Greenland is part of the Kingdom of Denmark, but the country is a semi-autonomous nation with its own domestic government. Geographically Greenland is part of the North American continent. Greenland isn’t very green at all. The majority of Greenland is covered in ice which is part of why it is the least densely populated country on Earth.
Facts about Greenland:
- In 1946, the United States offered to buy Greenland from Denmark for $100 million. The United States occupied Greenland during WWII to prevent it from being captured by the Nazis. After the war ended, they offered to buy it from Denmark, but Denmark refused.
- You can only fly to Greenland from Iceland and Denmark. There are no direct flights from either the U.S. or most of continental Europe.
- There are no roads connecting Greenland’s cities. There are roads within the towns, but they end at the outskirts. Travel between settlements is done by other means such as boat, plan, helicopter, or snowmobile.
- Greenland is the largest island in the world. Australia and Antarctica are islands, but they are more considered continental landmasses. Greenland has an area of 2,166,086 square km, but sports a population of 56,452 which is over 85% Inuit.
- Greenland has the highest suicide rate in the world. Approximately 25% of the citizens of Greenland attempt suicide at some point in their lives. That’s more than 24 times that of the United States and twice the rate of the second placed country, Lithuania.
- Some Greenland sharks alive today were born before the English Civil war. Greenland sharks (or Somniosus microcephalus) are Earth’s longest-living vertebrates. Researchers have found that Greenland sharks can live for centuries. The shark, that can grow up to 5m in length, can live to 400 years old or more.
- In 1960, NORAD’s Early Warning System in Greenland warned with 99.9% certainty that the Soviets had just launched a full-scale missile attack against North America. NORAD later discovered that the Early Warning System had interpreted the moon rising over Norway as a missile attack from Siberia.
- Greenland contains the world’s largest national park. Northeast Greenland National Park was established in 1974 and expanded to its present size in 1988. The park protects 972,001 square kilometers (375,000 square miles) of the interior and northeastern coast of Greenland and is bigger than all but twenty-nine countries in the world.
- Erik The Red who discovered Greenland, called it Greenland as a trick to lure settlers to Greenland. Despite being predominantly ice, Erik the Red named the island Greenland to attract people into settling there. He did this after being exiled from Iceland for manslaughter.
- The Greenland national football team cannot join FIFA because not enough grass grows there for a soccer field. Greenland has had a football association since 1971 but the lack of facilities means it cannot host international games.
- Until 2012, one percent of the entire population of Greenland lived in the same building. A residential building called Blok P in Nuuk, Greenland’s capital, was the largest in all of Greenland. Blok P contained around 320 apartments. It’s worth remembering that Greenland is very sparsely populated. The entire national population would fit within the stands of the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California with plenty of space left over.
- In 1968 a B-52 bomber carrying four nuclear weapons crashed into an ice sheet in Greenland. The bomber crashed onto a frozen fjord 7 miles west of Thule Air Base, America’s most northern military base. Most of the wreckage was accounted for except a secondary stage cylinder of uranium and lithium deuteride – the nuclear fuel components of one of the bombs.
- Greenland has a prison facility where some inmates reportedly hold the keys to their own cells. Some inmates are allowed to leave the premises during the day to go to work (or school). They report back to the prison at night and are tested regularly for alcohol and drugs.
- The University of Greenland has an academic staff of fourteen. The university had an enrollment of 205 students in 2018.
- The Greenland Ice Sheet is three times the size of Texas. If it were all to melt, the world’s sea level would rise by 7 meters. Together, the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets contain more than 99 percent of the freshwater ice on Earth.