From out of the dark blue waters as the oceans raged there was an unpredictable bow pressing forward into the unknown. The ones on board a feared seafaring people in the land they left behind. In search of a new world using their skills of observation, they knew there had to be more land. As the raging waves slammed against the wooden Viking ship the sail filled with the Atlantic Ocean wind. The land slowly appearing over the horizon filled their souls with joy and wonder. It kept them going, it was the only thing that drove them risking their lives in search of a better world. It is known that the Norsemen dropped anchor on the shores of the New World half a millennium before Columbus rediscovered America. Many people believe they were the first Europeans to ever have landed in North America.
Leif Eriksson had the blood of an explorer. His father, Erik the Red, founded the first European settlement of Greenland. Erik Thorvaldsson (Old Norse: Eiríkr Þorvaldsson; 950 – c. 1003), known as Erik the Red (Old Norse: Eiríkr hinn rauði) was a Norwegian Viking, remembered in medieval and Icelandic saga sources as having founded the first Norse settlement in Greenland after being expelled from Iceland around A.D. 985 for killing a neighbor. Erik the Red’s father, himself, had been banished from Norway for committing manslaughter. The Icelandic tradition indicates that he was born in the Jæren district of Rogaland, Norway, as the son of Þorvald Ásvaldsson, he therefore also appears, patronymically, as Erik Thorvaldsson (Eiríkr Þorvaldsson). The appellation "the Red" most likely refers to his hair color and the color of his beard. Leif Eriksson, the famous Icelandic explorer, was Erik's son.
Eriksson was born in Iceland around A.D. 970. He spent most of his years in Greenland which was in a state of bleak and dismal emptiness. About 20 years later in A.D 1000, he sailed back to his ancestral homeland of Norway. On arrival, he was converted to Christianity by the current King Olaf I Tryggvason and gave him the job of proselytizing Christianity to the pagan inhabitants of Greenland. His outlaw father was unable to be converted but he succeeded with his mother who later built Greenlands first Church.
We have two recountings of what exactly happened with Eriksson's exploits in the New World around A.D. 1000. Both versions of the story were spread by word of mouth in those days. It wasn't recorded until the 12th and 13th centuries. The following are two differing accounts.
“Saga of Erik the Red,” claims that Eriksson lost his way back home and crossed the Atlantic by accident after being blown off course on his return journey from his ancestral home of Norway.
“Saga of the Greenlanders,” states that Eriksson's journey to the New World was, in fact, no mistake. The saga claims he had heard tales of strange unknown lands beyond the west as told by the Icelandic trader Bjarni Herjolfsson. The story goes Bjarni completely by passed Greenland and sailed directly to the shores of North America without setting foot on the land. Excited by the notion of unexplored land Eriksson purchased Bjarni's trader's ship. With that, he recruited 35 men to embark on the journey to retrace the forgotten route.
On the approach of the New World after crossing the Atlantic ocean, the Norsemen arrived at what is now known as Baffin Island. The Vikings at the time named it Helluland, meaning "Stone Slab Land" which was fitting for the surrounding area. According to the sagas, they sailed south to present-day Labrador named Markland meaning Forestland. The land was filled with tall timbers brimming with life.
The Norsemen then voyaged to the northern tip of Newfoundland Island. The Norsemen decided to make camp for the entire winter as it was much milder weather than the land they came from back home. They named the explored area Vinland as it had suitable wild grapes for wine.
Newfoundland and Labrador form the most easterly province of Canada. On Newfoundland island, the Norse archaeological site L'Anse aux Meadows is the reputed settlement of Viking explorer Leif Eriksson. Gros Morne National Park, on the Gulf of St Lawrence, has cliffs, waterfalls and glacial fjords. Southeastern capital city St. John’s is known for the 17th-century Signal Hill citadel, with a hillside walking trail.
It is said Eriksson and his crew returned to Greenland with badly needed supplies of timber, grapes, and other various items from the New World. Despite the resource rich New World the Vikings chose to stay in desolate Greenland possibly due to the aggressive Native population who slew Eriksson's brother Thorwald. Many Vikings afterward returned to the New World to bring back badly needed supplies. Eriksson, on the other hand, stayed in Greenland and succeeded his father Erik the Red as chief after his death.
A thousand years later in 1960, a Norwegian named Helge Ingstad explored the entire coast line of Labrador and Newfoundland for signs of a possible settlement, and he found it on the northernmost tip of Newfoundland at L’Anse aux Meadows. It sits on bogs, rugged cliffs, and coastline. An international team of archaeologists that included Ingstad’s wife, Anne, excavated artifacts of Viking origin dating from around A.D. 1000. It is declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1978.
The Vikings have gone deeper into Canada following the Saint Lawrence river. As suggested by Donald Wiedman.
"Vikings didn’t stay on the East Coast. They eventually settled near Laval in Quebec. They stayed where there was rich farmland. From Quebec, they made forays as far west as New Liskeard, Ont. All of this happened about 968 A.D."