Our Beautiful World
ICELAND 2004   

Leif Eiriksson

Leif Eiriksson, known as the one who discovered America, long before Columbus....
He once lived in Norway, and so it was a norwegian who discovered America - I thought.
How wrong I was.

On the westcoast of Iceland, in Eiriksstaðir in Haukadalur, we found the home of Leif.
In this building, which is a copy of the original one which was built in the 10th century,
lived his father and mother.
The northern side is straight, and seems to have been built up against material from a landslide.
The southern side is curved, as is customary in hall-buildings of this period.
(See the Viking-house in Lofotr, Lofoten, Norway)

Reconstructed to day an old instrument on which they could weave their own clothes. And they did.
This one was placed to the left, where also the slaves (servants) slept at night.
On the right side was the beds of the farmer's family.

And this is what the bed of Eirikur and his wife was like.
They slept on skins of horses, reindeer or seals.

Here is the place they believe the original house was built.
Here, Leif the Lucky was born. His parents, Eirikur rauði (Eirik the Red)
and Þjóðhildur (Thorhildur) did not stay long. After the birth of Eirik, they set off
and founded the first (?) viking settlement in Greenland.
But - at that time Eirikur had already discovered Greenland some years before.
So, in the summer of 986 AD they left Norway for good.

Neither Christopher Columbus or Leif Eiriksson were the ones to discover America.
As shown above, other Icelanders were over there at least 15 years before Leif,
and as the story tells: Leif went out to investigate a land which he had already heard of.
He is therefore also told of as being the first known European to set foot on North America.

Bjarni Herjólfsson is believed to be the first Norse to see North America.
When he was travelling to Greenland in 986, he was driven off course by a storm.
He saw a land with forests and low-lying hills that he knew was not Greenland.

Bjarni Herjólfsson, an Icelandic trader, was on his way to meet his father at the new colony in Greenland
when he was blown off course. As a result he sighted a strange land, possibly what is known today
as Labrador or Newfoundland. Four years later, Herjólfsson travelled to Norway
to report his finding to Earl Eirik.

When Bjarni Herjólfsson returned from his trip to Norway, he sold his ship to Leifr Eiriksson.
Herjólfsson then went to live and farm with his father at Herjolfsnes (now known as Ikigait), Greenland.
From PASSAWAYS, True tales of Adventure for Young Explorers

Bjarni Herjólfsson was not an adventurer. He was first and foremost a cautious merchant,
thinking about reaching his destination safely with his ship, his crew and his merchandise.
He was feeling the uneasyness of a man who is completely lost has no idea about what is hiding
in these alien woods, and isn’t quite sure about the way to Greenland.
He thus rejected the wish of his crew to go ashore, for which he was criticised later.
A characteristic of the story is that there is no attempt made to make a hero of Bjarni,
a tendency well known in the knight’s tales of the medieval times.
This gives the story of Bjarni a truthful character.

Bjarni and his men decided to sail north, and came to another land, a few days later.
The land was low and flat, with forests, and when his crew questioned him, he replied that
this could not be Greenland, “because they say that there are very large glaciers in Greenland”.
Having come to yet another land, an island covered with glaciers,
they turned east and finally reached Greenland.
The story tells of Bjarni reporting his findings which were received with great excitement,
and how the young Leif Ericsson, son of Eric the red and later known as Leif the lucky,
bought Bjarni’s ship and sailed to America after his directions.
He reached lands he named Helluland and Markland, and finally discovering Vinland the good,
which is believed to have been where the province New Brunswick is in Canada.
He became the first European to set his foot on the American continent and to dwell there.
From 'Bjarni Herjólfsson discovers America'

Most probably America was discovered shortly after the deluge, more than 3,500 years
before Bjarni, Leif and Columbus did it again...

Few years later, Þorfinnur Karlsefni and his companions tried to find Vinland again.
His wife, Guðridur, gave birth to a son, Snorri Þorfinnsson, and he was the first to be
born by a European in the 'new world'.
His father, Þorfinnur, is believed to have come as far south as to where New York is to day.


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