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The first Viking settlers in America
Iceland was a stepping-stone for westward voyagers. Among them were Eiríkur Þorvaldsson (Eirík rauða or Erik the Red), who left his farm Eiríksstaðir near Búðardalur in Dalasýsla, west Iceland, to found the Viking settlement in Greenland. Eiríkur's son Leifur Eiríksson (in English literature more commonly known als Leif Eriksson, or Leif the Lucky), born around 960 A.D., had heard of the accounts of the chance sighting of land to the west of Greenland by the Icelandic trader Bjarni Herjólfsson in 986. In the year 1000 Leifur launched an expedition to explore these coasts. He reached land at a place he named Helluland ("Flatstone Land," namely Baffin Island), then sailed down the coast to Markland ("Wood Land," the south of Labrador). Later he wintered in a place which he named Vínland ("Wineland," Newfoundland or more likely the southern regions of the Gulf of St. Lawrence) after grapes he found growing there.
Leifur's brother, Þorvald Eiríksson, made the next voyage to the new-found territory. During a conflict with the Skrælings (the natives) Þorvald was killed. His men buried him in Vinland. Þorvald was the first European we know to die and to be buried in America.
A number of other expeditions were made over the next twenty years. An other son of Erik the Red, Þorsteinn Eiríksson, died of a fever on the crossing. His widow Guðríður Þorbjarnardóttir, from Laugarbrekka on the Snæfellsnes peninsula, remarried Þorfinnur Karlsefni Þórðarson (the nickname means, literally, 'Makings of a Man'), son of Þórður Snorrason and Þórunn, and they spent three years in North America. Þorfinnur took 160 people with him and pressed even farther south to explore the New World, reaching a place which he named Hóp and which has been argued to be the site of modern New York.
Guðríður gave birth to a son during their stay and they named him Snorri, the first child of European descent to be born in North America, probably around 1004 in L'Anse aux Meadows. When the Vikings abandoned their attempt at settlement, Þorfinnur and Guðríður settled in Glaumbær in Skagafjord. After her husband's death, Guðríður made a pilgrimage to Rome, making her the most widely travelled woman in the world then and one of the first-ever transatlantic travellers.
N.B. On the genealogy website of Dagmar Þórisdóttir (website gone) the relations are different: Þorfinnur and Guðríður had a son Þorbjörn (also Björn) Þorfinnsson; and Guðríður had another son from an unknown father: Snorri Þórðarson. , cf. Pétur Stefánsson's genealogy).
Identical statues of Guðríður and Snorri are in her birthplace Laugarbrekka, in Glaumbær and in Ottawa. A statue of Þorfinnur Karlsefni is in Philadelphia.
Borrowed mainly from
Þ, þ = th
Ð ð = dh
Leif Eriksson * Leif Erikson * Leif Ericsson * Leif Ericson * Leif Erickson * Leiv Eiriksson * Leiv Eriksson den Hepne * Leif the Lucky * Leif den Lykkelige * Leifur Eiriksson * Leifr Eirkisson
Bjarni Herjulfsson * Biarni Heriolfsson
Thorfinnur Karlsefni * Thorfinn Karlsefni
Gudrid * Gudridur Thorbjarnardottir