According to DISEASESLEARNING, Greenland is the largest Arctic territory and at the same time (2,175,600 sq km) the largest island on earth. From C. Morris Jesup (83 ° 40 ′ N.) to C. Farvel a S. (59 ° 45 ′ N.) it has a maximum length of 2650 km; the width varies considerably, as the wholesale island develops in the shape of a quadrilateral (to the north) and a triangle (to the south), joined on one of their sides (maximum width 1050 km.). Open sea areas and wide canals isolate it from the nearby masses, but to the NW. the North American archipelago approaches it up to a few km. (Land of Ellesmere, Land of Grant), while also on the opposite side, at a relatively small distance (about 300 km.), A large island (Iceland) faces it.
Exploration. – The history of the most ancient knowledge around Greenland in Europe can be deduced from various and not always concordant Icelandic chronicles of the advanced Middle Ages. The island was discovered around 900 AD. C. by one of the Norwegian settlers of Iceland, Gunnbiorn son of Ulf; the discovery followed from 982 to 984, the first settlement by Erik Rauda (Erico the Red), who, turning west the Farvel Cape, gave the green land along the narrow coastal edge the auspicious name of Grönland (Green Earth). Other settlements then followed and distributed all along the SW coast. of the large island, where this was best accessible, ended up giving rise to two distinct districts, the Oesterbygd (from Cape Farvel up to about 61 ° N.) and Vesterbygd (from 63 ° to 66 ° 30 ‘), both in the more sheltered and more habitable part of the island. The number of settlers – Icelandic and Norwegian – grew so much to reach, in the time of their greatest fortune (that is to say in the 13th century), two or three thousand; they also had their own bishopric in Gardar, which lasted active from 1126 to 1377; it is also probable that during this epoch of civilization the most daring pushed their explorations to the north for fishing reasons, especially along the west coast. Iceland and the most remote homeland Norway remained until the century. XV in relation to these distant avant-gardes of their people, but already due to the difficult communications the elected bishops no longer reached the see of Gardar, and from 1410 also all regular navigation with Europe ceased. Near the end of the century. XV we can say the lost colony,
New contacts with the island start again with the century. XVI – that is to say after the American discovery -, perhaps first touching the Portuguese expedition of Gaspare Cortereal (1500), then with more lasting recognition the English Frobisher, Davis, Baffin, headed in search of the north-west passage. Martin Frobisher touches the W coast in 1578; John Davis meets in 1585 the coast which he calls the Land of Desolation just to the NE. of Cape Farvel and in 1587 sailed along the western shore for more than 1500 km. discovering it up to 72 ° 15 ‘; William Baffin in 1616 with particularly fortunate navigation continues further to N. arriving up to the entrance (not revealed at the time as such) of the Smith Sound at 78 °. But beyond the English, and not for the search for the passage of NO. but out of interest in the Greenlandic land itself and the ancient Scandinavian settlers, perhaps not yet extinct, the Dano-Norwegians sail to the great island: some expeditions at the time of Christian III (late sixteenth and early seventeenth century) try to land on the east coast where they they believed the old medieval colonies existed; J. Hall, on the other hand, arrives with greater luck in the western one. But only a century later the Danes finally managed to put their foot down there, when in 1721 Hans Egede, a Norwegian shepherd fervent in the idea of trying the old colonization, with the support of King Frederick IV returned to the west coast and there settles, starting the new Danish possession with a first factory that soon became Godthåb. L’ Egede stayed there for 14 years teaching the Eskimos civil customs and trust of exchanges, exploring the coast further north and founding or starting new establishments. Missionaries and merchants and government agents who came later extended the coastal occupation in the same century. XVIII with regular establishments (Christianshåb, Jakobshavn, Frederikshåb, etc.) up to Upernivik.
Thus pushed forward the colonization of the western strip, with the beginning of the century. XIX began and rapidly progressed by the Danish navy and above all thanks to WH Graah, the precision surveys; the German CL Gieseke from 1806 to 1813 begins the first mineralogical and geological investigations, various Scandinavian scholars deepen the archaeological research; numerous naturalists prelude with their research to the great work of Danish H. Rink, which constitutes the fundamental scientific study of the entire colonized strip of the island (1848-55). Six thousand and more km. of coasts surveyed, studies and topographic and geological maps also attest to the activity of the Danish government and scientists throughout the occupied territory in the following period.
But in the meantime the knowledge of the boundary of the great land was greatly improving. The chap. Inglefield, English, sailing in 1852 to N. of the last northern term reached by the Baffin more than two centuries earlier, discovered the entrance to the Smith Sound, and opened the way – as well as the future achievement of the Pole, which will be accomplished in 1909 – discovering the entire northern tour of the Greenland coasts: the Americans E. Kane in 1853-55, I. Hayes in 1861, F. Hall in 1871, Lieutenant Beaumont of the English Nares expedition in 1876, Lieutenant Lockwood of the American expedition Greely in 1882, each added new stretches of coast discovered more and more in the north, the last of these reaching up to lat. of 83 ° 24 ‘. Having now almost reached the Northern Greenlandic term here, new touches added in 1886 and in the following years the discoveries of the American RE Peary; in 1892 he also tried, starting from the Inglefield gulf, the internal ice to avoid the painful tour of the long coastal indentations and thus succeeded in a completely new northern coastal stretch that appeared to him the outlet of a large canal (Independence Channel), where the edge of the large island already appears to turn from the extreme north to the east.
This whole series of modern discoveries, which from the first of the Inglefield to this outlet of the Peary on the north-east coast, reveal in forty years the whole NO boundary. and N. of Greenland, is accompanied by another series of discoveries, much slower and more difficult, along the E. limb always protected by dangerous ice barriers. The only one that before the century. XIX had recognized a fairly long stretch of coast here was the famous English discoverer Henry Hudson who, sailing for Holland in 1607, had followed the usually inaccessible shore from 70 ° to 73 ° N for about three degrees. late chap. Graah managed in 1828 to penetrate close to the coast with a village boat from Cape Farvel, detecting each point in detail for 700 km. up to 65 ° 30 ‘; the Scottish whaler Scoresby had been able to touch the coast a few hundred kilometers the previous year. further to N. and to detect in part with great accuracy the contour between 69 ° 13 ‘and 75 ° 12’, followed a year later in the same neighborhood by DC Clavering, also English, and by the scientist E. Sabine. But these fruitful expeditions of the first decades of the century followed forty years without any more ship being able to overcome the hedge of the coastal ice, so that, when the western Greenland shore had already been climbed up to 81 ° (Hayes, 1861), along the east all is unknown beyond the point reached by Scoresby, not only that, but considerable unexplored or badly explored gaps also remain in S. The lively propaganda conducted in Germany by geographer A. Petermann finally attracts once again the ‘ pay attention to these unexplored places; after a first attempt of the ship Germany, which in 1868 barely caught a glimpse of the coast, the same ship, led by Capt. K. Koldewey, was able in 1869 – while his partner Hansa was lost in the ice – to reach Sabine Island and, after wintering, to discover and explore the imposing Franz Joseph fjord; the Austrian J. Payer, in charge of the expedition, reached Cape Bismarck almost at 77 ° 30 ′ with the sleds further N.
In the following years, until the end of the century, no other notable expeditions are to be recorded along the difficult coast, except those of the Danish navy lieutenant Amdrup, who in ’98 and ’99 managed to explore the still so little known stretch between 65 ° and 70 °, and that of the Swedish scientist AG Nathorst who in ’99 added new discoveries and precise reconnaissance in the Franz Joseph fjord and in the others further south up to a latitude of 70 °. But the sec. XX finally gives the impetus to the decisive explorations destined to fill the large white space still existing in the maps for the whole NE. of the island from Cape Bismarck to the Independence Channel discovered by Peary. Duke Filippo d’Orléans first, with the Belgica ship(led for the scientific part by the Belgian explorer A. De Gerlache), he discovers the stretch from Cape Bismarck up to 78 ° 17 ‘in a happy campaign in the summer of 1900. Then, in a single expedition lasting three years (1906-1908), the Danish Mylius Erichsen, moving from his ship Danmark anchored to Cape Bismarck, deliberated to complete the circumnavigation of the island but forced to make a very long tour by the unexpected extension of the contour with a large protrusion towards the NE., it reaches with extreme difficulty in March 1907 Cape Bridgman already reached by Peary, a triumph later paid for, in the disastrous return, with death from running out of food. Eynar Mikkelsen in a further exploration in 1910-11 happily finds again the diary and the cards of the heroic explorer. Greenland was thus recognized in almost all of its very long outline.
The large armor of the inlandsis, of the internal ice which, covering the whole island (except for the more or less narrow coastal edge), forbids human dwellings for such a vast space, was not the object of any attempted exploration until the middle of the century. . XIX, when the desire arose to know the extent, perhaps not compact, of the immense icy cap and its altitude, physical and climatic conditions, movements, etc. These attempts, also dangerous to human lives, begin with the aforementioned H. Rink from 1848 to ’51; in 1870 EA Nordenskjöld extends up to 56 km. reaching 610 m. of altitude, in 1878 Jensen goes to heights of 3000 m. on the so-called nunatakkers who rise with their rocky backs out of the mantle of ice; in 1883 the Nordenskjöld renews the attempt going up to 120 km. inland from the shore of the Strait of Davis, in 1886 he attempted the Peary from the shore of Smith Sound; finally in 1888 Fridtjof Nansen, departed from Umivik (64 ° 25 ‘) descends to the west coast after 42 days of crossing (560 km.). The German E. v. Drigalsky (1891-92); traverses the island again the Peary, as already mentioned, in 1892 from 77 ° 30 ′ (Smith Sound) reaching the Independence Channel at 81 ° 87 ′, and then repeats the crossing twice more (1895 and 1912) in not very different latitudes; another more southern crossing (this in the direction E.-O.) is due to JP Koch and A. Wegener (former companions of Erichsen), transited where the island is widest from Cape Bismarck to Pröven on the west coast, miraculously safe after 1200 km. of paths (1913); another still much more to S. is due to A. de Quervain (1912).
A systematic series of explorations led after 1912 the Greenlandic scholar Knud Rasmussen, to which the Danish Lauge Koch was added, starting from the scientific station of Thule maintained by the Danish government on the Smith Sound; the Lauge Koch from 1920 onwards studied the geology of the whole northern part with various successive expeditions and in 1926, centered at Scoresby Sund, that of the east coast. The German Wegener, who returned once more to his favorite field of study in 1929 to prepare an aerological station in the heart of the island, carried out very important glacialogic investigations, but died killed by suffering and cold in November 1931. Even greater knowledge is now available.