Courtesy Reuters

Greenland and the World Around

A CROSS the northeastern approaches to North America lies a barrier of ice, mountains and habitable land more than 1,600 miles long--as long as the eastern seaboard of the United States and as large as all the states east of the Mississippi. When traditional concepts of oceanic security were destroyed by the growth of air power, this area, which is Greenland, assumed a relationship to the United States analogous to that once held by the Atlantic Ocean, just as Alaska assumed a new rôle in the Pacific. Each is vital to hemispheric defense and serves as an important outpost.

Unlike Alaska, Greenland is the possession of a foreign nation, Denmark. The disposition of Greenland has always been of keen interest to the United States; the region was included within the limits of the Monroe Doctrine even before its full extent was known. In a very real sense, social and economic development in Greenland are linked with its climate--another way of saying that both depend upon the vagaries of a wandering body of water, the Irminger Current.

In the nineteenth century, anyone who was curious about this area would examine the blank upper portions of a spherical map of the earth, projected on a rectangular piece of flat paper, and make one of two choices to explain what was not revealed on the map: either a polar sea was hidden by the word "unexplored," or the space was occupied by a vast polar land of which the dangling Greenland was a peninsula. Ancient maps which showed Greenland divided by two east-to-west straits were dismissed as apocryphal, or the product of wishful thinking. In any case, except to the visionary, the choice was one of merely academic interest. Prolonged attempts to establish a short trade route from Europe to the Orient by sailing northward had been frustrated by ice, and Fridtjof Nansen, by crossing Greenland's icecap, had proved that no Elysian Fields existed in its center. Instead, inter-hemispheric commerce moved east and west

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