Leif Eriksson – The First European in North America


– [Narrator] Ask any
school child which European first set foot in America, and you’ll probably get this answer, “It was Christopher Columbus in 1492.” But this is not correct. For we now know that another
great explorer achieved this historic feat some 500 years earlier. That explorer was a Viking
called Leif Eriksson. (majestic music) This was the age when the Vikings ruled. They were brave, bold, and adventurous, and lived in the countries
we now know as Scandinavia. One of them was Leif
Eriksson, himself the son of another intrepid
explorer, Erik the Red. Erik was born on the west coast of Norway. His nickname of Erik
the Red probably refers to the color of his hair. He had already spent
some years in Iceland, but in the year 982 A.D., he led an expedition to a new territory,
establishing a settlement there that would last
for hundreds of years. Erik the Red called
this new land Greenland. He figured that giving
it an attractive name would make it seem like a
desirable place to live. When Erik had a son, he
was called Leif Eriksson in keeping with the Viking tradition of adding the word son
to the father’s name. But Leif inherited more
than just his father’s name, he had adventure and
exploration in his blood. Furthermore, his father
taught him the necessary skills to be an explorer: leadership and navigation. And so it was, that, at the
age of 25, Leif Eriksson set sail with a crew of
35 men to explore the seas even further to the west
going well beyond Greenland. He was sailing through uncharted waters without maps or a compass. This would be a journey
of unrivaled discovery and one that would take
it’s leader to immortality. Eventually, Eriksson landed in a place he called Vinland and Vinland was part of what we
now call North America. Eriksson’s achievement was celebrated for hundreds of years in
Norse legends and stories. But many people doubted
that it had really happened. Was it true that a
Viking could have beaten Columbus by 500 years? Doubts about Eriksson’s discovery were finally dispelled in 1960. That was when the modern-day explorers Helge and Anne Instad
identified a Norse settlement at the northern tip of Newfoundland in what is now Canada. The site at L’anse aux
Meadows has the remains of nine houses that are
unmistakably Nordic in their design. Helga and Anne Instad
also established that the remains dated back from
around 1,000 A.D. – exactly the time that Eriksson’s voyage had taken place. And they found artifacts on the site which further proved the
truth of Eriksson’s story. So, Leif Eriksson has now taken his rightful place in world history. In the United States, his
achievement is commemorated every year on October 9th. And statues celebrating the great explorer can be found in many American cities. For it does, indeed, seem to be true. Leif Eriksson, the Viking,
was the first European to set foot in America. (gentle music)

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