Friday 18 December 2009


I thought I’d post something entirely different tonight. Something which I came about by accident, but is, at least for me, fascinating.

I was doing a little research whilst on the phone to my mum tonight about how you pronounce the Danish capital city’s name. (It turns out to be Kopen-Hay-Gen... and not Kopen-Ha-Gen, as both my mum and I had thought, but that is beside the point of this post.) A little more research about Denmark brought me to Kalaallit Nunaat, or Greenland, and its recent semi-independence from Denmark.

Internationally, on June 21, 2009, Greenland assumed self-determination with responsibility for self-government of judicial affairs, policing, and natural resources. Also, Greenlanders were recognized as a separate people under unofficial international law. Denmark maintains control of finances, foreign affairs, and defence. It is a step towards full independence from rule from Denmark. The sole official language of Greenland became Greenlandic. I thought that it would be nice if this was happening to Scotland. (Well obviously without Greenlandic becoming our national language.)

The long history of the island can be read in various places on the net, but there is a relatively good article on Wikipedia, but a couple of things were of immense interest to me. Firstly, that the United States of America wanted to buy Greenland from Denmark in 1947. It seems that the States were interested in the position of the country during the cold war. The sum offered was $100,000,000, a fair old amount of money in these days.

The second thing was the photographs I was seeing on the Wiki site and associated pages. I have included a few of them here for your delectation. Of course I had seen pictures of Greenland before, and I was aware of the fact that the Greenlanders did not live in igloos, but my memory is of scattered communities with brightly coloured houses built on rocky slopes. However, the centre of the capital city (the most northern in the world) Nuuk (previously Gothab) was a bit of a surprise to me.

It looks like a lovely place. Seems to me that it would be fun to go there on holiday sometime.


  1. I've a pal who alternates between Greenland and Iceland for her annual holidays. She's done it for years and loves both places but says they're too expensive for her to live on her pension.

  2. Years ago at university i did a paper on a group of Inuit in Greenland who (if I remember correctly) called themselves the Anamasalik. In summer they would go foraging, hunting, and fishing in small family groups. In winter these families would come together on the coast and build shacks out of driftwood.

    Winters were long, cold, and dark. Light was provided by burning oil from blubber and was a scarce commodity. So to preserve oil and provide entertainment they had a game called: "the putting out of the lights". The lamps would be extinguished and participants were free to grab anyone in the darkness and do the wild thang.

    This was before Europe's civilizing influence of course.

  3. Afternoon Subrosa:

    Sounds great. From what I read prices in Greenland are kept "down" to Danish levels so, despite the country's remoteness and the fact that most stuff has to be imported, people like us could afford to be there and live modestly for a very short time. I wonder how long that will continue under the new devolution max, and eventual independence!

    Iceland, on the other hand, has been incredibly expensive. Because of the fall in value of the Krona, Europeans, Japanese and Americans are finding it much more affordable at the moment, but of course, the pound has also lost a vast amount of its value so it's not doing us much good......

  4. Scunnert.

    Interesting story about the "putting out of the lights" These old traditions always had a practical application.

    But it's always good to hear of the Europeans going somewhere and doing some civilising. They are so, erm, good at it.

    At least the Greenlanders were lucky. They got Scandanavians. We got the English!

    Seriously it looks like an interesting country, perched away on the edge of the world, in a difficult goegraphical and climatic environment and yet with a determination to be independent.

    You got snow yet?

  5. Tris - not much snow yet - just a dusting last night. It's been pretty mild here so far with -20 c being the coldest day. I expect we'll be dumped on fairly soon and then it'll be three months of hell. Don't think I'd like Greenland in the winter.

  6. BRRRRRRRR.... Minus 20c...

    Nuuk is 0c at the moment, so you'd be better off there.....

  7. Scunnert: You probably noticed we've had a couple of inches of snow in the UK and the whole country has done its usual collapsing act.

    The tv news is all about weather.... Amazing. How do they manage in other countries?

  8. Danny, 1st Earl of the OzarksDecember 20, 2009 2:23 pm

    Looks like a lovely and interesting place for a summer visit. It seems that America has a habit of making offers to buy large tracts of arctic real estate. In 1867, Secretary of State Seward closed the deal with Russia for the purchase of Alaska for $7.2 million. I had no idea that just 80 years later Denmark declined our "generous" offer of $100 million for Greenland. The ravages of inflation I suppose, even adjusting for the 40% larger land mass of Greenland.

    I loved Scunnert's story of "the putting out of the lights." I enjoyed variations of this game in college, but had no idea that I was observing an old arctic tradition.

  9. LOL @ the Earl:

    I bet you put some lights out at college!

    Yes. I'd love to go there some day. We could have bloggers convention in Nuuk. I absolutely love that building with the spiral staircase in the front on to the pavement. Meet you there!

    I love the idea of the country's name meaning The Land of the People. Not a very British concept, I'm afraid. I wonder what it would have been like had Denmark decided to sell. Another Alaska? By now, would it be a 51st state? Would they all have been forced to give up their language?

    I think I like it the way that it is.