Kalaallit Nunaat means "the humans’ land”. The inuits call themselves
Most Greenlanders have both Kalaallit (Inuit) and Scandinavian
Greenland became an integral part of the Kingdom of Denmark in 1953.
All towns and settlements of Greenland are situated along the ice-free
coast, with the population (60 000) being concentrated along the West
and South coast.
Greenland (Kalaallit Nunaat )
division of the Kingdom of
Greenland, the world's
largest island, is a
province under the
rule of Denmark.
The island lies between
North Atlantic Ocean
and Arctic Ocean.
Greenland's total area
is 2 166 square
The island has 44 087
coastline. The lowest
point of the island is 0
meters and the
highest point is 3700
Kangerlussuaq airport, the international connection, on the southwest coast.
Disembarking at Kangerlussauq airport , on the West coast, 50 Km
North of the Arctic Circle
does most of the
Taking off from the ice sheet
The Greenland Ice Cap or Ice
Sheet is a vast body of ice
covering roughly 80% of the
surface of Greenland. It is the
second largest ice body in the
World, after the Antarctic Ice
The towns and villages where
most of the inhabitants live are
situated in the rocky coast, and
mainly in small portions of
fertile land of the west and
The Greenland Ice Sheet
extends from 60º to 80º N, and
covers an area of 1.7 million
square km. With an average
thickness of 2000 m, it has a
total volume of about 3 million
cubic km – roughly equivalent
to a sea-level rise of 7 m.
It comprises a northern dome
and a southern dome, with
maximum surface elevations
of approximately 3200 m and
2850 m respectively, linked by
a long saddle with elevations
around 2500 m.
The Ice Cap
Nunataks (ice-free summits ) in East Greenland.
A Nunatak is an exposed peak, not covered with ice or snow, in an ice
field or glacier. Nunataks are reference points in glaciers or ice caps.
As the ice cap
rock formations are
visible. These are
more typical of the
The ice cap rises in some mountainous regions to 3000 m peaks.
Gunnbjørn Fjeld, peaking at 3733 m, is
Greenland's highest mountain: on the east
coast ,south of Ittoqqortoormiit (Scoresbysund)
- a rocky peak protruding through glacial ice.
Location 68° 55′ N 29° 54′ W
Supra-glacial lake on Helheim glacier. Greenland's Ice Sheet is undergoing
massive changes, including melted ice streams on the surface and pools of
melted water, increasing in size at an unprecedented rate .
The ice cap feeds glaciers that
run into fjords and form icebergs
There are thousands
of glaciers in
running east or
west from the ice
cap into the sea.
Flying over the
glaciers are easily
In the past few years,
the glaciers of
are calved from
the feet of these
It is difficult to appreciate the scale of a glacier. This one is about 2 Km wide.
When you see a distinct medial moraine like on the middle of this glacier, it
shows that it has been formed by two glaciers merging further up the valley.
Greenland has some of the fastest moving glaciers, up to 35 m a day.
The Knud Rasmussen glacier, on the east coast .
The peak on the left is 1400 metres high, the glacier is 2000 metres wide then
the height of the glacier is about 50 metres. This is on the Sermiligaq fjord, just
north of Kulusuk.
Because of some violent calving, this glacier is not safe to approach. At some
300 m, fearful rumbles, growls and thunderous roars warn caution.
Fed directly from the
(Sugar Loaf) ice
pack, which is an
extension of the
central ice cap.
The weight of the ice
has depressed the
center of Greenland
so that if the ice
were to melt,
appear as a ring of
surrounding a new
Kangingussa glacier feeding Kangerlussuaq fjord.
175 km long, the Kangerlussuaq is one of the world’s longest fjords. The
Danes call it Sondre Stromfjord.
Fjords are left by the retreat of a glacier that has carved a U-shaped valley
to below the sea level.
Suggar Loaf, Kangerlussuaq.
The glaciers are still carving Kangerlussuaq fjord.
Sunrise over the Eqi Glacier. With the clearing skies comes extreme cold,
you might notice the sea below the strip of land at the bottom left, ice is forming.
All around there are icebergs.
A terrace with a view of
the glacier plus a café
hut that houses Café
The Eqi Glacier
is about 80 km
(5 hours by
boat) North of
Polar bears, called Nanoq by the Inuit, are the
world's largest land predators. Northern Greenland
is polar bear country, but the possibility that you will
sight any is extremely low.
The coat of arms
of Greenland is a
featuring a silver
The North areas of
Qaanaaq and Sation
Nord are the most
visisted by polar bears.
The Musk Ox
All year round in the Kangerlussuaq area
live approx. 4 000 musk oxen.
The musk ox is a truly
artic animal. It lives
only in Greenland ,
North Canada and
There are good chances of
seeing reindeer on a hike
in the Greenlandic fells, in
particular in the area
Arctic fox, white and grey
1 You WILL give blood in Greenland: Sisimiut, Kangerlussuaq, Ilulissat are hell !
2 They say mosquitoes are the one and only Royal Air Force of Greenland: they
are stealth bombers , silent!
3 Avoid tundra and wetland. In the icecap there are none.
4 Avoid Summer.
BEWARE OF MOSQUITOES !
The Arctic is plagued by these insects
in July and August. They are almost
enough to drive a person insane.
Superbly adapted to the Arctic, they
don’t whine like their more southerly
Protection includes mosquito head net,
insect repellent containing Deet ,
and anti-histamine tablets like
Trees in Greenland:
Only planted, seeds don´t grow.
Trees in Qanasiassat
Pine (Pinus sylvestris) imported
Felt-leaf willow (Salix
alaxensis), planted 1995 -
the proud owner in front.
‘little girl’ in
flower, to be
See “The Valley of flowers” for more.
The 60 000 greenlandic inhabitants live in coastal towns and
villages, and in small portions of fertile land of the south.
About 20% of the inhabitants are non-inuit, mostly from Europe.
The farthest north
Thule Air Base
(ex - Avannaa )
Qaanaaq (pop. 650) is Greenland's most northern town. It can be reached
only by helicopter from Thule Air Base in about 45 minutes.
Qaanaaq, at more than 77 º north, represents one of the last frontiers and
the ideal base for polar expeditions in the wild ice cap.
From Europe, Qaanaaq can be reached only after a very long flight, with
overnight stop at Ilulissat. North America is a shorter distance away.
Temperature often falls to – 30 º.
The sea in front of the city is frozen most
of the year as far as the eye can see,
Qaanaaq is also the world´s northernmost municipality. The original Thule
settlement (named so by Knud Rasmussen – the inuit name was Avannaa )
was forced to move further north to give room for the American Thule Air
Base, in 1953.
Remote and primitive, sparsely populated and lacking many of the
comforts of civilization …
No other place in the arctic is it possible to find “Kayak men” hunting seal,
whale and walrus with hand-thrown harpoons from an original Eskimo kayak.
Here, the hunter controls his harpoon.
is placed on
Life in Qaanaaq is hard due to isolation, few resources and lack of
commodities. The inuits never got used to relocation, and complaint of worse
conditions (cold, less hunt…) then before, in Avannaa.
Touchdown of skier plane at Thule airport, an U.S. air base.
The Base is equipped with 2 runways of 3,00 km, 7 avenues, 19 streets, a
376 m. radio tower, telecommunications center, power plants, hospital,
tennis courts, swimming pools, laundries, cinemas…a city´s facilities for
some 8000 US army personnel !
Wolstenholme fjord, the Thule Air Base, the Glaciers
Thule A.B., glaciers and mount Dundas.
Wolstenholme fjord , the only place on earth where 3 glaciers join
together ! ( the Knud Rasmussen at far right ).
The old settlement Avannaa
and the cemetery, at the base
of the Inuit sacred Dundas
An elderly Qaanaaq Inuit
drum singer using a
traditional drum. Only the
rithm is hit.
The house of Knud Rasmussen, built at the foot of Dundas Mountain in the
beginning of last century, when he established the legendary Thule trading
station. This house was later moved to Qaanaaq, where it now serves as the
A ferry (shade on ice) approaches Upernavik, small town
on the far Northwest coast of Greenland..
This village, at 72º latitude, is the northernmost port of call on coastal
ferries. Houses are painted in bright rainbow colours that are lacking in
the surrounding landscape, in this case red, yellow and green.
The town was founded in 1772 as a Danish colonial station
In 1824, a Viking Runestone was found outside Upernavik. It bears runic
characters left by Vikings, probably from the late 13th century.
This is the furthest north that any Viking artifacts have been found .
The harbour seen as the ferry boat is leaving at low light. Uummannaq is
the "real" Greenland: a majestic and harsh landscape with tall mountains, rare
vegetation, many glaciers and icebergs.
It is dominated by the Heart Mountain, which has given the town its
greenlandic name, meaning "The Heart Shaped".
Situated in the magnificent Disko Bay, it’s one of Greenland's northernmost
municipalities. 2800 people live here.
The church isn't very old (1935) but it is an unusual design for Greenland
and was built from local granite.
According to the greenlandic tradition, Santa Claus lives in Greenland,
where he has built his Royal Castle, in the traditional Greenlandic style,
near the town of Uummannaq - 1 hour's walk away from the town .
The house is built from blocks of turf, but unlike traditional homes, this has
a green-painted wooden porch and windows.
Dogs outnumber people in
Ilullissat, one of the main
centers for dog sledge tours.
Dog puppies are cute but get less friendly as they grow.
Itinerary for the dogsledge
tour out of Ilulissat.
snow, ice and
Eqi Glacier, 80 km north of Ilulissat
A cruise north aboard a small ship takes
to the remote wilderness surrounding
Ice Camp Eqi, situated right in front of
the calving Glacier.
Ice Camp Eqi
and Café Victor
Hotel Arctic in Ilulissat with a good view to the icefjord.
Table overlooking Disko Bay.
At night a surreal midnight sun bathes outside dinner tables.
Hotel Arctic also offers accomodation in comfortable metal igloos !
Knud Johan Victor Rasmussen was born in Illulissat. Rasmussen was a
polar explorer and the first to cross the Northwest Passage in dog sled, his
base being named Thule after an ancient mith.
He remains well known in Greenland.
he Rasmussen museum in Ilulissat.
The small village of Rodebay
was founded by Dutch whalers.
The transportation system in Greenland is very unusual : no railways and no roads.
There is a total of 150 km roads in the entire country. The major means of
transportation have been by boat up and down the coasts. The arrival of a boat with
supplies is allways an important happening –weekly, monthly or yearly...
New Year’s eve fireworks – a celebration greenlanders never miss.
The Ilulissat Icefjord is the
sea mouth of Sermeq
Kujalleq, one of the few
glaciers through which the
Greenland ice cap reaches
It runs west 40 kilometres from
the Jakobshavn glacier to
the sea in Disko bay.
In 2004, UNESCO put the
Ilulissat Icefjord on the
World Heritage List under the
sections "Earth's History and
Geological Features" and
phenomena, scenic beauty".
Ancient Eskimo settlement Sermermiut
• The Sermermiut valley, half an hour walk from Ilulissat, is a unique
archaeological area. Excavations proved that Greenland has been
inhabitated from pre-historic times, from at least about 2500 B.C. !
• The Saqqaq culture is the
archaeological designation of
the earliest Palaeo-Eskimo
culture of West and Southeast
Greenland. The time frame is
roughly 2.500 BC - 800 BC.
• In Sermermiut valley one can
see the remains of houses,
evidence of human existence
that has been here for over
A wooden church in miniature at the small village of Saqqaq (150
hbts) on a coast of Disko bay.
Another church beautifully located by the sea in Disko Bay area .
Land of contrasts:
Swimming in hot spring with icebergs in the sea…
There are lots of hot springs in Greenland – from 36 to 60º Celsius! –
many of them in Disko Bay, others in Uunartoq island, in the south.
This area, due to its micro-
climate, has the mildest
summer weather on the
island, though it can get
extremely cold in winter.
Sisimiut (Holsteinsborg) , the second largest city of Greenland.
With about 6000 inhabitants, it’s the most northern icefree town in winter.
The town center characterized by its colonial age buildings with the old
blue church, the old shop, colonial residences, an old forge.
The Colonial quarter
The town was founded in 1756 as a mission and trading station, based
The old town is now a museum.
The Bethel blue church
is Greenland’s second
oldest church dating
back to 1775.
The new church, built in 1926 and extended in 1984
The mean temperature is up to 14º C in July,
down to -30º C in January-March.
Sisimiut is situated between hillsides, and the small houses are built on hills.
It is also the northernmost limit of winter navigation by sea, and the
southernmost limit of winter dog sledding.
South of here there are no sled dogs !
The Sisimiut museum
Museum of history of
civilizations,as well as
a special museum of
trade, shipping and
industry, it is situated
in an old 18th century
There is a project to build a road (a ROAD !) to link Sisimiut to
Kangerlussuaq airport. That would be more than 160 km through
many curves, but would allow Sisimiut a greater role in trade and
Nuuk – the world’s
smallest capital city
It has a population of about
Nuuk is also the oldest town
in Greenland. It was founded
by the missionary Hans
Egede in 1728.
Nuuk has a moderate polar climate with cold, snowy
winters and cool summers.
Temperatures are below freezing during winter and
stays cool in summer.
Nuuk´s main atractions are the cultural centre Katuaq, Greenland’s
University, the cathedral from 1849 and the National Museum.
Conference center, art gallery,
coffee shop, art school, and the
Katuaq Cultural Centre
Nuuk Art Museum
Fine ethnographical material from
Ammassalik and Thule were
collected around 1880-1920. The
recent colonial period is mainly
represented by clothing and tools.
A wooden map
Three-dimensional maps of coastlines
were carved of wood as long as
three hundred years ago.
These Inuit charts were usually carved
from driftwood and are made to be
felt rather than looked at.
The map is a three-dimensional
Ammassalik Eskimo coastal map of
parts of the fjord coast of east
Greenland, carved in wood
Hans Egede house – the oldest in Nuuk.
Egede was a missionary and the founder of Godthåb (Nuuk).
Photos and text excerpts from
Selection and slideshow by Mario Ricca , 2009
Greenland – Another World
End of Part I
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