The Faroe Islands (Faerøerne in Danish and Føroyar in the Faroese language), whose name stems from the Scandinavian word for sheep (får), are situated in the Atlantic Ocean, due N of Scotland, between 61°20′ and 62°24′ N and 6°15′ and 7°41′ W . The 18 islands, 17 of which are inhabited, cover an area of 1,399 sq km (540 sq mi). Among the larger islands are Streymoy (Strømø) with an area of 373 sq km (144 sq mi), Eysturoy (Østerø) with 286 sq km (110 sq mi), Vágar (Vaagø) with 178 sq km (69 sq mi), Suduroy (Syderø) with 166 sq km (64 sq mi), and Sandoy (Sandø) with 112 sq km (43 sq mi). The maximum length of the Faroe Islands is 112 km (70 mi) N – S and the maximum width is 79 km (49 mi) NE – SW . The total coastline measures 1,117 km (694 mi).
The estimated population in July 2002 was 46,011. Most Faroese are descended from the Vikings, who settled on the islands in the 9th century. The Faroes have been connected politically with Denmark since the 14th century. During World War II (1939–45), they were occupied by the British, and in this period important political differences emerged. The Faroese People's party advocated independence for the islands; the Unionists preferred to maintain the status quo; and the Faroese Social Democrats wanted home rule. After the war, it was agreed to establish home rule under Danish sovereignty, and since 23 March 1948, the central Danish government has been concerned only with matters of common interest, such as foreign policy and foreign-currency exchange. The Faroes have their own flag, levy their own taxes, and issue their own postage stamps and banknotes. The Faroese language, revived in the 19th century and akin to Icelandic, is used in schools, with Danish taught as a first foreign language.
The Faroese parliament, or Logting, dates back to Viking times and may be Europe's oldest legislative assembly. Members are elected by popular vote on a proportional basis from 7 constituencies to the 32-member Logting; representation has been fairly evenly divided among the four major parties. After the April 2002 election, the Union Party had 8 seats; Republican Pary, 8; Social Democrats, 7; People's Party 7. The Independence Party and the Center Party had one seat each. The islands elect two representatives to the Folketing (Danish parliament).
In keeping with the islands' name, sheep raising was long the chief activity, but in recent years the fishing industry has grown rapidly. The total fish catch was nearly 360,000 metric tons in 1996; fisheries exports generated 94% of the territory's $471 million in exports in 1999. Principal varieties of fish caught are cod, herring, and haddock; almost the entire catch is exported. Exports go mainly to Denmark (32%), the United Kingdom (21%), France (9%), Germany (7%), Iceland (5%), and the United States (5%). Imports valued at $469 in 1999, come mainly from Denmark (28%), Norway (26%), Germany (7%), Sweden (5%), and Iceland (4%). Agriculture is limited to the cultivation of root vegetables, potatoes, and barley, and contributed 27% to the gross domestic product (GDP) in 1999.
The economy is regulated by an agreement with Denmark whereby the central government facilitates the marketing of Faroese fisheries products and guarantees to some extent an adequate supply of foreign currency.
Greenland (Grønland in Danish, Kalaallit Nunaat in Greenlandic) is the largest island in the world. Extending from 59°46′ to 83°39′ N and from 11°39′ to 73°8′ W , Greenland has a total area of 2,166,086 sq km (836,330 sq mi). The greatest N – S distance is about 2,670 km (1,660 mi), and E – W about 1,290 km (800 mi). Greenland is bounded on the N by the Arctic Ocean, on the E by the Greenland Sea, on the SE by the Denmark Strait (separating it from Iceland), on the S by the Atlantic Ocean, and on the W by Baffin Bay and Davis Strait. The coastline measures 44,087 km (27,394 mi). The ice-free strip along the coast, rarely exceeding 80 km (50 mi) in width, is only 410,449 sq km (158,475 sq mi) in area. The rest of the area, covered with ice measuring at least 2,100 m (7,000 ft) thick in some places, amounts to 1,755,637 sq km (677,855 sq mi). Greenland has a typically arctic climate, but there is considerable variation between localities, and temperature changes in any one locality are apt to be sudden. Rainfall increases from north to south, ranging from about 25 to 114 cm (10–45 in). Land transport is very difficult, owing to the ice and rugged terrain, and most local travel must be done by water. SAS operates flights on the Scandinavia-US route via Greenland, and tourists are being attracted by Greenland's imposing scenery.
The population, grouped in a number of scattered settlements of varying sizes, was estimated at 56,376 in 2002, down from 58,203 in 1996. Greenlanders are predominantly Eskimos, with some admixture of Europeans. The Greenlandic language, an Eskimo-Aleut dialect, is in official use. Most native Greenlanders were engaged in hunting and fishing, but a steadily increasing number are now engaged in administration and in private enterprises. The Europeans chiefly follow such pursuits as administration, skilled services, and mining.
The Vikings reached Greenland as early as the 10th century. By the time Europeans rediscovered the island, however, Norse culture had died out and Greenland belonged to the Eskimos. Danish colonization began in the 18th century, when the whale trade flourished off Greenland's western shore. In 1933, the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague definitively established Danish jurisdiction over all Greenland. Up to 1953, the island was a colony; at that time it became an integral part of Denmark. Greenland held that status until 1979, when it became self-governing after a referendum in which 70% of the population favored home rule. The 31 members in the Landsting (parliament) are elected by popular vote on the basis of proportional representation. In the election held November 2001, the left-wing Siumut Party won 10 seats; Inuit Ataqatigiit, 8; the right-wing Atassut Party, 7; the Demokratiit, 5; and the Katusseqatigiit, 1. Greenland elects two representatives to the Folketing; following the December 2002 election, the representatives were from the Siumut and Inuit Ataqatigiit parties.
Fishing, hunting (mainly seal, and to a lesser extent fox), and mining are the principal occupations. Greenland's total fish catch in 1994 was 112,576 tons, and fisheries exports were valued at $267 million. Agriculture is not possible in most of Greenland, but some few vegetables are grown in the south, usually under glass.
At Ivigtut, on the southwest coast, a deposit of cryolite has long been worked by a Danish government-owned corporation, but reserves are believed to be nearing depletion. The government has a controlling interest in the lead-zinc mine at Mestersvig, on the east coast. Production began in 1956 and has continued sporadically. Low-grade coal mined at Disko Islands, midway on the west coast, is used for local fuel needs. Mining activities ceased in 1990 but exploration activity has revealed the potential for economic exploitation of antimony, barite, beryllium, chromite, coal, colombium, copper, cryolite, diamond, gold, graphite, ilmenite, iron, lead, molybdenum, nickel, platinum-group metals, rare earths, tantalum, thorium, tungsten, uranium, zinc, and zirconium. Fish and fish products make up the bulk of exports. Raw materials are administered jointly by a Denmark-Greenland commission. Underground resources remain in principle the property of Denmark, but the Landsting has veto power over matters having to do with mineral development.
A US Air Force base is situated at Thule, in the far north along the west coast, only 14° from the North Pole; Greenland also forms part of an early-warning radar network. An international meteorological service, administered by Denmark, serves transatlantic flights. In 1960, a 1,500-kW atomic reactor was set up in northern Greenland to supply electric power to a new US scientific base built on the icecap, 225 km (140 mi) inland from Thule.