Greenland is an unusual country in many ways. For one, it is the largest island on the planet. Secondly, over three-fourths of Greenland is ice, mostly in the form of a single, large ice sheet covering “1,833,900 square km”, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica’s website, with “an average thickness of about 5,000 feet.” Greenland is surrounded by the Arctic and North Atlantic oceans, an area studded with mammoth icebergs, sculpted by wind and sun. And third, because Greenland has a very small population: All of 58,000, making it the least densely populated country on Earth. Incidentally, Greenland is an autonomous but dependent territory of Denmark.
Greenland has remained largely isolated from the rest of the world. Recently the land of icebergs and humpback whales has been in the news for political and environmental reasons. Turns out, “Greenland has some of the largest deposits of the so-called rare earth metals, such as neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium, and terbium,” says an article published by the BBC in January 2020. “These are increasingly used in the manufacturing of mobile phones, computers, and electric cars,” For these reasons, Greenland has caught the attention of global heavyweights, China and the US (Trump recently announced he wanted to “Buy Greenland” from Denmark; the Danish Prime Minister responded, “Thank you, not for sale.”).
The other reason Greenland has been receiving attention of late, is climate change. Since so much of the country is ice, Greenland is particularly vulnerable to global warming, which is altering the nature of the landscape here, but also impacting the rest of the planet. Studies say that Greenland alone could account for a 7 cm-increase in global ocean levels, which would render thousands, if not millions of people, homeless. This is further testified by a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which states that “rising water levels are now being driven principally by the melting of Greenland and Antarctica.”
What will this mean for Greenland’s residents, human and otherwise? It might seem like an icy realm to us, but this is a landscape of unique diversity of flora and fauna, from whales and seals to smaller marine life, such as jellyfish and coral.
Keen to observe and understand this biodiversity, wildlife photographer Dhritiman Mukherjee visited the town of Tasiilaq, on Greenland’s eastern coast, in 2018. He spent two weeks in the area, visiting fjords, diving in the waters of the Arctic Ocean, and photographing the inhabitants he encountered along the way.