Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Greenland
GREENLAND, or Grönland, is the name applied to a large continental island, the greater portion of which lies within the Arctic Circle, and all of which is arctic in character (see vol. i., Plate X.). It is entirely unconnected with any portion of Europe or America, though in the extreme north only separated from the latter by the narrow strait which lies between it and the outlying portion of America known as Grinnell Land. From Europe it is divided by the North and Greenland Seas,—the Faroe Isles, Jan Mayen Island, Iceland, and part of Shetland being the only lands between it and Norway. Denmark Strait is the sea between it and Iceland, and it is more than probable that Spitzbergen is the only great group of islands lying to the east of its northern portion. On the west, Davis Strait and Baffin's Bay separate it from the opposite shore. The latter sea narrows to the north into the gulf generally known as Smith Sound, though, in reality, Kane Sea, Kennedy Channel, Hall Basin, and Robeson Channel are the names which have been successively applied in the progress of exploration to the northern continuations of the sound so named more than two hundred years ago by William Baffin. The exact northern termination of Greenland is not known, the country never having been doubled on the north; but we know enough from the explorations of Markham, Beaumont, and other officers of Nares's expedition, to lead to the conclusion that the ice-encumbered Polar Ocean circles around the headlands of the broken country which forms its supposed limits in about 83° N. lat.
From Cape Farewell, or Kangersuak,—an island lying about 18 miles from Pamiagdluk, the most southern Danish post on the west,—to Cape Britannia, is about 1380 miles; and the greatest breadth of Greenland is about 77° 30′ N. lat.—690 miles from the one coast to the other. The shore-line is fully 3400 miles long; but so little is the country known with accuracy, and so broken is it by fjords and coast-lying islands, that any accurate estimate of its area is impossible. Thus Dr Rink, who has been connected with the government in various capacities for upwards of thirty years, esti mates its area at 512,000 square miles. This estimate allows 192,000 square miles for what has been called the outskirts—or islands uncovered by ice—with their fjords, and 320,000 for the interior, believed to be almost entirely covered by a glacier ice-cap.
On the east coast, Cape Bismarck, in 76° 47′ N. lat., marks the limits of exploration; though as early as 1670 Lambert is said to have sighted land several degrees further north. From Cape Bismarck south to Cape Farewell (59° 35′ N. lat.) the coast is very imperfectly known, whole stretches being entirely uncharted, even in the rudest fashion. This arises from the Spitzbergen ice-stream continually pouring down that shore, rendering it possible to approach within sight of it only on rare occasions, and to land still more rarely. Yet, from the explorations of Hall and Lindenow in early times, and those in this century by Scoresby, Graah, the German expedition, and Mourier (1879), we know its general features. These are—high beetling cliffs, great glaciers creeping down to the sea, and deep inlets, like Scoresby Sound and Franz Josef Fjord, penetrating the land for distances which cannot as yet be definitely stated. A number of islands also are dotted over the chart here; but there are few “ice fjords,” the slope of the inland ice being evidently chiefly towards the west coast. The west coast is of much the same character,—only, on this side, the fjords with which it is intersected have been nearly all followed to their heads. Many of them stretch several miles into the interior, and the greater number are ended by glacier prolongations of the “inland ice,” which discharge icebergs; these are known as “ice fjords.” The Greenland fjords, like those of Norway, British Columbia, and other countries with a western exposure, bear every mark of having been at one time the beds of glaciers, when the climate and physical geography of the country were different from what they are at present. The country cannot be said to be mountainous, yet heights of from 3000 to 4000 feet are common, and the aspect which the coast presents is that of high cliffs,—black when steep, white where the snow can lie; snow for eight or nine months in the year on even the lower lands; icebergs and broken floe-ice floating off the coast; an “ice-foot” attached to the shore early in the spring; and glaciers peeping down through the valleys between the cliffs and fjelds. There are one or two still higher points, such as Petermann's Peak—near the shores of Franz Josef Fjord on the east coast (11,000 feet), Payer's Peak, Sukkertoppen, and tho familiar Sanderson's Hope. With the exception of Disco, there are no large islands; but the bays, fjords, straits, and peninsulas of this extremely broken coast are so numerous that it is needless mentioning them by name.
The Interior Ice-covering.—The Danes divide Greenland into two physical divisions—the “outskirts” and the “inland ice.” The first comprises the coast-lying land, the latter the interior. If we ascend any considerable eminence on the west coast, and look eastward, we do not find mountains and valleys as in most other countries, but only one huge, seemingly endless, expanse of glacier ice gradually rising towards the east, until the view is bounded by a white horizon. If we cross the coast-lying land, which varies in breadth from a few miles to twenty, or in a few cases much more, we come to this “inland ice,” generally in the form of a glacier offshoot of it which has crept down into a fjord, or is making its way to the sea in one of the mossy valleys lying between two high cliffs, noisy with mollemokes or with the weird scream of cormorants, which at various sheltered places have colonies in these “skarvefjelde.” In the former case the glacier usually presents a steep wall facing the sea, from which great fragments of ice are continually breaking off, or the icebergs being detached by the force of the sea; then it is “sermik soak”—the “great ice wall”—of the Eskimo. In the latter case, it presents a slope on which the explorer can climb, and ascend into tile interior over the inland ice, of which it is a prolongation. A little way eastward, the covering is found to be hard glacier ice, rising by a gentle slope,—covered in the winter and spring with a thick coating of snow, which partially melts during the summer, forming considerable lakelets on the surface of the ice, or courses over it in the shape of streams that thunder down the deep crevasses which divide it here and there as in ordinary glaciers. No sign of living thing is seen on it, save patches here and there of a low order of plants identical with or allied to the “red snow” (Ancylonema Nordenskjöldii, Protococcus vulgaris, P. nivalis, and Scytonema gracilis); no moraine of any description, showing that the ice could not have impinged on land in its travels; and no sign of the ice having come in contact with any other physical influence save that of the atmosphere, unless the presence here and there in hollows of the minute powder-like mineral “kryokonite” is to be considered an exception. The few explorers who have ever attempted to penetrate this terrible waste all give the same account. Travel eastward, and nothing but ice—rough, crevasse-torn, white, earthless, moraineless, lifeless—is seen, until, in the far distance, the view is bounded by a dim, misty horizon of ice, which, at a distance of about 30 miles inland, rises to a height of 2000 feet above the sea. North is ice; south is ice; and behind are seen the “outskirts,” or ice-bare islands. The only exception to this general statement is to be found in the fact that here and there the ice has licked in and surrounded, but not yet covered, bits of high land near the coast, which stand out black amid the surrounding icy whiteness. Such an island in the ice is known to the Greenlanders as a “nunatak.” A noted one has long been known to exist some 50 miles east of the westward edge of the inland ice north of Frederikshaab. It was long supposed to be merely the east coast mountains, the country being narrow at this point; but the explorations of Lieut. Jensen, R.D.N., in July and August 1878, prove it to be a peak 5000 feet high,—i.e., about 3000 feet above the surrounding ice,—entirely isolated. On the other side of this mountain ridge the glacier field was observed stretching without interruption as far as the eye could see, the plateau apparently rising higher and higher to the east, which may account for the fact that the German explorers did not notice the inland ice in their explorations of Franz Josef Fjord. The high peak only proves that, though in the course of ages the winter snow, unmelted by the summer heats, has got compressed into the glacier sheet which has covered the interior, and is partially discharging its surplus in the form of icebergs on the coast, it has not yet accumulated to such depths as to overwhelm these elevated places. It may, however, do so in time; for, though it is clear that at one time the climate of Greenland was very different from what it is now, it is equally evident that at no very distant date the ice overspread much of the now uncovered outskirts. The so-called “glaciers” which reach the sea are long or short, broad or narrow, according to the character of the valley through which they creep seaward. Thus a coast “glacier,” so called, may be 40 miles broad, like the Great Glacier of Humboldt, or only a few yards, like most of the others in Greenland. When the glacier reaches the sea it ploughs along the bottom, until, by the force of the water, its end is buoyed up and finally broken off in the shape of an iceberg, which is carried by the winds and currents out to sea to be in time again melted and absorbed into the ocean whence it originally sprang. If, on the contrary, the sea is shallow, the glacier will protrude for a considerable distance, as in the case of the Isblink, a little north of the fishing-station of Avigait (62° 32′ N. lat), which is a low sandy beach projecting about 8 miles in front of the inland ice, and forming a breakwater against the force of the waves. From under the Arctic glacier pours, as in the Alpine ones, a muddy stream, which silts up some of the fjords, and forms deposits identical with the laminated glacial clays of Britain. Such, in brief, is the inland ice of Greenland, which has been known since the days of Fabricius, but has only been recently generally recognized, and even yet is imperfectly understood in its all-important bearings on the study of ancient glacial remains.
Geology.—So far as made out, the structure of explored Greenland is as follows:—
(1.) Laurentian gneiss forms the greatest mass of the exposed rocks of the country bare of ice. They are found on both sides of Smith Sound, rising to heights of 2000 feet, and underlie the Miocene and Cretaceous rocks of Disco Island, Noursoak Peninsula, and the Oolites of Pendulum Island in East Greenland. It is possible that some of these rocks are also of Huronian age, but it is doubtful whether the rocks so designated by the geologists of the “Alert” and “Discovery” expedition are really the rocks so known in Canada, or are a continuous portion of the fundamental or oldest gneiss of the north-west of Scotland and the Western Isles.
(2.) Silurian.—Upper Silurian, having a strong relation to the Wenlock group of Britain, but with an American facies, and Lower Silurian, with a succession much the same as in British North America, are found on the shores of Smith Sound, but not as yet so far south as the Danish possessions.
(3.) Devonian rocks are believed to occur in Igaliko and Tunnudiorbik Fjords, in S.W. Greenland, but as they are unfossiliferous sandstone, rapidly disintegrating, this cannot be known. It is, hovever, likely that this formation occurs in Greenland, for in Dana Bay, Capt. Feilden found a species of Spirifera, and Productus mesolobus or costatus, though it is possible that these fossils represent the “Ursa stage” (Heer) of the Lower Carboniferous. But a few Devonian forms have also been recorded from the Parry Archipelago, which tends to confirm belief in the existence of a sporadic Devonian formation in Greenland.
(4.) Carboniferous.—In erratic blocks of sandstone, found on the Disco shore of the Waigatt, have, been detected a Sigillaria and a species of either Pecopteris or Gleichenia, perhaps of this age; and probably much of the extreme northern coast of Grinnell Land, and therefore, in all likelihood, the opposite Greenland shore, contains a clearly developed Carboniferous Limestone fauna, identical with that so widely distributed over the North American continent, and referable also to British and Spitzbergen species. Of the Coal Measures above these, if they occur, we know nothing at present. Capt. Feilden notes as suggestive that, though the explorers have not met with this formation on the northern shores of Greenland, yet it was observed that a continuation of the direction of the known strike of the limestones of Feilden peninsula, carried over the polar area, passes through the neighbourhood of Spitzbergen, where the formation occurs, and contains certain species identical with those of the Grinnell Land rocks of this horizon. The facies of the fossils is, according to Mr Etheridge, North American and Canadian, though many of the species are British. The corals are few in number, but the Molluscoida (Polyzoa) are more numerous in species and individuals. No Secondary rocks have been discovered in the extreme northern parts of West Greenland, but they are present on the east and west coasts in more southerly latitudes than Smith Sound.
(5.) Jurassics.—These do not occur on the west coast, but on the east coast the German expedition discovered marls and sandstones on Kuhn Island, resembling those of the Russian Jurassics, characterized by the presence of the genus Aucella, an ammonite (Perisphinctes Payeri), A. striolaris, Belemnites Panderianus, B. volgensis, B. absolutus, and a Cyprina near to C. syssolæ. On the south coast of the same island are coarse-grained, brownish micaceous, and light-coloured calcareous sandstone and marls, containing fossils, which render it probable that they are of the same
age as the coal-bearing Jurassics of Brora, Skye, and Mull (Scotland), and the Middle Dogger of Yorkshire. There is also coal on Kuhn Island.
(6.) Cretaceous.—Beds of this age, consisting of sandstones and coal, are found on the northern coast of Disco Island, and the southern side of the Noursoak Peninsula, the beds in the former locality, “the Kome strata” of Nordenskjöld, being the oldest. They reach 1000 feet in thickness, occupying undulating hollows in the underlying gneiss, and dip towards the Noursoak Peninsula at 20°, when the overlying Atanakerdluk strata come in. Both these series contain numerous plant remains, evergreen oaks, magnolias, aralias, &c., and seams of lignite (coal), which is burnt; but in neither occur the marine beds of the United States. Still, the presence of dicotyledonous leaves, such as Magnolia alternans, in the Atanakerdluk strata, proves their close alliance with the Dakota series of the United States. The underlying Kome beds are not present in the American series. They are characterized by fine cycads (Zamites arcticus, and Glossozamites Hoheneggeri), which also occur in the Urgonian strata of Wernsdorff.
(7.) Miocene.—This formation, one of the most widely spread in polar lands, though the most local in Greenland, is also the best known feature in its geology. It is limited to Disco Island, and perhaps to a small part of the Noursoak Peninsula, and the neighbouring country, and consists of numerous thin beds of sand stone, shale, and coal,—the sideritic shale containing immense quantities of leaves, stems, fruit, &c. , as well as some insects, and the coal pieces of retinite. The study of these plant and insect remains shows that forests containing a vegetation very similar to that of California and the southern United States, in some instances even the species of trees being all but identical, flourished in 70° N. lat. during geological periods comparatively recent. These beds, as well as the Cretaceous series, from which they are as yet only imperfectly distinguished, are associated with sheets of basalt, which penetrate them in great dykes, and in some places, owing to the wearing away of the softer sedimentary rocks, stand out in long walls running across the beds. These Miocene strata have not been found further north on the Greenland shore than the region mentioned; but in Lady Franklin Bay, on the Grinnell Land side of Smith Sound, they again appear, so that the chances are they will be found on the opposite coast, though doubtless the great disintegration Greenland has undergone and is undergoing has destroyed many of the softer beds of fossiliferous rocks. On the east coast, more particularly in Hochstetter Foreland, the Miocene beds again appear, and we may add that there are traces of them even on the west coast, between Sonntag Bay and Foulke Fjord, at the entrance to Smith Sound. It thus appears that since early Tertiary times there has been a great change in the climate of Greenland.
(8.) Post-Tertiary Beds.—These consist of raised sea-beaches found along the whole coast of Greenland, containing Mollusca and other organic remains, identical with those living in the neighbouring sea. These terraces are very marked on the shores of Smith Sound, and are believed to be proof of the gradual elevation of the land in that quarter, such elevation being known to be going on all round the polar basin. Within the Danish possessions, however, the coast is falling,—places, the site of hamlets within the memory of man, being no longer habitable, and other localities which, when the Danes first came to the country a century and a half ago, were bare being now covered at the lowest tides.
Mines.—In addition to the formations named, there are numerous other rocks primitive or metamorphic which it is impossible to classify accurately, in which are found numerous minerals, either in veins or scattered. Few of these are of economic importance. Graphite is found in great abundance, particularly on an island off Upernivik, but the mining of it has proved unprofitable. Cryolite is found in quantity in Greenland only, and is at present the only mineral mined there for the European and American markets (see Cryolite). It is found only in one spot, Ivigtut, on the shore of Arsut Fjord in 61° 10′ N. lat., traversing a granitic-like gneiss in veins, associated with argentiferous lead, copper, zinc, tin, tantalite, molybdenite, zircon, fluor spar, &c.; but none of the metallic ores have been found profitable to work. The number of labourers employed usually amounts to 100 in summer and 30 in winter, in addition to the officials and their families. In the nine years succeeding 1857, when a licence was granted to a private company to work the cryolite, 14,000 tons were exported, and during the next nine years 70,000 tons, or, on an average, 26 ship-loads per annum. Steatite or soap-stone has been long used by the natives for the manufacture of their lamps and other vessels. Native iron is found in various places; the most remarkable of these finds were the great nodules of Uvifak on Disco Island,—the weight of the largest of which was calculated at 46,200 ℔,—at one time believed to be areolites, but now known to be simply native iron of the same quality as that scattered in the gneiss on which the masses were found superimposed. Copper has been found in several places, but only in nodules and laminæ of very limited extent. Coal of poor quality, associated with the Cretaceous and Miocene beds, is found in the districts about Disco Bay and Umenak Fjord, but it is only mined to the extent of 40 or 50 tons per annum, for use in the houses of the Danish officers, unless when an exploring ship refills with it. The coal of Kuhn island is Jurassic.
Climate.—The southern part has a climate much the same as the northern shores of Norway and Iceland; further north the temperature decreases with the increase of latitude, while the severity of the winter season is intensified by the country being shrouded for several months in the year in darkness,—in the far north seldom even relieved by the rare displays of the aurora, though the starlight and moonlight are brilliant beyond what the inhabitants of lower latitudes are accustomed to. Again, during the summer there is an equally long continuance of the sun above the horizon. Spring and autumn are disagreeable, rain, sleet, and snow being frequent, while, the sea not being frozen over, travelling becomes difficult. In North Greenland sledging along the ice-covered coast is pleasant during the winter, but in the south the sea is not continuously congealed; hence no dogs are kept, and the winter exercise of the sometimes scurvied residents is confined to within a few yards of the houses, when the great depth of snow will admit even of this. The climate is very uncertain—the weather changing suddenly from bright sunshine, with swarms of mosquitos enjoying their brief holiday, to dense fog, driving in clouds around the headlands, and even heavy falls of snow accompanied by icy cold winds. At Juliaueliaab the mean annual temperature is about 33° Fahr., and at Upernivik, 13°. In January, at Van Kensselaer harbour, Kane experienced as low a temperature as -66.5° Fahr. At Sabine Island, on the east coast, the temperature is much the same at the same periods as on the opposite west coast, except in the month of December. Again, at Upernivik the mean temperature of the three summer months is 38°; at Julianehaab it is 48°; and for the three winter months respectively -7° and 20°. The winter at Julianehaab is not much colder than that of Norway and Sweden in the same latitude, but its mean temperature for the whole year is like that of Norway 600 miles further north. In other words, its winter is not severe but its summer is arctic, and, so far as the summer goes, the same generalization may be made regarding all Greenland. In the most northern settlements a temperature of 52° is oppressive, but until the thermometer falls to -28° no one complains of extreme cold. At Upernivik (72° 48′ N. lat.) the highest temperature that has been noted is 59°. At Julianehaab 68° has once been recorded, perhaps the highest known Greenland heat. Often in January and February a peculiar warm wind or “föhn” begins to blow, raising the temperature to 42°. On the other hand, at Upernivik, in July a day was observed with a mean temperature below 32°, and a single observation in the same month has shown 27½° Fahr. The prevailing winds—the “föhn,” which blows from points between true E.S.E. and true E.N.E., excepted—follow the direction of the coast, “blowing from the south with snow and rain, and from the north clearing the sky, or in summer frequently accompanied by mist.” Mirage, parhelia, paraselenæ, anthelia, and auroral displays are common. There is less snow in the north than in the south. At Julianehaab it once snowed in June continuously for thirty-six hours, and in 64° N. lat. not a single drop of rain fell from September 27, 1862, to May 20, 1863, on which day the snow had obtained a depth between the houses of from 8 to 20 feet. The temperature of the soil at Godthaab, 4 feet under the ground, only varied between the extremes 31.5 in March and 40.1 Fahr. in September (Rink).
Animals and Plants.—The flora and fauna are essentially European, notwithstanding the proximity of the country to America. This fact renders it probable that Davis Strait and Baffin's Bay are gulfs of old date, and points to the likelihood of East Greenland having been connected with Europe in a comparatively recent geological period. Possibly the islands between Norway and Greenland are remains of this land-bridge, over which the Lapland plants and animals found their way to Greenland. With one notable exception—the musk ox—the plants and animals of the east coast are more European than those of the west, though this consists rather in the absence of European animals and plants on the
latter shore than in the presence of American ones. The mammals of Greenland are the wolf (one, apparently a straggler from the opposite shores, being killed in 1869), the dog, fox (white and blue varieties), white bear, ermine, walrus, live or six species of seals, the lemming, the arctic hare, the musk ox, the reindeer, the right whale, four species of fin-whale, the sperm-whale (very rare), the bottle-nose, white whale, narwhal, caaing whale, porpoise, euphrosyne dolphin, two species of Lagenorhynchus, and the sword-fish. Of these the ermine, lemming, and musk ox are not found as far south as the Danish possessions. They inhabit the shores of Smith Sound and East Greenland in about the same latitude, but do not stretch farther south, so that the probabilities are that they have migrated round the northern end of the country, and are kept from spreading southward by the glaciers. The mouse, goat, sheep, and ox have been introduced, and the cat is domesticated as far north as Danish women have wandered. Goats, sheep, and oxen live only in the little greenish valleys of the extreme south; in the north there are none. A few pigs are kept at Ivigtut. The right whale is now rarely killed off the coast of Greenland, the whalers merely passing up the coast to the fishing grounds further north and west. The Eskimo at Holstensborg still occasionally harpoon one or two, but the industry is a mere shadow of what it once was. The humpback, one of the fin-whales, is now and then killed, but the narwhal and white whale form the staple “fishery” of the Greenlanders. Of seals it has been calculated that there are annually captured 51,000 of the floe-rat (Phoca hispida), between 1000 and 2000 of the kasigiak (P. vitulina), 23,000 saddlebacks (P. Greenlandica), 1000 of the ugsuk or thong-seal (P. barbata, the ground or “grown” seal of the English sealers), and 3000 of the bladdernose (Cystophora cristata). About 200 walruses, 600 white whales, 100 narwhals, a few porpoises, on an average one right-whale (in the season from December to March, when it goes as near the coast as the ice will permit in the south), and two or three humpbacks (Magaptera longimana), are killed. The other whales are rare, and are captured only under peculiar circumstances. The average catch of the Greenlanders thus amounts to 89,000 seals, 700 white whales and narwhals, and 2 or 3 large whales. Of these seals it may be stated that 38,000 have been caught with harpoons and bladders, 38,000 killed by fire-arms, and 13,000 caught in nets. The polar bear is almost extinct,—about 50 being annually killed in the north, or in the south when they have floated from the east coast on the Spitsbergen heavy ice which doubles Cape Farewell and impinges on the coast south of 69° N. lat., or occasionally in the intervening space where a wandering bear has been carried south on a broken-up floe. The reindeer, once killed in enormous quantities, is sharing the fate of the bear. Between 1845 and 1849 about 25,000 were shot annually, and 16,000 skins were exported. In 1872 there were not more than 1000 killed, and only 6 skins exported. It is now rarely seen in Mid Greenland. The number of foxes trapped averages 1500 per annum; in 1874 5000 were caught, chiefly between 60° and 61° N. lat. About 1000 white hares are killed. The true bird denizens of Greenland cannot be given at higher than 63, while 62 others are reported as stragglers. Of the denizens 5 belong to the Old World, 11 to the New World, 45 are common to both worlds, and 2 are doubtful. Only the raven, ptarmigan, hawk, owl, and a few sea-birds are resident all the year round; the rest are migratory. The ptarmigan is killed for food to the extent of about 12,000 per annum, while the number of eider ducks destroyed is so enormous that the export of eider down has fallen within the last twenty years from 5600 to 2000 ℔. Rink estimates the number killed annually at 20,000, and that of auks and smaller sea-fowl at 50,000. The eggs taken yearly, chiefly those of eider ducks, has been estimated at 50,000. Of the 79 or 80 fishes described from Greenland very few are peculiar to it; of these the shark (Somniosus microcephalus) is caught for the sake of the oil extracted from its liver, to the extent of from 16,000 to 20,000 per annum. The cod is a migratory fish, and is caught on the banks to the extent of 200,000 per annum, chiefly by the natives. A few salmon trout (Salmo carpio) are caught in the little lakes and brooks, while the large and small holibut, the red fish (Sebastes), and the nepisak (Cyclopterus lumpus) form a considerable portion of the food of the natives. The capelin (Mallotus villosus) is caught in enormous quantities (over 1½ million ℔ are dried annually), while a few smaller fish and mussels complete the tribute which the Eskimo take from the sea laving their barren shores. There are no reptiles or amphibians in Greenland, and the lists of invertebrata contain little of general interest.
The vegetation in the height of summer is, in favourable situations, profuse in individual plants, but scanty in species. The plants are of the usual arctic type, and identical with or allied to those found in Lapland or on the summits of the highest British hills. Forest there is none in all the country. In the north, where the lichen-covered or ice-shaven rocks do not protrude, the ground is covered with a carpet of mosses, creeping dwarf willows, crowberries, bilberries, and similar plants, while the flowers most common are the andromeda, the yellow poppy, pedicularis, pyrola, the Alpine rose (rhododendron), saxifrages (12 species), drabas, dryas, &c.; but in South Greenland there is something in the shape of bush,—the dwarf birches even rising a few feet in very sheltered places, and the vegetation is less arctic and more abundant. Altogether, 361 flowering plants, ferns, horse-tails, quillworts, and club mosses have been described, while the lists of cryptogamic plants, though very imperfect, show a profuse vegetation of the lowlier orders. No crops, in the strict acceptation of the term, are cultivated in Greenland, but at Godthaab attempts have been made to grow turnips, radishes, lettuce, and chervil in little gardens made with earth brought from the site of old Eskimo houses. Potatoes never grow larger than small marbles, while pease only produce seeds barely recognizable. At Nanortalik strawberries have been produced in a forcing frame, carrots matured tolerably well, and turnips have been grown weighing half a pound. Rhubarb grew vigorously, but could not be raised from seed, while cabbage leaves, under the most favourable circumstances, were poor and flavourless. In the north, radishes represent the highest triumph which horticulture has achieved. Flowers, owing to the long sunlight, grow very well indoors, but require great care, otherwise they soon die.
Government.—Excluding the extreme northern parts of Greenland, and the north-east coast, which may be claimed by the English, American, and Germans “by right of discovery,”—the trade of Greenland is a strict monopoly of the Danish crown, dating from 1774, and is at present administered in Copenhagen by a Government board, the “Kongelige Grönlandske Handel,”—and in the country by various officials in Government pay. In order to meet the double purposes of government and trade, the west coast, up to nearly 74° N. lat., is divided into two inspectorates, the southern extending to 67° 40′ N. lat., the northern comprising the rest of the country, their respective seats of government being at Godthaab and Godhavn. These inspectorates are ruled by two superior officials or governors responsible to the director of the board in Copenhagen. Each of the “inspectorates” is divided into “districts,” each district having, in addition to the capital or “coloni” (a hamlet containing three or four Danish dwellings, a storehouse, blubber-boiling house, in a few cases a Lutheran “missionair” or clergyman, a teacher, and a physician), several outlying posts and Eskimo hunting stations, each presided over by an “udligger,” who is responsible to the “colonibestyrer” or superintendent of the district. These trading settlements, which dot the coast for a distance of 1000 miles, are about 60 in number, and collect the products from 176 inhabited places. From these Eskimo hunting and fishing stations blubber is the chief article received, in parcels weighing from 50 to 100 ℔, and forwarded in casks to the “coloni,” where it is boiled into oil, and prepared for being despatched to Copenhagen by means of the Government sailing ships, which arrive and leave between May and November. For the rest of the year all navigation is stopped, though the winter months form the busy seal-killing season. The principle which the Government acts upon is to give the natives low prices for their produce, but to sell them European articles of necessity at prime cost, and other stores, such as bread, at prices which will scarcely pay for the purchase and freight, while no merchandize is charged, on an average, more than 20 per cent. over the cost price in Denmark. In addition, the Greenland people are allowed to order goods from private dealers, on paying freight for them at the rate of 2½d. per 10 ℔, or 1s. 6d. per cubic foot. The prices to be paid for European articles are fixed every year, the prices current in Danish and Eskimo being printed and distributed by the Government. According to a calculation, founded on the average of the last few years, about 22 per cent. of the value in the European market is paid for the products in Greenland. Out of the payment five-sixths are given to the sellers, and one-sixth devoted to the Greenlander's public fund, spent in “public works,” in charity, and on other unforeseen contingencies. The object of the monopoly is solely for the good of the Greenlanders,—to prevent spirits being sold to them, and the vice, disease, and misery, which usually attend the collision between civilization of the trader's type and barbarism, being introduced into the primitive arctic community. The inspectors are, in addition to being trade superintendents, magistrates, but serious crime is practically unknown; while the cases of theft which have occurred within a decade are so few that they are held in recollection as historical events. The “vices of civilization” are few, and its diseases unknown. The Danish officials are mostly men of considerable intelligence, and all of good character, though their pay is small. The inspector receives £328 and a residence; the average salaries of the 11 “colonibestyrere” are £250, of the 18 clerks—“assistants” or “volunteers”—£106, besides residence, fuel, and attendance. In addition there are about 182 “ulliggers,” seamen, mechanics, &c., each receiving an average of £25 a year, besides, in the case of the outpost traders, a percentage on their trade. Though the officials are all-powerful, yet, owing to the exertions of Dr Rink, local councils or “parsissaet” were organized in 1857 in every district. To these parish parliaments delegates are sent from every station,—shrewd men, wise in council, and well acquainted with the wants of the Grennlanders. These “parsissoks”—elected at the rate of about one representative to 120 voters—wear a cap with a badge (a bear rampant), and aid the European members of the council in distributing the surplus profit apportioned to each district, and generally in advising as to the welfare of that part of Greenland under their partial control. In 1873 there were deposited, in a savings bank established in Greenland, £200 as contributions for the support of illegitimate children; £199, 10s., sums gained by inheritance or by other unforeseen circumstances; £791, savings from wages, chiefly those of the Europeans; and £121, savings of the Eskimo, or half-bloods. But thrift is the least prominent feature in the Eskimo character. The “municipal council” has the disposal of 20 per cent. of the annual profits made on produce purchased within the confines of each district. It holds two sessions every year, and the discussions are entirely in the Eskimo language. In addition to their functions as guardians of the poor, the parish M.P.'s have to investigate crimes and punish misdemeanours, settle litigations and divide inheritances. They can impose fines for small offences not worth sending before the inspector, and, in cases of high misdemeanour, have the power of inflicting corporal punishment. During the first ten or twelve years the following causes were submitted to trial:—one single case of having in passion occasioned the death of a person, and another of openly threatening; five or six instances of grosser theft or cheating, and as many of concealment of birth and crimes relating to matrimony; every year a few petty thefts, and instances of making use of the tools of others without permission, or of like disorders; and several trifling litigations.
Trade.—The trade of Greenland is entirely confined to that part of the coast colonized by the Danes,—the rude natives of Smith Sound and the east coast contributing nothing to the world's riches. Neither do the civilized people of any other nation trade on the coast, the English “Greenland seal and whale fishery” being a misnomer, for the “fisheries” are pursued on the west coast of Davis Strait and Baffin's Bay, and in the sea between Jan Mayen and Spitzbergen, and occasionally within sight of the east coast of Greenland. Taking the Greenland trade as confined to the west coast, we find, according to the calculations of Rink, that the earnings of the 1877 families of Eskimo under the Danish crown are on an average £15,016 per annum,—giving each family an average annual income of £8 from the produce of the hunt sold to the royal officials. These payments are made in paper notes used as a currency in Greenland. During the twenty years 1853-72, excluding cryolite, the average annual exports consisted of 1185 tuns of oil, 35,439 seal-skins, 1436 fox-skins, 41 bear-skins, 811 waterproof jackets, 1003 waterproof trousers, 3533 ℔ raw eider down, 6900 ℔ feathers, 2300 ℔ whalebone, 550 ℔ narwhal ivory, 87 ℔ walrus ivory, 1817 reindeer hides. During the period 1870-74 the mean annual value of the products received from Greenland was £45,600; that of the cargoes sent thither, £23,844; and the mean expenditure on the ships and crews, £8897. Not including the royalty paid by the company which exports the cryolite (from 1853 to 1874 equal to £58,924), the average profit of the Greenland trade was, for the 21 years between 1853 and 1874, about £6600 yearly. The capital sunk in the “royal trade” is calculated at £64,426; and, taking the whole amount of net revenues from the present trade during the period between 1790 to 1875, the interest on the capital as well as the income from the cryolite royalty being subtracted, the present “direktor” of the Kongelige Grönlandske Handel considers that £160,000 has been earned.
Trading Districts and Census.—A Danish “coloni” in Greenland is not at the best of times a cheerful place, though, in the long days of summer, some of those in the fjords of South Greenland are comparatively pleasant. The houses are almost invariably built of wood, pitched over, and built more for warmth than for appearance. In addition to the three or four Danish houses—the usual number at the chief settlement—there are from 20 or 30 to 300 or 400 Eskimo at the place. They usually live in huts built of turf and stone, each entered by a short tunnel, which in most respects are an improvement over the primitive dwellings of the race elsewhere (see Eskimo). In South Greenland there are seven trading districts; in North Greenland five. From Cape Farewell northward these are as follows. Julianchaab had in 1870 2570 inhabitants, and 8 trading stations. Of the inhabitants, 1056 belonged in 1872 to the Moravian mission settlements, which do not extend much farther north, the other clergy being members of the Danish Church, between whom and the “Herrnhutians” something of the odium theologicum exists. In this district also are the remains of the old Norse settlements of Red Erik, his contemporaries, and his successors. Frederikshaab has six trading stations, which collect about 68 tuns of oil and 1000 seal-skins annually. The population in 1870 was 821; at Ivigtut, in this district, are the cryolite mines. Godthaab has 999 people, 6 stations, and a trade return of 74 tuns of oil and 1000 seal-skins annually. It is the most southern station for eider down, and formerly also for reindeer skins. Cod-fish were also once caught here in great abundance, but this business is now almost abandoned. Godthaab “coloni” is the chief settlement in Greenland. Besides the usual trade officials, one or two Danish missionaries who manage the seminary, and two or three Moravian missionaries [at Ny Herrnhut], the royal inspector of South Greenland, and the physician for the northern part of it reside in this place. In addition to the seminary, Godthaab has a church, of rather imposing appearance for Greenland, but too large for the community, and built of bricks, a material very little suited to the country. The houses of the natives, almost all with sloping roofs of boards, look very pretty, but at Ny Herrnhut they offer a sad appearance. The latter station has a two-storied building, containing accommodation for the missionaries, schoolroom, and church or meeting hall as it is called. At Lichtenfels is another Moravian settlement, but the community has within the last thirty years decreased to one-half, and, owing chiefly to the indiscreet asceticism demanded from their flock by these unworldly men and women, is perhaps the most destitute of material comfort of any in Greenland. In this district are also found Norse ruins, part of the region having been the Vester Bygd of the Icelanders, just as that further south was their Öster Bygd. Sukkertoppen is one of the loftiest and most picturesque districts. It yields about 92 tuns of oil and 1000 seal-skins, also some cod-fish, a few reindeer, and most of the eider down of the country. It has six trading posts and 765 people. Holstenborg has four trading posts, and now yields about 60 tuns of oil and 400 seal-skins, besides whalebone and eider down. There are 545 inhabitants. In 67° 40′ N. lat. Nagsutok or North Ström Fjord forms the boundary between South and North Greenland; the settlements which follow are therefore in the latter inspectorate. Egedesminde is in a state of decadence, the present production being about 74 tuns of oil and 3400 seal-skins collected annually by six stations. In 1870 the population was 1008, the greater number living at the chief settlement of the same name. Christianshaab has four trading posts, which collect from 481 inhabitants 110 tuns of oil and 1700 seal-skins. Christianshaab is one of the pleasantest
districts in North Greenland, the valley on the opposite side of the harbour from the “coloni” abounding with crowberries and bilberries, and bright in July with the blue and yellow arctic flowers. Claushavn is the chief post, and derives its support from the seals killed among the enormous crop of icebergs poured out by the great Jakobshavn ice fjord. Many of the bergs ground here until they are lifted by spring tides and carried by the wind out into Baffin's Bay. Jakobshavn has eight stations, collecting 104 tuns of oil and 900 seal-skins from 424 people. Godhavn, on Disco Island, was at one time a seat of the whale trade, in 1798 no less than 20 whales having been caught there; but this industry has now entirely ceased, the last whale caught by the Government officials being in 1851. Its chief importance is in the fact that Godhavn (or Lievely) is the seat of the Government of North Greenland, and the place at which exploring and whaling vessels often call. Its trade is insignificant, the district returning on an average only about 30 tuns of oil and 400 seal-skins; the settlement has for many years been actually a loss to the Government. There are in the district 245 people, who are perhaps the least industrious and self-reliant of all the Greenlanders. Ritenbenk has five stations, returning 116 tuns of oil and 3500 seal-skins, collected by 447 people. Umanak is one of the most profitable districts,—the “coloni” with its six outposts returning to the “royal trade” about 180 tuns of oil and 8300 seal-skins, collected from 798 people. Upernivik is the most northern district, its limits being those of the natives belonging to the Danish settlements. It is very profitable,—its average return being 148 tuns of oil and 6500 seal-skins, besides eider down and bear skins, with formerly a considerable quantity of reindeer-skins. In 1870 there were 702 people in the district, the chief of the outposts being Proven (“the experiment”), and Tasiusak (73° 24′ N. lat.), the most northern Danish trading post, and the most northern permanent abode of civilized men or women, for the trader has a Danish wife with him. “To a European female,” writes the director of the Royal Greenland Board of Trade, “this indeed seems to be one of the most melancholy places of residence that can be found.” In the service of the Danish mission there were in 1870 53 appointed teachers, besides several other teachers classed as seal hunters or fishers. In the service of the royal trade were 12 outpost traders, 15 head men and “boatswains,” 14 carpenters and smiths, 19 coopers, 15 cooks, 54 sailors and labourers, besides 10 pensioners and 33 midwives; 5 officers were enumerated as natives, but 3 of them are more properly Europeans. In the same year the Europeans numbered 237, of whom 95 were engaged in the trade, 8 were Danish and 11 Moravian missionaries, and 38 lived at the cryolite mine; the rest were women and children. Altogether there were in 1870 9825 people in Danish Greenland (including 9408 natives), and in 1878 9800. The details of the latter census are not published, but they do not in any material manner alter those just given. The inhabitants of the east coast are not believed to exceed 800 if so many, and yearly this number is being lessened by immigration to the Danish settlements on the west coast. The natives of the shores of Smith Sound, north of Melville Bay, number about 200; and it is satisfactory to learn that of late these ἔσχατοι ἀνδρῶν are not decreasing. Their most northern settlement is Etah. From the information of the Eskimo, Hans Hendrik, it appears that Dr Kane was in error in asserting that the Smith Sound natives knew nothing of those to the south of the glaciers of Melville Bay.
History.—Greenland was first landed on about the year 986 by Erikr Rauthi or Red Erik, a banished Icelandic jarl, though some time previously the country had been sighted by Ulf Kraku, another Icelander. Erik and his house early settled at Brattelid,—the present Eskimo station of Igaliko,—situated on an isthmus between two fjords, believed to be the Erik's and Einar's Fjords of the old sagas, where to this day can be traced the walls of about seventeen dwellings, one of which bears evidence of having been Erik's house. Other settlers followed, and among these was Bjarni, son of Herjulf, one of Erik's companions, whose home was probably at Herjulf's Ness, opposite the Moravian settlement of Frederiksdal, where have been found tombs containing wooden coffins, with skeletons wrapped in coarse hairy cloth, and both pagan and Christian tombstones with runic inscriptions. This Bjarni, in his wanderings, discovered the continent of America (Vinland), and, among these who were attracted hither was Leif, who went ashore near where the town of Taunton now stands. After this there is said to have been a considerable trade between Norway and America, and between both countries and the Greenland colonists. The latter even penetrated to 73° N. lat. as early as the year 1235, and left a small runic stone recording the event. Christianity was introduced, and Arnold appointed the first bishop, in 1126; and Greenland, like Iceland, had a republican organization up to the year 1261, when Hakon Hakonsen, king of Norway, induced the Greenlanders to swear allegiance to him. Henceforth they were Norwegian subjects, and their country one of the queen's domains. From that day may be dated the beginning of their decay and final disappearance as colonists, though the black death, foreign enemies, and the attacks of the Eskimo, who about this period burst upon the colonies from the north, had something to do with it. These settlements were called respectively the Easter Bygd or Building and the Wester Bygd, both being now known to be on the west coast, though for long the view was persistently held that the first was on the east coast, and numerous expeditions have been sent in search of these “lost colonies” and their imaginary survivors. The last bishop appointed to Greenland died in 1540, but long before that date those appointed had never reached their sees. The country had also been visited by a hostile fleet (believed to be English), and about the end of the 15th century it would appear that all colonization had ceased. When in 1585 John Davis visited it there was no sign of any people save the Eskimo, among whose traditions are one or two relating to the old Norsemen. For more than 200 years Greenland seems to have been neglected—almost forgotten. It was visited by whalers, chiefly Dutch, but nothing in the form of permanent settlements was established until the year 1721, when the first missionary, Hans Egede, landed. Amid many hardships and discouragements he persevered; and at the present day the remnant of the native race is civilized and Christianized, instead of wild and pagan, as they were when he arrived among them. The colonists of the 18th century were, many of them, convicts and other offenders; and the trade was a monopoly in the hands of private individuals. In 1733-34 there was a dreadful epidemic of small-pox which destroyed an immense number of the people. In 1774 the trade ceased to be profitable as a private monopoly, and to prevent it being abandoned the Government took it over. In 1807-14, owing to the war, communication was cut off with Denmark; but since that date the country has been prospering in a languid fashion, though, if the Government ceased its fostering care, the Eskimo, and with them what trade is carried on, must become extinct.
Of late years, the northern part of the country has been explored by Inglefield (1852), Kane (1853-55), Hayes (1860-61), Hall (1871-73), and to some extent by Nares (1875-76), whose discovery of the probable northern termination of the country in about 83° N. lat. had been already presaged theoretically. The east coast has been explored by Scoresby (1822), Clavering (1823), Graah (1829-30), the German expedition (1869-70), and Mourier (1879), while the interior has been penetrated for a short way by the Danes, Americans, English, and Swedes whose names have been noted above, and by others. In like manner, the scientific history of the country has been investigated by a host of savants from the days of Fabricius to our own, whose names are too numerous to recount, though, in the works above quoted, these are given either directly or indirectly. For further information see the articles Eskimo and Polar Regions. (R. B.)
- Journal of a Voyage to the Northern Whale Fishery (1823).
- Reise til Östkysten af Grönland (1832; trans. by G. Gordon Macdougall, 1837).
- Koldeway, Die zweite deutsche Nordpolarfahrt (1873-75).
- Berggren, Öfv. Kongl. Vet. Akad. Förh., 1871, p. 293.
- Full accounts of these explorations are given by Brown in Arctic Papers of the R. G. S. (1875), and in “Das Innere von Grönland” (Petermann's Mittheilungen, 1871), as well as in “Physics of Arctic Ice” (Quarterly Journal of the Geol. Soc., 1869).
- Geograph. Magazine, 1878, p. 282; Deutsche Geog. Blätter, 1878; Die zweite deutsche Nordpolarfahrt (1873), &c.
- Fauna Groenlandica (1780), p. 4; Nordenskjöld, Redogörelse för en Expedition till Grönland år 1870 (1871), also translated in Geolog. Mag. (1873), and Nordenskjöld's Arctic Voyages (1879); Rink, “Om Grönlands Inland” (No. 9, Fra Videnskabens Verden, 1875), Danish Greenland (1877), and Grönland geographisk og statistisk beskrevet (1857); Helland, Ueber die Gletscher Nordgrönlands und die Bildung der Eisberge (1877); and the various works and memoirs cited by Brown in Arctic Papers of R. G. S. (1875).
- Analyses in Heer's Flora Fossilis Arctica, vol. i. p. 5, and Brown, Trans. Geol. Soc. Glasgow, vol. v. p. 43. See also Moss, Proc. Roy. Dub. Soc., 1877, and Feilden and Rance, Quart. Journ. Geol. Soc., 1878, p. 563; Appendix to Koldeway, Zweite deutsche Nordpolarfahrt, vol. ii. p. 510; K. J. V. Steenstrup, Viddenskab. Medd. fra den naturhistoriske Forening i Kjöbenhavn, 1874, p. 77, and 1875, p. 284; Rink, Om den geog. Beskaffenhed af de danske Handelsdistrikter i Nordgrönland (1852) ; Giesecke's Mineralogiske Rejse i Grönland, by Professor Johnstrup (1878), &c.
- Hoffmeyer, Geog. Mag., 1877, p. 225; Nares, Ibid., p. 316.
- For additional details regarding temperature, see Rink, lib. cit. (1877), pp. 56, 372; the Collectanea Meteorologica of the Copenhagen Meteorological Institute; the Admiralty's Manual and Instructions for the Arctic Expedition of 1875, pp. 613-749; and Nordenskjöld, Oesterreich. Ges. Met. Zeit., 1872, pp. 114-142.
- Newton, Manual and Instructions (1875), p. 94.
- See Manual and Instructions for the Arctic Expedition of 1875, and the papers there by Brown, Newton, Lütken, Reinhardt, Schjödte, Mörch, and others, abstracted with corrections in the appendix to Rink, lib. cit. (1877), numerous memoirs and papers in the Danish scientific journals and transactions, Jeffrey's and Carpenter's report of the “Valorous” expedition (Proc. Roy. Soc., vol. xxv.), the appendix to Nares's Voyage to Polar Seas, 1875-76, and the references in these works and in appendix to Nordenskjöld's Voyages, 1879.
- See the appendix to Rink, lib. cit., the references to papers there given, those printed in the Manual already referred to, and the memoirs of Berggren, Fries, and Agardh in the Transactions of the Upsala and Stockholm Academies, 1861-74. A flora of Greenland is in preparation by Prof. Lange.
- Danish Greenland (1877), p. 355, corrected by recent Government returns and private correspondence.
- Feilden, Appendix to Nares, lib. cit., vol. ii. p. 187; Narrative of “Polaris” N. Polar Expedition, p. 477, &c.
- This stone, not much bigger than a hone, was until recently in the Copenhagen Museum of Northern Antiquities. It was stolen, however, and the priceless monument is now only represented by a model.
- Fenger, Bidrag til Hans Egedes og den grönlandske Missions Historie, 1721-1760 (1879).
- Brown, Arctic Papers of R. G. S. (1875), p. 70.
- “The Physical Structure of Greenland” (Arctic Papers of R. G. S., pp. 1-73); see also for history the works catalogued in Chavannes, Karpfs, and Le Monniers, Die Literatur über die Polar- Regionen der Erde (1878).