The Greenland Party

Greenland Facts and Figures

'Vatsaaq’ and its environs are fictitious. Most of the other place-names used, in Greenland and elsewhere, are authentic, as is the general background to the story. The map below of Greenland shows the supposed location of ‘Vatsaaq’:

IGEOGRAPHY, POPULATION and SETTLEMENT

     Greenland is a vast country, the largest island in the World at 2.1m square kilometres. However, 80% of it is permanently covered by ice. This is 8km thick in the geographical centre. The population is tiny – there are only about 55,000 people. Nine-tenths of these are Greenlanders, descended from Inuit from North America who settled in the country a thousand years ago, with an admixture of 18c settlers from Europe. There were earlier European settlers who arrived at about the same time as the Inuit, but after reaching a population of about 4,000, these died out during the 15c. Most of the rest of the inhabitants are Danes. These generally stay in the country for comparatively short periods, although there has been much intermarriage since about 1950. The first settlers were Paleo-Eskimo hunters who spread around much of the Arctic around 2,500 BCE, but these did not survive. The climate is Arctic or Sub-Arctic and rarely gets into double figures even in the height of summer. There is progressively less precipitation further north.

 

THE MIDNIGHT SUN

     Through part of June and July, there would be ‘Midnight Sun’ at the supposed latitude of Vatsaaq. During that time the sun would never fall below the horizon. Even in late August and early September, when THE GREENLAND PARTY is set, the Sun would be in the sky for about fifteen hours. In contrast, the days would be very short in the depths of winter.

 

POLITICS and LATER HISTORY

     European contact with Greenland was not re-established until 1721, and the economy was very largely poor and self-supporting for the next two centuries. There was no contact between the West and the sparsely populated East until the late 19c. Links with Denmark were lost during the Second World War, although the USA gave some support and established a military base in the north of the country. In 1953 the Danish constitution was amended to make Greenland an integral part of the country and towns received modern facilities for the first time. Since then the country has been heavily subsidised by Denmark. In 1979 Home Rule was established by virtue of a Danish Act of Parliament. This transferred the right of the Danish Folketing to decide over Greenlandic affairs to the Greenland Landsting. Most areas of administration were handed over to the Greenland Home Rule Government. The exceptions were foreign and defence policies, the police and the administration of justice.

 

LANGUAGES

     The standard language is Greenlandic, which is closely related to the languages spoken by the Inuit of Northern Canada, Alaska, and Siberia. Written Greenlandic has existed for about 200 years, and there is a multi-purpose, common literary language for the whole of Greenland. Standard Greenlandic is based on West Greenlandic, the language spoken in various sub-dialects by most of the Inuit population. Other dialects are East Greenlandic and the Polar-Eskimo dialect spoken in the North. Danish is a very important language for business and administration.