There is ice, snow and extreme conditions and there are green-clad mountains, an abundance of flowers and a unique wildlife. There is uninhabited land as far as the eye can see, there are small villages with ancient traditions and there are high-rise buildings and cars. Greenland is a land that is changing but most of all, a land worth conserving.
Covering 2,184,700 km2, Greenland is the largest island in the world. From the southern tip at Cape Farewell to the northern-most point at Cape Morris Jesup, Greenland measures 2,700 km (1660 miles), comparable to the distance from the southern tip of Florida to the US-Canada border. At the widest spot, from Disko Bay to Scoresbysund, it is 1,300km across.
Greenland as we know it was a long time in the making . 439 million years ago, Greenland was a part of Africa from which it separated and moved north. Two millon years ago the close proximity to the North Pole generated the large amounts snow that created the inland ice cap. To this day, the island still moves, at a rate of two centimeters westward every year.
Roughly 80% of Greenland is covered by ice, in total an area of 1,799,850 km2. Due to the enormous weight of the ice, the middle part of the bedrock surface has been depressed to about 250 meters below sea level. At its thickest, the ice cap measures more than 3.3 km in depth.
The first people to set foot in Greenland were groups of Paleo-Eskimos. They arrived in Greenland 2,400 BC and disappeared around 1,000 BC. Upon the archaeological discovery of remains in Northern Greenland was named Independence I. It took almost another 2,000 years before the ancestors of the current native Inuit population arrived. The Thule people came to Greenland around 1,000 AD bringing with them a technical knowledge enabling them to build the kayak and the dog sled.
In 1953, Greenland went from being a colony to becoming an integral part of the Kingdom of Denmark. In 1979, Greenland was granted home rule by the Danish parliament, and it established its own parliament which today has 31 members.
In a 2008 referendum, Greenland voted yes to pursue autonomy from Denmark. Among other things, this means that Greenland is able have its own stance on foreign policy issues. Greenland is now moving towards full independence but they are still receiving an annual subsidy from Denmark of 3,5 billon kroner (approx. $588 million).
The population of present day Greenland is around 58,000, of which ca. 16,000 live in the Nuuk, the capital. The primary language is Greenlandic or Kalaallisut and the second language is Danish, however, many young Greenlanders also speak a third language, typically English.