Lögberg-Heimskringla - 07.07.2000, Blaðsíða 4

Lögberg-Heimskringla - 07.07.2000, Blaðsíða 4
4 » Lögberg-Heimskringla » Friday 7 July 2000 Vínland Continued from page 3 Ari's time. In 1960 when Anne and Helge Ingstad found archaeological remains at L'Anse aux Meadows, at the northern tip of Newfoundland, they soon realized that the remains were of Viking Age people from Greenland and Iceland. This was the first confirmation of Nordic people's occupation in North America. Helge Ingstad later connected the loca- tion to Leifur's Vínland as it was described in the sagas, through some- what doubtful reasoning—believing Jón Jóhannesson's theory that the Saga of Eiríkur the Red was a kind of rewriting of Greenlanders' Saga, which is no Ionger considered likely. In this way he was able to fit all the descriptions of the sagas to L'Anse aux Meadows, or "Leif's-booths," by rejecting some information and choosing first and fore- most information from Greenlanders' Saga, which sends all expeditions, after Leifur's trip, to the so-called "Leif's- booths." Thus Ingstad considered him- self to have found the true Vínland. Later archaeological studies done at L'Anse aux Meadows show that the structures found there were used as a kind of easy-to-find stopover on the sailing route from Greenland to destina- tions further south. People wintered there, pulled their ships ashore for repairs before and after a strenuous voyage to and from Greenland, and gathered together the wares they planned to transport back home to Greenland and Iceland. The northern tip of Newfoundland does not fit the descriptions given in the sagas of Leifur's Vínland. However, the stories of Þorvaldur and Freydís's travels from Greenlanders' Saga could fit L'Anse aux Meadows, as can be seen from the following. Descriptions of the land, growth, and wildlife have been helpful in the search for Vínland. Assuming that the sagas' descriptions of vines are those of actual wild grapes (Vitis riparia) and not just any berries, it becomes clear that the northern limit where wild grapes are found is at the southern end of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, but Newfoundland closes the gulf and makes it a kind of inshore sea. In the sixteenth century at the arrival of Europeans, wild grapes were a promi- nent feature of the area's growth, and the French explorer Jacques Cartier (1491-1557) named an island at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River, close to Quebec city "íle de Bacchus" (Ilse of Bacchus) and settlers referred to "Baie de vin" (Bay of Wine) which is now Miramichi Bay, New Brunswick. The naming could hardly be closer to Leifur's Vínland. Self-sown wheat, mentioned in the sagas, could refer to wild rye (Elymus virginicus) which grows in the same area and resembles wheat. The northern limits of these varieties are similar to the northern limits of the butternut (Juglans cinerea), three of which were found at L'Anse aux Meadows along with viðarnýra (maple—mörsuviði, as it is called in the sagas) from a butternut tree which had been cut into with a metal tool. Thus it is certain that these nuts were transported to L'Anse aux Meadows by the Nordic people living there, from the areas where large amounts of wild grapés grew. In Vínland Leifur's men also found larger salmon than they had seen before. The Canadian archaeologist Catherine Carlson has demonstrated that because of the warm climate in the eleventh century salmon did not swim into the rivers in the state of Maine, USA nor south of there. On the other hand, the rivers at the southern end of the Gulf of St. Lawrence were full of salmon then, as they are now. What is more, today the salmon only visit the rivers in this area every other year, but every year in Newfoundland. Thus the salmon are tmly larger at the southern end of the gulf. Keeping this all in mind these descriptions place Leifur's Vínland in the area between Maine, north to the southern end of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Karlsefni sailed far south from Leifur's Vínland, but there is no mention of his fishing for salmon at Hope, although it was full of other types of fish. We can assume that he was then located below the southern limits of the salmon. Vínland's saga descriptipns are very general but nevertheless fit reality. Bjarni could have seen Newfoundland, Labrador, and Baffin Island, and descriptions of Leifur's voyage point to the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Descriptions of "Leif's-booths" visited by Þorvaldur (and later Freydís's in Greenlanders' Saga) could fit L'Anse aux Meadows at the northern tip of Newfoundland; and Karlsefni and Guðríður's route (in the Saga of. Eiríkur the Red) indicates a journey south along the east coast of Nova Scotia, possibly all the way to the Bay of Fundy and even further. The Bay of Fundy is rightly named "Straumfjörður" where the difference between ebb and flow is greater than anywhere else on Earth (average 15-16 m). As a result it has strong currents. An island is located at the end of the gulf, and the gulf does not freeze. The descriptions of each expedition add some to the former. The quality of the land at Vínland and the island separated from the mainland by the gulf through which Leifur sailed cannot possibly fit the landscape at L'Anse aux Meadows. This means that the "Leif's-booths," mentioned in later expeditions, cannot fit both the descriptions of Leifur's Vínland in Greenlanders' Saga, and the one at L'Anse aux Meadows. If we scrutinize descriptions of Leifur's journeys in Greenlanders' Saga, it is safe to say that we get a pret- ty good description of how to sail a Viking longship from Newfoundland across the Gulf of St. Lawrence, or Cabot Strait, to Prince Edward Island and into Northumberland Strait between the mainland and the island. It is possible to land a ship northeast on the island, as Leifur did, but after enter- ing the strait it is not clear whether the saga writer is describing a landing on the island itself or the mainland. There is shallow water on both sides, great ebbing and lagoons and the story indi- cates that they sailed all the way to Miramichi Bay in New Brunswick which opens on the port side shortly after sailing west out of the strait between Prince Edward Island and the mainland. At Miramichi Bay all the descriptions of Vínland are as stated, vine bushes and large salmon in one of the best known salmon rivers at the bay; though the winters are usually some- what harder than the description given—which would be the only mis- representation of this considerably detailed description. IF WE ACCEPT THE DESCRIPTION in Greeníanders' Saga, that Leifur's Vínland was located at the southern end of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, all the directions given in the Saga of Eiríkur the Red regarding the travels of Karlsefni and Guðríður can be explained according to present day the- ories on Leifur's Vínland. It is reported that Karlsefni sailed north from Straumfjörður, in search of Þórhallur the hunter, who felt he would find Vínland by sailing around Kjalarnes. Karlsefni sailed north around Kjalarnes, heading west, with the mainland to port—thus the story indicates he was heading for Leifur's Vínland. These directions fit if Straumfjörður is located in southern Nova Scotia and Kjalarnes at northern Nova Scotia. This is also understandable if Karlsefni sailed far south to Hope where he found no salmon—but in the Middle Ages salmon did not run in rivers south of Maine. It is impossible to say how far south from Straumfjörður Karlsefni sailed, but various rivers and ocean lagoons on the coast of New England have been suggested, even in the area of New York today, as Páll Bergþórsson's theo- ry has it. In order to sail that far south these seafarers must have used com- pletely different sailing technology than they were used to, according to familiar schooner skippers in this area. However, keep in mind that this voyage was only undertaken once and it was highly dangerous as only one ship of three returned to Greenland. Many lived long enough to return to Greenland to tell stories of adventure in the unfamiliar lands, west of Greenland. In Iceland, a few generations later, their stories were gathered into books, and today these books are our main sources of information on the first journeys by Europeans to the North American con- tinent. Remains from their stay in North America have already been found at L'Anse aux Meadows at the northern tip of Newfoundland. These remains con- firm that the people from Iceland and Greenland who lived there obviously travelled further south to the areas where butter-nuts and vines grew. And where would the people most likely have gone, those who stayed at L'Anse aux Meadows in the year 1000, with a readied ship at the bay and a whole summer ahead of them to explore unknown lands and gather the gifts of the land to bring back home to Greenland and Iceland, or to sell in Norway? It would have been easiest for them to continue south into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. There they could have gathered fruits and other goods which were lacking in Greenland; and some might have entertained thoughts of staying behind to spend their lives in the land of plenty. However they must soon have found out that the desirable land was already densely populated by Native people who did not give it up easily. Thus, they had no choice but to head back to their ships and return home, to spend the rest of their lives telling stories of sailing the seven seas to explore unfamiliar resourceful lands where adventure and danger lay at every footstep—as reported in Vínland's Saga. Translated from Morgunblaðið \J'\\cSx\&s ín (_,anada Oa» ¦¦¦ ¦.........................m4mmJmmmmmntammmmmm ......' ...........¦—¦¦'¦...........¦......¦¦¦¦............"¦»¦............. aia luesday, August 1 Glenn Gould Studio, CBC Broadcast Centre, Toronto • a fun-filled, star-studded salute to our Icelandic heritage • musicians, writers, artists and film-makers from all across the country • Bjarni Tryggvason, Astronaut, will be present! • introduced by broadcaster Lorna Jackson and MP John Harvard 6:30 p.m. Reception, including Foreign Minister of Iceland Halldór Ásgrímsson 7:30 p.m. Stage Show Tickets $40 Adults; $25 Seniors/Students Glenn Gould Box Office (416) 205-5555 Tues-Thu 11—5 Info: Gail Einarson-McCleery (416) 762-8627 icegem@compuserve.com <m ir unn* fiin* in mv wwm mri u nrmr ,mvn\WH & nni \ r\n whwhmi*



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