The Land

St. Lawrence Bay currents

Greenland: no real trees, mostly scrub. Nothing that would be usable as ship planks. Mostly sod/stone steadings.

A vast swathe of forest and rolling hills wracked by near-constant winter, many southerners consider the wilderness uninhabitable. Yet life prospers here for those who know and respect the power of nature and winter. Life is hard and a constant struggle against the elements, but here a man can truly be free.

3 day journey from Iceland to England if fair weather and good wind.

They had no compass or accurate timepiece and sailing out of sight was probably steered relative to the pole star and the sun. Wind could be used for direction, the warm wet wind coming from southwest, the cold wet wind from northeast. They also used the length of daylight as an evidence of how far north they are.

Eric the Red first discovered Greenland and, having been exiled from Iceland for manslaughter, sailed west with 500 others to found the first European colony there. His son, Leif the Lucky, went even further west to the north of America, Baffin Island, Labrador and Newfoundland. And somewhere in the area between Newfoundland and New Jersey a group of Vikings found fertile land that they called Vineland and were they lived for a while before returning to Iceland.

Eric the Red was the first Scandinavian to explore Greenland, founding a settlement there around 985 AD. Fifteen years later his son set out and explored a huge continent to the west. There he found a beautiful island which lay two days southwest from a heavily forested land. This island was just north of the mainland, accessed by a strait where Leifr and his men encountered exceptionally broad shallows exposed at low tide. Here they also found a short river flowing out of a salt water lake and decided to spend the year, enjoying an abundance of salmon, wild grapes and wild rice. Upon his departure Leifr named the place Vinland — Land of Grapes.

Across the North Atlantic where they discovered the Faroe Islands and Iceland, both of which had only been visited sporadically by Irish hermits. About 100 years after settling in Iceland they continued to Greenland and eventually to the North American continent. There, after a few years of peaceful settlement and trade, rising conflicts with the native peoples forced the Vikings to sea again, thus leaving North America to be “discovered” by Christopher Columbus.

And where do you go if you are in L’Anse aux Meadows around the year 1000 with your Viking ship and a whole summer ahead of you to explore new lands and gather goods to bring back home to Greenland? You are bound to go south and into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. You hunt for the fruits and vegetation which Greenland lacks. You may even try to settle in some places, only to find the land already crowded with native people.

Leifr was known as “the Lucky” after this voyage. Surprisingly, his nickname did not derive from the fact that he had found a fruitful land but, true to the team spirit of seafarers and fishermen, from being so lucky as to rescue a crew of 15 men whom he found on a skerry [a very small, rocky island] on his way home.

At its peak, the colony consisted of two settlements, the Eastern and the Western Settlement, with a total population of between 3000 and 5000; at least 400 farms have been identified by archaeologists.7 Norse Greenland had a bishopric (at GarĂ°ar) and exported walrus ivory, furs, rope, sheep, whale or seal blubber, live animals such as polar bears, and cattle hides.

Using the routes, landmarks, currents, rocks, and winds that Bjarni had described to him, Leif sailed some 1,800 miles to the New World with a crew of 35—sailing the same knarr Bjarni had used to make the voyage.

The Vikings traded all over Europe, and as far east as Central Asia. They bought goods and materials such as silver, silk, spices, wine, jewellery, glass and pottery. In return, they sold items such as honey, tin, wheat, wool, wood, iron, fur, leather, fish and walrus ivory. Everywhere they went the Vikings bought and sold slaves. Traders carried folding scales, for weighing coins to make sure they got a fair deal.

And yet at the same time they must play a game of appeasement, for Cul commands a small but important trade road.

The Cairn Lands were once the home of the Vindari, an ancient culture which exists today only as faded inscriptions on the walls of crumbling ruins and barrow mounds. Today, this largely unsettled land is a rural backwater, famous for little save the Cairn Hills, that dark upland amid whose valleys walk the restless dead.

The Land

Altmaria Greipr