In a setting where an empire establishes an island colony far to the north, what is the coldest climate such a colony could sustainably survive were that empire to collapse and stop sending supply ships? This would be without the resources for a nation's worth of powered greenhouses or similar construction projects, and with technology befitting the cold-war era.

Additionally, how large a population could the (ex-)colony continue to hold, if for example it were roughly the size of the British Isles, while still able to sustain things like a military?

My current best guess for how food would be handled is a population dependent on a mix of any fish and birds that can be hunted, additional to farms using great rows of low-lying cold-frame greenhouses. Perhaps they could also farm sheep or other grazing livestock to get what little they can from the grass as well. Could there also be more material-efficient ways of doing agriculture in the coldest possible climate?

Finally, I've assumed that food will always be the limiting factor for the coldest sustainable climate. Could there be a different limiting factor that I'm not aware of?

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    $\begingroup$ Tech level, please. Medieval, Imperial, Victorian, Modern, Futuristic? , $\endgroup$
    – Halfthawed
    Commented Mar 20, 2020 at 19:14
  • $\begingroup$ Roughly cold-war era technology, but without the resources to afford heating a mass amount of crops or similar projects. There's a national grid, but its far too small to supply sole farmhouses and such. $\endgroup$
    – Mae
    Commented Mar 20, 2020 at 19:30
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    $\begingroup$ Cold-war era technology could mean nuclear power plants, among other things. $\endgroup$
    – Halfthawed
    Commented Mar 20, 2020 at 19:50
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    $\begingroup$ I am pretty certain that Norway was populated and had an army loooong before the invention of glasshouses and electricity; they even ruled parts of the British Islands at a certain point. I have also heard that the city of Arkhangelsk was founded in the 10th century. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Mar 20, 2020 at 21:07
  • $\begingroup$ Just use Iceland. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 21, 2020 at 0:00

1 Answer 1


North Greenland is pretty cold.


The Inughuit or Arctic Highlanders make for interesting reading. This was a population of Inuit that migrated to northern Greenland and were cut off, living in isolation from any other human population for centuries. They evolved their own language. The Wikipedia article states that they forgot there were other people in the world besides themselves.

One of the articles said that the Inughuit were not hunter / gatherers because they did not gather. It is pretty much hunting and fishing that far north. The sea is rich and there are fish and whales and marine mammals so plenty to eat. The muktuk miracle prevents scurvy.

Your colonists could live like the Inuit did. The muktuk part sounds pretty good. A providently positioned coal seam and knowledge of how to use it would help a lot in the winter.


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