Map of Greenland pinpointing the locations where Dan Grossman will be travelling.

Greenland -- that big white patch at top of maps of the world -- is a beautiful place. It is also an isolated country, with relatively few inhabitants in an area more than half the size of the United States. Despite its size, few Americans have ever been there or even imagine going. Even if they wanted to go, there are no commercial flights there from North America to take them.

Daniel Grossman travelled to Greenland reporting back about climate research on the ice, and about the island's wildlife, people, and history.

Greenland was first settled several thousand years ago by Inuit people who have occupied the island continuously ever since. Nearly 90 percent of the island's 60,000 inhabitants are Inuit or partly Inuit. The majority live in less than a dozen small cities and towns; the rest are spread out over the rocky rim of the ice-capped land.

Europeans discovered Greenland in the 10th century when Viking Gunnbjorn Ulfsson was blown off course traveling from Norway to Iceland. Erik the Red a Viking exiled from Iceland, later founded two settlements on the windswept western coast land. These Viking communities traded walrus tusks and hides, polar-bear pelts, caribou skins and other exotic goods for metal implements and wood for centuries with mainland Europe. However the far-flung colonies became isolated in the 14th and 15th centuries and mysteriously died out, leaving historians to puzzle over their fate.

Denmark claimed sovereignty over Greenland in the 1600s, and the island was a Danish colony until 1979 when Greenland officially became an autonomous country. Greenland still remains closely tied to Denmark, which, among other things, conducts much of the scientific research on the Greenland Ice sheet and along the country's eastern coast. The ice sheet, which occupies 85 percent of the island, is believed to have waxed and waned for approximately 400,000 years. For the last four decades Danish and American scientists have been learning about the climate history of the North Hemisphere by drilling deep cores from the center of the two-mile-thick ice. Ecologists are studying the impact of global warming on the scrappy flora and fauna of the inhospitable high arctic coast, where polar bear prowl for seal, owls hunt for lemming, and walrus harvest mussels.

Daniel Grossman travelled to Greenland by military transport from Scotia, New York. He visited a research camp on the ice sheet, just several hundred miles from the North Pole. He wrote back from a bush camp where biologists are studying the strange behaviors of lemmings and from a Danish ecological research base in Greenland's North-East National Park, the world's largest park. He visited the headquarters of the Sirius Sledge Patrol, a police force that patrols remote territory by dog sled. He also learned about Viking history at an archeological dig in Iceland, where researchers unearthed a 1,000-year-old farmstead.










Vikings | Inuit | Wildlife | Ice Cores | Dispatches | Teacher Guides | Credits
© Copyright 2003, WBUR