Avannarliit, Nuuk. Picture by Ken Mathiasen (Unsplash)

Greenland is an island nation located between the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, and is one of the three constituent countries that form the Kingdom of Denmark, along with Denmark and the Faroe Islands; the citizens of these countries are all Danish nationals. Greenland is divided into five municipalities: Sermersooq, Kujalleq, Qeqqata, Qeqertalik and Avannaata. The northeast of the island composes the Northeast Greenland National Park. Greenland’s capital is Nuuk. Sitting in the North Atlantic ocean, just below the ice cap of the North Pole, Greenland is the largest island in the world: covering about 836.000 sq miles, it is covered in ice for most of the year. Each year, for just a few months, the ice on the coasts melt and plant life explodes into an array of colours and scents. 88% of the island’s inhabitants are Inuit, descendants of the first North American explorers who, hundreds of years ago, travelled across ice and sea to colonise Greenland. The remaining 12% of the population consists of people of Danish descent. In total, there are about 57,000 thousand islanders (as of 2013), but this number is boosted every year by a few hundred explorers, researchers and prospectors. The majority of the population lives in the coastal regions, where their lives are a curious mix of hunter and everyday jobs (as if in any modern city).

Ilulissat Icefjørd. Picture by Visit Greenland (Unsplash)

Greenland’s parliament is located in Nuuk, whilst the head of state is Margrethe of Denmark. When the Vikings reached the island their leader, Eric the Red, named it Greenland in order to encourage his fellow countrymen and women to expand the colonisation of this supposed paradise. A vast, barren chunk of ice is the image that springs to mind: indeed half of the land mass does sit well within the Arctic Circle, winter temperatures can drop as low as minus 42 C. Don’t be fooled, and summer temperatures on the ice cap can dip into the mid to low minus 20’s. Temperature fluctuations can be equally brutal. Although covered in a thick layer of ice for most of the year, Greenland supports a large number of plants as well as animal life. Believe it or not, Greenland is home to 310 species of plant life (15 of which are unique to the island): its vast majority is seen in the coastal regions, or when the ice recedes and lets the plants burst into life. A small, natural forest also exists in the Qinngua Valley: it consists mainly of downy birch and grey-leaf willow. Polar bears live on the coast of Greenland: they hunt on the ice pack, searching for seals, their favourite food. From time to time, the human race and polar bears overlap, and some fatalities may happen on both sides… all expeditions should be armed, as a precaution. Reindeer thrive in Greenland, with some herds being found as far as 200km inland. Pay attention: although they shy away from humans, some males could attack. Musk Ox are huge and shambling: they manage to sustain a bulky body by foraging only on hardy grasses growing at the fringes of the ice. Arctic hares are also a common sight.

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