Keeping cool with Greenland .. at last gasp of not-so-long hot summer in central Canada

Sep 1st, 2013 | By | Category: In Brief

Under the Greenland Ice Sheet. (Maybe????)

I remember looking into Greenland years ago. I was in the stacks of the library downtown. Even the shelves with the Greenland books seemed cold and forbidding So I like reading about Greenland on the net now, when it is so hot in town. And the last lazy, hazy hallucinations at the beach bear down on Labour Day.

My current literary adventures of this sort began this past Thursday with “’Grand Canyon’ of Greenland Discovered Under Ice Sheet … The age of discovery isn’t over yet. A colossal canyon, the longest on Earth, has just been found under Greenland’s ice sheet, scientists announced today (Aug. 29) in the journal Science.”

Map of Greenland, showing current extent of ice sheet.

There had already been news (the day before) that the Greenland ice sheet might not last forever : “Climate change could bring about the greening of Greenland by the end of the century, scientists predict … Today … three quarters of the world’s most sparsely populated country is covered by a barren ice sheet … But by the year 2100 swathes of verdant forest could be covering much of its land surface …”

Historically, Greenland (or Kalaallit Nunaat, as the natives say) “has been inhabited off and on for at least the last 4,500 years by Arctic peoples whose forebears migrated there from Canada.” Even today Ellesmere Island in the far north of Canada is very close to the far northwest coast of Greenland. (“The minimum distance between Ellesmere and Greenland is 20km, and that is far north, near Alert. Around the more accessible mid-part of Ellesmere, the distance is 50km.”) All this might foster a few further cool thoughts. Click on “Read the rest of this page” and/or scroll below if you want to read more about “the least densely populated country in the world.”

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First day in school for the new pupils in first grade at the Prinsesse Margrethe School in Upernavik, Greenland. All pupils are wearing the national costume of Greenland on this special day. August 14, 2007. Note that pupils are holding Greenland flags — in red and white, just like Canada’s flag.

Despite its proximity to Canada, Greenland “has been politically and culturally associated with Europe (specifically Norway and later Denmark) for more than a millennium.” Today it is “is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark.” And in 2008 “the people of Greenland passed a referendum supporting greater autonomy.”

Similarly, Greenland today “has a population of 57,637 (July 2010 estimate), of whom 88% are Greenlandic Inuit (including Inuit-Danish mixed). The remaining 12% are of European descent, mainly Danish. The majority of the population is Lutheran. Nearly all Greenlanders live along the fjords in the south-west of the main island, which has a relatively mild climate.”

Canadian Forces troops raise the Maple Leaf on Hans Island on July 13, 2005.

An unusually nationalistic Canadian might feel that sheer geographic proximity means Greenland ought to be part of Canada, not Denmark — just as nationalistic Argentinians feel that the Falkland (aka Malvinas) Islands should be part of Argentina, not the United Kingdom. The closest the Government of Canada has come to any such unusual boldness involves its recent dispute with Denmark over Hans Island.

(The latest news on this front appears to be “Canada suspends military operations near disputed Hans Island.” A related intriguing sidebar is that after Denmark was occupied by Nazi Germany during the Second World War, the United States occupied Greenland from 1941 to 1945, “to defend it against a possible invasion by Germany.”  In 1946 the “United States offered to buy Greenland from Denmark for $100,000,000, but Denmark refused to sell.” Thule Air Base in northwest Greenland nonetheless continues as “the United States Air Force’s northernmost base, located … approximately 885 km (550 mi) east of the North Magnetic Pole.”)

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Sisimiut, Greenland, June 2010.

As matters stand, it seems quite unlikely that Greenland will ever be part of Canada (or more exactly, perhaps some kind of extension of the new Nunavut territory in the far Canadian north). Yet photographs of some “Largest cities or towns of Greenland” suggest that Canada could usefully learn a few things from Greenland in the early 21st century.

Consider, eg : “Greenland’s success shows Canada’s child mortality disgrace …  Such southwestern communities as Sisimiut boast thriving fishing industries, and brightly painted houses, in shades of red, blue and yellow nestled in the rocky hills… In contrast, many homes in Nunavut are shabby, with several family members having to share just two or three rooms.” From a somewhat different standpoint again, see “Greenland’s Inuit Premier defends oil and gas drilling.”

Qaqortoq, Greenland, July 2008.

Finally, if you are quite bored with southern life in our troubled day and age, you might want to consider “Cruises From Greenland to Canada … The ancient, frozen landscapes of Greenland and northern Canada have intrigued explorers for generations. Now, visitors can experience these destinations without booking your own private science guide. Aboard small ‘expedition’ cruises, passengers will learn about Viking villages, arctic mammals and Canadian fishing villages as they pass one of the few regions of the earth still largely unpopulated.”

You may aslso want to consider “Exploring Nunavut and Greenland — Churchill to Kangerlussuaq … Discover the incredible North from the Canadian Arctic to spectacular Greenland. This 14-day voyage offers rich culture and the opportunity to learn of Canada’s Inuit and their lasting traditions.” Be aware, however, that the cost of such entertainment can range from $5,500 to $53,750 per person, depending on the particular voyage and class of accommodation you choose. If you really want to explore the far north nowadays firsthand, you will have to spend some money.

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