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Useful Notes / Greenland

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Hägar: So this is Greenland... I wonder who named it?
Lucky Eddie: Probably a real-estate agent.

Greenland (Greenlandic: Kalaallit Nunaat), owned by Denmark, is a huge overseas territory in Northern America and the largest island on Earth, home to a mere 56,000 people. Often cited for the extreme temperatures that it can reach, Greenland is home to the northernmost piece of land on Earth, Kaffeklubben Island.

The island was first settled in the 3rd millennium BCE by the Paleo-Eskimo, chiefly the Dorset culture, who journeyed from what is now Northern Canada. However, they are not the ancestors of the current indigenous people of Greenland, the Greenlandic Inuit. The Inuit are instead descended from the 13th century Thule culture, who introduced such technological innovations as toggling harpoons (used in seal hunting and whaling) and dogsleds. The Thule almost immediately displaced the Dorset in Greenland, but the latter actually survived for a couple more centuries in Canada.


The Europeans discovered Greenland in the late 10th century. Leif Erikson's father, Erik the Red, established the island's first Norse settlement and the explorer himself grew up and died in Greenland. The Norse settlements submitted to Norway in 1261. By the 15th century, the island's entire Norse population had disappeared for a reason yet to be confirmed. The most accepted theory is that a sudden drop in global temperature killed off harvests and livestock; the Norse were either too afraid or too cocky to ask the more experienced Inuit for help, so eventually they perished. The island was not colonized by the Europeans again until the 18th century. By this time, Norway was ruled by Denmark, so the claim of the lost settlements went to the latter, hence why the island is currently Danish.


Like Iceland, Greenland escaped the Nazi German occupation of Denmark during World War II. While Iceland was occupied by Britain, Greenland was occupied by the United States. Unlike Iceland, it returned to Danish rule after the war's end.

The southwestern area of Greenland is by far the most populated, the northeastern half taken up mostly by Greenland's national park. Roughly ninety percent of Greenland is taken up by the Greenland ice sheet, the second largest ice sheet on Earth (just behind Antarctica).

Contrary to popular belief, Greenland is not just ice. It is actually made up of three significantly large islands under the ice sheet.

The capital and largest city is Nuuk (known in Danish as Godthåb). However, "largest" is a relative term, because Nuuk is in fact the smallest capital city of any country in the world (as of 2018, the city has a population of around 18,000).

Whilst part of the Kingdom of Denmark, Greenland is an autonomous country with its own separate government, much like the Faroe Islands.

Greenland in media

  • Greenland is a disaster movie in which a family goes to Greenland to take shelter after a comet hits the Earth.
  • The Tale of Einar Sokkason is a short Old Norse saga from the time of the Norse settlements in Greenland, set in the first half of the 12th century.
  • Children Of Mother Earth is a futuristic novel set in a time after climate change has made Greenland fertile and prosperous.
  • Qivitoq is an Oscar-nominated movie about a Danish woman who goes to Greenland to surprise her doctor fiancée, and is herself surprised to find him having an affair with a nurse. She sets out to leave, only to fall in love with the Danish manager of a fishing station.
  • In episode 1-4 of Borgen, a scandal regarding the use of Greenland as a stop in the transport of American prisoners, leads Birgitte to fly to Greenland and conference with the PM of Greenland.

The Greenlandic flag

The white and red bands are based on the Danish flag, but also symbolize ice and the ocean, respectively. At off-center (towards the hoist) is a disk, in which both colors are reversed, reminiscent of the sun setting over the horizon.


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