Greenland: It’s Not As Big As You Think

Flag of Greenland (Image via Wikimedia Commons)
Flag of Greenland (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

On this date in 2009, Greenland assumed self-rule as an autonomous region of Denmark.

Here are some things you may not have known about Greenland.

Greenland is the largest island in the world. But it’s probably not  as big as you think. In the common Mercator map projection, the country appears to be about the same size as Africa. In reality, Greenland is less than a tenth the size of Africa, and is geologically part of the North American continent.

More than three-quarters of Greenland is  covered by a permanent ice sheet, the largest outside Antarctica. With a population of just over 56,000 and an area of about 800,000 square miles, it is the least densely populated country in the world. There are about .07 people per square mile.

Eighty-eight percent of the population is Greenlandic Inuit; the remaining 12 percent are of European ancestry.

The first people to live in Greenland were likely arctic people who migrated from what is now Canada. Scandinavians settled the southern part of the island about 1,000 years ago. The name Greenland was supposedly picked by Norwegian Erik the Red in hopes that a pleasant sounding name would attract more settlers.

The island came under control of the Norwegian crown in 1262, before becoming a part of Denmark in 1814 after the dissolution of the union between Norway and Denmark. In 1979, Denmark granted home rule to Greenland and self-governance in 2009. Denmark remains responsible for foreign affairs and defense.

At one time, more than 10,000 Americans resided at Thule Air Base in northwestern Greenland. Now there are only about 1,000 living there.

Soccer is one the biggest sport in Greenland, despite having no grass fields. Greenland’s team handball squad has been ranked in the top 20 in the world.

Our question: In what 1970s and 80s American TV sitcom was a main character written off the show by having him join the army and be sent to Greenland?

Today is World Hydrography Day and International Yoga Day.

It’s unofficially World Handshake Day, National Cherry Tart Day, and Go Skateboarding Day.

It’s the birthday of both of the actors who played the parents on the sitcom “Family Ties,” Meredith Baxter and Michael Gross, both of whom are 69 today; former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was born in 1953; and Britain’s Prince William, who is 34.

While we’re talking about birthdays, we have a clarification on one last week. Barry Manilow’s birthday was last Friday, however he says he was born in 1946, while the sources we use say he was born in 1943. Regardless of which is correct, happy birthday. Thanks to listener Marilyn H. for calling this to our attention.

This week in 2009, the top song in the U.S. was “Boom Boom Pow” by Black Eyed Peas.

The No. 1 movie was “The Proposal,” while the novel “Skin Trade” by Laurell K. Hamilton topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.

Now for our weekly take-home test: Peter Sellers was supposed to play four roles in “Dr. Strangelove.” Who replaced him in one of those roles?


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