Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, is often credited as the first European to reach North America. But many historians, believe that Viking sailors from Norway, actually landed in what’s now Canada around 1000 A.D., well before Columbus arrived in 1492.
Evidence of this Viking achievement, is captured in local legends called “Sagas”.
A key figure in these early adventures was a Norse outlaw named Erik the Red:
When Erik fled Norway with his family, he sailed to Iceland. He then sailed west until he reached the land he later named Greenland. He chose the name Greenland because, “people would be attracted to go there if it had a favorable name.” (the article continues after the ad)
According to the legend, it’s Erik’s son Leif (Eriksson), who eventually sailed even further west from Greenland towards the New World. One Saga says that young Leif was told a tale about a sailor who got lost at sea and spotted a strange land. Leif was intrigued by this and, around 1000 A.D., gathered 35 men and left Greenland. Soon the explorers arrived at a coastline near the mountains. Lacking his father’s talent for naming places, Leif called the discovery “Stone-slab land”.
Leif and his men explored this new world and found a new island which he named “Markland”; meaning “Forest land” in Norwegian. Some historians now believe that this area is the northern tip of Newfoundland. They stayed there for the winter and when they sailed back to Greenland, they pulled an extra boat, full with grapes which they found in this new world. That’s why Leif decided to name the place he discovered Vineland. Though historians aren’t certain, most agree that Leif Eriksson’s Vineland was also in today’s northern Newfoundland.
In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson declared October 9 to be “Leif Eriksson Day” in honor of the brave Viking explorer and his crew.