GREENLAND, an island situated in the N. E. of North America, from which it is separated by Davis Straits, Baffin Bay and Smith Sound; area about 849,000 square miles. A part of the island belongs to Denmark; its area is 46,740 square miles. A greater part of coast is yet unknown; but it does not extend farther than about lat. 83°. Like the N. parts of North America generally, Greenland is colder than the corresponding latitudes on the E. side of the Atlantic. In June and July the sun is constantly above the horizon, the ice on the coast is broken up and floats S. and a few small lakes are opened; but the short summer is followed by a long and dreary winter. The interior, which is lofty, is uninhabitable, and all the villages are confined to the coasts, which are lined with numerous islands, and deeply penetrated by fiords. The Danish colony extends N. on the W. coast, to the Bay of Disco, in lat. 69°. N. Cultivation is confined to the low shores and valleys, where grassy meadows sometimes occur with stunted shrubs and dwarfed birch, alder, and pine trees. Attempts to raise oats and barley have failed, but potatoes have been grown toward the S. extremity. Turnips attain the size of a pigeon's egg, and cabbages grow very small. The radish is the only vegetable which grows unchecked.
The inhabitants are largely dependent on hunting and fishing. Whale blubber and seal oil are used as fuel. The land animals are the Esquimaux dog, the reindeer, the polar bear, the Arctic fox (blue and white), the ermine, the Arctic hare, and the musk ox. Among the amphibia the walrus and several species of seal are common. The seas abound in fish, the whale and cod fisheries being of special importance. Seafowl are abundant in summer, and largely killed. The chief mineral product is cryolite, but graphite and miocene lignite coal are also found. Oil, eider down, furs, and cryolite are exported. For administrative purposes Greenland, or rather its coast, is divided into two inspectorates of North and South Greenland. The residences of the inspectors are at Disco Island and Godhaab, but the most populous district is Julianshaab.
Greenland was discovered by an Icelander named Gunnbjörn about 876 or 877, and was colonized from Iceland about the end of the 10th century. In the reign of Elizabeth, Frobisher and Davis rediscovered the coast, but nothing was done to explore it till the Danish Government in 1721 assisted Hans Egede, a clergyman, to establish a European mission settlement, Good Hope (Godhaab), which was successfully carried on by him and his son. Whale fisheries were established on the coast by the English and Dutch about 1590. The interior of the country was first crossed from E. to W. by Nansen in 1888. Pop. about 14,000.