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Article 3 (Sept 2019): Leif Erikson: He made a discovery that had potential
September 26, 2019With stories of Vikings becoming popular, Leif Erikson also has renewed popularity as the explorer (and warrior) who was one of the early Europeans to explore in North America.
By one account, Erikson (thought to be born about 970 AD, the son of Erik the Red) was bound for Greenland from Norway to convert the locals to Christianity, when he was blown off course. He probably landed in modern Newfoundland, which he called Vinland, more than 400 years before Christopher Columbus landed in the Caribbean.
By another account, Erikson was aiming for North America, intentionally tracing the route of a merchant. The merchant had been blown off course, saw the land, but didn't make landfall. Later, Erikson bought the merchant's boat and headed out to North America. When Erikson did make landfall, some accounts say, he rescued two unnamed Europeans who were shipwrecked there. So, Erikson may not have been the first to see North America, nor the first to land in North America, but he might have been the first explorer. Erikson overwintered in the area and did some exploration. Some accounts even have him traveling into an area that is now Minnesota, though this is disputed.
After Erikson, Norsemen sailed to the area for at least a decade, making use of timber, abundant grapevines, and fishing, and having the usual wars with the local people. So, Erikson's travels were known among Norsemen. There is some evidence that Viking travels to North America were remembered among other seafarers. In European seaports in the 15th century, legends told of a land beyond Greenland. But, Erikson's exploration was never imbued with the political and economic gravity of the explorations of Christopher Columbus. Columbus thought he found a route to gold and spices. Erikson found the wilderness he probably expected. In fact, after his landfall in North America, Erikson returned permanently to the Viking settlement in Greenland, perhaps preferring a settlement to the wilderness of North America, no matter how abundant.
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