers also bring rapidly changing weather and cold conditions can still be experienced, especially at night. In general the south and west coasts are more temperate due to warm ocean currents, but the east (which is virtually devoid of settlement) experiences the effects of a cold current from polar regions. Precipitation is generally low, especially away from the south. As most of Greenland is inside the Arctic Circle much of the country experiences continuous daylight in summer and darkness in winter. The far south has long summer and short winter days.

Population and language
With a total population of just under 60,000 in such a large area Greenland is probably, with the exception of Mogolia, the world's most sparsely populated country. About a third of those people live in Nuuk, the capital (14,000) and the second largest town, Sisimiut (6,000). The rest mainly live in settlements ranging in size from a few dozen to a few thousand widely scattered in the south and south west.

The Greenlandic language, based on Inuit dialects, is daunting to the European for whom it is said to be more difficult to learn that Chinese. Pronunciation is guttural and words can be combined to produce very long single words which are virtually sentences in themselves. Danish is spoken by nearly all Greenlanders. English is spoken by many, especially those associated with tourism.

Much of Greenland's wealth comes from the sea with fish catching and processing being major employers. There is a small amount of sheep farming in the south which produces excellent meat and reindeer and musk ox are also hunted for meat. Other animals hunted for meat include seals, porpoises and a few whales. Otherwise all food is imported, including staples such as milk which is only available in UHT form. Tourism, both summer and winter, is increasingly significant and there is well-developed if small scale tourist infrastructure in many places. Mineral wealth is limited, but may become more important and there may be some hopes for oil.

Greenland has no roads (with the exception of those within settlements) so transport is by air, sea when it is not frozen and dogsled when it is. Externally passenger flights run daily to Copenhagen, plus a few summer flights to Iceland. Direct services to Baltimore have just been introduced.

However despite the extreme conditions and relative paucity of resources Greenland has a good standard of living with good services.

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