Canadian History/Viking Contact

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The Viking Landings, talk about Red and Eriksson, the Scandinavian colonization of Iceland, Greenland and temporarily of Vinland.

Mention the historical notes of white skinned natives in Labrador and Newfoundland, also the proposed reasons for the colony's failure.

Leif Ericsson


Christopher Columbus was not the first European to discover North America. Nearly five hundred years early, Leif Ericsson or “Leif the Lucky” heard of a mysterious land to the west. He set off in search of this place and discovered the land he called Vinland. This expedition is documented in two sagas: Grœnlendinga saga and Eiríks saga rauða. They describe Erikson establishing a Norse settlement in Vinland.

Leif Eriksson grew up with his father’s adventuresome spirit and urge to travel bred within him. When he was only 13 years old, Leif’s father, Erik the Red, was banished from Iceland and so the family voyaged to Greenland. It was then that Leif first learned how to man a ship. At the age of 24, he captained his first expedition – a trip to bring gifts for King Olav in Norway. Leif came back Christian and restless for another voyage.

In an attempt to prove claims of land to the west, Leif Eriksson set off on his second expedition. Bjarni Herljulfsson, a Norse trader, had been blown far off course during his last voyage and described seeing a lush, forested land. Leif Eriksson was enticed by these tales and bought Bjarni’s ship. With a crew of 34, he sailed for 600 miles before landing on a flat, glacier covered area. Leif named it Helluland after the flat rocks. The barren place (now thought to be Baffin Island) was disappointing and he left in search of a more fertile land. Leif travelled south and came to a wooded territory with white beaches. He named it Markland or Woodland. Yet, this too did not match Bjarni’s descriptions and he sailed on once more.

Leif and his crew journeyed for two days and arrived at another land, which is now believed to be somewhere near Newfoundland. According to the Grœnlendinga saga, the salmon were bigger than they had ever seen, there were abundant pastures for cattle, and rich forests grew. One of the crew members went missing while exploring the area and came back babbling about a patch of grapes. For this reason, Leif named it Vinland (Wineland). He built at least one permanent settlement and stayed in Vinland for the winter. The next spring, Leif and his crew returned to Greenland. There are no records stating that Leif Eriksson ever came back to Vinland.



A Viking Voyage by W. Hodding Carter

The Canadian Encyclopedia: Viking celebration

BBC - History - Vikings ( )

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