World Facts

Why is Iceland Green and Greenland Ice?

No, Greenland and Iceland were not given misleading names on purpose.

Iceland is an island located in the North Atlantic Ocean, occupying a total area of 102,775 square kilometers (39,682 square miles). The terrain is characterized by sand and lava fields surrounded by mountains and glaciers. The country is made warm by the Gulf Stream and has a generally temperate climate. Iceland is the most sparsely populated country in Europe with approximately 332,329 people. The current administration center and also home to more than two-thirds of the people is called Reykjavik.

Greenland is the world’s largest island. Though geographically located near North America, Greenland is administratively and politically associated with Europe. Occupying 2,166,086 square kilometers (836,330 square meters), the island is home to only 56,480 people, making it the least populated country in the world. The low population is due to the fact that three-quarters of the island is unoccupied since it is full of a dense ice sheet. The capital city is called Nuuk where more than one-third of the people lives. The residents are the Inuit people who are the offsprings of immigrants from Canada in the13th century.

Mythical Origin of the Naming of Iceland and Greenland

A story is told of a quarrel among the Norwegian Vikings which led to war. One group ran away by setting sail via boat. They ended up on the actual green island. Fearing being pursued by the rival group they sent word back home that the island was actually ice covered and inhabitable. They further added that there was another island further which was green and fit for human settlement. That is how the icy island was named Greenland and the green island called Iceland. This story, however, is untrue.

Naming of Iceland

Iceland was initially a bare land. The first occupant migrated there in the ninth century led by a Norseman from Norway called Naddador (Naddodd). Naddodd named the place snow land due to the plenty of snow occupying the island. The second recorded immigrant was a swede, Garoar Svavarsson, who was followed by a Viking called Floki Vilgeroarson. Floki is believed to have given the island the name Iceland for the icebergs that surrounded the place since it was winter at the time of his visit. This is contrary to the myth that the Viking gave it the name to discourage other people from coming to the place.

Archeological records have it that the Celtic monks arrived in Iceland long before the Scandinavian immigrants. In 870, the first Swedish explorer circumnavigated the whole region and recorded that it was actually an island. One of his assistants named Nattfari was left behind and was among the first successful settlers in the island. Farming venture and grazing grounds also thrived. All these settlers did not alter the name Iceland.

Despite the name Iceland, temperatures of up to 30.5 °C (86.9 °F) were recorded in June 1939 in Teigarhorn region. In Reykjavik region, temperatures of up to 26.2 °C (79.2 °F) were recorded on July 30, 2008. There are different climatic conditions with the south coast being warmer and wetter than the north.

Naming of Greenland

The name Greenland was first given by a Norwegian named Erik the Red. He was running away from charges of manslaughter and carried with him members of his family. He started exploring for an icy region known to exist in the northwest. On reaching there, he looked for a favorable name that would attract others to settle in it. He named the island "Greenland." Successive settlers continued calling the islands Greenland. The immigrants included the Icelandic and Norwegians.

Despite the name Greenland, temperatures are known to go to the below -17 °C (1.4 °F) during winter.

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