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op culture dictates that Christopher Columbus was the first European to discover North America. This was presented as fact until quite recently when it was discovered that Columbus wasn’t the first to explore America. Ancient documents dictate that the Vikings, more specifically a Viking called Lief Erikson, actually discovered America first.

The Vikings

Lief Erikson was born to Erik the Red, the first founder of a settlement in Greenland, and also a distant relative of Naddodd, another explorer who was the first to discover Iceland. So we can say that exploring was in his blood from the start. After growing up in Greenland, at the age of 29 he decided to follow in his ancestors’ footsteps. After hearing rumours of land west of Greenland from a man named Bjarni Herjólfsson, a merchant, who was blown of course towards the west on his way back and sighted land.

With this information, Erikson bought Bjarni’s ship, gathered around thirty-five men to crew his ship and set sail towards the place described by Bjarni. His father was meant to be on the expeditions with him but he fell off his horse on the way to the ship, which he perceived as a bad omen, therefore, he stayed home.

A Trecherous Journey

Alone with no expert help and not much experience under his belt, Erikson proceed to follow the merchant’s route. He would make landfall first in a northern section of Canada which modern estimates guess it being in Labrador country in Canada. He would set off once again for 2 days and arrive in a much warmer part of the continent with a plentiful supply of salmon on the coast.

Winter approached so Erikson decided to camp for the rest of the year in this newfound area. He would split his party into two, one half to stay at camp and the other half to explore. The explorer party came to find many vines and grapes as they reached further inland, therefore, christening the land “Vinland”. He would spend the winter there and return to Greenland with a plentiful supply of grape and timber to show for his success.

Other Theories

Not many seem to know of this story, this relatively massive event seems to have been buried in history with the phasing out of Vikings as the centuries passed. This tale of land to the west will not be explored by any documented explorer until the traversal of the Atlantic by Columbus in 1492 where he would discover the Carribeans while trying to find a way to China by sea. This has pushed Columbus in the spotlight as the first European to find America which is not true as we have seen by Lief Erikson’s story.

Even so, there are myths of an Irish monk called Saint Brendan who in the early sixth century sailed the Atlantic with a currach which is a traditional Irish wood-framed boat lined with animal skin. Although no evidence of this has been found the journey has been proved to be possible by a writer called Tim Severin who sailed the presumed journey in a replica currach successfully.


From this, we can learn a lot about misinformation and popularity. Just because Christopher Columbus was the more popular out of him and Erikson, he is now widely credited by most people as being the man who discovered the Americas. By looking deeper we see that is this not only false but also misleading as information on the existence of a continent to the west of Spain was available but mostly in theory and through legend. This teaches us to not take things as we see them but too look deeper and see what happened, the finer details and in all, the truth.

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