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A Description of Greenland

A Description of Greenland
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Author: Egede Hans
Title: A Description of Greenland
Release Date: 2018-11-18
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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Contents.

Some typographical errors have been corrected;a list follows the text.

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Old Greenland,
as to its
Eastern & Western Parts.
Vulgo
Oster Bygd & Wester Bygd

Engraved for Egedes Greenland by J. Smith, 1 Clements Inn, Strand

Pubᵈ. May 1ˢᵗ. 1818 by T. & J. Allman, Princes Street, HanoverSquare

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{iii} 

A
DESCRIPTION OF GREENLAND.

BY HANS EGEDE,
WHO WAS A MISSIONARY IN THAT COUNTRY
FOR
TWENTY-FIVE YEARS.
——————
A   N E W   E D I T I O N.
——————
WITH AN
HISTORICAL INTRODUCTION
AND
A LIFE OF THE AUTHOR.

ILLUSTRATED
WITH A MAP OF GREENLAND, AND NUMEROUS ENGRAVINGS ON WOOD.

S E C O N D   E D I T I O N.
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L O N D O N:
PRINTED FOR T. AND J. ALLMAN,
PRINCES STREET, HANOVER SQUARE;
W. H. REID, CHARING CROSS; AND BALDWIN, CRADOCK, AND JOY,
PATERNOSTER ROW.
1818.

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CONTENTS.

 PAGE
HISTORICAL INTRODUCTIONi
LIFE OF THE AUTHORxciii
CHAPTER I.
Of the Situation and Extent of Greenland. Probability of its forming Part of America1
CHAP. II.
First Settlement of Greenland, with some Thoughts on the Extinction of the Norwegian Colonies; and whether on the East Side no Remainders may be found of the old Norwegians: also, whether the same Tract of Land cannot be recovered7
CHAP. III.
Of the Nature of the Soil, Plants, and Minerals of Greenland41
CHAP. IV.
Of the Nature of the Climate, and the Temperament of{vi}the Air50
CHAP. V.
Of the Land Animals, and Land Fowls or Birds of Greenland; and how they hunt and kill them59
CHAP. VI.
Of the Greenland Sea Animals, and Sea Fowls and Fishes66
CHAP. VII.
Of the ordinary Occupations of the Greenlanders, as Hunting and Fishing: of the Tools and Instruments necessary for these Employments: of their House Implements and Utensils100
CHAP. VIII.
Of the Inhabitants, their Houses, and House Furniture113
CHAP. IX.
Of the Persons, Complexion, and Temperament of the Greenlanders119
CHAP. X.
Of the Customs, Virtues, and Vices, and the Manners or Way of Life of the Greenlanders123
CHAP. XI.
{vii}Of their Habits and Way of Dressing130
CHAP. XII.
Of their Diet, and manner of dressing their Victuals135
CHAP. XIII.
Of their Marriages, and Education of their Children140
CHAP. XIV.
How the Greenlanders mourn and bury their dead Friends143
CHAP. XV.
Of their Pastimes and Diversions, as also their Poetry154
CHAP. XVI.
Of their Language163
CHAP. XVII.
Of the Greenland Trade, and whether in promoting it there is any advantage to be expected179
CHAP. XVIII.
The Religion, or rather Superstition, of the Greenlanders183
CHAP. XIX.
The Astronomy of the Greenlanders, or their Thoughts concerning {viii}the Sun, Moon, Stars, and Planets206
CHAP. XX.
The Capacity of the Greenlanders, and their Inclination towards the Knowledge of God, and the Christian Religion; and by what Means this may easily be brought about214

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HISTORICAL
INTRODUCTION.

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THE regions in the neighbourhood of the North Pole have lately becomethe objects of increased curiosity; and among these regions Greenlandhas attracted a more than usual interest. This country was first peopledby a colony from Iceland, which occupied both the Western and Easternparts of the Island. The first{x} settlers in the West appear to have beendestroyed by the natives, who are denominated Skrellings; and though acommunication was preserved for several centuries between the Easterncoast of Greenland and some parts of the Danish territory, yet it wasinterrupted about the close of the fourteenth century by accumulatedmasses of ice, which formed an impenetrable barrier of considerableextent around the shore; and though various attempts have been made, atdifferent times, to explore a passage through this frozen rampart, yetthere is no definite account of any attempt of this kind which hashitherto been successful. May we hope that the execution of thisproject, which is prompted, not only by curiosity but by philanthropy,is reserved for the{xi} present era, and that it will be finallyaccomplished by the nautical skill and enterprise of this country!

As we possess indubitable evidence that a considerable extent of thiscoast was formerly occupied by a flourishing colony, and that itcontained numerous villages, with a bishop’s see, we cannot but beanxious to know what has been the fate of so many human beings, so longcut off from all intercourse with the more civilized world. Were theydestroyed by an invasion of the natives, like their countrymen on theWestern coast? or have they perished by the inclemency of the climate,and the sterility of the soil? or do they still subsist? If theysubsist, it must greatly interest our curiosity to learn in what mannerthey have vanquished the{xii} difficulties with which they have had tocontend, both from the climate and the soil, and the total privation ofall articles of European manufacture. In the novel circumstances inwhich they have been placed, have the present race advanced or declinedin the degree of culture which their forefathers possessed? Whatproficiency have they made? or what deterioration have they undergone?Have they remained nearly stationary at the point of civilized existenceat which their ancestors were placed four centuries ago? or have theyentirely degenerated into a savage race, and preserved no memory norvestige of their original extraction from, and subsequent communicationwith, the continent of civilized Europe? These are certainly points ofinteresting re{xiii}search; and to which we cannot well be indifferent asChristians, or, indeed, as human beings.

In the mean time, though we cannot yet supply any particulars respectingthe present state of the Eastern coast of Greenland, we think that thereaders of this new edition of Egede will not be displeased with us forfurnishing them with all the information which remains, respecting itspast state, as well as with some historical details, which will renderthe present volume more complete than it would otherwise have been.

Greenland was first discovered by Eric, surnamed Rufus, or the Red, inthe year 981 or 982[1]. This chieftain was of{xiv} Norwegian extraction. Hisfather had fled from Norway, and taken refuge in Iceland, in order toavoid the vengeance which menaced him, on account of a murder which hehad perpetrated in his native land. Eric appears to have committed inIceland a crime similar to that for which his father had fled fromNorway. In endeavouring to escape the pursuit of justice, Ericaccidentally discovered the coast which is the present object of ourinquiry. He took his departure from Iceland at the port of Snæfellzness,which is situate in a Western promontory of that island. He arrived inthe vicinity of a mountain called Midjokul[2]; or, as it is denominatedby others, Miklajokul.{xv} Peyrere interprets this, “le grand glaçon,”the great mountain of ice. Subsequent navigators gave it the name ofBloeserken, or Blue Smock, and others of Huidserken, or White Smock,according to the variations in the hue of the ice in different aspectsand at different periods of the year.

Eric passed the first winter after his departure from Iceland in anisland which he called after his own name, Ericscun, and which Torfæusplaces in the midst of the cultivated Eastern district. In the followingspring he entered one of the bays of Eastern Greenland, to which he gavethe name of Ericsfiord; and where he formed his first settlement, whichhe denominated Brattahlis. In the summer of the same year he explored{xvi}parts of the more Western district, and gave names to many of the placeswhich he visited[3]. He passed the following winter in the island ofEricscun; and in the succeeding summer he passed over to the main land,and proceeded along the Northern coast till he reached an immense rock,which he called Sneefiell, or the Rock of Snow. At this point he gavethe name of Ravensfiord to another bay, on account of the multitudes ofthat ill-omened bird with which this spot abounds. Other parts of thecoast derived their appellations from the names of the differentadventurers who accompanied Eric in this expedition, as, Hergulfsness,Ketillsfiord, Solvadal, Einarsfiord, &c[4].{xvii}

In the following summer Eric, having conciliated the forgiveness, orpurchased the forbearance, of his enemies in Iceland, returned to thatcountry to procure an additional supply of inhabitants for his newsettlement. In order to render his proposals more attractive, he namedthe country for which he was endeavouring to provide colonists,Greenland, as if, compared with the rugged sterility of their nativeIceland, it was a region of verdure and delight. He described it asabounding in cattle, and as rich in every species of game and fish. Andas such delusive representations, when assisted by the vivid eloquenceof enthusiasm, or the unhesitating assurance of effrontery, seldom failof their effect, Eric returned to his recent acquisition{xviii} with numerousships, and a large body of settlers, from Iceland.

In less than twenty years after Eric the Red had begun to colonizeGreenland, his son Leiff, who had made a voyage into Norway, renouncedhis Pagan errors, and received the baptismal rite. His conversion wasowing to the example and the admonitions of King Olave Tryggwine, orTrugguerus[5], who had himself recently embraced the same doctrine, andhad been very successful in causing it to be diffused throughout hisdominions.

Leiff, having passed the winter at the court of the King of Norway,returned to Greenland, in company with a priest and some othermissionaries, whom the{xix} King had commissioned to instruct Eric, and theother settlers, in the faith which Leiff had embraced. On their voyageto Greenland they met some mariners, who were floating upon a wreck inthe open sea. These they took on board, and conveyed to the newsettlement. Eric, at first, incensed with his son for having laid opento strangers the route to the new-discovered country, turned a deaf earto his Christian admonitions. But the earnestness of the son, secondedby the instruction of the missionaries, at last prevailed over theinsensibility of the father, who submitted to the rite of baptism, whenthe other Greenlanders followed his example.

The Christian doctrine, which had been thus introduced, was so muchap{xx}proved, and so generally received, that churches were established intwelve different parts of East Greenland, and in four of the Westerndistrict. Torfæus makes the year 1000 the era of the conversion of theGreenland colonists to the Christian faith. This historian of ancientGreenland has also preserved a list of its bishops, from the year 1021to 1406, after which period no mention is made of any subsequentepiscopal appointments; and indeed the intercourse between Greenland andthe native region of the first settlers appears to have been previouslydiscontinued.

A Danish Chronicle, which M. Peyrere had consulted, refers the discoveryof Greenland to a much earlier date than that which has been given uponthe au{xxi}thority of Torfæus; and the earlier

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