Perhaps you remember the story of Bjarni Herjolfsson. “Around 985, he was blown off course from Greenland, and made a chance sighting of land to the west. Some 15 years later, Leif Eriksson set out from the Eastern Settlement in Greenland to investigate Bjarni’s sighting. Sailing to the northwest, he first came upon a land of bare rock and glaciers which he called Helluland (Slab Land). Sailing south he next reached a low, forested land. This he called Markland (Wood Land), Leif pressed on still further south and spent a winter in a land with a mild climate, where grapes grew wild and rivers teemed with salmon. Leif called this Vinland (Wine Land).
The locations of his discoveries will probably never be established with absolute certainty. Helluland was probably Baffin Island; Markland was almost certainly Labrador. Identifying Vinland is more difficult. The only Norse settlement so far discovered in North America is at L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland, but this is too far north to fit the saga descriptions. Vinlalnd probably lay south of the Gulf of St Lawrence, the approximate northern limit of the wild grapes, but north of Cape Cod, the southern limit of the Atlantic Salmon.” (Cited from The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Vikings, 1995, John Haywood, author.) It is more likely that L’Anse aux Meadow was a staging settlement for transport and repair. But nobody knows for sure!
We anchored in St. Anthony harbor around 7:00am. By 8:30am, we had tendered to shore and were on the van operated by Danny’s Airbus ready to visit L’Anse aux Meadows and Norsted, the re-created village with re-enactors to tell the stories (5-hour tour, 95.00 CAD/pp). After a 30-minute drive, we were there! L’Anse aux Meadows is both a National Historic Site and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. So designated because it’s one of the major archaeological finds in the world. The significance lies in what has been learned about the worldwide movements of people. The Norsemen were the first Europeans to come in contact with the Aboriginal Peoples of North America, thus completing the Circle of Human Migration.
In preparation for our next cruise, I’ve been reading up on the Vikings and Leif Erikson in particular. I know we’ve all heard that Christopher Columbus never actually got to North America; although he did sail to the Bahamas, Hispaniola, and to the coasts of Central and South America.
It was the Vikings who first came across the North American continent. Captain Bjarni Hergelfson and his crew veered off-course during a storm. They sighted an unusual land with no fjords or icebergs. The landscape was forested and green. Captain Hergelfson, took detailed notes about his two sightings of the unfamiliar land but he did not go ashore. Later, after conversing with Hergelfson, Leif Erikson bought Hergelfson’s boat; put together a crew and set off to explore the area himself.
First arriving at an area believed to be Baffin Island, Erikson continued sailing southeast for two days and came to an island with a mainland behind it. On this land, Erikson built temporary shelters. When the men found grapes growing wild, they named the settlement Vinland. Today, Vinland is known as L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland. (The ruins of this Viking settlement were found in 1963.) Erikson left Vinland in the Spring when his men were ready to go home. But the surprising issue is that very few people ever returned to Vinland. Only Leif’s sister and a small group of settlers returned. They were killed by Indians. And so, Europe remained almost totally unaware about this discovery of the New World!
We are looking forward to this cruise. It’s been on our bucket list for a long time. We’ll journey to Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, the Netherlands, Ireland and Scotland. We’ll learn about the Vikings and their influence.