Incredible Islands – Greenland

grnlndWith a total area of 2,166,086 square kilometres (836,109 square miles) Greenland is the world’s largest island. If you look at a Mercator map of the Earth it looks to be absolutely huge, but this is only because Mercator maps have a Northern Hemisphere bias. Nevertheless, Greenland is huge, and it is also the most sparsely permanently populated place on Earth (Antarctica has less people, but no permanent, settled, population).

There is a very good reason for its low population; Greenland has a very adverse climate and it is probably one of the most misnamed places in the world. It was originally called Greenland as a marketing tool to attract settlers. The island has an arctic climate, and the volume of ice on top of the land is so heavy that it has depressed the centre of the island so much it now lays at 300 metres below sea level.

A rare phenomenon occurs at Peary Land, which is in Greenland’s far north. Here, where you would expect to find one, there is no ice sheet as the air is too dry to produce snow.

Politically, Iceland is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark. The first people, who travelled there from Canada, settled on Greenland about 5,000 years ago. Norsemen also settled on the island as far back as the 10th century, but because they relied on farming for their diet, their settlements died out, and Greenland wasn’t properly settled by Europeans until the 18th century. Inuit arrived in the 13th century and they were able to survive because they lived on a diet of fish and the waters around the island are rich with marine life.

The capital is Nuuk, which is the world’s most northerly capital. It is located on a fjord in the Labrador Sea and has a population of just 16,000.

Given that the majority of Greenland is true wilderness it should be of no surprise to learn that the island also has the world’s largest national park. There are few roads or tracks to help people to find their way when exploring outside of populated area so it is always best to use the services of qualified and experienced guides.

Many people visit Greenland to experience the Midnight Sun, and in the northernmost parts of the island the sun won’t set from late May until late July. This is usually the best time to visit because travel and activities are a lot easier to accomplish in the milder temperatures. Alternatively, of course, the sun doesn’t rise for a couple of months during winter, but on clear nights this is the best time to observe the fabled Northern Lights which is a truly magnificent sight.

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