Daily Update 2.2
Week 3: Module 2: Date 2/13/13
Yesterday we learned a little bit about the first people in recorded history to have rowed across the Atlantic. Today we are going to go a bit farther back in history and look at the Viking explorers of the 10th and early 11th century. Popular history credits Eric the Red with the discovery of Greenland after leaving Iceland, around 982.
It is believed that other Vikings, namely Gunnbjorn Olfsson, had made the “discovery” of this North American landmass almost a century earlier. While, Greenland is technically part of the North American landmass it is still in the range of 500-800 miles apart from the mainland. Eric the Red’s son, Leif Ericsson, is often credited with the first European discovery of North America after departing Greenland in 1001.
Leif did establish one of the first European settlements in North America, probably on the southern most tip of Newfoundland, Canada. It is very likely that Leif was not the first to have been to North America and he was definitely not the first to have seen it. Yet he still is often credited with the discovery of North America. There was even a US coin minted for the 1000 year celebration of his “discovery.”
Leif set off on his historic journey after the reports of Bjarni Herjolfsson, who had sighted land after being blown off course. He did not go ashore and due to a number of factors history has almost forgotten him.
In history there is a saying that ‘history is written by the winners.’ This is clearly the case here. Leif was the leader of the colonies on the shores of Greenland and so the history surrounding him is much better documented than that of Bjarni Herjolfsson. In the next week as we look more at the history of ocean exploration we will see more and more of this trend.