Monday, May 30, 2022

The Greenland saga

“In 982 the Norwegian Erik the Red, who had been banished from Iceland for manslaughter, settled on the island today known as Greenland. Returning to Iceland about 985, he described the merits of the newly discovered land, which he called Greenland, and in 986 he organized an expedition to the island that resulted in the development of two main settlements: the East Settlement, near present-day Qaqortoq (Julianehåb), and the West Settlement, near present-day Nuuk (Godthåb).

These settlements may have reached a population of 3,000–6,000 on about 280 farms, suggesting that temperatures at that time may have been as warm or warmer than they are today. 

But in the 14th century the Norse settlements declined, perhaps as a result of a cooling in Greenland’s climate. In the 15th century they ceased to be inhabited. “ (

Meanwhile Inuit clans had lived in the arctic for thousands of years and interacted with the newcomers in less than a friendly manner, but could do little to disrupt the farm based settlements of the Norsemen.

The result was some 500 years of continuous settlements until the climate changed and farming was no longer possible. The Black Death also ravaged Europe and would have likely been imported into Greenland by travellers.

There is a lesson here: Nature is the Grand Master and all we can do is to adapt or die.

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