Greenland is regarded by geographers as the world’s largest island. It is almost three times larger than the second largest island, New Guinea, but an ice sheet, the world’s second largest after Antarctic, covers more than 85% if its area. Settlement is confined to the rocky coast. The warmer southwest coast, where the capital Nuuk (Godthaab) is situated, has more than seven months with average temperatures below freezing.

Greenland became a Danish possession in 1380 and an integral part of the Danish kingdom in 1953. It was taken into the European Economic Community in 1973, despite a majority of Greenlanders voting against this. In 1979, after another referendum, home rule was introduced, with full internal elf-government in 1981. In 1985, Greenland withdrew from the EEC, halving the Community’s land area.

Greenland still relies heavily on Danish aid and Denmark is its main trading partner. THe chief rural occupations are sheep-rearing and fishing, with shrimps, prawns and molluscs being exported. The only major manufacturing industry is fish canning, which has drawn many Inuit. Few Inuit now follow the traditional life of nomadic hunting. Most Greenlanders live precariously between the primitive and the modern. Yet a nationalist mood prevails, buoyed by rich fish stocks, lead and zinc from Uummannaq in the north-west, untapped uranium in the south, and possibly, oil in the east.

In addition, an adventure oriented tourist industry is expanding. In 1997, the nationalist resurgence was evident when Greenland made Inuit name forms official.