[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index][Author Index][Search Archives]

Leif Eriksson's "Vinland"...

Poster: angela@ascc01.ascc.lucent.com (Angela K. Pincha-Neel - ASCC)

 A Norse Village, but Not Vinland

 Saturday, August 23, 1997; Page A18 The Washington Post

 "Setting Sail in the Wake of Leif Eriksson," [news story, Aug. 19]
 perpetuated a myth started by Helge Ingstad, who claimed that a place
 called L'Anse aux Meadows on the northern tip of Newfoundland is the
 site of Leif Eriksson's "Vinland." Evidence proves there was a Norse
 village at L'Anse aux Meadows about 1,000 years ago, but it in no way
 can be tied to Leif. Vinland is described in two sagas, the "Greenland
 Flateyarbok," as told by Leif himself, who built a house there in 1003,
 and the Icelandic "Hauks Bok" as told by Thorfinn Karlsefni, who led an
 expedition to Vinland in 1010.

 The new land was first seen by Bjarni Herjulfson, who was en route from
 Iceland to his father's house in southern Greenland but got lost and
 eventually found himself off the south coast of Cape Cod. Turning north,
 it took him 11 days to reach Greenland. At the ancient Norse estimate of
 150 miles per day, that comes to about 1,650 miles, which is close to
 the measured distance. That figure verifies the accuracy of the sagas
 and proves that Vinland is on or near Cape Cod. But from L'Anse aux
 Meadows it took him only four days, which shows that the village could
 not possibly be Vinland.

 Eager to find and explore the new land, Leif had to start at the
 southern tip of Greenland and retrace Bjarni's course by sailing due
 south. The Post's map shows him starting from the west coast of
 Greenland and sailing west to Saffin Island, then south to L'Anse aux
 Meadows. Karlsefni sailed that way in 1010 in order to explore the
 coast, but it would have made no sense for Leif to do so in 1003.

 The Flateyarbok tells that "[Leif] came to the mouth of a river that
 issued out of a lake. At low tide the ship ran aground a long way from
 shore, but when the tide came in they rowed the ship into the river and
 anchored it in the lake. The place they had come to seemed very
 pleasant. They caught salmon in the river and the lake, and it seemed
 cattle would be able to feed themselves all winter, for there was no
 frost and the grass did not wither much . . . . On the shortest day of
 the year the sun set at 4:30 p.m."

 One day a slave, Tyrk, reported that he had found wild grapes, and Leif
 gave the country a name according to its resources and called it
 "Vinland" (for wine and vines).

 Bjarni described the new land as "a land without mountains, well
 timbered, with small knolls upon it."

 By comparison, according to Frederick J. Pohl's book "The Viking
 "The [L'Anse aux Meadows] settlement . . . lies on a windswept terrace
 about 12 feet above the sea. . . .

 The nearest trees are nine miles away and they are stunted evergreens
 unsuitable for construction. The soil was largely scoured away by the
 last ice sheet. . . .

 It is a bleak and forbidding region of fog and deep snows;
 Newfoundlanders say it has but two seasons -- Winter and August. It is
 not up a river at the shore of a lake." . "At low tide, boats do not run
 aground a long way from shore. In winter, the sun sets long before 4:30
 p.m. . . .

 There are neither grapes nor vines of any kind."

 Archaeological evidence on Cape Cod verifies the sagas:

 (1) 	The rotted posts of a stockade that Thorfinn Karlsefni built
 around Leif's house for protection from Indian attack.

 (2) 	The remains of a shed and rows of posts sunk in the ground that
 are suitable for the shoring of a double-ended Viking ship but not for
 any vessel of the colonial period.

 (3) 	The remains of the house and ship shed built by two Icelanders
 who accompanied Leif's sister Freydis and her husband Thorvald on an
 expedition to Vinland in 1015. Leif's brother Thorvald, Karlsefni with
 his wife Gudrid and Freydis occupied Leif's house in turn, but its
 remains have been obliterated by a highway.



  Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

List Archives, FAQ, FTP:  http://sca.wayfarer.org/merryrose/
            Submissions:  atlantia@atlantia.sca.org
        Admin. requests:  majordomo@atlantia.sca.org