Northeast Greenland National Park is the world’s largest and northernmost national park. It extends inland from the northeastern coast of Greenland and encompasses an area of 972,000 km2, which makes the park bigger than all but 29 countries in the world. It is Greenland's only national park. While most of the national park's territory is covered by the Greenland Ice Sheet, significant parts of Northeast Greenland National Park's coastal areas remain ice-free. Additionally, Peary Land, a peninsula in the northern part of the national park, also has little ice cover.
History of Northeast Greenland National Park
Northeast Greenland National Park was established on May 22, 1974. The park was initially smaller than its current size and was established on land that was formerly Ittoqqortoormiit Municipality in East Greenland. It was the first national park establish in the Kingdom of Denmark. In 1977, the park was designated as an international biosphere reserve, and its size was expanded by an additional 272,000 km2 in 1988. Although no permanent settlements exist, two research camps have been established.
Wildlife in Northeast Greenland Park
Despite its extreme climate, Northeast Greenland National Park has an abundance of fauna. The park supports populations of polar bears, Arctic fox, stoat, caribou, walrus, and Arctic hare. Many species of birds, such as common eider, barnacle goose, snowy owl, and ptarmigan inhabit the park. Additionally, an estimated 40% of the global musk ox population lives in Northeast Greenland National Park. Its offshore waters also include diverse marine fauna, including several species of seals, whales, and narwhal.
Human Presence in Northeast Greenland National Park
Although Northeast Greenland National Park is massive in size, it has no permanent human population. However, a small number of military outposts and research stations do exist. In the mid-1980s, the park did have a small permanent human population of about 40, who lived along the coast in the Mestersvig military outpost. The outpost was involved in exploration mining within the park but left after the mining operations ended. Currently, Northeast Greenland National Park is inhabited by about a dozen park rangers, as well as a small number of scientists.
Accessing Northeast Greenland National Park
Northeast Greenland National Park is one of the world’s most remote and least visited protected areas. In fact, only about 500 people visit each year, most of whom are tourists on Arctic cruises that include scheduled stop at the park. Although the national park’s extreme location may suggest a vast and featureless ice desert, its northern and southern coasts are surprisingly sunny. In fact, the northern tip of Northeast Greenland National Park has even been nicknamed the "Arctic Riviera."