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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Greenland

Some might be surprised to learn that Greenland is the world’s biggest island. Its large and impressive island terrain is therefore marked by the kind of topography that you might expect: surrounding sea, hills and wildlife. Yet the sea is either permanently frozen or chilled by the mainly cold currents. Its hills are framed by wild and rugged scenery and clear, clean air.In the centre of the country, ice can be up to 3km (2 miles) thick. It is no wonder that most of its population huddles around the ice-free coastal region. Indeed, 'Greenland' is a bit of a misnomer, drummed up by Eric the Red (son of a Norwegian chieftain banished from his home in Iceland for murder) in the year AD982 to attract settlers.Eric the Red's strategy worked for a short while. By the 10th century, the first European settlements of Greenland had been established. The colonists accepted Norwegian sovereignty around 1260, which lasted until the marginal lifestyle of the settlements finally led to their collapse in the 16th century. The territory was then unoccupied by Europeans until Denmark took possession of it in the early 18th century. It became an integral part of the Danish realm in 1953. A referendum in 1979 approved internal autonomy within the Kingdom of Denmark. In 1982, in another referendum, the population voted by a narrow majority to leave the EC (as it then was), which they had joined as part of Denmark in 1972. Greenland is now an overseas territory in association with the EU.Those still wondering why anyone would want to inhabit such unforgiving terrain are ignorant of the beautiful sights that Greenland grants. The arctic nights in the winter concoct a wondrous continuous twilight and, in the far north of the country, complete darkness, coupled with the spectacular Northern Lights. The profusion of snow creates the perfect conditions for activities such as dog sledging and tour cruises, which interweave in and out of Greenland's dazzling array of fjords, mountains, islands and icebergs. The wildlife does not disappoint, either: there are abundant opportunities to view creatures such as whales, seals and birds.

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