East Greenland, Tasiilaq
This trip will take us from London via Reykjavik to a small remote airport Kulusuk in Eastern Greenland just 100km south of the Artic Circle. From here we transfer by boat to Tasiilaq our base from which we hike and explore this remote island. The trip includes a four day/ three night backpack taking us along a 16 km corridor of 1200 meter peaks to Kurgamiit in remote North East, before turning west then south to hike past two glaciers and follow the Valley of lakes back to our base in Tasiilaq.
In Tasiilaq we have a couple of day hikes and some well deserved R&R.
Greenland has been politically and culturally associated with Europe (specifically Norway and Denmark, the colonial powers, as well as the nearby island of Iceland) for more than a millennium. The majority of its residents are Inuit, whose ancestors began migrating from the Canadian mainland in the 13th century, gradually settling across the island.
Greenland is the world’s largest island (Australia, although larger, is generally considered to be a continental landmass rather than an island). Three-quarters of Greenland is covered by the only permanent ice sheet outside Antarctica. With a population of about 56,480 (2013), it is the least densely populated country in the world.
The early Viking settlers named the island as Greenland. In the Icelandic sagas, the Norwegian-born Icelander Erik the Red was said to be exiled from Iceland for manslaughter. Along with his extended family and his thralls, he set out in ships to explore an icy land known to lie to the northwest. After finding a habitable area and settling there, he named it Grœnland (translated as “Greenland”), supposedly in the hope that the pleasant name would attract settlers.
The name of the country in Greenlandic (Kalaallisut) is Kalaallit Nunaat (“land of the Kalaallit”). The Kalaallit are the indigenous Greenlandic Inuit people who inhabit the country’s western region.
From 986, Greenland’s west coast was settled by Icelanders and Norwegians, through a contingent of 14 boats led by Erik the Red. They formed three settlements—known as the Eastern Settlement, the Western Settlement and the Middle Settlement—on fjords near the southwestern-most tip of the island. They shared the island with the late Dorset culture inhabitants who occupied the northern and western parts, and later with the Thule culture that entered from the north. Norse Greenlanders submitted to Norwegian rule in the 13th century under the Norwegian Empire. Later the Kingdom of Norway entered into a personal union with Denmark in 1380, and from 1397 was a part of the Kalmar Union.The
Thule Culture (1300 – present)
The Thule people are the ancestors of the current Greenlandic population. No genes from the Paleo-Eskimos have been found in the present population of Greenland. The Thule Culture migrated eastward from what is now known as Alaska around 1000, reaching Greenland around 1300. The Thule culture was the first to introduce to Greenland such technological innovations as dog sleds and toggling harpoons.
Climate of the Arctic Greenland
Map of Greenland
Greenland is the world’s largest non-continental island and the third largest country in North America. It lies between latitudes 59° and 83°N, and longitudes 11° and 74°W. The Atlantic Ocean borders Greenland’s southeast; the Greenland Sea is to the east; the Arctic Ocean is to the north; and Baffin Bay is to the west. The nearest countries are Canada, to the west and southwest across Baffin Bay, and Iceland, east of Greenland in the Atlantic Ocean. Greenland also contains the world’s largest national park, and it is the largest dependent territory by area in the world, as well as the fourth largest country subdivision in the world, after Sakha Republic in Russia, Australia’s state of Western Australia, and Russia’s Krasnoyarsk Krai, and the largest in North America.
Southeast coast of Greenland
The average daily temperature of Nuuk, Greenland varies over the seasons from −8 to 7 °C (18 to 45 °F). The total area of Greenland is 2,166,086 km2 (836,330 sq mi) (including other offshore minor islands), of which the Greenland ice sheet covers 1,755,637 km2 (677,855 sq mi) (81%) and has a volume of approximately 2,850,000 km3 (680,000 cu mi). The highest point on Greenland is Gunnbjørn Fjeld at 3,700 m (12,139 ft) of the Watkins Range (East Greenland mountain range). The majority of Greenland, however, is less than 1,500 m (4,921 ft) in elevation.
The weight of the ice sheet has depressed the central land area to form a basin lying more than 300 m (984 ft) below sea level, while elevations rise suddenly and steeply near the coast. The ice flows generally to the coast from the centre of the island. A survey led by French scientist Paul-Emile Victor in 1951 concluded that, under the ice sheet, Greenland is composed of three large islands. This is disputed, but if it is so, they would be separated by narrow straits, reaching the sea at Ilulissat Icefjord, at Greenland’s Grand Canyon and south of Nordostrundingen.
All towns and settlements of Greenland are situated along the ice-free coast, with the population being concentrated along the west coast. The northeastern part of Greenland is not part of any municipality, but it is the site of the world’s largest national park, Northeast Greenland National Park.
Southern Greenland lives up to its name as it is truly a green land. Agriculture thrives here with many farms and luxuriant vegetables, in contrast to a barren ice world that covers much of Greenland. Hay is harvested in Igaliku, Kujalleq.
The extreme north of Greenland, Peary Land, is not covered by an ice sheet, because the air there is too dry to produce snow, which is essential in the production and maintenance of an ice sheet. If the Greenland ice sheet were to melt away completely, the world’s sea level would rise by more than 7 m (23 ft).
Between 1989 and 1993, US and European climate researchers drilled into the summit of Greenland’s ice sheet, obtaining a pair of 3 km (1.9 mi) long ice cores. Analysis of the layering and chemical composition of the cores has provided a revolutionary new record of climate change in the Northern Hemisphere going back about 100,000 years, and illustrated that the world’s weather and temperature have often shifted rapidly from one seemingly stable state to another, with worldwide consequences. The glaciers of Greenland are also contributing to a rise in the global sea level at a faster rate than was previously believed. Between 1991 and 2004, monitoring of the weather at one location (Swiss Camp) showed that the average winter temperature had risen almost 6 °C (11 °F). Other research has shown that higher snowfalls from the North Atlantic oscillation caused the interior of the ice cap to thicken by an average of 6 cm or 2.36 in/yr between 1994 and 2005. However, a recent study suggests a much warmer planet in relatively recent geological times.
There are approximately 700 known species of insects in Greenland, which is low compared with other countries (over one million species have been described worldwide). The sea is rich in fish and invertebrates, especially in the milder West Greenland Current, and a large part of the Greenland fauna associated with marine production, including large colonies of seabirds. The few native land mammals in Greenland include the polar bear, arctic fox, reindeer, arctic hare, musk ox, collared lemming, ermine, and arctic wolf. The last four are found naturally only in East Greenland, having immigrated from Ellesmere Island. There are dozens of species of seals and whales along the coast. Land fauna consists predominantly of animals that have spread from North America or for a lot of birds and insects coming from Europe. There are no native or free-living reptiles or amphibians on the island.
Phytogeographically, Greenland belongs to the Arctic province of the Circumboreal Region within the Boreal Kingdom. The island is sparsely populated in vegetation; plant life consists mainly of grassland and small bushes, which is regularly grazed by livestock. The most common tree native to Greenland is the European white birch (Betula pubescens) along with gray-leaf willow (Salix glauca), rowans (Sorbus aucuparia), common junipers (Juniperus communis) and other smaller trees, mainly willows.
Greenland’s flora comprises about 500 species of higher plants, i.e. flowering plants, ferns, horsetails and lycopodiophyta. Of the other groups, the lichens are the largest with about 950 species; of major fungal species are known 600–700; mosses and algae anything less. Most of Greenland’s higher plants are widespread, particularly in arctic and alpine regions, and only a dozen species of particular saxifrage and hawkweed is endemic. A few species were introduced by the Norsemen, such as cow vetch.
The animals of Greenland include the Greenland dog, which was introduced by the Inuit, as well as European-introduced species such as Greenlandic sheep, goats, cattle, reindeer, horse, chicken and sheepdog, all descendants of animals imported by Europeans. Marine mammals include the hooded seal (Cystophora cristata) as well as the grey seal (Halichoerus grypus). Whales frequently pass very close to Greenlandic shores in the late summer and early autumn. Species represented include the beluga whale, blue whale, Greenland whale, fin whale, humpback whale, minke whale, narwhal, pilot whale, sperm whale.
Approximately 225 species of fish are known from the waters surrounding Greenland, and the fishing industry is a major part of Greenland’s economy, accounting for approximately the majority of the country’s total exports.
Birds, especially seabirds, are an important part of Greenland’s animal life. On steep mountainsides breed large colonies of auks, puffins, skuas, and kittiwakes. By common ducks include eiders, long-tailed ducks and the king eider and in West Greenland white-fronted goose and in East Greenland pink-footed goose and barnacle goose. Breeding migratory birds are also including snow bunting, lapland bunting, ringed plover, red-throated loon and red-necked phalarope. Of land birds that are usually sedentary, can be highlighted arctic redpoll, ptarmigan, short-eared owl, snowy owl, gyrfalcon and in West Greenland the white-tailed eagle.
Greenland is abundant in minerals. Mining of ruby deposits began in 2007. Other mineral prospects are improving as prices are increasing. These include iron, uranium, aluminium, nickel, platinum, tungsten, titanium, and copper. Despite resumption of several hydrocarbon and mineral exploration activities, it will take several years before hydrocarbon production can materialize. The state oil company Nunaoil was created to help develop the hydrocarbon industry in Greenland. The state company Nunamineral has been launched on the Copenhagen Stock Exchange to raise more capital to increase the production of gold, started in 2007.
Electricity has traditionally been generated by oil or diesel power plants, even if there is a large surplus of potential hydropower. There is currently a programme to build hydro power plants. The first, and still the largest, is Buksefjord hydroelectric power
Coat of arms of Greenland
The coat of arms of Greenland is a blue shield featuring a silver polar bear. This symbol was first introduced in the coat of arms of Denmark in 1666 and it is still represented in the arms of the Danish royal family. In a Danish context, the bear was originally shown walking naturally, but an upright position was specified in 1819. The 1470 London Roll shows an arms captioned Le Roy de Greneland featuring a shield depicting a polar bear surrounded by three birds. This royal title did not reflect any official title, but merely that the arms could be used by anyone controlling Greenland.
The version currently used by the government of Greenland was designed by Greenlandic artist Jens Rosing and adopted on May 1, 1989 by the Landsting. The polar bear symbolizes the fauna of Greenland and the blue (azure) colour designates the Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean Greenland is washed by. Instead of the Danish version in the royal arms which follows the heraldic tradition in raising the right forepaw, the polar bear on the Greenlandic coat of arms raises the left forepaw, due to the traditional Inuit belief that polar bears are left-handed. A similar arms is used by the official Danish government representative in Greenland. In this case, the bear raises its right paw, and the shield is crowned with the royal crown.
The official Danish specification of the arms does not specify which forepaw is raised, so there is no conflict between the different versions. The adherents of the full independence of Greenland use a green background.
A blazon in heraldic terms is: Azure, a polar bear rampant argent.
The polar bear was first included as a symbol of Greenland in the Danish coat of arms during the reign of King Frederick III of Denmark, but did not gain widespread use on its own until the early 20th century.