Greenland: The ‘World’s Largest and Loneliest Island’

Travel Blog  •  Michael Yessis  •  06.28.07 | 9:14 AM ET

greenlandicebergPhoto of Greenland by Nick Russill, via Flickr (Creative Commons).

Not for much longer, perhaps. Air Greenland recently launched its first commercial flight from the U.S. to the self-governing Danish territory, which lures most of its relatively minuscule amount of visitors—55,000 last year—from Denmark. One of the few non-Danes to visit this year: USA Today’s Laura Bly, whose terrific story reveals a beautiful—take a look at her slideshow—and heartbreaking place, a land where climate change and social change are moving at a rapid pace.

Bly writes:

The country’s rising temperatures may draw more tourists (a U.S. company is leading an expedition cruise to eastern Greenland’s recently discovered and aptly named Warming Island this fall) and new industries, from oil drilling to mining.

But rapid social change has already affected the primarily Inuit population, for both good and bad. Cellphones are ubiquitous, and villagers text-message one another when someone lands a whale. Diabetes and obesity have surged as Greenlanders move from a protein-based diet of native seal, fish and reindeer to expensive, carbohydrate-heavy Danish imports.

And in the wake of a new climate that threatens northern Inuits’ ability to hunt on the ice, [Ole] Thorleifsen worries that “some of our old culture may disappear.”

As often happens to travel writers, Bly gains some of her best material and insights when things go wrong. In Ilulissat, she shatters her elbow and spends two days in the hospital. “Mutual shyness” and her “dearth of Greenlandic and Danish” stop her from speaking too much with her four fellow patients, but Bly makes an interesting discovery while talking to the uninngavimmi ningiu, aka head nurse: “A Greenlander’s biggest fear, I learn, is dying alone.”


1 Comment for Greenland: The ‘World’s Largest and Loneliest Island’

Lisa 07.09.08 | 6:01 PM ET

Air Greenland has cancelled their flight route from the US to Greenland- it is no more. Not profitable enough for them.

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